NTBCC minutes – Monday 7 September 2015

Minutes of the ordinary meeting of New Town and Broughton Community Council, held in the Drummond Room, Broughton St Mary’s Church, Bellevue Crescent on Monday 7 September 2015 at 7.30pm

1 Attendance and apologies for absence

1.1 Present

Richard Corrall NTBCC Alan McIntosh Broughton Spurtle
Judy Conn NTBCC Agnes Gill resident
Jonathan Finn NTBCC Michael Helman resident
Stephen Hajducki NTBCC Jack Hugh resident
Lynn Henni NTBCC Alistair Macintosh Lord Moray’s Feuars committee member
Allan Jack NTBCC Patrizia O’Neil resident
Ian Mowat NTBCC John Raven Great King Street Association
Lewis Press NTBCC Caroline Roussot resident
Richard Price NTBCC Deirdre McCarthy Jones Lang Lasalle
Christine Ross NTBCC Michael Kelvin J A Leask Architects
Alan Welsh NTBCC Neil Simpson Local resident
Bruce Ryan minutes secretary

1.2 Apologies

Carol Nimmo NTBCC Cllr Nick Gardner Leith Walk ward
Susanna Beaumont NTBCC Cllr Joanna Mowat City Centre ward
Marco Biagi MSP Edinburgh Central Cllr Alasdair Rankin City Centre ward

2 Minutes of Meetings of 11 May 2015

2.1 Approval

Approved (proposed R Price, seconded C Ross, nem con)

2.2 Matters arising

No items

3 Police report

No Police Scotland representative present, hence no report.

4 Proposal for a hotel/restaurant in the Charlotte Baptist Chapel, Rose Street

4.1 Current plans

These were introduced by D McCarthy (Jones Lang Lasalle) and M Kelvin for the architect (J A Leask), who made the following points. (Glendola is the planning applicant and developer.)

  • A public consultation was held on 29 July, exhibiting plans for a hotel and restaurant. The plans discussed at this NTBCC meeting have been updated since then.
  • A planning application will be submitted this week (i.e. on or before 11 September)
  • A previous application to convert the chapel into a large pub had been previously refused, so the architects reviewed the owners’ portfolio and hence have designed a 4-star hotel/restaurant with bar. This would have a class 3 licensed restaurant in the basement and ground floor, with a bar in the centre of the basement restaurant area, and a hotel on the other floors including the sanctuary, but the sanctuary space would be designed so that parts remain visible. The agent stated that the restaurant would shut at midnight, apart from the occasional extension, e.g. Edinburgh Festival. It was reported that Police Scotland is unlikely to object to the separate alcohol license application.
  • The restaurant would take at most 188 people and the bar 48 at most, and there would be 22 bedrooms, leading to maximum possible occupancy of 280 people in the building. (This is a significant reduction vs. the previous ‘super-pub’ proposal (~30% of the earlier proposal’s planned occupancy.)
  • Being in the centre of the basement, surrounded by diners, the bar is unlikely to be a source of trouble. Also, it was stated that the envisaged bar clientele are unlikely to be trouble-makers.
  • The current plans would open up areas with a 4-metre wide hallway. Hence there would be visibility to where choir used to be, retaining some of the important architectural features, hopefully alleviating the Council planners’ concerns about subdividing the sanctuary and previous proposed occupancy numbers. The current plans would retain the triple-height aspect as the planners have wished. The fourth floor would not change. The pulpit and organs would be relocated within the building.
  • The owners are not applying for a licence for pavement tables and chairs – they are ‘not integral to the brand’ and no pavement canopy is envisaged. Were the owners to apply for such a licence in the future, this would be in line with emergency vehicle needs.
  • Signage would need separate planning permission.
  • The current expectation is that hotel guests would arrive on foot or by taxi. The only vehicles envisaged are for deliveries of food and drink, for refuse collection and taxis for clients. The basic points of planned refuse collection are that a private contractor would remove non-perishable refuse once a week – such refuse will be stored within the premises until collection, while perishable refuse will be collected every other day. There will be no on-street bins, and glass will be crushed in the cellar so that there will be no noise from glass being tipped into containers on the street.
  • No new doors are planned – the only external changes will be to the roof for air conditioning etc.
  • In response to a resident’s question, any smells will be neutralised within the building, following Edinburgh Council’s preference for venting over rooftop carbon filtration, via 3 or 4 condensers.

