NTBCC minutes – Monday 14 March 2016

1               Attendance and apologies for absence


1.1          Present

Judy Conn NTBCC Bruce Ryan minutes secretary    
Lynn Henni NTBCC Cllr Marion Donaldson Leith Walk ward    
Iain McGill NTBCC PC Derek Barbour Police Scotland    
Ian Mowat NTBCC Alan McIntosh Broughton Spurtle    
Carol Nimmo NTBCC John Ross Maclean Broughton Spurtle    
Richard Price NTBCC 23 residents      
Christine Ross NTBCC        

1.2          Apologies

Susanna Beaumont NTBCC Allan Jack NTBCC Alan Welsh NTBCC
Jonathan Finn NTBCC Lewis Press NTBCC Cllr Lesley Hinds Inverleith ward

2               Minutes of Meeting of 8 February 2016 and matters arising

Approved without changes (proposed I Mowat, seconded C Nimmo, nem con)

3               Police

PC Barbour reported as follows:

Housebreakings (dwelling) 2 reported, 0 solved
Attempted housebreakings (dwelling) 3 reported, 1 solved
Housebreakings (business) 2 reported, 0 solved
Attempted housebreakings (business) 3 reported, 0 solved
Assaults 25 reported (23 of these on licensed premises) 13 solved (10 of these on licensed premises)
Serious assaults 2 reported (both on licensed premises), 1 solved


Chief Superintendent Kenny McDonald is examining resources for Edinburgh city centre. Edinburgh is ‘missing’ the equivalent of 500 officers mainly because they are undertaking duties formerly performed by support staff. Recruiting is in progress. Other divisions are returning to beat systems, so Edinburgh may soon follow suit.

4               Planning

4.1          GVA proposal to develop the Royal Bank of Scotland site at Eyre Terrace/Dundas Street

R Price (NTBCC’s planning convenor) noted that the consultation in February on this proposed development was the 3rd and final one. It sought comments to frame the application in principle, which is planned for April. Relevant to this proposal, RBS obtained planning permission in principle 18 months ago to develop part of the site (the open space next to the blocks on Eyre Terrace) – although this permission has many conditions which the developer would need to get Edinburgh Council agreement on – including the maximum height of the block adjacent to King George V Park.

RP also noted that NTBCC had encouraged development of a masterplan for the whole area: this has happened. Also the agents have tried to consult with local residents before submitting their application, although not all residents’ views have materialised on the current plans. NTBCC has commented at the 1st and 2nd consultations, supporting (for example) the idea of ‘finger blocks’ vs. a terrace approach on Fettes Row / Royal Crescent to preserve an element of the existing open views.

RP also noted that NTBCC’s comments to this latest consultation are planned in the next few weeks, taking into account as far as possible the consensus of residents’ and residents’ association’s views. NTBCC currently believes that the latest plans are less sympathetic than earlier versions, and will unnecessarily and significantly impact residential amenity. For example, the height of the main blocks will overshadow the park. The shape of the proposed blocks in Royal Crescent now proposed are larger and more monolithic than those of previous plans). NTBCC will propose treating the park as if it were another residence, hence requiring a daylighting and overshadowing study to better understand the impact of this development on the amenity of park users. The current plans include many use-classes (which NTBCC support) – but the cumulative maximum proposed areas are more than can actually fit into the site. NTBCC believe that mixed use is necessary, to replace business/employment that will be lost when RBS leaves. (RP noted that some people believe there is too much residential use in the current plans.) Concerning traffic and access: the current proposal is for underground parking for all residential and business use. NTBCC support this as it should ensure that there will be no impact on current parking in the area – current parking guidance means that there would be no CEC residential parking permits issued for properties on the development. NTBCC remains concerned about traffic flows, despite the developers’ claim that peak flows will be low, and would call for a more thorough and robust traffic study.

J Conn noted that traffic issues also included flows on Dundas St and possible extra pollution. There is also concern over diminution of open ground and loss of permeability, which may affect drainage. Extension of the blocks on Royal Crescent may affect existing trees. There is concern that the gable ends of the blocks will overshadow the park, and that landscaping will be invisible, and many residents are concerned over the stability of existing buildings, given the history of 15 Royal Crescent. Residents associations have also expressed concern that the current plans would affect Edinburgh’s World Heritage status – ECOMAS and UNESCO have called for a buffer zone which would include this site.

