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Edinburgh World Heritage/News/Director’s Notes – August 2019

Director’s Notes – August 2019

28th August 2019

Adam Wilkinson

Cities evolve and change, with each new resident adding something to the rich brew of memories and ideas that join with the built fabric of a city to make it real and sustained, rather than just a stage, though Edinburgh, with over 4 million visitors a year, may feel more stage set than living city at times.

This prompted us to ask visitors what they consider to be authentic about the city, in particular the Royal Mile, in order to help better manage the World Heritage Site. The results give a factual basis for what many in the city suspected: while the main appeal of Edinburgh is its heritage and remarkable built environment, the authenticity of the site is being undermined by unsustainable tourism growth and a retail sector that often puts profit ahead of quality and local sourcing. These issues are noticed by discerning visitors and must be addressed.

Over the summer, we also sought to better understand the potential impacts of climate change and how we should best adapt to the likely changes. Working with Carbon Management Masters student Anna Erbacher at the University of Edinburgh and with Sniffer, we contributed to the organization of a workshop to understand what aspects of city life in the World Heritage Site will be most heavily impacted by climate change, to help us shape future action.

The better management of our World Heritage Site is also helped by being part of a European Commission funded project through which Edinburgh can learn from other European World Heritage Cities such as Florence and Santiago de Compostela. The learnings from this will help shape our next WHS Management Plan, due in 2022.

Other immediate priorities are the conservation of historic tenements, such as 195-7 Canongate where works are due to start shortly, reinstating historic shopfronts, such as at 37 South Bridge, and improving the public realm, with projects such as the Twelve Closes, where we expect installation to start in the autumn in Stevenlaw’s and Carrubber’s Closes and Chessel’s Court.

In all our work we receive support from a range of sources, and our growing membership is an important piece of the overall funding puzzle. We are endeavouring to create more spaces in our events for members, which generally sell out fast (though tickets remain for my lecture on the North Bridge next week – buy your tickets here), but no matter how large or small our member events, the whole team here is keen that the events remain as fun and friendly as they have proven to be over the last couple of years.

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