New developments in Edinburgh have moved UNESCO to conduct a serious investigation into the world heritage site that may cost the Scottish capital its coveted status.
At the heart of this dispute, it appears, are plans to construct a 12-storey ribbon-shaped hotel – a key part of the £850m Edinburgh St James development which will see 850,000 square feet of prime retail space, five star hotel accommodation and 250 private residential apartments created. Additionally, plans to turn Edinburgh’s Royal High School building into a £75m five-star hotel were rejected in December 2015.
The world heritage body has demanded a full report on the impact of these hotels, amid concerns that such developments may have a “potentially negative impact” upon the city’s architectural heritage. The UK and Scottish Governments are being questioned, while Edinburgh City Council has been asked to explain its stewardship of the site.
Ian Perry, the council’s planning leader, told The Scotsman: “The present and past planning committees have had a duty to maintain the world heritage site. However there is always a tension between the desire to develop within the site and the preservation of its architectural heritage. Clearly there are differing views about how this should be interpreted.
“It is the planning committee’s job to try to allow development to happen without damaging the built heritage of Edinburgh, which in the past has proven difficult and some of the developments have obviously been controversial.
“The present planning committee will now be looking at the management of the world heritage site and will review what has happened in the past.
“If we think there need to be changes we will then consult the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust.”