4.2 Neil Simpson – potential reasons to object to the current plans

See also NS’s flyer at https://leithccc.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/15-09-07_charlotte_chapel_neil_simpsonntbcc.pdf

Mr Simpson made the following points:

  • He lives next to the chapel and has been involved been in the campaign against use of the building as a public house. He is now speaking personally.
  • City centres need nuanced mixes of uses, but he believes that city centre residents don’t suffer from NIMBYism. Uses are more important than conservation for city centre vitality.
  • He is a director of the Old Town Development Trust. This body is working on the ‘Edinburgh 12’ initiatives, where private things are being built on public land (e.g. New Waverley, India Buildings, King’s Stables Road, Royal High School).
  • The Baptists have moved to a bigger building but unfortunately in his view have not been proactive about ensuring best use of this building. NS questions the rush to change – there has been a church here for 200 years, and the current plans are for a speculative, non-permanent use. Time should be taken to consider permanent, optimum use. The listed building is currently not ‘at risk’.
  • Planning is about doing better than the market would alone. The current proposal is not benign: the developers are working to the Scottish Reporter’s findings and the market, not local wishes.
  • He stated that planners have agreed to subdivision of the Chapel’s sanctuary, hence the sanctuary is being lost. In NS’ opinion, this is not the best we can do. Edinburgh’s West End does not need this amount of hotel space, and NS questions for whom Edinburgh Council (CEC) planners work. They are tied to policy, while CCs can be involved only late in the process. In particular, NTBCC has been unable to make ab initio
  • Examples of sensitive, unrushed, non-hotel uses of former churches include the Eric Liddle centre at Holy Corner in Merchiston, South College Street, Mansfield Traquair (3rd sector headquarters), Broughton Place.
  • NS believes that NTBCC should object to these plans on the basis of loss of the church sanctuary, to give time for consideration of how the site should be used for the benefit of the local community.

4.3 Points from NTBCC members

  • R Price stated that while it would be healthy if CEC and CCs could be more proactive, they can only judge the plans they see. (NS responded that permanent residential use should be the default option, and that its size is exceptional because it was a church – a building of this size wouldn’t be allowed now.)
  • A Welsh stated that NTBCC is as proactive as they can be, given the large area it covers.
  • I Mowat asked whether there are any other current proposed uses for or interests in the site – it would be bad for the building to be unused for a significant site. (NS stated that the building is not now and never has been empty.)

5 Environment

C Ross reported that NTBCC’s Environment subcommittee had been meeting with various Edinburgh Council (CEC) officials, mostly about refuse.

  • The first meeting was with Paul Baxter, a city centre environmental warden (CCEW). CCEWs have a vast remit (from litter to council houses) but there are only 5 of them, and they must work in pairs, due to because of issues around prosecutions and fixed-penalty notices. CR reported that the CCEW phone system doesn’t work efficiently – there are errors in information transmission, and people are not told when environmental issues have been solved. Mr Baxter’s superior, Simon Porteous, is due to send out neighbourhood packs but these have not yet been received. The packs should explain Edinburgh Council’s internal organisation. For example, EWs work in the same streets as street cleaners and waste collectors but it’s not clear how they are linked or communicate. There may not be enough staff to make things work.
  • Another meeting at Murrayburn was more inspiring – this was about trade waste (TW). NTBCC spoke with Bob Turner, who is responsible for removing TW from the city centre. Much TW storage has now been removed from the street, so CEC plans to roll this scheme out to all of Edinburgh. J Finn stated that the scheme had been successful – businesses may not leave their waste on the street except under exceptional circumstances. If they do, they must complete a form stating that they will fulfil various conditions: bins must be small, locked and clean, noise from glass bins is forbidden between 9pm and 7pm, and that they are liable for any issues caused by leaving waste on the street. However, JF also stated that with only 5 CCEWs, the scheme is not currently being policed effectively and may not be viable in the longer term.. The Environment subcommittee will soon meet with Ian Buchanan about these issues.
  • J Conn reported that the subcommittee has not yet been able to explore where street cleaners fit into the overall scheme. She stated that cleaning is often done carelessly, that cleaning under cars is impossible and that street-cleaning is under-resourced. JC reported that in contrast, Glasgow has more EWs, with a more limited range of duties, so that they are more effective.
  • A resident asked whether businesses can apply for on-street storage. JF stated that they can, but only if they follow the conditions above and can show that they do not have room for indoors waste-storage. (Small indoors waste stores can be hazardous.) JF reiterated that the issue is lack of enforcement.
  • It was suggested that gull-proof bags encourage reduced storage of domestic waste, and putting waste out for collection at specific times. Bins can be outside for longer times, and so are less desirable.
  • A resident asked whether the glass-tipping noise curfew applies only to outdoors or also to indoors glass handling indoors or out. JF did not know but suggested that enforcement would again be the main issue. He also stated that CEC cannot control what happens on private land.
  • A Welsh suggested that flyers encouraging new students to deal with waste properly are included in freshers’ packs. However, as freshers’ week is already in progress, it may be too late for flyers in freshers’ packs, but I Mowat suggested leafleting student flats.
  • Another resident reported that in some areas (e.g. South Charlotte Street), there are no recycling bins or GPBs – instead normal bin bags have to be put out for collection. On SCS, waste is collected twice weekly
  • A Northumberland St resident reported that NS Association has fought a 4-year ‘battle’ over communal bins. The current scheme has GPBs in east-west streets but bins in north-south streets. The NSA is trying to get CEC to educate people how to put out rubbish. Communal bins have apparently led to marked improvements around waste. However, trying to phone CEC is a ‘horrible experience’. Another resident stated that CEC issues (apparently on request) appropriate notices to put in communal stairs. L Henni stated tweeting photos of overflowing bins to CEC, the Spurtle etc, has achieved results. A Jack stated that CEC has committed to giving individual streets their preferred refuse-collection methods. So streets that have issues around refuse collection should remind CEC of this commitment.
  • A resident suggested that issues grow with lack of ownership/increases in HMOs.
  • It was noted that CEC’s refuse systems are now under review, so it is appropriate to make input just now.

