Masonic Lodge Dunbar – Lost and Found

The Eye of Providence - Aye RightA mid 19th century. 2-storey, symmetrical 3-bay building with extension to the side sounds very much like a workaday building of  the period, especially on Dunbar High Street, chokka with old buildings in various states of decay on the one hand and unsympathetic modernisations and bizarre additions on the other. But take a look inside this one and you’ll be forgiven for thinking that the C listing (albeit in  a building “group category B”) is mistakenly undersold.

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The Conservation Premium

With over 600 designated throughout Scotland and a staggering 9,800 in England, Conservation Areas afford protection to the crème de la crème of our built heritage and environment, for which there is seemingly no direct market. With the designation owners’ property rights are restricted. Changes to the external appearance of buildings and choice of materials limited and the cost of altering and maintaining buildings to a certain standard is in many if not most cases increased. The policy directly imposes a cost on individual owners and occupiers, but all in the name of a greater public good, which recent surveys suggest 92% of the population supports.

unsympathetic alterations causing the loss of traditional architectural features … loss of front gardens to parking … lack of co-ordinated or poor quality street furniture and paving …  traffic domination and cluttered pedestrian environment … loss of traditional shopfronts

[Problems which Conservation Areas are designed to overcome]

So how can it be justified? Can it be purely on the grounds of a positive external heritage effect? And what if the social benefits exceed the private costs of maintenance? Is there some intergenerational inequality, whereby residents today pay the costs for future generations to perhaps enjoy? Is there a case for additional support – for these areas will also have more listed buildings with additional development restrictions than non designated areas, in the way that farmers get subsidy to farm wildlife. Environmental subsidies are justified because markets fail to protect landscapes, wildlife and countryside, for as the rural saying goes, “you can’t eat the view.” Well the jury is out on market failure it seems and I see no sign of incentives for householders any time soon. Continue reading The Conservation Premium

Destination Dunbar

Have we been missing a trick?
Have we been missing a trick?

My presentation notes.

The fortunes of High streets have always waxed and waned, but the most recent decline of high streets seems inexorable and attempts to reverse it labelled by some as “mission impossible”. But the decline started long before the rise of the internet and comparison shopping, or out of town shopping became a popular passtime, but I am not here to give you a history lesson, except to say that the reasons for the decline are complex and not simple. They are rooted as much in changing attitudes and behaviours – the way we shop, work, play and holiday, as in changes in the economy, and for the that read also changes in technology, in the widest sense.

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Drive through Dumbar

No doubt there were loud cheers when McBurgher’s announced their intention to locate a new drive-through just down the road. And what better place to locate it? Although Dumbar isn’t quite the Drive Thru Town it used to be, more Drive Past, it is now officially a Take-Away and Throw-Away Town with a critical mass of cheap eateries and woeful food business recycling rates. Anyway some say this is exactly what the locality was missing – another take-away joint. As every schoolgirl knows easy access to fast food encourages better health, slimmer waist-lines (no pun intended), a better quality tourism, higher levels of inward investment and is a key motivator for homebuyers. Except none of this is true. I am reliably informed that a new home in Tranent will fetch a premium price, while in Dumbar it goes for below the average. Location isn’t everything, or maybe it is?

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L’Odore della Notte (the smell of the night)

Rotting seaweed with or without a blend of sewage can be malodorous, especially at this time of year. And because coastal strandlines – the main source of the smell – extend right into our coastal towns, some people don’t love them so much. But is it right to sanitise them completely and muck up our beach combing fun? Continue reading L’Odore della Notte (the smell of the night)

Cockenzie House Development

So the controversial revived plans to build a care home in the grounds of Cockenzie House have slipped through, with the casting vote in favour by one Norman Hampshire, not terribly well known for espousing traditional labour views. Not surprisingly, with strong objections from the community and authorities like Historic Scotland, many will be dismayed by the inability of the committee to reflect its constituents views.

You’d think there’d be plenty of places in around the locality to plonk a 60-bed home in the workaday cheap 80s style, as developers today are want. First you identify a site which is in a sensitive area, currently under multiple occupancy and clearly having some useful community and wider benefits. Then you put forward a daft plan, cobbled together by a draughtsman or architectural technician, presumably as proper architects are too expensive. You then surreptitiously submit the plans in the summer recess when everyone is on their hols.

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