We are still stuck in Zoom for our Community Council meetings and it looks like we will exist in this ‘virtual reality world’ for some time. This is a shame as I miss the camaraderie of our meetings. It also makes it harder to gauge guests and to question them properly.
This month's meeting was a case in point. Ross McNulty from Ediston and Colin Smith from Turley joined our meeting to talk about their development of the former RBS site on the corner of Fettes Row and Dundas Street. It is a massive development which is now passing through the planning application process. Covid-19, the lockdown and social distancing and rules about meeting in groups have made it far harder to get a handle on the project and what it all means.
For 15 or 20 minutes or so, Ross McNulty and Colin Smith had the floor, or at least the Zoom screen, and told us about their project. They didn't say anything new. A handful of questions came their way but these were also easily dealt with.
Mostly, the dry formality of this discussion had, I thought, been down to the online format but Ross McNulty, a tough ex-pro rugby player, had also seemed grumpy. He had joined the meeting looking weary, (rattled even), pushing back on how the owners of the RBS site, a London-based property fund, had been depicted in a community newsletter. An hour before the meeting he had been sent, along with all the members of the Community Council, the newsletter of the Fettes Row and Royal Crescent Residents' Association. Its front page had highlighted developers' intention to chop down more than half of the trees on the site. It seems that they want to turn the site from semi-rural to urban.
This segment on the development dominated the meeting and it took the tact and skill of Our Great Leader, Community Council Chair Carol Nimmo, to pull us back on schedule.
There was then some input from the Edinburgh City Councillors who are regular attendees of the meeting including Cllr Jo Mowat on the important ‘Charter for Edinburgh’ issue and some discussion about the ‘Spaces for People’ (SfP) programme. SfP is about creating extra space for people concerned about the spread of Covid-19, to reassure them that it is safe enough to use the pavements once again. Of all the ill-thought out Covid response programmes this is one of the stand-outs. You may have seen it in action. Red and white bollards block off parking spaces and bus lanes, congesting roads and irritating businesses. These spaces should now provide extra pavement space for people to walk along; improving social distancing…..except that I’m not sure that anybody uses them.
Anyhow, I digress.
Towards the end of the meeting, a question was raised about how to deal with graffiti that had started to appear around the area. There is, apparently, a council anti-graffiti team that is meant to deal with the worst of this but this questioner wasn't having much luck so far.
I'd had had a quiet meeting but now sensed my opportunity to make a difference and, frankly, to impress, and so I explained to the graffiti-concerned person that growing up in London I'd defeated these louts by painting over their graffiti on a white wall opposite my home within a day of it appearing. She should do the same, I suggested, content that my steer would improve her life.
And now Our Great Leader, who had Zoomed in from a hotel in the Highlands to keep us in line, was able to display her poise and timing once again. The technique that I'd suggested was, she said gently, less effective on the bare stone walls of the New Town. Always happy to defer to those wiser than me, I did so immediately.
Roll-on our next meeting on 12 October.