The thesis examines the relationship between tourism, conservation and town planning in the
contemporary European historic city. A literature review demonstrates the importance of historic
cities in Europe, and discusses the development of conservation policies, and the complex meanings
which historic cities carry. In the 1990's such cities are increasingly competing to attract tourists.
Tourism has both positive and negative effects, raising the question of whether the growth of tourism
in historic cities is sustainable. To address this question a comparative study is undertaken of the Old
Towns of Edinburgh and Prague.
The development of tourism and conservation is reviewed in each city, noting the role played by the
planning system in each case. In Edinburgh, there have been major plans affecting the Old Town
since the 1930's, and active public interest in its conservation, notably expressed through the
Cockburn Association, the city's leading amenity organisation. Nevertheless the area declined as
slum clearance whittled the population and relocations and closures altered the employment base.
Since the early 1980's conservation in the Old Town has been bolstered within a planning system
which has itself been considerably changed, becoming both more aware of issues of sustainability
but also more alert to the nature of market -led change and the need for public- private partnerships.
The Edinburgh Old Town Renewal Trust has played a particularly important role, co-ordinating the
public, private and voluntary sectors, and acting as a catalyst for implementation.
In Prague the research shows that conservation under Communism was centralised and concentrated
on major buildings, neglecting a substantial stock of lesser properties. In addition the state's ideology
of progress was contradictory to the retention of relics of previous eras, though the historic fabric
was not threatened by a market -based development industry. Since 1989 restitution of properties to
former owners has complicated the process of conservation, while office rents have increased sharply
and there has been a massive influx of tourists. Planning legislation has been reformed but the
development control process remains complex and bureaucratic.
Urban capacity analysis is reviewed as a methodology and then used to compare the tourist impacts
in Edinburgh and Prague. Technical studies of townscape, traffic, retailing etc. were undertaken in
both cities. In addition questionnaire -based studies were undertaken of the perceptions of two distinct
groups in each city - tourists and Old Town residents. These revealed that there was a significant
qualitative dimension to any assessment of capacity. In general residents were more sensitive to the
negative impacts of things like advertisements than were the visitors, though the research also
revealed that the Prague residents were more critical of the situation than those who lived in
Edinburgh, yet were also more reluctant to see stronger planning controls as a solution.
The empirical research confirmed the view that it is misleading to think in terms of whether or not an
area is at capacity. Rather capacity analysis should be used to discern whether a place is moving
towards or away from a sustainable relationship with tourism. Therefore the capacity analysis was
used as a basis for writing five alternative scenarios for each city, ranging from minimal change,
through major change to managed reduction in tourism.
The thesis concludes that Prague and Edinburgh share many problems, though Prague is closer to
capacity due to tourist impact. There is scope for transfer of ideas, with the Edinburgh Old Town
Renewal Trust being a model of how an institution can help to secure integration of conservation and
tourism aims at a local level. Likewise there is scope for planning in Prague to move towards the
enabling role played by the planners in Edinburgh. Conclusions are also drawn about urban capacity
analysis, in particular stressing the value of perception studies and the benefits of using the method in
a comparative way. Finally, it is argued that east -west planning comparisons remain problematic but
valuable. Problems about language and data availability are still severe, and it is still necessary to
understand the history of state socialism to appreciate issues and practices in the late 1990's.
Recommendations are made for further research following from the conclusions.