Demolition to Start at the Former B&Q Site

Although there has been some minor exploratory work in the car park of the former B&Q store in Warriston Road, the developer (Artisan) now has in place the necessary permissions to start re-development of the site and intends to commence demolition, site clearance and other prestart works on Monday 23rd October.

The local residents group has raised an historical issue regarding the enforcement of the no parking restrictions mainly at the western end of Powderhall Road – it would seem that during the development of Powderhall Village, no relevant traffic orders were exercised at that time, such that parking restrictions are currently unenforceable. The necessary provisions are now belatedly being progressed by Edinburgh Council and thankfully, with the retrofit of the adjacent Fusion House from office use to residential now being complete, the pressure on parking on this section of Powderhall Road has eased somewhat but residents remain concerned about the impact of the low number of planned parking spaces in the new Canonmills garden development and the probable over-spill into Powderhall and the surrounding streets.

We are pleased that the developer for the B&Q site has at least made contractors aware of the limited car parking in the area and has arranged for all of their personnel to park within the B&Q site boundary.

The demolition contractors are Kinetic Demolition (www.kineticdemolition.com) who can be contacted on 0131-510-7170 in the event of a reoccurrence of irresponsible parking.

Coincident with the demolition, a pro-active programme of tree maintenance that will involve some thinning and felling” will be undertaken in the existing tree belt at the eastern edge of the site.

Clearly, whilst some may miss the convenience of a DIY store in the locality, very few will miss the aesthetic contribution of the current shed, its yard or its car park – including its carrier-bag catching fencing.

NTBCC are overall supportive of the proposed development which will provide much needed new homes (including 25% “affordable" units) on a brownfield site that is no longer  deemed to have a viable commercial use.

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New Proposal – Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) Re-development – Dundas St / Fettes Row / Royal Crescent

Following on from the seemingly “stalled” planning application (16/05454/PPP) for the former RBS site in the New Town, NTBCC were recently invited to a meeting by GVA / Michael Laird Architects to have first sight of their latest (amended) proposals.

The original application attracted over 400 objections including one from Historic Environment Scotland (HES). The agents and architects have been in discussion with both the Planning Authority and HES with the objective of amending the their plans in light of the many concerns raised with their original proposal, primarily (but not exclusively) due to the impact on the views and amenity of Fettes Row & Royal Crescent and the users of King George V Park.

We understand from these recent discussions that the agents intend submitting a set of amended plans – replacing elements of the original plans to address (at least in part) the concerns raised by HES and many others. We also understand that a further consultation period of at least 21 days  is envisaged which will allow residents to look at the proposed changes and submit further comments. There may also be further "neighbourhood notifications" to alert local residents to these amended plans.

We also strongly encouraged the developers to engage in a face to face discussion to give residents more background and explain the reasoning behind these amendments.

We are pleased that representatives from GVA and Michael Laird Architects will be at the October NTBCC meeting on Monday October 9th at 7:30pm in Broughton St Mary’s (further details on  http://www.ntbcc.org.uk/ntbcc-agenda-monday-9-october-2017/to discuss their latest thoughts.

The developers have indicated that their amended plans will be submitted for consideration in the next 1 – 2 months but  should provide a clearer timescale at the NTBCC meeting.

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George Street – Preliminary Design – Next Steps

NTBCC have been involved in discussions regarding the potential improvements and redesign of George Street for several years. We have been an active participant in the Steering group and attended the public consultations in 2015 and were involved in setting the Design Principles for George Street.

The following has been adapted from an email from Anna Herriman (Edinburgh Council's City Centre Programme Manager, South East Locality) that provides stakeholders and interested parties with an update on the beginning of the next phase of the development of a design for George Street. (Sections in quotation marks are reproduced verbatim).

A report updating Edinburgh Council's Transport & Environment committee on this preliminary design project is available on the Council website, and will be considered by the  committee on 5 October 2017. In summary though, key elements include:

  • Project scope
  • Appointment of consultants
  • The role of engagement and stakeholder input in the preliminary design stage
  • Timescales for the project

We have extended an invitation to Anna Herriman to come to the November NTBCC meeting to discuss this further.

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Leith Street – Notice of Pedestrian Bridge Removal

We have been informed that the pedestrian bridge over Leith Street which connects the Q-Park with the former St James Shopping centre will be removed over the weekend 16 / 17 September.

