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Managing A World Heritage Site

The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh were inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in December 1995. The inscription recognised that the medieval Old Town and the Georgian New Town are of international importance.

Edinburgh, capital of Scotland since the fifteenth century, presents the dual face of an old city dominated by a medieval fortress and a new neoclassic city whose development from the eighteenth century onwards exerted a far-reaching influence on European urban planning. The harmonious juxtaposition of these two highly contrasting historic areas, each containing many buildings of great significance, is what gives the city its unique character.

UNESCO - official inscription, 1995

What does World Heritage status mean?

World Heritage Sites are recognised by UNESCO as places of outstanding cultural, historical or scientific value. Each Site has Outstanding Universal Value: attributes which make it exceptional from a global perspective.

World Heritage status does not bring any extra controls, so the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site is protected by identifying listed buildings and conservation areas as a part of the planning system.

Listed buildings – buildings of architectural or historical interest are listed as category A (national or international importance), B (regional or more than local importance), or C (local importance).

Around 75% of the buildings within the World Heritage Site are listed.

Conservation areas – protect the historic character of an area. Not only buildings, but also features such as trees, parks, paving and street furniture. All the World Heritage Site is protected by the Old Town, New Town, Dean Village and West End Conservation Areas.

Listed buildings and conservation areas are not meant to stop change. They make sure that change happens in a managed way, so that the unique character of the World Heritage Site can be maintained.

Key to managing the World Heritage Site is the Management Plan, a joint document written by Historic Environment Scotland, the City of Edinburgh Council and Edinburgh World Heritage. This provides a framework for ensuring the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage Site is protected, enhanced and promoted.

Please check back soon as the latest Management Plan will be uploaded here.