On 1 February 2011, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation describing the current situation of development projects, providing an overview of the implementation of measures requested by the World Heritage Committee and explaining the reasons for not establishing a buffer zone as requested by the World Heritage Committee in 2009.
a) Development projects
Caltongate: The lead developer of this project had gone into receivership in 2009 and discussions regarding the purchase of the creditor’s ownership are under way. The State Party expects that the potential purchaser will consider using the existing planning consent.
Haymarket: Further to a public local Inquiry held in 2009 a planning consent was not granted due to the impact of the tallest element of the scheme, a hotel, on the wider city. The State Party also reported that a revised development has been recently granted planning permission and that the 17-storey hotel has been redesigned as a 6-storey office building.
St James Centre: According to the 2008 reactive monitoring mission report this 1970s shopping centre is a visual barrier and its demolition will enable a new vision for the area. The State Party reports that due to economic circumstances the replacement of the building has been delayed. The report also informs that the outline planning permission for the replacement was approved in June 2009 and that the detailed planning application is expected to be presented over the next two years.
b) Buffer Zone
The State Party reports that the establishment of a buffer zone has been included in the current review of the Management Plan, but the work undertaken by Edinburgh World Heritage (EWH) concluded that a buffer zone would not necessarily provide effective protection of the site’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), especially because adequate layers of protection already exist. According to the report, the implementation of the “Guidance on the Protection of Key Views” and the existing statutory protection would provide a more efficient and responsive mechanism to protect the OUV of the property.
Considering that 40 conservation areas have been recognized by the City of Edinburgh Council and that they cover not only the World Heritage property but nearly all adjacent land, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies consider that the State Party should study the feasibility of integrating them under a buffer zone scheme to develop a more effective protection.
c) Policies in relation to height controls
The State Party informs that the “Guidance on the Protection of Key Views” was adopted by the City of Edinburgh Council in June 2008. The report also informs that the Edinburgh City Local Plan, adopted on 28 January 2010, includes a policy on tall buildings which establishes a presumption against new buildings that are visibly higher than their neighbours. Proposals for development that would be conspicuous in wider views of the city will be subject to special scrutiny.
The State Party reports that the management plan, which is currently under revision, includes measures to increase the understanding of the OUV. The report also provides information about the consultations on the management plan held in 2010, with two workshops and written responses from a range of stakeholders. While the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies recognize that a participatory framework has been developed for the revision of the management plan, they expect that specific awareness-raising strategies about the OUV would be developed as part of the revised management plan.
e) Edinburgh Tram
The report informs that the detailed elements of the project are subject to planning consents and that an agreement concerning the details of associated infrastructure has not been reached yet. In reply to concerns raised by citizens of Edinburgh concerning displacement of general traffic to some residential and historic streets, the State Party has informed the World Heritage Centre that this situation is part of the reconfiguration of traffic flows in relation to works for the tram system and subsequent road closures. The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies consider that the State Party should carefully consider whether these traffic displacements may negatively affect the OUV of the property and undertake impact studies to that effect.
f) Other issues
The State Party also informs about other development projects:
Leith Docks: Works have not yet begun.
South Bridge Fire Site: Planning consents are in place for a mixed-use development and according to the report will not have any adverse impact on the OUV of the property.
Princes Street: The project is currently being developed. The 2008 reactive monitoring mission did not raise any major concern about this project.
Royal High School: Edinburgh City Council has identified a development partner to take on the re-use of the building. A planning workshop in 2011, with all key planning stakeholders, will assess the development potential of the building.