6 Licensing

J Finn reported that two variations have been applied for. JF has no concerns over these:

  • The Spitfire (Dublin St) wishes ‘other activities’ and to enlarge. However, this will all be underground and hence is unlikely to cause noise issues.
  • Chez Jules (109 Hanover St) wishes to increase its licensed hours

A Welsh queried whether Essential Edinburgh is ‘subletting’ its St Andrews Square and George St entertainment licences, leading to more noise on George Street – AW reported instances he has encountered. If this is happening, it would possibly usurp CEC’s licensing role, and would prevent objections to individual entertainers. It was also reported that a mobile boutique had been parked on George Street for two days.
I Mowat to investigate at George Street meeting.

7 Transport

A Jack reported that CEC has drafted a parking action plan (PAP – see http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/download/meetings/id/47976/item_714_-_draft_parking_action_plan_-_final). CCs are tasked with responding by the end of October. AJ reported that PAP contains 5 significant actions:

  • Action 7: Extend evening parking restrictions in the city centre, at the same time as Sunday restrictions, to improve accessibility for residents while encouraging walking, cycling, public transport use in the evenings.
  • Action 8: Introduce shared use parking places to increase the flexibility of the parking controls for residents and other road users. (That is, residents and blue badge holders would also be able to use pay-spaces. Visitor permits might also be introduced.)
  • Action 9: Develop and publish a parking pricing strategy to steer the approach to charges for parking permits and pay and display parking.
  • Action 20: Introduce visitors’ parking permits in Zones 1-8 of the controlled parking zone, with an additional allocation for those with special care needs.
  • Action 40: Consult with operators on the movement and parking of freight vehicles.

AJ reported that consultation, due to finish in October, will include a focus group for city centre residents before the end of October – NTBCC should attend this. PAP actions would be phased in over several years.

A resident is canvassing Lord Moray’s Feuars about parking issues. LMF will work with Northumberland Street Association on these.

7.1 George Street

B Ryan reported that a sign on George Street advised that the cycle lane would close on 7 September. However the lane was already closed on 31 August. BR will correspond with Iain MacPail over this.

I Mowat and S Beaumont have attended GS steering group meetings. The last meeting got feedback from a charette that look at concepts for GS, and its changing use over time. Most attendees did not like what has been happening in GS, especially the marquees. Hence other things will be tried. The attendees’ main wish is for quality, even if this is costly. IM stated that design principles are being created, so it’s not yet certain how parking will be affected, that improvements for pedestrians are being sought, that the current work is at a high level, and is going in the right direction, the charette had been useful. Also, George Street is part of the N1 cycle route so the cycle lane must be reinstated in some way.

8 Planning

R Price reported that CEC’s planning committee has overruled planning staff on several matters this month.

