The AtlasWH project aims to create a network of urban World Heritage sites by addressing common challenges related to the protection of their identity, while enhancing their cultural assets, in order to stimulate heritage-led economic and cultural development.
The AtlasWH project – full name “Heritage in the Atlantic Area: Sustainability of the Urban World Heritage Sites” – is funded by the Interreg Atlantic Area Programme through the European Regional Development Fund. It seeks to address contemporary challenges related to the sustainable management of historic cities and protection of their identity, while stimulating economic and cultural development. The main challenges addressed will be tourism, gentrification, risk management, climate change, and energy efficiency.
The partners involved in the project are:
Our understanding of sustainability has three main goals:
Together, these will help to ensure that our current historic building stock is well maintained; that both tangible and intangible heritage is brought to as wide an audience as possible; and that supporting local traditional building skills and sustainable, low-impact tourism will bring economic benefits, as well as empowering local communities to have their say in the management of the World Heritage Site.
One of the main outputs will be a series of Sustainability Plans for each World Heritage Site involved in the project. These plans will be used to inform the local sustainability and planning frameworks through collection of data for a diagnosis study, followed by comparative analysis, engagement with local and international stakeholders and monitoring.
However, the ultimate goal of the process is not about delivering a set of documents but rather developing universal methodologies and tools that can be adopted by other cities. The diagnosis is an important first step in understanding the main common challenges, including the scope of data used by cities to inform decisions, and the lack of mechanisms for exchange of data between the key stakeholders.
In the AtlasWH partnership, Edinburgh World Heritage is responsible for the delivery of capitalisation activities. Capitalisation, in Interreg terms, can be understood as an integrated process of gathering valuable programme and project results within a specific field of regional development policy. The activities exploit the tangible and intangible results of the project, optimise their value, ensure positive impacts and facilitate the dissemination at multiple levels. Essentially, this means using and building upon previously identified good practices (for example, how other cities or regions have successfully dealt with a specific aspect of heritage management) for the benefit of other stakeholders.
The starting point is to understand the existing body of knowledge on sustainable heritage management, which has been shaped by past Interreg and URBACT projects. Our goal is to ensure that the outputs of AtlasWH improve decision-making processes on sustainability-related matters, improve policy and apply this in practice as widely as possible. To achieve this, we will develop a range of working relationships with networks operating within the Interreg framework in different regions of Europe through a mapping exercise with the AtlasWH partners. This approach should allow us to understand the latest trends in policy making, actively engage with the pan-European discussion on the sustainability, and test our ideas.
At the local level, we are working with the City of Edinburgh Council by providing a research-led policy input to Edinburgh’s sustainability agenda. We will also work with local professionals through a series of capacity building training sessions around the main outputs of the project, as well as working with local schools to raise awareness of the World Heritage Sites in the Atlantic Area.
Atlas World Heritage
“Europe’s historic cities face a number of different threats ranging from inappropriate development, poor maintenance and care of historic buildings in private hands, and the negative consequences of some aspects of the tourist economy. The Atlas project will attempt to develop solutions to some of these problems, in partnership with local residents and the Council.”
International Programme Project Manager
Edinburgh World Heritage's International Training Officer will be attending the first upcoming meeting with colleagues from the other partner cities later this year. Keep an eye on our blog for more updates.