NTBCC minutes – Monday 9 October 2017

Minutes of New Town & Broughton Community Council’s ordinary meeting, held in the Drummond Room, Broughton St Mary’s Church, Bellevue Crescent on Monday 09 October 2017 at 7.30pm

Actions and decisions are red italic underlined. Nem con means that no-one spoke or voted against a decision.

1 Attendance and apologies for absence

Judy Conn NTBCC secretary Bruce Ryan Minutes secretary
Andrew Haddow NTBCC PC Joseph Nelson Police Scotland
Stephen Hajducki NTBCC PC Seona Fleming Police Scotland
Jack Hugh NTBCC Cllr Joanna Mowat City Centre ward
Allan Jack NTBCC transport convenor Alan McIntosh Broughton Spurtle
Ian Mowat NTBCC chair Matthew Ansell Michael Laird Architects
Susan MacInnes NTBCC Michael Nelson GVA
Carol Nimmo NTBCC Paul Lawrence CEC Director of Place
Lewis Press NTBCC environment convenor Chris Wilson CEC communications
Richard Price NTBCC planning convenor Alasdair Sim SWECO
Christine Ross NTBCC Over 40 residents and visitors
Alan Welsh NTBCC

1.1 Apologies for absence

Susanna Beaumont NTBCC Cllr Claire Miller City Centre Ward
Foysol Choudhury NTBCC Cllr Alasdair Rankin City Centre ward
Jonathan Finn NTBCC treasurer, licensing convenor Ruth Davidson MSP Edinburgh Central
Stuart McAllister NTBCC Ben Macpherson MSP Edinburgh Northern & Leith
Fran Wasoff NTBCC Deidre Brock MP Edinburgh North & Leith
Cllr Karen Doran City Centre ward

2 Minutes of Meeting of 11 September 2017 and matters arising

Approved subject to amending item 4·2 to show that the amended proposal for the RBS site would not require another Pre-Application Notification (PAN) but may result in further neighbourhood notifications. (proposed R Price, seconded C Nimmo, nem con)

3 Police

PCs Nelson and Fleming reported

  • Operation Penitent seeks help from the public to report drug dealing and drug abuse, a top concern in the city centre community. The operation assumes that much crime is related to drug use, so reducing dealing will lead to reduced shoplifting etc. In the past year, PC Nelson’s unit (3 plainclothes police covering the city centre) has seized ~£220,000 of drugs at street level. To tackle such crimes, PS needs multiple pieces of evidence.
    • While much anti-drug work is tackled using pro-active foot-patrols, much is also based on intelligence from people, for which Police Scotland (PS) is grateful. For example, a neighbour’s notification led to a £40,000 seizure.
    • Drug dealers may be people living beyond their known means, receiving many visitors day and night, or have drug odours emanating from their properties. Suspicions should be reported via 101, 999 in emergency, or via crimestoppers (0800 555 111 or https://crimestoppers-uk.org) if anonymity is wished.
  • PC Nelson is a licensing officer. She reported
    • There has been a major decrease in busking activity since the end of the Festival.
    • ‘VIP’ patrols are tackling rough sleeping. Night shelters are now open, but some may not wish to stay in shelters.
    • There have been reports of antisocial behaviour and drug use at a local play-park, and at the cemeteries at Waterloo Place, so patrolling here has increased. However no-one has been apprehended yet.
    • She has been parking her PS van in/near Waterloo Place to deter speeding by both buses and cars.
    • Students are now back at their institutions, so related work will increase.
    • There has been a spate of daytime house-breaking (both houses and businesses) in York Place and Queen St.
    • At the moment, only 1 flat (in East London St) is causing a major noise issue. 2 witnesses are needed for PS to act, so phoning in such issues is welcomed by PS.
    • There is a difference between begging (legal), aggressive begging (illegal) and homelessness.

