Cockburn Annual Lecture – The Role of Urban Ecology in the Future of Edinburgh

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How should Edinburgh grow? Recently published population projections suggest that Edinburgh will grow by 28% over the next 25 years. This signals a strong economy able to create wealth and opportunity for its citizens and able to attract the key workers it needs to run its public services and fuel new enterprise. But it is also presents powerful challenges to the city. Assuming a population growth of a quarter of a million people over the next few decades, 25 per cent of all the houses currently built in Scotland every year would need to be constructed in Edinburgh to allow the city to cope.

This multi-speaker lecture will look at examples of projects in other European places with the purpose of initiating an informed civic debate on how Edinburgh approaches this challenge while addressing associated problems of climate change and place quality.


Professor Cliff Hague OBE,

Academic, Town Planner, freelance consultant and researcher. Past President of the Royal Town Planning Institute and President of the Commonwealth Association of Planners (Secretary-General 2006 -10). In 2011 he chaired the Commonwealth expert group on urbanisation. He is a Patron of Planning Aid Scotland and is currently Chair of the Cockburn Association.

Professor Sandy Halliday

Sandy is a chartered engineer and Principal of Gaia Research, which she founded in 1996. She has undertaken research into materials, products, performance, technology, environmental design and health & well being in the built environment and been responsible for dissemination of best practice. She is the author of numerous publications including Sustainable Construction (2nd edition Taylor & Francis 2018). She recently undertook a study tour of Urban Ecology projects in Germany and Switzerland. She saw inspiring buildings and built environment projects that address resources, pollution, toxicity, affordability, community and biodiversity.

René Sommer Lindsay

René is a Climate Adaptation Consultant, urban designer and strategic advisor. He was the former head of Klimakvarter, the Copenhagen climate resilient neighbourhood project. Klimakvarter is an innovative combination of rain water management and recreational infrastructure, aimed at improving public spaces and provide new meeting spaces in a deprived community. Currently based in Edinburgh, he is contributing the work of Adaptation Scotland and Sustrans.

Providing a reflection on the lecture will be Euan Leitch, Director of Built Environment Forum Scotland.


The City of Edinburgh Council has started the preparation of a new local development plan for Edinburgh called City Plan 2030. The new plan will set out policies and proposals for development in Edinburgh between 2020 and 2030. The plan will have to meet the challenge of accommodating unprecedented growth while conserving and enhancing the best of the city’s built and natural heritage.

There are numerous initiatives in Edinburgh seeking to address concerns about our built environment. There is growing awareness of the adverse local and global impacts of polluting buildings and transportation. Improving equality by providing fair access to good quality homes for all is proving a significant challenge for the city. There is a need to better communicate the potential for positive impacts on the economy, health and well-being of improving housing quality and affordability through refurbishment, regeneration and re-imagining of buildings and public space.

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