NTBCC meeting minutes 11 September 2023

Minutes of New Town & Broughton Community Council’s ordinary meeting, on Zoom, on Monday 11 September 2023 at 7pm

Actions and decisions are red italic. ND (‘no dissent’) means that no-one spoke or voted against a decision.

URLs have been added by the minutes secretary.

1 Welcome/introductions/attendance

1.a Attendance

Laura Graham NTBCC David Renton NTBCC Cllr Jo Mowat City Centre ward
Stephen Hajducki NTBCC Alan Welsh NTBCC Bruce Ryan Minutes secretary
Simon Holledge NTBCC Cllr Jack Caldwell Leith Walk ward Alan McIntosh Broughton Spurtle
Stewart Mills NTBCC Cllr Margaret Graham City Centre ward ~10 residents/visitors
Carol Nimmo NTBCC Cllr Finlay McFarlane City Centre ward
Richard Price NTBCC Cllr Max Mitchell Inverleith ward

1.b Apologies

Mike Birch NTBCC Deirdre Henderson NTBCC Nick Reid NTBCC
Annick Gaillard NTBCC Susan Macinnes NTBCC Peter Williamson NTBCC

2 Approval of the minutes of the ordinary NTBCC meeting held on 14 August 2023

Approved subject to small corrections (proposed L Graham, seconded R Price, ND)

3 Matters arising from previous minutes (and not included on agenda below)

August Item Actor Action Status
6 Cllr Mowat Ascertain whether takeaway providers with outdoors tables and chairs need to provide toilets Done – they do not

4 Police report (if received) and update on format of police report

  • No report received. NTBCC is concerned about such non-engagement.

5 Culture and Communities

5.a George Street & First New Town Stakeholder meeting update, including attendance of a representative from the Edinburgh Access Panel

  • S Holledge: a meeting about George St accessibility issues was arranged by Atkins on 5 September. Edinburgh Access Panel (EAP) has concerns, for example, about limits to taxi access and speed limits.
  • A member of the EAP reported:
    • EAP has been involved with this topic since 2020.
    • The plans are now at ‘stage 4’ (detailed design), but there are concerns. These include the limits on times that taxis would be permitted to access GS. Also, many disabled people do not have blue badges, and some may work shifts on GS [so their access would be restricted]. Such restrictions might contravene equalities legislation, yet the planners have not responded substantively to such concerns.
    • The cycle ‘highway’ in the middle of GS would have three lanes: this would not be useful, and leads to concerns about speeding cyclists impeding safety of people crossing roads or using the planned play-areas. It is not clear how cyclists could be limited to 10mph: dedicated signage might help but relevant detail is not yet available. Further, if events take place in the middle of GS, cyclists would be made to share pavements with pedestrians. This would be of concern to visually impaired people
    • Shop entrances would need to be barrier-free (yet they currently have steps which impede access), and no relevant detail has been provided. There are also concerns about potential café-sprawl impeding access.
    • Currently there is no detail on how people would be able to access shops’ toilets, including necessary signage.
    • Bus stops might be changed slightly: currently they are incomprehensible.
    • There is no sign that an examination of basements (e.g. to avoid potential problems with planned plants and trees) has been completed.
    • The consultation on the ‘detailed design’ closes tomorrow, but the design lacks detail.

