NTBCC minutes – Monday 12 November

Minutes of New Town & Broughton Community Council’s ordinary meeting, held in the Drummond Room, Broughton St Mary’s Church, Bellevue Crescent on Monday 12 November 2018 at 7:30pm

1 Attendance and apologies for absence

Susanna Beaumont NTBCC Sheila Warnock NTBCC
Judy Conn NTBCC secretary Fran Wasoff NTBCC
Margaret Duffy NTBCC Bruce Ryan NTBCC Minutes Secretary
Jack Hugh NTBCC Cllr Joanna Mowat City centre ward
Allan Jack NTBCC transport convenor Cllr Claire Miller City centre ward
Simon Holledge NTBCC PC Adam Stevenson Police Scotland
Carol Nimmo NTBCC chair Alan Macintosh Broughton Spurtle
Richard Price NTBCC planning convenor 12 residents/visitors
Chrissie Ross NTBCC

1.1 Apologies for absence

Foysol Choudhury NTBCC Alan Welsh NTBCC
Jonathan Finn NTBCC treasurer, licensing convenor Cllr Marion Donaldson Leith Walk ward
Stephen Hajducki NTBCC Cllr Amy McNeese-Mechan City centre ward
Stuart McAllister NTBCC Cllr Max Mitchell Inverleith ward
Susan Macinnes NTBCC Deidre Brock MP Edinburgh North & Leith
Lewis Press NTBCC

2 Minutes of meeting of 8 October 2018

These were accepted as is (proposed J Hugh, seconded C Ross,nem con)

2.1 Matters arising

  • Item 3.1 (list of streets potentially affected by speeding issues to be generated and supplied to Police Scotland) Action: this to be undertaken by J Hugh.
  • Item 5 (Comms actions) in progress
  • Item 6 (A-boards) in progress. J Hugh also mentioned issues with contractors’ signs.
  • Item 6 (summary of licensing matters) in progress

3 Police report

PC Stevenson reported

  • He is brand new to the community police team (CPT), but has 6 years of response policing service.
  • Serious assaults in ‘Beat 22’ (mainly NTBCC area): ‘only’ 5. This number is seen as low and could have been much larger given the time of year. All such assaults were connected with the night-time economy, and were between people familiar to each other, so there is no increased risk to the public.
  • 3 housebreakings: all between 11 am to 7pm, i.e. daytime. Hence people should be vigilant.
  • 8 thefts of bicycles: only 2 occurred at night, so people should be even more vigilant ! These may well have been committed be a core group of youths. Much partnership work is occurring to divert youths, or apprehend and charge if this needed. It is not currently known whether thefts are ‘for kicks’, but there is no evidence so far of stolen bikes being advertised for sale.
  • CPTs are patrolling early mornings for vulnerable/homeless people. A basement property in Union St has recently been used and Police Scotland (PS) are aware.
  • There have been good results resulting from the public providing information. For example, in Calton Rd, 8 people were reported to the courts, ~£10k of drugs and money were recovered. In Rose St, in a potential brothel, some people were found in vulnerable states. It is not impossible they were victims of people-trafficking.
  • Action: B Ryan to put on website ‘Edinburgh trusted trader’, ‘doorstep crime’ and ‘Police Scotland youth hub’ materials

3.1 Questions and responses

3.1.1 How can we help support CPT’s work for vulnerable people?

Not all beggars are homeless, but concerns should be phoned in via 101. If it is safe to do so, ask the victim if s/he is OK, and contact streetwork. Some individuals begging on the street are ‘working’ for drink and/or drugs, so may be sober in the morning (during PS visits) but inebriated later.

3.1.2 Are there night patrols against car vandalism outwith the city centre?

(A member stated that his car and some neighbours’ cars were damage by a knife/sharp object recently. He had been informed that there are no night police patrols outwith the city centre. A resident added that recently 20 cars were vandalised in Royal Circus in October.) When response police are not on specific jobs, they are always on the look-out for crime. PC Stevenson mentioned that he helped arrest some, leading to many such crimes being cleared up.

3.1.3 Serious sexual assault on Calton hill, death in Carlton Terrace

PC Stevenson could not speak about these at this time. Action: PC Stevenson [and/or colleague] to email updates to NTBCC.

4 East Princes Street Gardens tree-felling: NTBCC position and next steps

C Nimmo noted that 52 mature trees were recently felled as part of the work to extend the National Gallery (NG) and allow improved disabled access. Permission had been granted some time ago , but many Edinburgh citizens were unaware of this. The felling has caused much concern based on social media responses.