4 Planning update from GVA and Michael Laird Architects on their amended proposal for the RBS site

Mr Ansell and Mr Nelson focussed on the differences between the original plans (submitted 2016) and their new proposal At this stage, they are seeking outline planning permission for the site masterplan, which is about the development’s mass, outline, footprint and height, not the fine detail of the eventual buildings.

The slides as presented by MLA were:

  • #1 showed the site as it is now.
  • #2 showed the original plans, including 4 blocks to the north of Royal Crescent, including the easternmost block offset such that it would have been very close to the park.
  • #3 showed the new plans. Although these are still work in progress, they are unlikely to change substantially before submission.
  • The blocks near Royal Crescent (RC) have been re-positioned to adhere more closely with RC’s geometry as well as improving the symmetry: smaller and significantly reduced height (now 4 storeys, previously 8), stepped away from the park, fitting the planned path/cycle-route parallel to RC, and with living green roofs.
  • #4 compared north-south sections of the original plans and the new plans (viewed from the west). The buildings would now be 7 storeys above the datum of RC’s pavement. Some accommodation has been added to the basement level as well as retaining the car-parking as before.
  • #5 compared the sections fronting RC in close-up detail. The original plans would have put the RC blocks above the treeline, but the new proposal does not. These blocks are now significantly lower than the existing buiidings on RC as well the RBS (‘ziggurat’) building.
  • #6 showed how the new plans for ‘lightweight stepped, modern pavilion buildings’ work with RC, the park and the proposed retaining wall bearing the path/cycleway (looking from King George V Park (KGVP) but with existing tree bounding the park removed for clarity).
  • #7 portrayed how the existing and planned trees at the southern edge of KGVP will obscure much of the planned blocks facing RC blocks when viewed from the level of KGVP.
  • #8 contrasted the old and new plans’ buildings as would be seen from the corner of Fettes Row (FR) and RC looking north from Dundonald Street. In the new plans, more of the RC blocks would be hidden by trees for the majority of the year.
  • Other blocks in the new plans on the site of the ‘ziggurat’ building are paired, with some infill development (up to 3 storeys), and are at most 7 storeys, i.e. same height as the existing RBS buildings (in line with Historic Environment Scotland’s previous guidance), rather than the original plan’s 8 storeys.
  • The new plans have about 10% few residential units than the original plans.

The developer stated that the new plans are likely to be submitted in about a month’s time. They will include an addendum Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). This should result in a 4-week period for additional comments and/or objections.

  • R Price noted that CEC’s planning officer will also take into account existing comments, and that new comments can refer to existing comments, rather than restating everything.
  • J Conn asked whether people who submitted comments on the original plans would be notified of the new plans’ submission. Action: Cllr Mowat to ascertain this, B Ryan to publicise the answer on NTBCC’s website.

4.1 Questions, comments and answers

  • The archway beneath Fettes Row in the existing retaining wall (shown on #6) is the last remaining element of the historic football ground that was on the site, and will be retained.
  • The block in the north of the site fronting Eyre Place already has outline planning permission. Blocks in this area of the plans are not stepped.
  • A resident noted that Historic Environment Scotland (HES) had objected to the original plans, stating that new developments be below the datum level of RC’s retaining wall/pavement.
    • Mr Ansell and Mr Nelson respondent that, in their view, their proposal provides a more coherent streetscape. GVA and MLA have already discussed these new proposals with HES. It was stated that HES’s final position was that buildings should be no more than 1·5 storeys above RC’s pavement. (The proposed plans are 1·7 storeys higher.)
  • The new plans mostly sit below the current deciduous tree-screen, which will be retained and enhanced.
  • A resident noted that while the new plans answered some objections to the original plans’ aesthetics, the new plans do not address strains on infrastructure that will be created by siting a residential development on this site. Another resident stated that local schools are already far too full.
    • The developers have not yet gone into detail with CEC planning officers (CECPOs) with regard to relevant legal agreements: this will be done later in process when CECPOs are reaching their decision. CEC supplementary guidance on developer contribution will lead to appropriate section 75 obligations covering education as a minimum.
  • Potential damage to the planned flat roofs that might be caused leaf litter will be addressed in future plans.

