This may not be entirely true. But it makes 2 serious points about contemporary cities in the developed world: why is it so hard for them to do infrastructure? And is the heritage industry really a problem rather than a solution?



Since Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns were declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1995, the city council has worked hard to protect and in many cases restore a historic atmosphere to the city. To the delight of tourists and urban historians, it’s had some wonderful succeses. The Statutory Notice System of building repairs has produced an authentically eighteenth-century feeling of corruption and decline: parts of the city now feel as decadent as the Naples of the eighteenth century Grand Tour. But perhaps the greatest, if least trumpeted, success has been the roads. In line with the council’s policy of restoring an authentic sense of history to the city, it has for some years abandoned all but the most essential road repairs. Aided by the severe winters of the late 2000s, potholes have flourished, leading to the wholesale degradation of entire streets. Now the…

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