Cllr Mowat stated NG had submitted 2 applications. The first (18 months ago) was to create a larger extension, to pull the galleries significantly forward at the ‘Weston link’, to improve on the PSA (Property Services Agency) building in the Scottish Gallery, and to improve accessibility from the Mound precinct, and from Princes St via the site of the defunct toilets off Princes St. This area is due to become a big plaza. The application was discussed in depth twice by CEC’s Development Management planning committee. The changes proposed would be in the context of a designed landscape that will exist for the next ~150 years. Hence the application was approved.

Some time later, NG realised that it could not afford (due to engineering difficulties above the railway line) to undertake the permitted plans, so submitted a reduced-scale application that maintained the southern (Princess St) access features. Also, as NG wishes to start work on the extension as soon as ‘Edinburgh’s Christmas’ has vacated the area, the trees were felled prior to the Christmas market being constructed. Cllr Mowat stated that that this was NG’s duty, not CEC’s, and that it had been handled ‘incredibly badly’.

4.1 Questions from NTBCC members, residents and visitors

4.1.1 What lessons have been/will be learnt? (C Ross)

CEC gives [planning] permission to applicants. It is then up to applicants to implement permitted plans. There could have been better notification / communication as to the NG plans.

4.1.2 Why were no plans or diagrams available on the CEC planning portal for the 20 June permission? Was there any on-site notification? (S Holledge)

  • S Holledge stated that he could not locate the relevant plans/diagrams on CEC’s planning portal. Instead he believed that there was a comment stating that the diagrams that had been submitted had been found to be inadequate, and so should be submitted later.
  • Cllr Mowat responded that often CEC planners require further information from applicants. However, as far as she was aware, CEC planning committee and its landscape architect (LA) saw all the diagrams, and questioned the LA about the felling. Hence such plans / diagrams should have been online. (Cllr Miller confirmed that she saw ‘before and after’ tree surveys on the portal.)
  • Cllr Millar also stated that there should have been on-site notification, but it is questionable whether the public would recognise it as such. There is no clear indication that planning rules were not followed, but there seems to have been inadequate on-site consultation.
  • C Nimmo stated that, even though rules were followed, a significant change has been imposed in a high-handed manner.
  • M Duffy added that confidence in the planning process, especially given the current spate of consultations, is needed. Hence NTBCC and the wider community should be consulted on what matters to them.
  • A Jack added that even now NTBCC has not been made aware of the rationale for the felling. He accepts that there sre likely to be good reasons, but if these had been better communicated to the public – including via NTBCC – much tension could have been avoided.
  • Cllr Miller stated that technical documents were available, but agreed that communication was not well done.

4.1.3 Does CEC have a policy on trees? If so where is it? (J Conn)

  • Cllr Miller responded that there is. Action: C Miller to send links to the policy to NTBCC/ J Conn, B Ryan to add them to website.
  • A Jack suggested that, even though the gardens are just outwith NTBCC’s area, they are of interest to NTBCC, and that the architect for this site (Hoskins Architects) has presented to NTBCC previously. Cllr Mowat responded that she would have advised liaison with NTBCC and Old Town CC.

A Macintosh stated that the conditions included with the planning consent require the remaining trees’ root systems to be regarded as sacrosanct but that this is not happening. Instead the Christmas market, run by Underbelly, has placed equipment / temporary facilities on top of them, damaging them. M Duffy added that an agreed vision is needed to avoid controversy, and that the city centre is of interest to both Old Town CC and the NTBCC.

4.1.4 Does NTBCC have a planning convenor? (a resident/visitor)

R Price replied that it does, but there are very many planning applications in NTBCC’s area. C Nimmo concurred with the resident that it would have been helpful that there should have been consultation with NTBCC on this matter.

Another resident added that there is a wall with ‘horrendous’ lettering where food is sold.

R Price also stated that the most frustrating facet of the current issue may well be its effects on the public realm (i.e. public land) by a 3rd party (NG).

A chartered forester added that most trees were felled for access rather than landscaping. He reiterated that remaining trees’ roots are not being protected as required by planning conditions . Instead, heavy machinery has been on top of them. (He later stated that similar had occurred in Charlotte Square and elsewhere.) Relevant British Standards should be followed, and in this case the planning conditions must be enforced. However, the contractors involved were not briefed about root-protection.

He later added that there is no point in replanting if each year the ground is ‘trashed’, and CEC is permitting this. Action: this resident offered to supply to NTBCC a brief guide to tree-damage caused by ground-compaction, so NTBCC can submit informed objections.