The façade shown will not necessarily be made of glass. Actual materials will be subject to further applications in the future. The actual developer will be decided by RBS. There will be opportunities to comment on the future detailed plans. The site will be open, not gated.

  • 25% of the units will be ‘affordable’, as required by CEC policies. The exact number depends on the detailed final plans & the number of total residential units.
  • It was highlighted that the raised walkway may provide a venue for criminal or antisocial behaviour.
    • The space below the walkway will be overlooked by residents. There will be secure cycle-storage.
  • There will be a service road running east-west through the development, south of the park. (See #3.)
  • Vehicle access to the site will be from Eyre Place/Eyre Terrace as today.
  • It is likely that there will be changes to quanta of development of class uses. There is a generous allowance for class 4 use (offices). It was suggested that the plans should include ways to make up for job losses due to RBS’ departure.
  • The original application to demolish the existing buildings will not be withdrawn, but permission to demolish in a conservation area cannot be granted without plans to rebuild.

5 Transport – update on Picardy Place proposals

See also plans on NTBCC website.

Messrs Lawrence (PL), Wilson (CW) and Sim (AS) reported:

  • SWECO are transport consultants working for Laing O’Rourke, the main contractors for the St James development.
  • Redevelopment of Picardy Place (PP) has been part of the St James process from the very start.
  • This process is undertaken under a Growth Accelerator Model (GAM): an agreement between Scottish Government (SG), CEC and THRE to secure public support for the wider public realm. GAMs attempt to predict future business rate income raises, hence enabling SG to underwrite cash advances by Local Authorities.
    • GAMs are legally binding contracts. This GAM, covering the overall concept, was signed by CEC before the May 2017 elections.
  • PL stated that he is in favour of public transport. The current proposals for a gyratory scheme in PP may not be perfect for any particular stakeholder or point of view but they are an optimal compromise which would keep the city moving, minimise traffic residential streets, allow room for public transport and active travel, optimise the public realm and enable the tram system to be extended to Newhaven (if CEC decides to do this).
  • PL stated that there had been significant stakeholder consultations, and that Sustrans had not walked out of negotiations. In fact, Sustrans have given CEC significant amounts of money for active travel.
    • However Sustrans’ alternative model would have had significant negative impacts on many parts of Edinburgh’s transport network, according to CEC’s modelling.
  • Hence CEC has devised plans that will broadly stay as-is, but can be improved by dialogue.
    • At a weekend engagement event facilitated by Hendersons, a range of issues came up. Hence CEC’s transport and environment committee (TEC) chair has required more dialogue, to inform a decision to be made in December.
    • Venues, dates and times for such dialogue are currently in development.
  • On the plans, the central area surrounded by a pink triangle is not designed to be a lucrative (for CEC) development site. CEC needs to decide what to do with this area: simply selling it, developing it in partnership with THRE, or doing nothing. PL’s staff are currently developing options the area, and there will be further consultation on these. PL stressed that CEC councillors have not yet been asked to decide what to do, and that no deals have been done.
  • PL later stated that there is no connection between the potential tram extension and the GAM. However, the shape of the central area is dictated by the need to be ready for the possible extension.
  • PL later suggested that a mix of uses of the central area is best. One option might be an underground car-park. However, quality public realm work is expensive: someone would need to pay for developments such as a car-park.

