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February 27, 2008

Old Town community unite against threat to World Heritage Site

Local residents from Edinburgh’s historic Old Town have been joined by heritage groups (Edinburgh World Heritage Trust and Cockburn Association) the local Community Council and other residents’ organisations as they square up to private developers and council officials who seem intent on plans for a £300 million redevelopment


The Canongate Community Forum is campaigning against plans to demolish listed buildings and people’s homes in the Canongate, which is part of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh`s World Heritage site. Caltongate is the controversial £300million project in Edinburgh`s Old Town. In the face of strong local representation, the majority of proposals contained in the Caltongate Masterplan were approved by the Council`s planning committee earlier this month. However it received and continues to receive damning criticism from Heritage bodies, leading figures in the Conservation world and from individuals locally and worldwide. UNESCO has already stated that it is concerned about Edinburgh. The Cockburn Society has consistently voiced its unease at the proposals. ICOMOS has expressd concern. SAVE Britain’s Heritage is the latest organisation to protest. These are organisations with a track record of knowing what of the historic built environment is worth preserving.

Most controversial are the proposed demolition of Listed Buildings and homes on the Royal Mile to create space for a 5 star hotel and the sale of common good land and publicly owned buildings to facilitate a conference centre, offices bars and ‘arty-farty’ (the developers description) retail blocking views through the Waverley Valley.

Canongate Community Forum have undertaken a significant level of continuous community consultation through public meetings, social evenings and even organised a very successful Street Party to demonstrate the potential for community uses of the publicly owned land on East Market St.

Despite campaigners having been called ‘professional protesters’ ‘communists’ and even ‘toxic’ by the developers and their team of architects and PR men, they have received letters of support for the Save Our Old Town campaign from leading conservation architects, heritage groups and many residential and community groups across the City. They share information and contribute to the Edinburgh at Risk group which was launched last year and have contributed to the debate in Government regarding the administration and management of the Common Good in Scotland.

Having now received Scottish Communities Action Research Funding from Communities Scotland a community shop will be opening soon in the Canongate where members of the community can come and trade ideas, experience and information with a view to creating a more sustainable and inclusive community for generations to come.

Find out more about the actions taken so far and what you can do to contribute or get more involved at