Cllr Miller suggested that CEC may be able to get more adherence to root area protection (and the relevant policies) as a result of the current outcry, and stated that CEC is not ignoring the issue. Action: Cllr Miller to report back to NTBCC on this topic.

Cllr Mowat later added that there is supposed to be guidance on what can happen in each public space, agreed with local communities. This is not yet in place.

4.1.5 How can complaints be made about non-adherence to policy, or about poor/questionable policies? (F Wasoff)

Cllr Miller advised contacting her and/or other cllrs directly.

4.1.6 Can local opinion lead to change? What should NTBCC do? (C Nimmo)

Cllr Miller stated that it can, citing the current public outcry. She wants to find out how this issue came about.

Cllr Mowat stated that planning legislation ‘is not sufficient for what people would like us to do’, that consultation requirements are not adequate, and that ‘big masterplans’ should involve community consultation and consensus on principles.

S Holledge added that while replacement of big trees with similar is not so problematic, replacement with saplings is. Cllr Mowat stated that plans require replacement with mature trees. However, SH stated that this is not happening, and that detail is lacking. Cllr Miller stated that NG has promised to plant more trees, but added that detail of such a commitment is paramount.

4.1.7 Can Underbelly be fined?

Cllr Mowat stated that CEC needs to investigate what happened, e.g. whether appropriate communications actually occurred.

R Price added that permission was given to NG, but they had no control [over Underbelly], hence responsibility remains with CEC. However, no representations were made to CEC during the normal consultation about this important change [to an area of the city centre]. RP suggested that this should have alerted CEC planning that something was amiss with the consultation.

Cllr Mowat responded that because the area of permitted change in the 20 June application was smaller than the original, people were less likely to repeat-submit objections. However, the original planning application had only 4 comments submitted.

Actions: NTBCC to submit comments to CEC, CCing NG, and invite NG to speak at a subsequent meeting about compensation (inter alia).

5 Transport

See also pre-meeting briefing and responses to two CEC consultations: Open Streets; second Tram consultation.

A Jack reported

  • It is urgent that NTBCC responds the ‘Connecting our city, transforming our streets’ consultation. This mentions the need to be world class, that residents need to know how they can get to work, explore the city’s green spaces, shop, enjoy the city and get children to school safely. It accepts that people need to live in the city centre. It has 3 levels of vision: ‘business as usual’, a ‘middle way’ and ‘transformational/very radical’. There will be further consultation in 2019. CEC is committed to more strategic use and locations of parking control. This is likely to involve changing the current parking action plan, and modelling traffic flows.

AJ suggested including the following in NTBCC’s response:

  • Significant action is needed on traffic, air quality and public realm, e.g. events management and fixing cracked pavements.
  • Traffic-limiting measures should take account of residents’ special needs. NTBCC’s response should focus on the unique needs, and hence the health, of central Edinburgh.
  • NTBCC strongly supports ‘town centres’ development outwith the city centre, to benefit both the centre and other areas.
  • Recently, many outcomes have not met aspirations to improve quality, e.g. Festival Square, Castle St.
  • Transparency and full consultation are paramount.
  • NTBCC supports (although maybe with some reservations how these should be implemented) through-ticketing, traffic-reduction measures (e.g. car-sharing, car-clubs), cycle-hire and charging points, workplace parking levies, control of deliveries, vehicle-free streets, low-emission zones (including recognition that emissions are not only from cars), extension of public transport networks (which may include further tram-line extensions in the future).
  • NTBCC does not support fewer buses in the city centre, although taxis and buses may cause a high percentage of NOx emissions, at this time. However, there should be fact-based planning on public transport, including publication of relevant facts. (This point was later commended by residents.)
  • Many people believe that public realm has been degraded, that CEC’s planning department appears overstretched (and hence not fully able to enforce planning conditions), that planning officers need to be able to intervene when needed, that there may be too many events. Hence decisions about public realm should lie with cllrs, not with external bodies.
  • Concerning potential for new public spaces, existing public spaces should be protected first.
  • Hence NTBCC supports trying a middle way, and evaluating its success, before any radical changes are tried.

J Hugh stated that in his opinion Managing our Festival City (MOFC) ‘cuts right across’ this consultation. A Macintosh stated that much decision-making about the city centre is delegated, e.g. to Paul Lawrence (Director of Place), hence potentially sheltering cllrs from unpopular decisions. AM also asked what had happened to the civic manifesto of a few years ago. R Price stated that the current online consultation was mostly of the form ‘would you like things to be better?’ with little opportunity to provide additional comments. Hence a written response is more likely to be effective.

