New Cockburn Chair – Why not join our team?

POSTED ON February 24, 2023 BY James Garry

The Cockburn Association is seeking to recruit a new Chair to replace Professor Cliff Hague OBE, who retires from the position in May 2023 following 6 years of excellent service.

Chair of the Cockburn Association  – Why not join our team?

The Cockburn Association is seeking to recruit a new Chair to replace Professor Cliff Hague OBE, who retires from the position in May 2023 following 6 years of excellent service.

Role specification:

The Organisation

The Cockburn Association was founded in 1875 to promote and encourage the care and conservation of Edinburgh’s unique architectural and landscape heritage. The Association is one of the oldest conservation, planning and architectural advocacy organisations in the world. It takes its name from Lord Henry Cockburn (1779-1854), a renowned Scottish lawyer, judge and literary figure, who can claim to be one of Scotland’s first conservationists. His publication A Letter to the Lord Provost on the Best Ways of Spoiling the Beauty of Edinburgh (1849) provided the inspiration to establish a public organisation and it remains as relevant today as when it was written. Lord Cockburn’s civic contribution was recognised in 1859 by naming a new thoroughfare ‘Cockburn Street’.

The Cockburn Association’s objectives are to promote and encourage:

  1. the maintenance and improvement of the amenity of the City of Edinburgh and its neighbourhoods;
  2. the protection, preservation and conservation of the City’s landscape and its historical and architectural heritage.

The Cockburn Association is headquartered in the historic Old Town in Trunk’s Close which forms part of Moubray House – a building the Cockburn Association saved from demolition in 1910. There is a small professional office team.

It is a membership organisation open to anyone who shares our passion for the city and its amenity. We run the Edinburgh Civic Forum, a network of over 100 community councils, residents’ associations and local civic group who are interested in the good planning of the city.

More information about the Association can be found at


The Cockburn Association is governed by a Council of Trustees who carry responsibility for the overall running of the charity.

There are three main office-bearers: Chair, Vice-Chair and Treasurer, who are supported by up to 12 ordinary and appointed Council members (Trustees), and the President of the Association.

The Cockburn operates through a number of standing committees who drive the advocacy and management of the organisation. The Policy & Development Committee acts as the main technical panel for the consideration of planning and architectural proposals and includes non-Council members.

Developing the Association

The new Chair will oversee the Association at a time of transition and opportunity.

In 2025, the Cockburn will celebrate its 150th anniversary. The new Chair will help frame the celebrations of this significant landmark event, which will include a major civic reception and publication.  An important task will be exploiting this anniversary as a resource development opportunity, of which the Chair will play a strong guiding role.

As a civic advocacy organisation, the Association has been reframing its focus of activity.  The Chair will help guide this work and contribute to thought leadership in the redevelopment of its “Our Unique City” programme. Connecting with other organisations across the city and beyond to extend the influence of the organisation will be an important function of the role.

The Association is also developing a new outreach and engagement programme under the banner of “Open Edinburgh” with three strategic themes of Explore, Encounter, Experience delivering a digital portal for places, digital “tours” and explorations and a physical access programme modelled off Doors Open Days.

A key objective of the Chair is to drive the development of the Cockburn ‘brand’, increasing the support base and reaching out to stakeholders across the city, existing and new.  The Chair will be expected to bring their own network into the Association where possible and to act as a figurehead to our members and supporters.


The Chair convenes the meetings of the Council which normally take place every two months in person or by video conferencing. The Chair also convenes the Management and Finance Committee, which also meets every two months.  There is scope to change the operations of Council to ensure its effectiveness and efficiency.

The Chair is the main liaison between the Trustees and the small staff team who are managed by the Director. The Chair will be in regular contact with the Director to oversee the development and implementation of strategy. The Chair will also conduct an annual progress review with the Director, as well as helping to prepare agendas for meetings of the Council and the Management and Finance Committee.

Along with the Director, the Chair is the figurehead for the Cockburn and may expect to be approached from time to time by the press, radio or TV to provide statements on behalf of the Cockburn.

The post is voluntary and the workload varies, depending upon: (i) the division of responsibilities between the Director, and other Cockburn Association  staff; (ii) on external circumstances such as controversial developments in the city; and (iii) and the Chair’s own approach to leadership.  Managing core business and Council is unlikely to amount to less than the equivalent of a day a month.  However, there is scope for additional commitment depending on the interests, skills and capacity of the successful candidate.

Since Covid, much of the formal business of the Association has been conducted digitally, using ZOOM as the main video-conferencing platform.  Recently, some meetings have returned to face-to-face but it is likely that a blend of approaches will continue in the future.

Personal and Role Specifications

The Chair will be a respected figure of standing within their sectors or peer group. They will have a passion for Edinburgh, its heritage, its landscapes, and its communities.

Specific duties of the role of chair include:

  • to promote the organisation’s best interests, and work closely with other trustees, staff and members as appropriate.
  • to provide support and guidance as well as challenge and scrutiny, in order to help the Association to thrive.
  • to ensure the Association is well-governed and that the Council acts with due probity and in accordance with its responsibilities, as set out by OSCR.
  • to engage with stakeholders, particularly with partners, funders and supporters, in order to extend the Cockburn’s network and influence, and to raise its profile as an institution of local and regional, significance.
  • to encourage a forward-looking Association and to harness the diverse thoughts and contributions of every board member in an inclusive and supportive way.
  • to be an authoritative ambassador for the Cockburn Association, with a reputation and standing in a professional field.
  • to understand wider policy contexts of the heritage and cultural sectors in relation to Cockburn interests.
  • to stand up for the amenity of the City and the rights of the public to appreciate and enjoy the architectural, heritage and landscape qualities of the City of Edinburgh.

Further information and how to apply

If you would wish to speak to the current Chair to discuss the role further, please contact the Director Terry Levinthal who will arrange an informal chat.  Please email him at or call 0131-557-8686.

Similarly, if you would like to have a discussion with the Director, feel free to contact him as above.

The Cockburn Association is committed to treating all people equally and with respect irrespective of their age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientationality.


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