At the age of 59, John Graham retires tomorrow after 5 years as chief executive of Historic Scotland. A civil servant for 37 years he is resident in the Grange.
Historic Scotland has its headquarters in Salisbury Place. It has certainly become leaner and fitter in recent times. For example, it turns round applications and consultations much faster. It has also become more responsive to functional and community needs.
But there is more change needed in the coming years. Its listing process and the rules it enforces carry considerable responsibility for planning blight on a number of buildings - some of which are a blot on our built environment. The derelict shell of the old Chalmers Lauriston church in Lauriston Place is one such example. The sorry sagas of delays associated with the Odeon in Clerk Street is another. Then there is the ill fated attempt to list the Appleton Tower.
It is often not appreciated that the upkeep and functional use of many listed buildings is inhibited by the shadow cast by requirements derived from the listing status. Hence the addition of a few hundred thousands to comply with Historic Scotland requirements sometimes drives away investors who wish to bring a decaying building up to standard or back into use.
Of course, in the majority of cases the listing process is a valid method of preserving what is good in our built heritage. And to be fair to Historic Scotland, they are a government agency and it is the government which needs to change their terms of reference to reduce or eliminate the more negative effects of their existence.
Best wishes to Ruth Parsons, the interim Chief Executive as she continues to move Historic Scotland forward in challenging times.
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