A TOURIST zone advertising blitz bringing a swathe of eight-foot billboard drums to the Scottish capital has been challenged by residents and conservationists.

Edinburgh City Council has moved to tackle flyposting and provide a legitimate street platform for arts information by commissioning advertising drums in hotspots like the West End and Old Town and New Town.

However, the council's planners have recommended refusal for three out of seven of the planned 2.4 metre (7.9ft) cylinders and conservation groups and residents have raised concerns over the impact on the city's World Heritage Site.

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Terry Levinthal, director of the Cockburn Association heritage watchdog, said there is "little evidence" such advertising hoardings serve people seeking information in modern society.

He said: "We recognise the desire to help visitors and residents alike get information about what's happening in the city but that it's in the context of ever-increasing concerns about clutter."

Adam Wilkinson, director of Edinburgh World Heritage Trust, was also cautious but he said the drums had the potential to be "recognisable elements" in the city-scape like old police boxes.

He said: "We strongly encourage the reduction of street clutter, but we also recognise the need for facilities like this to prevent flyposting.

"The proper management of these columns will be vital – they can quickly become unattractive and untidy if it's a free-for-all and anyone can just stick up a poster."

However, he said: "The design and choice of materials is also extremely important.

"Much like Edinburgh's iconic police boxes designed by Ebenezer McCrae, these columns have the potential to become recognisable elements in the fabric of our city.

"They should be of a good quality, and appropriate for their surrounding historic environment."

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London-based City Centre Posters won the contract for the drums in the push against flyposting, which costs the council £300,000 to clean up a year, in October.

Its designs offer the choice of different tops for the drums, which were seen earlier in a pilot scheme, reflecting Scottish scenes such as heather-topped Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh Castle's Great Hall or the Forth Bridge.

Councillors are being asked to reject three drums, two in Castle Terrace and one at St Andrew Square, on the grounds they would have “unacceptable detrimental impact” on the locations.

Planners said "there are no issues" with drums in the Grassmarket, Festival Square, Morrison Street, Shandwick Place and Dalry Road at the junction with Haymarket.

Dozens of New Town residents voiced their concern over the St Andrew's Square cylinder, with Susan Fabbro, of Dundonald Street, saying: "I believe it is completely at odds with the historic environment of Edinburgh's World Heritage and would have a negative impact on its surroundings and specifically given the proximity of innumerable and magnificent listed buildings in the vicinity.

"What purpose does it serve other than commercial?

"Edinburgh is already littered with advertising boards on pavements and roads to the point of information overload."

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Alison Bruce, of Great King Street, said it would create "unnecessary visual and street clutter in a beautiful Georgian Square and public space" and Andrew Haddow, of East London Street, said the drum will have "an unacceptable detrimental impact due to the proximity to a number of a listed buildings".

A council spokeswoman said the cost of the contract with CCP was commercially confidential and the council is unable to comment on a live planning application.

However, a report to go before councillors today stated: "The advert drum is part of a programme of advert drums proposed across the city and there is currently a consultation event being run by the applicants on the design of the top of the drum.

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"The finished top to the drums are designed to replicate some structure within the city.

"The applicant, City Centre Posters is the successful bidder for the tendering process carried out by the council to select a company to install arts and culture advertising structures throughout the city."