5.1 Questions, comments and answers

  • A Welsh stated that the current roundabout works, but that the proposed system is likely to lead to gridlock.
  • AW also stated that there are 19 bus services that enter PP from York Place and Leith St, and that these will converge on a single bus stop on the north of PP, leading to increased congestion.
    • PL responded that the design process for the traffic interchange has not yet been started – there could be more than 1 bus stop. There has been no decision on the trams yet.
    • AS responded that if (and only if) the tram extension happens, the current York Place tram stop will be relocated to PP, and the York place bus stop will be relocated [somewhere] There will be other stops on the north of Leith St. The interchange could be on the north side of the gyratory triangle. No bus stops on PP are envisaged.
    • The current roundabout is often congested to the point of gridlock anyway. The anticipated traffic lights will be co-ordinated to maintain traffic flow. This should also maximise pedestrian safety and access to the central area.
    • A 70-metre length is needed for a tram stop. This drives the size of the central triangle (at least the north side). A tram stop cannot be accommodated by a circular roundabout.
  • R Price asked what is driving the accelerated schedule, and later stated that the current timetable does not allow for engagement leading to changes that might satisfy the community, so taking time for real consultation is necessary.
    • PL responded that the PP proposal has been discussed for ‘a long time’. The ‘rush’ stems from the potential for significant cost and operational benefits in construction by following on from the Leith St (LS) closure. However PL and colleagues stated that they do want to do more consultation on the plans.
    • Some NTBCC members and residents/visitors questioned whether there had been [adequate] public consultation. (No-one clearly agreed that there had been.).
    • AS stated that it would be better overall to start the PP work during the Leith St closure, but that did not mean the LS closure would be extended. Leith St would be as it was [before St J work started] – 2 lanes in either direction.
  • Asked about pressure on the Leith Walk/London Road roundabout, AS responded that the options were for it to remain a roundabout, or (if the tram line is extended) to become a traffic-controlled junction.
  • A resident stated that CEC’s objectives include promoting active travel and public transport, and asked how the proposed PP works would contribute.
    • PL responded that they would improve conditions for public transport, walking and cycling, and keep the city moving. However, as previously stated, the plans are a compromise.
  • Asked whether there are any grounds making it impossible for PP not to become a gyratory/non circular system, PL responded that if CEC decided against implementing the GAM concepts and caused significant implications for the ‘wider scheme’, SG and THRE could disagree, potentially leading to legal difficulties.
  • Asked why this ‘traffic management’ plan is separated from environment/amenity considerations that are important to local people and businesses, and is hence driving such considerations, PL responded that ‘consideration of the total place was the consideration of the planning application’, and that NTBCC had done this ‘any number of times’.
    • I Mowat responded that NTBCC had seen the planning applications but that PP was a blank space in these plans.
    • Cllr Mowat stated that PP was withdrawn/disaggregated from the St J plans, to ensure that the latter got through.
    • Cllr M also stated that the central area was always designed to be offered to THRE under the ‘CPO’, and that this drove the shapes of the central area and the overall plans. Hence it is important to explain whether the shape can be changed in ways that the community wants. PL responded that it could be squeezed a bit in other directions.
    • The disaggregation and lack of consultation were corroborated later in the meeting:
      • Spokes were told in a relevant meeting in March that PP could not be discussed, and have not been informed why St James process is now in charge of the PP work. Cllr Mowat concurred that there had been no engagement or consultation.
      • Cllr Mowat has been asking for information has been unable to obtain clarity.
      • The detailed plans for the Roseburn to Leith Walk cycleway were completely blank at PP.
    • PL stated that there is every intention for the Paolozzi sculptures to come back.
    • A resident suggested that all Edinburgh residents are stakeholders and so should have a say on the fate of the central area – could it become a public space? PL responded that the there will be consulting on this.
    • Asked what will go in the centre of PP if it does not become a development site, PL responded
      • there are many options, but this will not lead to complete redesign of the existing plans.
      • However, if the tram-line is not extended, the ‘tram safeguard areas’ could be used for other purposes.
