UNESCO questions capital designation

Concern that world heritage site status is holding back development in Edinburgh and distorting the planning process was raised last week by UNESCO inspectors.

Following its tour of the city, the cultural body will review whether the status should be withdrawn after the controversial Caltongate and Haymarket projects were approved. It will give its verdict next summer.

But Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland secretary Neil Baxter has questioned UNESCO's potential influence. "The planning system comes from government through to local authorities and the controls are there.

"UNESCO is a hugely important force for good. But we allow it to become the arbiter of the future of our capital at our peril," he said.

Edinburgh City Council economic development convener Tom Buchanan claimed that the status is being used to "champion stagnation".

UNESCO's Mechtild Rossler denied that it wants cities to be maintained as museums. "But development has to be compatible with what is there," she added.

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