Cockburn Association appoints its first woman Chair of Council

POSTED ON May 11, 2023 BY James Garry

After 148 years as Edinburgh’s leading civic organisation, the Cockburn Association has appointed a woman to be its Chair

After 148 years as Edinburgh’s leading civic organisation, the Cockburn Association has appointed a woman to be its Chair.

At the AGM on 18 May 2023, Barbara Cummins will become the 21st Chair of the Cockburn Association. She is a Chartered Town Planner and a past Convenor of the Royal Town Planning Institute in Scotland. Until April 2021 she was Director of Heritage at Historic Environment Scotland where she led the functions responsible for planning, advice and consents, designations, World Heritage Sites and the HES archives.

Barbara is the current Vice Chair of Planning Aid Scotland (PAS).  Previously she worked in local government planning in a career spanning over 20 years.  Most notably, she led the Listed Buildings and City Centre Development Management Teams at the City of Edinburgh Council until 2009.

Barbara graduated from Queen’s University of Belfast with a degree in geography before completing a Postgraduate Diploma in Town and Country Planning at Edinburgh College of Art/Heriot Watt University and an MBA at Edinburgh University.  She has been a Member of the Royal Town Planning Institute since 1990.

“It is an honour to be the new Chair of such an important Edinburgh civic body and to build on the work of my immediate predecessor, Cliff Hague.  I am looking forward to working with the team,  Trustees and wider stakeholders as well as getting to know the members better.”

“This is an exciting time for the Cockburn as we approach the 150th anniversary and there will be much to reflect back on and celebrate.  I also know I have big shoes to fill and many challenges ahead as Edinburgh continues to evolve in the face of global issues and local pressures.  I know the Cockburn has an important role to play in helping to shape the future, as well as celebrating the past, of this unique city.”

Barbara lives in Colinton with her partner and cat, who frequently makes appearances in zoom meetings.

Cliff Hague steps down after 7 years as Cockburn Chair

Emeritus Professor Cliff Hague became the Chair of the Cockburn in 2016, some months after filling a similar role at Built Environment Forum Scotland.  A distinguished international planner, academic, campaigner and author, Cliff was instrumental in bringing new Trustees onto Council, and stabilizing and refocusing the Association.  His deep knowledge of the planning system and forensic analysis of information helped shift the emphasis of the Cockburn to a more strategic and integrated approach to the issues facing Edinburgh.

This was reflected particularly in the Association’s thoughtpiece, “Our Unique City – A Civic Conversation about our Urban Future” (available on our website).  Work is now ongoing for the next iteration of this.

His contributions to civic debate such as his Annual Lecture “Whose Festival is it Anyway?” in 2020 illustrated his ability to probe and challenge public policy and perceptions where necessary.  He championed the rights of citizens and argued against the commodification of open space.  For example, his strong concern about the flouting of planning controls for events-led activities such as the 2019 Christmas Market in East Princes Street Gardens resulted in significant shifts to the city’s approach to the use of parks and greenspaces.

Cliff was also a very personable, hands-on chair supporting the development of the Edinburgh Civic Forum, fellow Trustees and staff.  His presence on Council will be missed, but his willingness to continue to support the Cockburn is very much appreciated.

“I am delighted that Barbara Cummins is taking on the role of Chair. It further demonstrates how the Cockburn is moving ahead, while building on its long and proud tradition of being a well-informed voice caring for Edinburgh”, he said.

“It has been an honour to be Chair, and to work with such a team of talented and committed staff and Trustees.  As it looks towards its 150th Anniversary in 2025, the need for the Cockburn is greater than ever, as Edinburgh faces the challenges of moving towards tackling the climate emergency and becoming a more equal city while sustaining its economic strengths.”

Professor Hague taught generations of Scottish and international planners in Edinburgh College of Art / Heriot-Watt University, where for a time he was Head of the School of Planning and Housing.  It is therefore without any sense of irony that his successor was once a student of his.

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