      • Some of the central area is common good land, some isn’t. It is up to the city (not CEC) to decide what to do here.
    • L Press remarked that while he understood the superficial attraction of quick decisions about PP, a strategic approach is needed to take into account how the whole city centre works, and find city-wide optimal solutions, which may not be optimal for PP in isolation.
      • PL responded that there is a report on the city centre public realm. PL is concerned that Edinburgh been developed piecemeal, but believes that PP plans can be future-proofed.
    • A resident asked why none of the plans have been presented in writing, and stated that a big city chambers meeting would not work. Engagements with the individual communities would be the way forward, in her opinion.
    • Another resident asked where the documentation and history of the proposals and consultation is, stating that disseminating information orally is not the same as putting facts in writing.
      • PL responded that he and colleagues planned to undertake the engagement event, and to report to TEC that further engagement is needed. This would all be in writing. Information can be made available to CCs, if wished.
      • The resident responded that if consultation had happened in 2009, it should be made clear who was consulted and how they responded.
      • I Mowat concurred on behalf of NTBCC. C Nimmo reiterated that despite a year’s requests, members of the Leith Walk stakeholders were not informed about PP, that there has not been community engagement, that the sudden rush was un-necessary and the cause of most upset. Residents stated that the next round of engagement needs to include the normal level of drawings and costs, and to demonstrate how the planned changes would be improvements.
    • A Welsh expressed concern that the PP plans are part of a huge plan of capital works in the city centre.
    • PL responded ‘yes’ when asked whether it is worthwhile pushing for more pavement outside the cathedral, i.e. this would have no financial implications for the GAM. It was stated that this pavement is needed for its community role.
    • AS stated that PP’s north side would have 2 lanes turning right (south) and 1 lane turning north. The traffic controls will enable sufficient ‘green time’ to prevent congestion.
    • A resident asked whether pedestrian and/or cyclist bridges or tunnels are feasible for road crossings.
      • PL & AS responded that there is no geological reason but bridges underpasses tend to be much more expensive.
    • A resident asked which parts of the PP changes can be implemented while LS is closed.
      • AS reiterated that the optimal time for all PP changes is while LS is closed. However, planning permission/approval of the whole scheme is needed before any work can start.
      • Cllr Mowat stated that obtaining such approvals would take around 1 year, so she did not understand how the work could fit with the LS closure (due to end late summer 2018), not why decisions about PP are needed now when the decision on the tram extension is due in 2018.
      • PL reiterated that the GAM necessitated a ‘tram-proof’ design, but this PP work is needed to keep traffic moving.
      • AS stated that detailed designs have been submitted to CEC, and are under review pending the outcome of consultation. TRO processes would follow the final decision on PP, and be during the construction phase.
    • The urgency is not driven by needs for more car-parking for St J. The plans take account of extra parking provision but will be more effective than the current roundabout.
    • A resident reiterated the need for wider discussions about amenity, environment/air-quality and the future of PP.
    • Another resident stated that, to support pedestrian use, PP traffic should be slowed to much less than 20 mph.
    • It was asked whether disabled citizens had been considered when the plans were drawn up.
      • AS responded that he and colleagues had met with the Edinburgh Access Panel (EAP); all designs are fully equalities compliant. The EAP had been more concerned about interactions between cyclists and pedestrians.
    • A PP residents’ association member said that better engagement is needed; PPRA feels very strongly about PP plans.
      • C Nimmo encouraged residents and RAs to write to TEC, voicing their concerns.
      • Cll Mowat stated that RAs and other constituted groups can take deputations to, and speak at, TEC.
    • A resident reported that he had attended a Melville Crescent stakeholder workshop, which used a place-web to find optimal solutions, but that there was no evidence of such co-design occurring for PP.

6 Environment

No items

7 Licensing

No items

8 Communications

Action: I Mowat to arrange NTBCC comms group meeting

9 Neighbourhood Partnerships

No items

10 Any other business

No items

11 Local residents’ associations

It was noted that many RA members were at the meeting. I Mowat recommended that NTBCC and RAs work together.

(All further discussion was about PP, so is included in appropriate places in item 5.)

12 Date of next meeting

13 November