As many will be aware, the Leith Street road closure is in place for vehicles, but Leith Street is still open for pedestrians and cyclists.  Given that safety of the public, as well as construction workers, is of the upmost priority, it has been agreed that it would be unsafe to allow pedestrian and cyclists to pass under the bridge during the removal process. However, the impact on residents will be minimised by removing the bridge during the night and early hours which should (weather and wind permitting) allow Leith Street to re-open to pedestrians and cyclists for usual daytime activities.

Therefore a section of Leith Street will be closed for all activities (pedestrians / cyclists)  from 01:00am to 08:00am on Saturday 16 September.

Further details on the planned works can be seen here.

 

Public Information Session on Changes for Picardy Place

We have been involved in various forums over the past 2 -3 years on plans for Picardy Place. It is a key element linking the new St James Centre development, the ongoing Leith Walk Improvements and the agreed Leith Street works.

We have continually called for a joined-up and transparent presentation on the “behind the scenes” plans BEFORE elements of the work are agreed and consented.

We made comments on the original proposals for creating a hotel site on the council-owned land which currently houses the Picardy Place roundabout. Our concerns are that Edinburgh Council’s desire to create a marketable space on the land fronting St Mary’s Cathedral (driven by the desire to maximise profit from this site) could result in a scheme which does not provide the best outcome for the residents of Edinburgh.

“Together Edinburgh” – a partnership formed by the Edinburgh St James developers, Edinburgh Council and the Scottish Futures Trust (essentially a Scottish Government agency) – have announced a public information session titled “Picardy Place is Changing” – their flyer can be seen here.

This public information session is at the Valvona & Crolla VinCaffe on Multrees Walk on Saturday 23 September between 10:00am and 4:00pm.

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Royal High School – New Appeal to the Scottish Reporter

We reported on September 3 that NTBCC was relieved (but not surprised) that the latest planning application to redevelop the former RHS as a hotel by Duddingston House Properties and the Urbanist Hotel group had been unanimously rejected by Edinburgh Council.

We had urged the Development Management Sub-committee to unanimously reject the latest application – reflecting both the significant and detrimental impact on the Edinburgh World heritage site and Conservation area but also to acknowledge the unprecedented public opposition to the proposal. A unanimous rejection would send a clear message that further appeals would not be in the public interest.

Our submission to the DMC on 31 August can be viewed here.

We commended the Council officers’ on their thorough, comprehensive and well-reasoned report recommending refusal of the latest application and their view was strongly supported by Historic Environment Scotland, the Cockburn Association, Edinburgh World Heritage Trust, the AHSS and the three Ward Councillors amongst others as well as ourselves  and the adjacent Residents Association.

 

The persistent theme raised by many objectors focussed on the unique importance of this building and its setting, and the inappropriateness of the height and scale of the design, ‘too much, for too little site’ irrespective of the economic benefit that tourism to the hotel would bring.

However, we were of the opinion that it was extremely unlikely that this would be an end to the matter; and that the Royal High School would be being entirely safe from inappropriate development.

The first hotel proposal is still at the Inquiry stage with Scottish Government Reporters and was on hold (“ sisted”) until 8th September.

The developers have now given notice that they intend to appeal this latest unanimous decision and, as far as we understand, restart the appeal for the narrowly rejected original decision.

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Communal Waste Bins on London Street

As those who have attended NTBCC meetings over the past 6 months will know, there has been discussion regarding City of Edinburgh’s Council policy regarding gull-proof bags and replacing these in certain areas by communal (on-street) bins.

Last month, despite concerns being expressed by some residents on London Street, 5 on-street communal bins have been placed on London Street, replacing gull-proof bags.

The discussions have been covered by comments in the Spurtle [Issue 265 , p.3] and a letter to the Spurtle (here) last week has prompted further comments which capture the difference in opinion to this change from some resdients on London Street and the wider community.

It was stated that NTBCC (amongst others) had “shamefully brushed aside” residents’ predictions that they wouldn’t work.

NTBCC has responded to this, stating in their view, although "it is much too early to decide whether the new collection arrangements are working well; they would note that the street is much improved by the removal of the permanent display of gullproof bags in various states of emptiness, spillage, and disrepair." This view seems to be shared by the majority of comments generated from this; supporting the view that this change is an improvement vs. the previous situation.

NTBCC’s response can be viewed here.