5.a.i Q&A/comments

  • S Holledge: what is the logic of limiting taxi access-times?
    • EAP rep: none that we can see apart from making GS car-free.
  • S Holledge: can NTBCC see EAP’s submission to the consultation, if one will be made? NTBCC may back EAP’s position.
    • EAP rep: we will try to do this.
  • A Welsh: GS is a part of a national cycle route: plans need to take this into account. Limiting taxi-access would affect disabled people and anyone using the 5-star hotel.
  • S Holledge: the 10mph speed-limit may well be a good idea, so what are the doubts?
    • EAP rep: it is not clear how it can be implemented: perhaps speed-bumps. Signage would also be needed. Both side of the central area have links: it would be necessary to show these are crossings.
  • B Ryan: I admit I have not seen the plans, but surely there should only be two cycle-lanes (one each way). The third/middle one would be a collision-zone. Please can you share the plans? I doubt that many cyclists who would actually use GS would go significantly faster than 10mph.
    • EAP rep: this design is pretty but not practical: it pictures people walking in the middle lane.
    • S Holledge: Atkins has stated the plans are not for distribution outwith the meetings.
  • D Renton: the proposed taxi-access limits would illegally discriminate against disabled people, so legal action would be inevitable. There is no legal mechanism to limit cycle-speeds. If NTBCC has not agreed to Atkins’ request for confidentiality, it can be ignored. (Other attendees also opposed such confidentiality.)
    • Cllr McFarlane: while black cabs are better adapted for disabled people, banning private hire cars (PHCs) may be problematic, even though CEC wishes to reduce overall traffic levels.
  • S Hajducki: would all electric cycles be banned: they are powered vehicles.
    • EAP rep: there has been no mention of this. Children may well not understand why they cannot run in the road.
    • D Renton: it would be dangerous to ban any vehicle just because it can exceed 10mph.
  • A Welsh: I am not aware that under-surface surveys have been undertaken. When Castle St was renovated, services were relocated into channels at each side with access-points. It is necessary to know and plan around underground conditions.
    • S Holledge: we have repeatedly asked for such information, to no avail,
    • Cllr McFarlane: A full survey has been completed for GS and Charlotte Square. They should be in the next project update to TEC.
  • C Nimmo: it appears that Atkins is in charge, and there is no oversight by CEC councillors or officials. Pedestrians should be highest priority. GS is commercial, has quality hotels which need access. There are well-done precedents of such pedestrian/taxi-only elsewhere in the UK.
  • Cllr Mitchell: 20mph is the lowest legally permitted limit on public roads.
    • Cllr McFarlane: there may be a way to legalise the 10mph limit, but there are concerns about enforcing it.
  • Cllr Mowat: the issue about handover to Atkins is about enacting cllrs’ decisions. CEC had not come to a firm conclusion about black cabs and PHCs: cabs are better for wheelchair users, people with other mobility issues may well prefer PHCs. Hence banning PHCs may lead to discrimination issues. I am against banning taxis and PHCs.
    • EAP rep – a shuttle bus has been proposed but it may not be affordable.
  • S Mills: differentiation between non-powered and powered (e.g. delivery bikes) is needed. Messages need to be nuanced cycles to promote a usable city and reduce traffic. Any cycle is far less dangerous than an SUV.
  • R Price: reducing car numbers and parking on GS is OK, and NTBCC accepted that position some years ago, as long as there are replacement residents parking spaces nearby. NTBCC should make a short submission but avoid the cab/PHC debate..
    • S Hilledge: what are NTBCC’s positions on full-time access for cabs and PHCs and a 10mph speed limit?
    • A Welsh: the main issue is limits to disabled access.
  • Action: S Holledge to circulate a draft submission asap

6 Planning

All points made by R Price unless otherwise noted.

6.a 108 – 118 Dundas Street (22/05886/FUL &22/05884/CON) 23 August Hearing outcome

  • This was the second hearing. (The first one was deemed not competent.) 8 of 11 DMSC members took part. NTBCC continued its objections but the application was passed 5:3. This was in part because the planning agent had addressed the issues raised by the SG reporter. NTBCC believes that the plans could have been better.
    • A resident: local residents are very disappointed by the agreement to demolish here. Dust from other demolition is already causing health and other issues, so further demolition would not be welcome. Surely re-use is better.
    • R Price: control of noise, dust etc from demolition of the Royal Bank of Scotland building is causing many issues for nearby residents. I fear this will recur at Dundas St and Fettes Row, but unfortunately such items are not material planning concerns.

6.b New applications at 72 – 74 Eyre Place (Former Jewsons yard) (23/04808/FUL)

  • The same planning agent who acted on Dundas St appealed to SG pn behaldf of the applicant over CEC’s non-determination of Eyre Place. There were many objections, and the SG reporter found that there were several key issues regarding existing residents’ amenity and refused this application..
    • There is now a new application with reduced accommodation (139 student bedrooms in a part that would have a larger footprint but be lower than in previous plans; 7 townhouses in another part). There are marginal improvement. The plans are open for comment until 6 October. NTBCC will work with residents’ associations to respond to the new application.
    • A resident: Rodney St residents are objecting to the new plans because the changes are minimal: the student part remains too high, and has a roof-terrace space.

6.c Latest proposal for the Royal High School/National Centre for Music – see Spurtle summary

  • The original scheme (including moving St Marys music school to the RHS site) was approved but has now been stymied by inflation. Following a meeting with the RHS preservation trust, it is now known that St Mary’s will not move tot he RHS but there is a commitment to refurbish the RHS buildings as an event-space and national centre for music (also with a café/bar/restaurant). This would only affect the Thomas Hamilton (TH) buildings: others have already been demolished, i.e there would be significantly less development than originally planned. The key point is that the buildings have not been maintained for years: they need a long-term sustainable use that generates suitable income.
    • C Nimoo: there would be no accommodation block (i.e. hotel by default). Orchestras may stay for short periods, and there might be short-term festival pop-ups. However, the TH buildings would remain as-was
    • R Price: I believe that use of the gatehouse for short-terms lets for performers is OK. Using the cleared area to the east as an event space would contribute to the required income-stream. (S Mills concurred with the need to get the buildings back into maintained use.)
    • A Macintosh: the proposed amount of accommodation is very small and appropriate. The current proposal is more effective than the previous one, which involved an ‘awkward’ compromise. Pop-up performance spaces could begin to rebalance the festival’s comedy and cultural offerings.

