NTBCC minutes – Monday 13 March 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 13 March 2017 at 7.30pm

Actions and decisions are RED ITALIC UNDERLINED SMALLCAPS. Nem con means that no-one spoke or voted against a decision.

1 Attendance and apologies for absence

Foysol Choudhury NTBCC Richard Price NTBCC planning convenor
Judy Conn NTBCC secretary Christine Ross NTBCC
Christopher Collins NTBCC Fran Wasoff NTBCC
Jonathan Finn NTBCC treasurer, licensing convenor Alan Welsh NTBCC
Andrew Haddow NTBCC Bruce Ryan Minutes secretary
Stephen Hajducki NTBCC Cllr Marion Donaldson Leith Walk ward
Jack Hugh NTBCC Cllr Joanna Mowat City Centre ward
Stuart McAllister NTBCC Derek Barbour Police Scotland
Claire Miller NTBCC Alan McIntosh Broughton Spurtle
Carol Nimmo NTBCC 29 residents[1]
Lewis Press NTBCC environment convenor Duddingston House Properties, Urbanist Hotels and Hoskins Architects representatives

[1]     This is the number recorded on the signing-in sheet. There were possibly more.

1.1 Apologies for absence

Susanna Beaumont NTBCC Cllr Lesley Hinds Inverleith ward
Lauren Stewart NTBCC Ben Macpherson MSP Edinburgh Northern and Leith
Allan Jack NTBCC transport convenor

2 Minutes of Meeting of 13 February 2017 and matters arising

Accepted without changes (Proposed J Finn, seconded F Wasoff), nem con

3 Co-options and resignations

Foysol Chaudhury was co-opted (proposed I Mowat, seconded C Collins), nem con

Lauren Stewart resigned because she has moved out of NTBCC’s area.

4 Police

PC Barbour reported

  • There had been 2 domestic housebreakins and 4 breakins to businesses (period not stated)
  • Operation Gopik took place on 9 March. This was undertaken by UK Border Agency and Police Scotland (PS). If foreign homeless people/rough sleepers wish to return to their home countries, UKBA/PS help them get there.
  • Patrolling and removal of foliage has reduced numbers of homeless people by the ‘big foot’ at the cathedral. They appear to have migrated to Surgeons’ Hall. They are being directed to relevant services.
  • A PS community officer is working with CEC to help homeless people obtain accommodation.
  • PS community officers are undertaking daily checks in different locations in central Edinburgh on compliance with new 20mph limits. However, they only have one ‘gun’, which requires a team of 3 officers. The gun is not ideal for finding whether motorcyclists or cyclists are speeding.

5 Presentation and Q & A on the revised hotel proposal for the former Royal High School from Duddingston House Properties, Urbanist Hotels & Hoskins architects development team

This presentation (now on NTBCC’s website) concerns application 17/00588/FUL. The deadline for comments on this application is 24 March 2017. The team made the following points:

  • Urbanist Hotels chairman, David Orr, is from Edinburgh. He is grateful for this opportunity to engage with residents. He is a hotelier, and has created jobs in Edinburgh and London, some in sensitive sites, some receiving RIBA awards.
  • The team (see slide 2 of presentation) wishes to sustain, respect and plan around the original Thomas Hamilton (TH) buildings, (e.g. architecture that fits with the site’s craggy backdrop [slide 6]), and to benefit Edinburgh.
  • The revised plan tries to embrace criticism of the original planning application that was rejected by CEC (slide 7).
  • Hence the team met with CEC planners early in 2016 to see where there is potential for development (slide 9).
  • They are now looking at how ancillary buildings could be used for development (slides 10-11), and how these areas might provide space for carefully designed buildings respecting TH’s originals (slide 13).
  • This process involved looking at the topography and character of the site (slides 14 to 16), and studied how the hotel would look from over 40 viewpoints around Edinburgh (slides 18-29). On these slides, the red lines show the outline of the originally proposed plans.
  • The current plans have much reduced massing, and would maintain more of the landscape and monuments.
  • The current plans would reduce the building interventions (slides 31 to 35). For example, there would now be no intervention to the front of the TH building (slide 31) – access would be via the existing front doors. There would now be far less excavation (slide 32), and access would not be as originally planned (slide 33).
  • Connections from the public spaces to the bedroom wings would now not impact the TH gables (slides 34 to 35).

