Heritage conservation must engage stakeholders early and bring intrinsic value to the lives of the people if it is to remain a living city and not a museum.
Owners, conservationists, architects, planners, and the local authority would then accept the heritage conservation plan, and traditional communities will not move out of the city listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
These views were expressed by Adam Wilkinson, Director of Edinburgh World Heritage Trust (EWH) during a public lecture on ‘Managing a World Heritage Site: Lessons from Edinburgh’ at the main campus.
“There is statutory protection for buildings of architectural and historical interest through listing but we prefer to find common grounds to solve the problems,” he said. EWH provides 70% funding “to get owners to agree to repair their property” rather than impose conservation on them.
Edinburgh, inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1995, has some 4,500 historic buildings and 24,000 residents within the listed 4-square kilometre site.
During the question and answer session, Wilkinson said that heritage must create a mental map for the people to the particular place, if they are to have a sense of belonging and feel they are losing something of value if it is gone.
“Previously planning was more reactive, now we provide the best management tools for planners to be proactive so that when developers come to them, the planners know the limitations. It’s about early engagement,” he quipped, adding this also helps planners to battle pressure from politicians and conservationists.
Social value goes hand in hand with heritage conservation to put meaning into buildings and keep it living. “We devalue a place if people are resistant and move out. We should keep the place important for the local community,” said Wilkinson.
EWH, an independent organisation charged with preserving the World Heritage Site, is supported by an annual grant from the city of Edinburgh and Scottish government via Historic Scotland.
Some 200 guests – including planners from the local authority, developers, architects, and representatives from various non-governmental organisations - attended the talk organised by Khazanah Nasional Bhd and the British Council.