Edinburgh’s Old Town has come under fire recently
Edinburgh’s Old Town has come under fire recently – by a local group named ‘The Old Town Community Council’ (OTCC).
The community council claims that the Unesco World Heritage Centre is turning into an “unsustainable mess” due to tourist buses and lorries bringing down the area’s tone.
It has even complied a 13-page report on what it thinks are the worst culprits.
The report entitled ‘Our Streets: How unpleasant they have become – and what to do about it’ shows photographic evidence of the impact lorries and tourist buses are having on the city’s Royal Mile and surrounding areas.
“Filling the Old Town, these oversized vehicles are congesting the area’s narrow streets and fines aren’t large enough to deter them”, the report claims.
OTCC has also taken fire at advertising boards, walking tours and “tat on the pavement”, among other things.
It has written a number of recommendations including a large vehicle ban, increase in parking fines and imposing license conditions for tour groups and souvenir sellers.
The scathing report concludes: “We are perpetually told that it is necessary to sacrifice everything including our architectural integrity to attract ever more tourists to the City [and] that this is necessary because these tourists bring vast amounts of money into our City.
“Meanwhile we are told that the City is nearly bankrupt and cannot afford to undertake basic maintenance let along upgrade everything. If this is the case then there is something SERIOUSLY WRONG” (sic).
Leader of the City of Edinburgh Council, Cllr Adam McVey commented: “Our World Heritage Site is of crucial importance to the future vision and development of the city. That is why the Council has gone to great lengths to develop a site management plan, which highlights actions under six key themes to ensure that city centre balances the needs of everyone.
Claims have been made that the Unesco World Heritage Centre is turning into an “unsustainable mess”
“In their report, the Old Town Community Council raises important questions around traffic flow and street furniture amongst other things, and we’re already spending a lot of time with public transport operators like Lothian Buses to look at how their routes across the city centre work.
“It is very encouraging that we are receiving such detailed feedback from the community, and their observations will be considered alongside all others as part of our public consultation around these very issues.
“We’re committed to engaging with other partners, businesses, residents and everyone else who has an interest in the city centre to ensure the city continues to benefit those who live and work here, those who need to travel in the city and those who want to visit.”
However, tourist bus services have hit back, defending their operation in the Old Town.
A spokesman for Edinburgh Bus tours told the BBC: “Tourism is a vital part of the economy of our city and Edinburgh Bus Tours – as Scotland’s second most popular paid-for attraction – carried almost 700,000 visitors last year contributing significantly to both the local and wider Scottish economy in supporting jobs, investment and economic growth.
“As such, we are fully aware of the responsibility we share to protect the environment we operate in – especially areas like the Old Town which makes the city such an important visitor destination.
“In a UK first we invested £6.5 million into a brand new fleet of Euro 6 standard vehicles in 2016, which are the cleanest diesel buses on the market.”
Tourists flock to Edinburgh’s Old Town for its medieval streets and centuries-old architecture.
According to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA), most of the UK’s visited attractions outside of London were in Scotland.
The National Museum of Scotland’s visitors were up by 20 per cent to 2.1 million, while Edinburgh Castle’s visitors increased by 16 per cent to just over two million.