A 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.
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
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
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 pass time, 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.
Dunbar has a reputation as a Drive-thru town. Cheap take-aways and officially a “tea and pee stop” (so says Visit East Lothian, though sometimes I wonder whether its main objective is to encourage driving, that and the creation of more car parks). Obviously, those in the know, know there is much more to the town of Dunbar and that it would take days and weeks to discover the richness and diversity of its history and natural heritage fully (philosophically we are talking about unknown knowns, to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld).
Anyway, to cut a long story short, on the night of the 3rd August 2018 we can all enjoy a new spectacle, a show of extreme public laziness and laissez faire consultation, when all the A1 southbound traffic will be routed through the the historic town and Conservation Area. Last time there was a major diversion fragile ceilings were reported to have come down in listed buildings and visitors took their business elsewhere.
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?
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)