Edinburgh has set an ambitious target for the city to be net zero by 2030. An important part of achieving this target is for all homes to be well-insulated and energy efficient. However, it is recognised that people who own listed buildings or own property within conservation areas face additional and unique challenges to adapt their properties to make them more sustainable for the future. The current cost of living crisis is also contributing to these challenges by affecting many residents’ ability to afford essentials such as heating, food, rent or transport.
We are asking for the views of people who own listed buildings or properties in conservation areas on the challenges they face when trying to maintain, repair and adapt their historic homes in response to climate change and the cost of living crisis.
A ten-week online consultation relating to these challenges will begin on Friday, 31 March. Feedback from the consultation will be considered by a short-term working group being established to discuss these challenges as well as any possible solutions. It will look at what can be done in the short and longer term and how any changes to planning guidance might adversely impact our built heritage.
An updated Draft Management Plan is being prepared by the City of Edinburgh Council, Historic Environment Scotland and Edinburgh World Heritage. It identifies issues and opportunities within the site and presents an action plan for implementation over a five-year period.
The issues identified include:
care and maintenance of buildings and streets
control and guidance and contribution of new development
awareness of World Heritage Site status
influence and sense of control
This is your opportunity to tell us what matters to you and to help us to best address these issues. We want to hear your thoughts on how the World Heritage Site has been looked after, what works well and what we could be doing better.
We specifically want to know whether you feel we are doing enough to protect and enhance the Site, and any other ideas or suggestions which you may have.
We also provide more detail in the guidance on windows in Listed Buildings and what is now called ‘narrow profile glazing’, previously known as ‘slim profile glazing’.
Where it is proposed to install narrow profile glazing in listed buildings, the guidance still advises that the 6mm cavity gap between two 4mm panes is the maximum we will usually accept. Larger cavity gaps may be accepted in certain circumstances and the guidance sets out what these would be.
Listed building consent applications for narrow profile glazing in existing windows must be accompanied by cross section drawings detailing the depth of the cavity gap and glazing panes. Without this information we are unable to assess the application and it will not be progressed. Full details are included in the guidance.
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.
This is our latest update to the continuing changes to the planning service as we adapt to the restrictions needed during the COVID -19 outbreak.
Development Management Sub-Committee
This week saw our first ‘virtual’ meeting of the Development Management Sub-Committee. The meeting was webcast live and went pretty smoothly thanks to a lot of preparation by all concerned.
We’ve learned that it takes a lot more resource than traditional meetings in the City Chambers. Behind-the-screens work included having back-up planners on stand-by in case of IT issues, and partners/children/pets being banished from the house, or at least the wi-fi router.
The meeting allowed several important cases to be discussed by the elected members in the sub-committee. These include some key sites in the current Local Development Plan reaching significant milestones.
We intend to hold virtual sub-committees on a regular basis from here on, which will allow us to make and issue decisions to support economic renewal and a positive future for the city.
Extended duration of Listed Building and Conservation Area Consents
The Coronavirus (Scotland) (No. 2) Bill has passed through the parliament and will soon become an Act. The Bill makes changes to some of the duties of public bodies. These changes will allow essential public services to continue to be delivered and support businesses and individuals in Scotland.
The Act will extend the duration of a listed building consent or a conservation area consent that would otherwise lapse during the emergency period because the works have not begun. The emergency period is the period beginning with the Act coming into force and ending on 6 October 2020.
Consents to which this applies will instead lapse at the end of an extended period which ends on 6 April 2021 unless works have begun before the end of the extended period.
Despite the restrictions around Coronavirus, work is still progressing on the implementation of the work programme for the Planning (Scotland) Act, which seeks to make changes to the Scottish planning system as part of a wider review of the system.
Two new provisions of the Planning (Scotland) Act are now in place. The first introduces a statutory requirement for certain types of development to include accessible toilet facilities which meet specific technical standards. Details of the standards and type of development this applies to can be found here, and this will now apply to these types of developments in Edinburgh as well as across Scotland.
The second introduces a power for planning authorities to designate parts of their council areas as short-term let control areas, as a further means of controlling where short-term lets may be permitted. There will need to further Council-wide discussions before we consider the use of this power. Details can be found here.
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