Cllr Mowat responded that MOFC is a review document, noting inter alia certain issues around previous festivals, considering whether more pavement space is needed, and that summer session concerts will continue in 2019.

Cllr Miller added that Green cllrs wish to link this review to city-centre transport needs via CEC’s transport and environment cttee. Cllr Miller also noted that decisions about events in CEC parks are usually made by CEC officers. However CEC’s public spaces protocol now guides such decisions. This protocol’s efficacy will be evaluated after 12 months. Hence NTBCC could maintain a list of decisions it disagrees with, and feed that back into the evaluation.

C Nimmo was concerned that there would permanent use of George St for events, and that people did not want this, but are not being consulted. J Conn stated that NTBCC had recently been asked about events on Calton Hill and in the Princes St gardens, but had not responded to that consultation.

A resident stated that a consultation had concluded up to 5 events per year in West Princes Street Gardens, but MOFC stated that this should be ignored. Cllr Miller contradicted this, stating that more robust analysis of the business case should be undertaken. This led to a decision not to change numbers of major events such as the summer sessions.

Another resident called for proactivity by NTBCC to avoid contentious matters ‘just happening’. Cllr Mowat that she has been calling for certainty around George St for years, and that she hopes this is reflected in MOFC.

C Nimmo suggested that Edinburgh’s World-Heritage city centre should remain permeable for cars, and not blocked off. A Jack added that creation of more parking spaces in George St would only lead to more car-traffic, and hence more pollution. R Price suggested that air quality and amenity are somewhat separate matters.

Action: A Jack to draft NTBCC’s response asap, circulate it for comment, and then submit it.

6 Communications

C Nimmo encouraged the comms group to meet asap.

7 Planning

R Price outlined current topics mentioned in the pre-meeting briefing.

RP also noted that he and other NTBCC members had attended the George St/First New Town exhibition, and that in his opinion CEC and the architects had pulled together various themes well. The consultation is open until late January. M Duffy suggested that it is important for NTBCC to respond to consultations about the city centre, because this will have lasting knock-on effects.

Cllr Mowat noted that the Royal Bank of Scotland site (Dundas Street/Fettes Row) is now back on the market, but without planning permission. A potential bidder (PB) has asked her ‘what does the community want?’ She suggested the PB speaks to the community directly, and has passed the PB’s contact details to NTBCC’s chair, and will arrange contact between the PB and the relevant residents’ association.

8 Licensing

See also pre-meeting briefing. F Wasoff noted that there are no current applications to which NTBCC should object.

9 Environment

See also pre-meeting briefing,

C Ross expressed strong concern about Underbelly (see item 4 above). She also noted that CEC’s waste forum has not met , even though this is due. Action: C Ross to write to relevant CEC directors.

S Warnock stated that the new waste collection regime is working poorly. She has been informed that residents want to recycle more material via CEC red boxes [kerbside recycling] and less is being thrown away via CEC gull-proof bags but the present system doesn’t encourage this. Cllr Mowat responded that she is investigating via CEC officers other recycling opportunities, potential changes to CEC’s recycling methods, and how much plastic is actually recycled. She noted that CEC’s new recycling station at Millerhill is now online.

Action: Cllr Mowat to ascertain what proportion of CEC plastic waste is recycled. (cf Guardian article)

10 Localities/local residents’ associations

J Hugh noted that Nelson and Northumberland Streets’ residents association is due to meet soon. Action: J Hugh to report on this meeting at the next NTBCC meeting

M Duffy suggested that residents’ associations’ representatives should meet annually to ascertain their top joint priorities.

11 Any other business

A resident asked when how recently any senior CEC official had been sacked, and suggested that until this can happen, CEC will not improve. It was suggested that if sackings did occur, this would prove only that CEC had failed.

Another resident asked about cobbles being ‘desecrated’ with double-yellow lines, 20mph signs etc. He suggested that ‘everyone wants to see cobbled streets’, and that such road-markings should be thin. C Nimmo suggested that the city centre is unique, and should be treated as such, but that this is clearly difficult to achieve.

J Hugh offered to report on the next Essential Edinburgh annual report, which is due soon.

J Hugh noted that a pedestrian crossing is due to be installed at East London St/Drummond Place in 2018-19. Another pedestrian crossing at Abercromby Place is at number 38 on the list of crossings to be installed.