Edinburgh’s Positive Progress in addressing Buildings at Risk

The Buildings at Risk Register is used to record and monitor any historic buildings in Scotland which are at risk. The Register was set up in 1990 and is managed by Historic Environment Scotland. A building at risk can be a listed, historical building or a building in a conservation that meets one or more of the following criteria: vacant with no identified new use, suffering from neglect, poor maintenance or structural problems, fire damaged, unsecured or open to the elements, and threatened with demolition. This list is not exhaustive and other criteria may be considered when assessing a building.

Within Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site, there are currently 18 buildings on the Register.  Over the last ten years there have been a total of 54 buildings categorised as ‘at risk’ within the World Heritage Site (WHS). During this period, 29 have been saved, reoccupied and removed from the Register; six are currently categorised as ‘restoration in progress’; and of the remaining 21 properties, 13 remain categorised ‘at risk’ with eight having sadly been lost to demolition.

Category A buildings are the highest category of listing. These are buildings of special architectural or historic interest which are outstanding examples of a particular period, style or building type. Between 2012 and 2022, 17 Category ‘A’ listed buildings ‘at risk’ within the WHS have been saved and two have been demolished. In 2012, there were 16 Category ‘A’ listed ‘at risk’ properties within the WHS. In 2022, this number has been reduced, with 11 Category ‘A’ listed ‘at risk’ properties within the WHS remaining on the Register.

A number of the current ‘at risk’ buildings (four) form part of high-profile development sites and regeneration projects, including the India Buildings on Victoria Street where the Virgin Hotel is being currently being developed. To also note, that a further five entries relate to the Old Royal High School where it is hoped that the St Mary’s Music School proposals will form the focus of a renovation scheme for the site.

Buildings remain on the Register until they have been fully restored and reoccupied. Over the last 10 years, a number of internationally significant Category ‘A’ listed ‘at risk’ buildings within the WHS  have undergone restoration, reoccupation and have been removed from the Register. Examples of successful restoration schemes include City Observatory on Calton Hill, Riddles Court in Lawnmarket, and the former Donaldson’s School for the Deaf. Looking forward to seeing more successful restoration schemes for the remaining buildings on the Register!

Edinburgh is the best performing of the four major cities in Scotland when it comes to looking after its historic buildings. The Current BARR shows that the City of Edinburgh Council has the lowest percentage of listed buildings at-risk of the four major cities in Scotland.

The positive progress in addressing buildings on the BARR is a reflection of the city’s economic buoyancy and strong property market. As part of the Council’s statutory duty to protect the historic environment, the Planning Service seeks to work with owners to support them to work towards the best outcome for each property. In more difficult cases, this can involve using the statutory powers granted to local authorities to intervene and take direct action.

To find out more about buildings at risk and to view the full Register, please visit https://buildingsatrisk.org.uk/.