New plan unveiled for Edinburgh's UNESCO World Heritage Site, 2017-2022

28 March 2018
Mgt-Plan-final-1024x613-48566.jpg Adam Wilkinson, Director of Edinburgh World Heritage, Barbara Cummins, Director of Heritage at Historic Environment Scotland and Adam McVey, leader of City of Edinburgh Council with the new Management Plan
A new plan for Edinburgh's Old and New Towns has been launched, which focuses on six key areas which aim to manage the 'outstanding universal value' of the UNESCO site.

A new plan for Edinburgh's Old and New Towns has been launched, which focuses on six key areas which aim to manage the 'outstanding universal value' of the UNESCO site. Read the History Scotland Ultimate Edinburgh History & Travel Guide.

The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. The site covers an area of approximately 4.5km2 and contains nearly 4,500 individual buildings as well as ancient monuments, designed landscapes, and conservation areas.

UNESCO requires those responsible for a World Heritage Site have a way to manage it. In the UK, this takes the form of a management plan. This should:

  • Include the vision and goals for preserving and enhancing Edinburgh’s OUV
  • Explain the special qualities and values of the Site
  • Lay out policies to protect the Site
  • Provide support for monitoring future developments planned for the Site

In 2016, the management partners asked the public to reflect on Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site and the issues related to it. The themes that scored the lowest in the public’s eye have become the main focus of the five-year Action Plan, which is part of the main Management Plan. It covers the period 2017-2022.

Six key themes, 2017-2022

1. Care & maintenance

Objective: Ensure ongoing investment in the conservation of the Site

Concerns from public: Improve streets, stricter rules for public spaces, help with common repairs


  • Raise awareness of the availability of grants
  • Support research demonstrating WHS best practice in Edinburgh
  • Raise awareness of importance of space between buildings: ‘public realm’
  • Encourage the sustainable re-use of underused and unused buildings
  • Contribute to climate change agenda through energy efficiency programme

2. Control & guidance

Objective: Improve tools for sustaining Outstanding Universal Value.

Concerns from public: Enforcing planning laws, guidance for property owners, protecting skyline


  • Ensure OUV of the Site is taken into account in planning decisions
  • Raise awareness of actions and decisions taken in the WHS
  • Integrate WHS values in city-wide decisions on Edinburgh’s future
  • Promote and create opportunities for traditional skills events

3. Awareness of the World Heritage Site status

Objective: Coordinate actions to ensure broad understanding of World Heritage Site

Concerns from public: Better signage, promotion, information on benefits, significance, history of World Heritage Site


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  • Clarify the qualities of the WHS to help understanding of the OUVs
  • Publicise and cross-promote actions taken around condition of the WHS
  • Produce a programme of themed events for residents and visitors

4. Contribution of new development

Objective: Ensure development is high quality, architecture embraces WHS context

Concerns from public: Better quality of architecture, new developments not in keeping with WHS context


  • Produce guidance on OUV use in the planning process
  • Advocate the importance of the skyline study, guide on how to use it
  • Produce research on appropriate materials for use in the WHS
  • Influence new development positively within the WHS
  • Produce place briefs for vacant sites in the WHS

5. Visitor management

Objective: Advocate for sustainable tourism within the WHS and the city

Concerns from public: Concentration of visitors on Royal Mile, tourist shops, informative signage


  • Explain the value of the WHS to tourism industry and business community
  • Encourage street cleanliness via Waste & Cleansing Improvement Plan
  • Understand what sustainable tourism is and promote best practice

6. Influence & sense of control

Objective: Sustain effective partnerships that support WHS management

Concerns from public: Confusion over planning decisions, consultations not widely advertised


  • Engage and involve businesses in the management of the WHS
  • Communicate with all sectors, coordinate with all stakeholders
  • Consult widely, provide clarity on how decisions were reached

Download the Edinburgh World Heritage Site Management Plan.

Image copyright Edinburgh World Heritage, graphic copyright Edinburgh City Council