5.1 Responses to questions

  • How open is the contract between DHP/UK and CEC? Are there any penalty clauses? The contract is confidential but the plan is to produce a hotel that benefits Edinburgh.
  • About the view from Calton Hill? The hotel terraces and roof would be “living roofs” (i.e. grass or sedum).
  • The original plans were for 18,500 m2; the current plans are for 16,000 m2; the reduction is due in part to reduction in height and footprint of the western wing as well as the deletion of the basement excavations.
  • How can people be sure that public access to art and culture will be delivered? DHP/UH will make sure the hotel operator (Rosewood – a contract with them is already in place) has an active art & culture policy for this hotel. Rosewood already do this in other sites, while UH has many other arts briefs. DHP/UH are contracted to create a hotel of international standing, and can bring in the funding to do so. Oaktree is one of the co-investors.
  • The new plans reduce the hotel’s capacity to 127 rooms. However, the previous plan’s higher number of rooms was said to be necessary for financial viability. How can this be explained? The financial climate has changed. Also, the amount of excavation and intervention would be less than originally planned, leading to lower building cost. Also, the economic break-even time has been extended.
  • Concerning accessibility, would ‘normal’ people be able to get into the hotel? While rooms would be very expensive, other Rosewood-operated hotels include affordable, popular bars/brasseries designed to be part of the community.
  • Considering the original plans were rejected by Edinburgh’s urban planning panel in 2015 because the plans at the time would have put too much on the site, please comment on the design process. The team has spent a long time considering the impact the hotel would have, and the consistency of their proposal with the CEC planning department’s advice (slide 9). They stated that they felt it is valid to look at the site more globally, and so now believe they have plans that they feel are ‘sophisticated’ ; with reduced size (but with more development than CEC planning advice). In these new plans, the architects stated that the commercial aspects of the brief were not the primary consideration ; the primary consideration was the landscape assessment. Hence the new wings are 1 storey smaller than the original scheme, slides 20-21.
  • Why is there no view from the US consulate (Regent Terrace) in the plans? The buildings wouldn’t be visible from there. CEC stated which views should be considered, so DHP/UH/architects did consider these, and some additional views. These are all in the environment statement that is on CEC’s planning portal.
  • Services would access the hotel at street level, to the east of (and underneath) the TH buildings.
  • The new wings would be higher than the TH buildings ; it was stated that they would be about the same height as the current ‘gymnasium’ building.
  • No hotel windows would look on properties to the rear of the hotel or on Regent Terrace.
  • All plant would be in the hotel basement.
  • The patinated copper to be used for the hotel wings will not become turquoise, but will retain its colour for ~60 years.

6 Planning

See item 5 above.

7 Licensing

No items

8 Transport

8.1 Closure of Leith St – Presentation by Donald Anderson and colleagues

The presentation is on NTBCC’s website. Mr Anderson and colleagues made the following points

  • Mr Anderson works for PPS, who work on communications and stakeholder engagement inter alia for the St James project. With him were M Whitton of Laing O’Rourke (principal contractor) and N Heggie of SWECO.
  • Leith St is due to be closed because major building works at the St James project (outline on slide 2) would endanger people using the road. Hence PPS etc. are ‘engaging’ local stakeholders to explain this and get feedback.
    • NTBCC members suggested that this presentation was merely informing, rather than true engagement, i.e. citizens are being presented with a fait accompli rather than a process for finding and enacting citizens’ opinions.
    • Another NTBCC member noted that her residents’ association had not been contacted at all.
  • Their engagement report will go to CEC on 21st March, in parallel with a council officers’ report. The engagement process was started only about two weeks ago, due to prolonged discussion within the City of Edinburgh council.
  • The work will take place in three stages (first Leith Street, second Picardy Place, and third York Place/Elder Street) to minimise disruption. (Were all works concurrent, disruption would be worse.) Works are outlined on slides 3 and 5. They will result in a new street with high quality finishes, with extensive infrastructure upgrades.
  • The main reason for closing Leith St is to install new drains (slide 8) and change the level of the road surface.
  • Leith St would be closed immediately after 2017 Edinburgh Festival, reopening just before the 2018 Festival.
  • There would not be a central barrier but there would be cycle lanes on the east side of Leith St. (See slide 10.)
  • There would be service access and car-park access into St James from Leith Street.
  • It will not be possible to turn right from Calton Road onto Leith Street.
  • Picardy Place will also change significantly, leading to a development site inside a triangular area. (See slide 5.)
  • Diversion routes for public transport, based on CEC’s transport model, are shown on slide 12.
    • There was concern that the diversions would cause extra traffic and congestion on other Edinburgh roads especially North Bridge/South Bridge, Queen Street/York Place and Royal Terrace.
    • It was suggested that the east side of St Andrews square should be used.
  • Diversion routes for general traffic are shown on slide 13.
    • Physical alterations mean temporary barriers.
    • Other changes are changes to traffic light signal timings. The times allowed for pedestrians to cross roads will not be reduced.
  • Diversions would include a gyratory system at Easter Road. (See slides 14-15.)
  • There will be a drop-in session on Thursday 16th March at 6:30pm at Café Camino.
  • NTBCC members expressed strong concern that detail was not forthcoming, and that the work would not be done in a shorter overall time by increasing the amount of work done each day. Also, NTBCC members were concerned that CEC’s traffic data was incorrect, considering discrepancies between CEC traffic projections and reality during the trams project.
  • NTBCC members were also concerned whether and how diversions could be changed if they did not work as planned.
    • It was suggested that park and ride schemes are enhanced to reduce congestion during the work period.

9 Environment

A resident raised strong concerns about the recently-passed TRO permitting bins on London Street. He suggested that this was contrary to stated CEC policy on the world heritage area and residents’ wishes.

  • NTBCC members expressed concerns about communal bins in their streets.

Action – NTBCC environment committee to consider whether and how they/NTBCC might react to the TRO

10 Communications

Action: NTBCC members to like and promote NTBCC Facebook page.

11 Neighbourhood partnerships

No items

12 Any other business

No items