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UNESCO visit to Edinburgh

10 November 2008

Advisers to UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee will visit Edinburgh between November 12 and 15.

Dr Mechtild Rössler, Chief of Europe and North America at UNESCO’s the World Heritage Centre, and Professor Manfred Wehdorn of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) will be looking at developments in the city, and how they might affect the World Heritage Site, to report back to the committee in 2009.

Developments that will be visited include Caltongate, Haymarket Tiger Development, Leith Docks and the St James Centre with there will be meetings with developers and objectors during their stay.

The World Heritage Committee accepted an invitation to send an expert monitoring mission from Scottish Ministers and the City of Edinburgh Council to visit the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site at its meeting in Quebec in July 2008.

Once the visit is complete Dr Rössler and Professor Wehdorn will prepare a report for the World Heritage Committee to consider at its 2009 meeting.

Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns was inscribed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1995.

Scottish Ministers cleared the final decision on the Caltongate development back to City of Edinburgh Council in October and permission has since been granted.  
Following extensive consultation, an application for the redevelopment of the St James Centre has been lodged with the council.

City of Edinburgh Council indicated it was minded to grant planning permission for the Haymarket Hotel proposal in June. As it is on land formerly owned by the local authority the decision was referred to Scottish Ministers and it is still under consideration.

An outline planning application for Leith Docks was submitted to City of Edinburgh Council in 2007. Following an Environmental Impact Assessment it will be referred to Scottish Ministers.


5 facts about the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site

  • The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site covers an area of about 1.76 square miles, and was inscribed because of the unique contrast and quality of architecture between the medieval Old Town and the Georgian New Town.
  • There are around 4,600 buildings with the World Heritage Site and about 75% of these are listed for their special architectural and historic interest.
  • Over the last 30 years Edinburgh World Heritage and its predecessors (the New Town Conservation Committee and the Old Town Renewal Trust) have invested over £32 million on repairs to historic buildings in the city centre. As a result, Edinburgh retains its historic buildings in much better condition than comparable historic cities.
  • The medieval Old Town has retained its distinctive ‘fish bone’ pattern of narrow closes and wynds. It contains many sixteenth and seventeenth century mansions and merchants’ houses, such as the six storey tenement Gladstone’s Land, and important early public buildings such as St Giles’ Cathedral and the Canongate Tolbooth.
  • The Georgian New Town has a high concentration of world-class neo-classical buildings, is consistent in its design to an unrivalled degree, and still survives virtually intact.

PDF icon UNESCO Pre-mission Briefing [pdf, 4.8mb]
PDF icon Timetable [pdf, 100kb]



For further information


Lesley Brown
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8603 or 07788 923873
lesley.brown@scotland.gsi.gov.uk