The City of Edinburgh Council is consulting on the draft management plan for the Old and New Towns World Heritage Site. Old Town Community Council responded today, 10th June. Our responses to Questions 5-9 were as follows.
Question 5: Your thoughts on Conservation and Maintenance of buildings and streets: What do we need to do better?
More emphasis needs to be given to the upkeep of listed public and residential buildings. While there are a number of options available for owners/residents, from the Scottish Government, CEC and others – a one-stop shop will help increase interest from residents/owners to seek out help for home maintenance and energy improvement changes.
Question 6: Your thoughts on Control and Guidance and Contribution of new developments: What do we need to do better?
Act of the advice of Sir Patrick Geddes
Act on his idea of “constructive and conservative surgery” – where the best buildings in Edinburgh’s slums were kept and restored. He believed that this approach was more economical and more humane.
Choose the right Developers
Where the decision is taken to sell public listed buildings, it is essential to find the most appropriate developers, who are sensitive enough to appropriately restore and maintain listed buildings.
Improve facilities for residents
The over-provision of facilities catering to the transitory population has meant that facilities for locals have become fundamentally compromised.
Provide more support for independent retailers
Catering for the settled community and giving much greater consideration for specialty shops in the Old Town, rather than even more cafes and restaurants.
Visit Scotland actively promotes Scottish food products via their “taste our best” campaign. Their award is available to hotels and B&Bs where at least 40% of the menu includes ingredients of Scottish provenance. Likewise, CEC should actively play it’s part in increasing the numbers of shops selling “made in Scotland” products and at the same time dramatically cutting the numbers of shops where most of the products are produced outside the UK and the EU.
Stop heavy vehicles running through the World Heritage Site
The numbers are expected to increase, in response to developments approved by the Planning Committee. These vehicles increase air pollution and congestion. Heavy goods vehicles should be prevented from entering the WHS, following the example set by other Cities such as Florence.
Question 7: Your thoughts on Awareness of the World Heritage Site: What do we need to do better?
CEC needs to spell out what is (and is not) expected of developers, publicans, HMOs and other key stakeholders.
Give regular reminders of Edinburgh’s outstanding universal value
Visitors, residents and developers need to be regularly reminded of Edinburgh’s outstanding universal value – the harmonious proximity of Old and New Towns and their many buildings of great significance. Ongoing awareness raising is not just a CEC responsibility, it is the responsibility of other key partners too – including the Residents, Festivals, Developers and Businesses. However, CEC is in a unique position to nudge these key stakeholders to do much more.
Question 8: Your thoughts on Visitor Management: What do we need to do better?
Visitors, residents and businesses are the DNA of Edinburgh. We all need each other. However, Old Town is experiencing increasing levels of Overtourism, The Royal Mile in August and Grassmarket on most weekends through out the year, are more like being in Hampden Park on the Scottish Cup Final day, instead of being in the centre of a medieval Town. However, banning or capping the numbers of tourists is not the answer. Instead, the City needs to entice returning visitors to spend less time in New/Old Town and more time in places like Morningside, Stockbridge, Queensferry Leith and so on. This will free up space in Old Town for the first-time visitors to the WHS.
Influence visitor behaviour
Tourists, students, party revelers and their drunken excesses regularly have disregard for the WHS and residents. Let’s make Edinburgh less attractive to stag, hen and other do’s – through initiatives such as tougher licencing laws?
Share the burden/experience
Most Festivals and Events are centred on/near the Royal Mile. This means that the rest of the City benefits very little. More of these events can be relocated to places like Leith, Stockbridge, Morningside and other locations outside the City Centre.
Busy thoroughfares such as Victoria Street should be pedestrianized from 6pm to 6am. Work with partners to ensure there are less opportunities for intravenous drug use in closes and other public spaces in Old Town.
Help residents have a good night’s sleep
Limit outside noise/music to 50dB (after 8pm) and 80dB (at all other times) http://www.shponline.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/hearing-loss-noise-levels.jpg
Late night hen/stag parties and “end of the world” revelry are very popular in Edinburgh. These visitors need to be regularly reminded by Licenced businesses and other CEC partners, of Edinburgh’s outstanding universal value for current and future generations. Shops and other businesses on Princes Street and elsewhere in the WHS, should be fined, when they allow their shop alarms ring all night for up to four nights at a time.
Introduce a 90-day limit per annum for ‘entire home’ party-flat short-term lets. Confirm if ‘entire home’ owners are required to pay business rates or council charge.
Improve air quality in Cowgate/ Grassmarket
By reducing the excessive levels of congestion, and air pollution in excess of permitted levels.
Reduce traffic congestion
There is an excessive level of Edinburgh Bus Tours and Rabbies City Tour buses running at far less than 50% capacity. There is ample room for Lothian bus annual and monthly card holders to be given full access to all of these buses.
Prevent non-residents from parking illegally and also parking in residents’ parking spaces.
Visitors and businesses need to be nudged to use public transport options. Traffic wardens to consistently issue fines. Double fines for visitors, businesses and other non-residents parking in resident parking spaces.
Question 9: Your thoughts on Influence and sense of control: What do we need to do better?
Sustainable economic growth
The term needs to be explicitly defined to identify which routes to economic growth are acceptable, and which options are not. Let’s not take the easy option … of hitting the target and missing the point for the WHS and residents.
Balance the planning processes
These seem to favour developers and not residents – developers need to be more upfront about the upsides and downsides of their proposals on buildings and residents, revenue (business rates and council tax) and tourism. It appears that the current/future Business Rate payers have the right of appeal, while Council Charge payers do not. This imbalance needs to be addressed, in the public interest.
Sale of public assets
A review of the remit of the committee making significant planning decisions, the Development Management Sub-Committee, needs to be assessed so that in certain circumstances, such as those involving the disposal of public assets, the conditions under which buildings are sold is considered. Also, in the case of the disposal of public assets, applications should not be considered in isolation and judged solely on the strength of the application when other potentially more favourable applications may be brought forward in due course. The sell-off of public listed buildings within the World Heritage Site, needs to be preceded by robust public consultation.
Introduce a staggered planning process
There is a strong case to be made that the current pressure of speculative ‘development’ is overwhelming an already under resourced planning system, and to avoid future contentious decisions the process becomes staggered in order that local communities and public representatives can better respond.
EWHT and HES
These public bodies should be sufficiently independent to be free to speak out without fear. EWHT needs to be adequately resourced, so that it can adequately serve the role of guardian of heritage
Introduce a one-stop web information page for residents http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/residents and keep it up to date with information that will be useful to residents, such as, which resident parking spaces are required and when, where bins are located – while most Edinburgh residents have bins that are emptied by CEC, this is not so for residents of listed buildings in the WHS. Information could also be included from the Police and other key stakeholders.
Provide Community Councils with the reasons for accepting planning decisions that Community Councils have objected to.
All elected Councilors to attend at least one meeting a year, of each of the Community Councils in their Ward. At least one elected Councilor to attend every meeting of the Community Council in their Ward.