4.1.1      Residents’ comments and questions

  • How much do developers have to take into account CEC’s local plan guidance, which was stated that 20% should be parkland? (I Mowat replied that developers do have to consider all Edinburgh Council guidelines.)
  • It was stated that CEC’s policy requires that buildings should be no more than 5 above-ground storeys, and not above generally prevailing building heights. Hence the current planned buildings are too high.
  • The two accesses into Royal Crescent would be a rat-run with very narrow pavements, so it could be dangerous for pedestrians. RP noted that NTBCC want sufficient, safe permeability.
  • There is concern that CEC does not always follow its own planning policy or guidelines. (RP stated that it is always worthwhile putting in comments to try to hold CEC to its policy.)
  • There is also concern that the consultation has not been advertised well enough.
  • It may be pointless commenting on architectural detail just now, because this is likely to change before the final plans are submitted. Instead, comments should focus on the proposed mass of the development (350 residential units, a hotel, mixed business use, at least 350 parking spaces), which would make a big difference to the area’s environment. For example, it was stated that it might lead to contraventions of CEC’s noise policy.
  • It was suggested that the plans should follow the site’s existing footprint, and that population density should be part of the conditions on the development (and also be part of planning policy).
  • Another condition could include limits on parking. (RP stated that CEC has a strong desire that parking is contained within the development.) It was noted that currently traffic is managed and timed due to the site’s current business use (although there is some staggering of work times for certain RBS staff). However, residential use would lead to a traffic free-for-all. Internet shopping could also lead to increased delivery traffic. There is also concern that services such as waste and recycling collections will add to traffic volumes and have not been adequately considered.
  • Another condition could be preclusion of pubs and restaurants from Fettes Row.
  • It was also suggested that the present car-park should not be built on – this has historically been used for recreation, and that recreational areas are needed. (RP stated that donation of public land has been mooted but not happened.) It was also noted that Scottish Government policy notes that green amenities are good for mental health.
  • There are also structural concerns because this area used to be a canal lock, according to a SEPA report. About 15 years ago, drilling caused the water table to rise significantly.
  • It was suggested that there should be open space in front of Royal Crescent (to the north), similar to Bath’s Royal Crescent.
  • There was a call for work towards comments and objections to be organised, so that duplication of work is avoided, and to work via CEC councillors and MSPs.

4.2          George St design forum

I Mowat noted that the final design view will maintain single lane, 2-way vehicular access all along the street, but the central parking would be removed. However, there seems to be lack of thought and detail currently about road junctions. Plans would include flexibility of use, minimal clutter, wider pavements, some parking at the sides of the street, and segregated cycle paths (which cannot be parked on) either side of the street. A resident suggested that separators should be raised so blind people can be aware of them. RP suggests that consistency of approach across Edinburgh would be good.

A report will go to CEC’s transport committee in June. Hence NTBCC will be able to make further input.

RP noted the proposed £25m cost of this development, noting that CEC is under severe financial pressure, which may well delay full implementation.

4.3          Charlotte Baptist Chapel

Glendola’s application for development of this building was refused by CEC. A separate application by a 3rd party to convert the building use to a dance theatre was approved. NTBCC had expressed a strong preference for the dance theatre proposal. It was noted that Glendola currently own the building.

4.4          West Register Lane

This application which was approved by Edinburgh Council has been called in by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) due to the proposed demolition / major alterations to listed buildings.

5               Environment

J Conn noted that Cllr Ritchie has not yet achieved a meeting with CEC waste services due to illness.

It was noted that Rose St and Thistle St have serious litter/waste collection problems.

6               Licensing

No applications giving cause for concern occurred this month.

7               Transport

A Jack reported that CEC has responded to comments on the draft parking action plan. Zones 5, 5a & 6 will not change parking arrangements.

A resident suggested that NTBCC should be involved in enforcement of the 20mph zones.

8               Neighbourhood Partnerships

I Mowat had attended Inverleith NP. It was suggested 27 and 23 bus routes could change, to implement a route from Trinity to Lothian Road. The 36 bus will run later.

9               Edinburgh Association of Community Councils

There was concern over a blog piece by A Johnstone MSP, about potential diminution of CC powers, as reported in the Evening News. It was suggested that L Press requests that this is discussed in a wider forum at the next EACC meeting

10           Activities of Local Street or Amenity Associations

C Nimmo will attend the next Leith Stakeholder meeting.

I Mowat will forward NTBCC’s comments on plans for the top of Leith Walk (already sent to Anna Herriman) to Cllr Donaldson.

11           Any Other Business

The Spurtle will hold an election hustings for the Edinburgh North and Leith Scottish Parliament constituency on 14 April at Broughton St Mary’s church.

There has been no response to adverts for a new minute-taker. However, several NTBCC members can now post to the website, while a back-up website administrator has been sourced.