THE woman behind the transformation of Edinburgh's old town and a United Nations advisor on the revitalisation of Lithuania's capital, Vilnius, has been appointed head of renaissance at regional development agency One NorthEast.

Kirsteen Thomson, a chartered architect and planner from Scotland, has joined the agency to lead the delivery of a strategy that looks at the quality of the built environment and how it affects the sustainability of communities.

Qualified at the Architectural Association in London, Ms Thomson ran her own consultancy.

Having worked on various schemes throughout the UK as a consultant, Ms Thomson then joined the Edinburgh Old Town Renewal Trust, where she worked for eight years, spending four of them as its director.

Responsible for the conservation and regeneration of this historic part of the city, Ms Thomson and her team implemented a partnership plan that balanced the economic needs of the area as a tourist centre, with the conservation of its buildings and the need to increase the residential population.

Ms Thomson, a member of the Royal Town Planning Institute and a member of the Association of the Royal Incorporation of Architects of Scotland, said: "The key to successful regeneration is not held solely in bricks and mortar.

"The quality of the house is important. However, sustainability depends on the vibrancy of the surrounding community, its economic capacity and other factors, such as the attractiveness of public spaces and buildings.

"We recognised that the Old Town couldn't be like a Disneyland, where the whole place shuts down after the visitors have gone - if a place is to have life and "buzz" then it needs people and a balance of appropriate activities.

"Our target to increase the residential population of the Old Town from 3,000 to 12,000 was essential to the long-term success of the area, which can still be seen today."

One of Ms Thomson's first tasks as head of renaissance, will be to develop links with One NorthEast's partners and others who make an investment in regeneration. She will also lead plans to develop a Centre of Excellence for regeneration.