A TASK force is to be set up to preserve the increasing number of crumbling historic buildings in Edinburgh and prevent them from becoming safety hazards.
The city council will work with heritage organisations to speed up maintenance work and find new owners and tenants for disused buildings, as well as compiling a register of buildings at risk which will be reviewed annually.
The move comes as a report, to be presented to councillors later this week, reveals that 69 buildings in Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site are classed as a matter for “concern”, while the Scottish Civic Trust currently lists 23 buildings across the city as “at risk” due to neglect.
The 23 include the former GPO building in Waterloo Place; North Grays Close, off the High Street; the Infirmary Street Baths; Lauriston Place Church; the former Blackfriars Street Church and Leith Hospital on King Street. Another 22 premises are being considered for inclusion on the list.
While the danger with most is confined to damage to architectural merit, some are so decayed they pose a risk to public safety, according to the head of city development, Andrew Holmes.
In the report to the councillors meeting on Thursday, Mr Holmes says: “Buildings at risk and the concomitant neglect of repairs may also have implications for public safety.”
The report also follows a fatal accident inquiry into the death of an Australian waitress who was struck by falling masonry at the fashionable Ryan’s bar in Edinburgh’s West End, prompting calls for more frequent inspections of construction and maintenance work. Such inspections are mandatory in England and Wales.
The new working group, involving the council, the civic trust and the World Heritage Trust, could see the council carrying out emergency work to make a property wind- and watertight, structurally more sound, or to stop vandals getting in, with owners then being billed.
Source: Jeanette Oldham, The Scotsman, 5th February, 2002