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What is Edinburgh World Heritage’s role in the planning system?

  • Our role is to advise the City of Edinburgh Council on the impact of change on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the World Heritage Site. This relates to both the requirements of the World Heritage Convention and local plan policy ENV1.
  • In general, this relates to change on a larger scale, rather than smaller scale changes, which are subject to the statutory requirements such as Conservation Area Consent and Listed Building Consent. In addition to this, we offer both formal and informal advice to the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) on its own proposals for changes to the streetscape.
  • Our role within the system is non-statutory, and aims to avoid replicating the work and expertise of other bodies in the planning system.
  • Edinburgh World Heritage receives a contribution from the City of Edinburgh Council in recognition of the service it provides.

How is Edinburgh World Heritage’s role in the planning system governed?

  • Edinburgh World Heritage’s role in the planning system is formally governed by a planning protocol agreed with the City of Edinburgh Council and Historic Environment Scotland., who fund part of our work.
  • The planning protocol defines the different roles of the partners in the management of the World Heritage Site.
  • It identifies when Edinburgh World Heritage becomes involved in the planning process and the extent and nature of that involvement.
  • The essence of the protocol is to encourage early engagement, to ensure the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage Site is taken into account by development teams.
  • Planning discussions are led on Edinburgh World Heritage’s behalf by the Director.
  • The positions we arrive at are the result of discussions within our Senior Management Team, informed by our corporate understanding of OUV, and represent a corporate position.
  • The Edinburgh World Heritage board is informed of current discussions at its regular meetings

How does Edinburgh World Heritage evaluate impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage Site?

When giving advice to CEC we consider the following elements (where possible, we show the working behind our conclusions, in larger cases as a separate document to the main letter of advice):

  • The Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage Site, as defined in the inscription
  • Statement of Significance (documents outlining the history and development of a property that highlights the key features that make the properties special).
  • Attributes and discussed in the World Heritage Site Management Plans.
  • Attributes as identified in the Nomination Document.
  • Attributes as per the advisory body evaluation.
  • Where relevant, individual receptors.
  • Local plan policy ENV1.

How is Edinburgh World Heritage’s advice used?

  • Principally, our advice notes the impact of planning proposals on Outstanding Universal Value.
  • Generally it does not include “object” or “support” (only in exceptional circumstances).
  • The City of Edinburgh Council usually reproduces our advice on development proposals in full in reports to the Development Management Sub-Committee.
  • This advice is then given appropriate weight by members of the Development Management Sub-Committee in its deliberations against other considerations – these may be social, economic, transport or others.

Edinburgh World Heritage’s advice on streetscapes

  • Aside from formal consultations, Edinburgh World Heritage provides informal advice on the myriad of smaller changes at street level which cumulatively have the potential to impact Outstanding Universal Value.
  • In other World Heritage sites, this advice is mainstreamed within the governing body, with officers and structures able to ensure positive change at early stages.
  • CEC does not have the internal capacity or structure to allow this, and so it falls to Edinburgh World Heritage to act as an external coordinator.

Community considerations

The community of the World Heritage Site is not directly mentioned in the Statement of Outstanding Universal Value or the attributes. Yet without a residential community, it is our view is that the city loses part of its authenticity.

This creates a challenge for us in planning/OUV terms to:

  • Articulate the importance of intangible elements, including as community.
  • Weigh the impact on community, and the cost to the community of the loss of opportunity, against the impact on the built environment.

Thinking around the relationship between World Heritage, communities and culture has moved on substantially since the inscription of the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site in 1995. There is clearly space for a new policy from CEC in relation to the World Heritage Site and community. The new local plan provides an opportunity to revise this.


Definitions

OUV:

Outstanding Universal Value means cultural and/or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity. As such, the permanent protection of this heritage is of the highest importance to the international community as a whole.

Attributes:

Attributes are key elements that contribute to Outstanding Universal Value. Not all attributes that contribute to OUV might be mentioned in the Statement of Significance, and for this reason we also consider the World Heritage Site Management Plan, the Nomination Document and the advisory body evaluation.

Receptors:

A receptor is an individual heritage asset within the World Heritage Site. This may be a building, monument, public space, landscape element, or even a particular cultural practice associated with a place.

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