7 Environment

7.a TEC 14 September: ‘Phased Reduction in Glyphosate Use‘ in Edinburgh

  • S Holledge: NTBCC and some councils had hoped for glyphosate (GP) to be entirely phased out, but use has increased year-on-year. CEC’s TEC convenor now supports reduction but it is not known what will happen.
    • R Price: NTBCC broadly agrees that there should be significant reductions in GP use, especially where strimmers etc could be used. However, there is no alternative to GP use to control weeds on roadways.
    • L Graham: residents could work together to remove weeds and so maintain the city’s hard standings.
    • S Mills: NTBCC should support CEC’s efforts to tackle the GP issue, including helping such resident-actions.
    • S Holledge: I am concerned for CEC staff who must handle GP. Steam would be a safer alternative, so there is no strong argument to continue GP use.
    • R Price: Residents’ associations can refuse GP use in their area, and find other means.
    • Cllr McFarlane: such non-use requires agreements between constituted groups and CEC.
    • C Nimmo: CCs should spread awareness of this option, so CEC should inform its CCs.
    • L Graham: there are companies that will remove weeds in suitable ways, but this can be expensive.

8 ‘Conservation and adaptation’

8.a Update from the Short Term Working group

  • S Holledge: I attended a relevant CEC meeting on 15 August. (There was also a follow-up on 1 September.) There was a discussion of the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) system. EPCs are not well adapted to old buildings because they are based on modern house criteria. The SG wants to make the system more robust and is currently consulting on this (closing 16 October). .
    • C Nimmo: there is a link between this topic and the Edinburgh World Heritage site, which needs to be protected.
    • R Price: this work originated in a CEC motion about net-zero aspirations and conservation areas and listed buildings. There is also work on barriers to improving properties. There is also a presentation by a Marchmont and Sciennes CCllr on this topic – see item 8.b – on heat-loss prevention etc.

8.b EACC: summary of Housing Energy Adaptation 31 Aug 23 Douglas Rogers presentation (Marchmont & Sciennes CC )

  • A resident: this document is useful but it has limitations in that it does not address negatives and does not address the net zero agenda. (Making houses comfortable is not connected to net-zero.) Net-zero concerns were reiterated in the UK government’s climate bill passe last week, which makes not installing heat-pumps etc illegal. The main sources of emissions are manufacture of steel and concrete, and internet servers: these are not tackled by this bill. Such issues are not beyond the remits of community councils.
    • C Nimmo: NTBCC will be very careful about such ‘permitted’ development issues.

9 Licensing

See also convener’s report on NTBCC website. All points made by R Price unless otherwise noted.

9.a Updated ‘Statement of Licensing Policy’ and upcoming consultation

  • This statement is being debated by CEC licensing board. A draft will be open for consultation for 6 weeks from 25 September. It may not tackle overprovision, an issue in NTBCC’s area.

9.b Short-term lets licensing

  • There will be a judicial review of planning aspects guidance for businesses on 8 November.
  • Cllr Mowat: there was a judicial review of STL licensing, so CEC has removed three aspects of the licensing scheme: the presumption against STLs on common stairs; the ‘carpets’ condition; omission of temporary lets in secondary letting). The majority of the licensing scheme remains as published.

9.c Licensing applications (1 Gayfield Square)

  • This ‘rather odd’ application has now been withdrawn.

10 Transport

All points made by C Nimmo unless otherwise noted.

10.a East London Street – petition at 17 August Transport & Environment Committee

  • Residents are very grateful to Cllr McFarlane for help with submitting the petition.
    • A resident: we are now hopeful about improvements. There has been some reduction in bus numbers (4 per minute, rather than 5) but this is still a big problem.

10.b Other transport points

  • There were helpful responses about Dundas St roadworks, but being informed earlier would have been welcome.
  • NTBCC is still waiting on a substantive response to an FOI request for Picardy Place plans, but the finished article is about to be unveiled. Again, this shows lack of engagement by CEC. Greenery is due to be installed in October.
    • L Graham: the Sherlock Holmes statue is due to be unveiled. If it made of red brick, this will be very inappropriate.
    • R Price: there is a brick plinth.
    • Cllr Mowat: the red brick might refer to the red mud of the Meadows mentioned in Conan Doyle’s books.
  • There is lack of clarity on what tram-work is outstanding, who will do it and who will pay for it. A participation request is in progress.

11 Councillors’/residents’ open forum

  • No matters raised

12 AGM

  • C Nimmo: this will be held on 9 October (in person), before the ordinary meeting. I will stand down as chair, and R Price will stand down as vice-chair and planning convenor, so volunteers are needed.