‘Take-aways’ from NTBCC’s November meeting

Another bumper turnout for the November meeting – peaking at over 40 attendees including yet another excellent turn-out (over 75%) of NTBCC members . Also very pleased to yet again register the attendance of Cllrs. Mowat & Osler – their frequent presence at NTBCC meetings being both welcome and very helpful. A quick mention also from our local ‘stirrer’ – the editor from the Broughton Spurtle who has recently returned from a long sojourn south of the border – seemingly none the worse for it….but sometimes appearances can be deceptive….time will tell.

Perhaps also worth a mention  – despite having held 4 previous ‘virtual’ meetings using Zoom without any problems – our Chair (who  describes herself as a computer ‘non-geek’ or neophyte in respect of computer systems) stated at the start of the meeting that her screen kept freezing. Much consternation resulted & frantic searching for the agenda by the Vice Chair but fortunately this freezing seemed to be a temporary issue & the Zoom platform returned to its normal performance….thankfully.

Of most interest to the many members of the public that tuned in were the plans (Pre-application consultation) for the demolition & redevelopment of Centrum House on the western edge of Dundas Street (specifically 108-114 & 116 Dundas Street). We were very happy to welcome representatives from Morgan McDonnell Architecture & Scott Hobbs Planning to make a short presentation on their proposal and take Q&A’s. The lower stretches of Dundas Street & Fettes Row are undergoing much change with this Pre-consultation following on the heels of the various applications for the former RBS site.

First though, there was some outstanding business to take care of from the recent NTBCC AGM (in terms of agreed changes to NTBCC office bearers) – as well as the gratefully-received summary from Police Scotland.

The Police Scotland report highlighted several significant burglaries (involving jewellery & bikes) in the New Town as well as some mindless vandalism to parked cars (in Moray Place / Doune Terrace) – unfortunately all reported as ‘unsolved’. Also – mention of ‘Operation Crackle’ (where do they get these names from ?) – being the dedicated police response to” Fireworks” night (covering inappropriate setting off of fireworks and uncontrolled bonfires requiring attention from the Fire Service). Thank goodness it is over for another year!

The agenda item on the proposed redevelopment on Dundas Street followed covering the demolition & redevelopment of the ‘civically poor’ building (as described by the presenter & apparently also reported as being acknowledged by Historic Environment Scotland as a ‘negative contributor to the Conservation Area’) on the site adjacent to the new development at 120 Dundas Street. The presentation was helpful in providing detail on what was envisaged but the main point of contention for residents attending was the proposal for the new building on Dundas Street to be brought forwards significantly to match that of the adjacent 120 Dundas Street (with the resultant removal of the existing railings and trees framing the entrance to the World Heritage site). A further impact of this would be to obscure views / daylight from the set-back windows from 120 Dundas Street. A slightly heated discussion ensued.

The agenda then moved to the latest from the Tram Extension – including the forthcoming Tram Business case review report to be presented to the Council’s Transport & Environment Committee later in the week & also the wide-ranging report on the Spaces for People programme including a much welcomed focus on Broughton Street. However, many NTBCC members were concerned that the latest proposals did not fully represent the ‘000’s of comments submitted to the Commonplace tool earlier in the year. NTBCC agreed to consider submitting a further (written) deputation to the full Council meeting outlining our concerns.

The issue of graffiti followed – with a discussion on the response by NTBCC to the recent  Council report on tackling the growing incidence of graffiti on both public & private buildings in the area  – as one observer succinctly stated “the Council’s response seems to be reactive & not pro-active” – focussing on how to remove graffiti rather than looking at the root causes. NTBCC agreed to consider options to work with schools to both better understand the reasons behind the need that some see to ‘leave their mark’ as well as further consideration on the Council’s recent report.

Finally – a long discussion ensued on the current ‘consultation’ or perhaps more correctly, ‘dialogue’ on the Public Space Management Plan. It’s clear that for such an important consultation, the current level of engagement from the wider public is disappointing – with very few responses or comments logged on the Council consultation website.  NTBCC agreed that it’s important that resident’s views are both expressed and heard & this may require an extension to the current consultation period – but also acknowledged that this has been delayed for many months & a speedy conclusion to the revision / redrafting is important. NTBCC agreed to request an extension to the current consultation but also to commit to engaging with the process.

And yes – there was mention of the recent Scottish Government’s Reporter’s decision from the Inquiry on the hotel plans for the Old Royal High School & their decison to reject the appeal….

With a few AOB’s & other discussions with residents – the meeting concluded.

Looking forward to the next NTBCC meeting (in a Tier 3 environment still?) on Monday December 14th   (TBC)