An Elder St (in St James quarter) resident reported her concerns about a compulsory purchase enquiry due on 22 September. (This CP enquiry is now before the Scottish Reporter.) ES residents are being offered £1000 (less VAT) to compensate for ‘inconvenience and distress’, so long as residents withdraw all objections to compulsory purchase. It has been difficult for residents to establish their rights to relevant pieces of land – some is common good land. The resident asked whether NTBCC can act here, while acknowledging that SJ quarter plans have been agreed in principle, and noted that CEC has asked independent developers collaborate to maintain a conduit to SJ quarter.

R Price confirmed that planning permission had been granted re the rotunda hotel, and that routes to appeal against this are unclear. However, plans for Register House (and 42 St Andrews Square and Register Lane) have not yet been determined. NTBCC was supportive of permeability into SJC through the Register St development. RP stated that it is hard for CCs to oppose schemes such as the SJ quarter because there are so many ‘experts’ and big organisations (including CEC’s economic development committee) pushing for such developments.

The resident reported that details of the SJ quarter plans have changed and suggested that some are questionable, e.g. the numbers of shops in an age of internet shopping. She is mostly concerned about the fragility of Georgian foundations in the area, fearing that 5 stories of underground car-parking may badly affect the grade A listed building in which she lives.

Another resident reported that Martin Perry, who is in overall charge of the SJ quarter scheme, will host a Q&A session on 1 October at the Cathedral hall (time to be advised).

8.1 Royal High School

I Mowat reported that W Gray Muir (of the RHS Preservation Trust) and Marco Biagi MSP have asked for NTBCC’s reaction to the latest version of plans for converting the RHS into a hotel. IM stated that the latest version involves the hotel wings being stepped back. The meeting was unanimously against the RHS being converted to a hotel. Individual NTBCCC members‘ reasons for opposition include:

  • while the eastern block might be acceptable, the western part is not – the plans are incompatible with the vista and the original buildings
  • while the aim is to use materials that would blend in with the hillside but questions whether this will work in practice
  • the latest plans have some improvements but the site cannot take the size of buildings needed for all of the facilities necessary to make the hotel economically viable .
  • there is a limit to the amount of hospitality and hotels Edinburgh can support – spoiling the iconic Calton area could damage Edinburgh’s tourist industry
  • Using the RHS to re-house the St Mary’s Music School would be a more appropriate re-use of the buildings

It was noted that the RHS area is within the Edinburgh World Heritage site. It was suggested that objectors to hotel use look into the economics behind the current plans, which are being advanced as a key consideration by the developers, and that CEC’s economic development function supports the hotel plans while the planning department may not.

A McIntosh reported that the Spurtle has been gathering opinions – it appears that most architectural bodies strongly oppose the hotel plans but a slight majority of public opinions are in favour. It is possible that they have been misled by the published visuals, which do not show what people will actually see as they are mostly elevated views.

It was noted that the Dunard Fund would fully fund the Music School’s use of the RHS buildings/site, that the Fund has given £22m to arts in Edinburgh.

It was suggested that NTBCC’s views should be circulated as widely (e.g. to Historic Scotland, Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments in Scotland (RCAHMS)), Cockburn Association, Edinburgh World Heritage) and strongly as possible, to encourage other objections. Because the current application was submitted on 3 September, objections must be submitted before the end of September (N.B. –post meeting – last date for objections confirmed as 2 October). It was suggested that all objections are copied to M Biagi MSP, local and Scotland-wide media, the Educational Institute of Scotland and other CCs (e.g. Old Town CC)

R Price noted that it has been tweeted that NTBCC refused to consult with the hotel proponents (Duddingston House). However, this is untrue – NTBCC offered to meet with them once they had considered NTBCC’s initial response to the public consultation..

9 Neighbourhood Partnerships

A Jack attended a very interesting presentation on the Dean Valley regeneration project

. This is a very energetic and committed group of people. See http://bit.ly/1iifbln for more details.

10 Edinburgh Association of Community Councils

No report

11 Activities of Local Street or Amenity Associations

There is a new body: Leithers don’t litter. Its online home is https://www.facebook.com/Leithersdontlitter

12 Any Other Business

A Welsh reported that Open Doors Day is on 28-29 September

J Conn reported that there is an exhibition in the Rodney Street tunnel at the end of September. Exhibition organisers have requested photographs of favourite spots in Edinburgh along up to 50 words about why they are favourite. (Details may be here: http://www.thehereandnow.org.uk)