NTBCC January meeting summary – Mike Birch, Transport convener

Another well attended virtual meeting – peaking at 47 attendees including yet another excellent turnout of NTBCC members as well as local City of Edinburgh Councillors Mowat, Osler and Mitchell and our MP, Deidre Brock – their presence, as always, very much appreciated. It was a time to say farewell to one of our long-standing Community Councillors, Jonathan Finn, who has recently served as both Treasurer and Licencing Convenor. We also welcomed Ken Lochrie, who was formally adopted as a new Associate member as a temporary representative for the Drummond Civic Association.

After the problems that some people had accessing the meeting last month, we were all relieved that normal Zoom service returned. As always the agenda was very packed but due to the excellent marshalling of our Chair, Carol Nimmo we managed to finish the discussion within two minutes of the scheduled time!

The Police Scotland report highlighted several burglaries of business premises and further cases of vandalism occurring within the New Town as well as their continuing efforts to respond to reports of Covid-19 breaches but no details of the number of fixed penalty notices were provided. There was also mention of Operation Watchnight for Hogmanay, which was unsurprisingly reported as being the quietest in many years.

Much of the meeting was taken up with Planning issues. Richard Price, who as always is on top of all matters to do with Planning in our area, provided an excellent summary of the status of the key planning applications.  We also had a brief presentation from the team responsible for the plans to develop 12-14 Picardy Place into a new 67-bedroom hotel with an enclosed rear courtyard bar and restaurant (incorporating The Outhouse bar). This presentation coincided with   the formal submission of the  planning applications but the developers had already presented to the NTBCC Planning committee in late October but it was helpful that a wider audience  got an early sight of the final plans and the opportunity to ask the developers questions about the impact on neighbours and the environment.

We also discussed the updated plans for the development of the site of the old RBS building. Although it was generally agreed that some of the changes introduced into the plans were welcome, these did not go far enough in meeting the principal concerns of the Community Council and local residents about massing and height. It was agreed therefore that NTBCC’s initial stance should remain unchanged. One the other side of Dundas Street, a planning application has been submitted for the demolition & redevelopment of Centrum House (specifically 108-114 & 116 Dundas Street). Despite clear feedback to the developers at an earlier NTBCC meeting, we were disappointed to note that little effort had been made to address the serious concerns raised. It was decided to issue a formal objection to the current plans, which will have a significant detrimental impact on neighbours and the setting of Dundas Street. Thanks to Annick, one of our regular attendees as a member of the public, for her helpful research into the history of this site!

Following on from Planning, Simon Holledge gave a brief report on a meeting organised by the Cockburn Association to discuss the master plan for the Waverley Valley, which is intended to capture a range of initiatives in this central area of Edinburgh, including Princes Street. In general, the Community Council welcomed the decision to consider these matters together but there remained uncertainty about some of the specific elements.

The agenda then moved to the latest on the Public Space Management Plan consultation to which Community Councils along with a number of other key stakeholders have been asked to provide comments in advance of a wider public consultation later in the year. It was reported that various members of the NTBCC had provided comments but it was recognised that more input was required before the deadline later this month. A separate meeting is to be called to finalise our response!

The various Community Council Committees then reported briefly on their activities including:

  • Transport provided an update on discussions with Leith Central Community Council on the pedestrian crossing at Leopold Place and the status of Spaces for People changes on Broughton Street.
  • Licencing covered two recent applications and there was a discussion about the impact of anti-social behaviour associated with licenced premises offering temporary take away facilities. Police action and colder weather appears to have lessened this problem.
  • Environment reported that a newly formed Committee was due to meet shortly so watch this space for a significant update at the next Community Council meeting.

After a brief discussion under Any Other Business regarding changes to forthcoming legislation on Short Term Lets and amendments to the Community Councillor Complaints Procedure, the meeting was brought to a close.

Looking forward to the next NTBCC meeting (in a Tier 4 environment still?) on Monday, February 8th !