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Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Unapproved MSCC minutes 9 April 2008

(There will be an opportunity to approve these minutes at the May meeting of the group)

1 Sederunt and Apologies
Susie Agnew noted apologies and welcomed attendees to the meeting.

2 Minutes of meeting held 12th March 2008
The minutes were accepted as a true record. (Proposed: Cherry Ledlie; Seconded: Dorothy Ryle.)

3 Matters Arising
There were no matters arising that wouldn’t be covered later on in the meeting.

4 Police Report
PC Mike Brooks stood in for PC Lindsey Thomson to provide an updated police report:
In the last month, 72 crimes have been reported in this ward, and 21 of these have been solved to date.
- There have been six vandalisms.
- There have been several housebreakings, six of which have been solved. Housebreakings included incidents on Marchmont Street, Marchmont Crescent, Warrender Park Terrace, Glen Street and Roseneath Street. Scotmid has been broken into twice. The hairdresser’s on Warrender Park Road has also been broken into, and this seems to be part of a trend of break-ins to hairdressers across the city.
- There has been an upsurge in the theft of pedal cycles and the police are continuing to look at ways of addressing this.
- There have been regular weekend protests at Quarter Mile by anti-globalisation protesters, mainly aimed at Sainsburys and Starbucks, and this has included some petty vandalism.

General group discussion followed, and concerns were raised about incidents which took place overnight from the 31st March – 1st April, when a number of cars in the area had their tyres let down. PC Brooks explained that this was a seemingly one-off action by a group of climate change activists, calling themselves April Fools/April Fuels, and was said to be aimed mainly at 4x4 vehicles. The group expressed concern about the dangerous nature of these incidents if drivers hadn’t noticed that their tyres had been let down, and acknowledged that this is a separate group of people from those who routinely undertake auto-crime in the area.

It was also mentioned that residents should notify the Bike Station at Kittles Yard on Causewayside of any abandoned bicycles.

5 Report on seminar to discuss Scottish Planning Policy SPP3: Planning for Housing

Susanna Lacey reported back on her attendance at this seminar, concentrating mainly on the issue of licences for Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs). The seminar included three presentations: one on the Scottish Government Planning Policy Review, one on Common Community Perspectives and one on Local Authority Perspectives. Attendants then split into discussion groups. Susanna highlighted some of the views that were expressed during the presentation and discussion groups, including the following:
- HMOs are not just for students, with an increasing number of occupants being transient workers and young professionals.
- Enforcing HMOs is difficult for the Council, and investigations are generally only made after a complaint. It can take 18 months for a decision, and result in a fine of £250. Higher fines for landlords were suggested.
- Planning is a devolved issue in Scotland.
- Councils don’t currently have strong powers to “close down” HMOs, or many resources to “police” HMOs.
- Many people at the seminar were against HMO quotas, including student representatives and the homeless charity Shelter.
- Many people at the seminar were supportive of HMO quotas.
- Should moves to tackle the “problem” be through planning or licensing?
- Applying quotas to HMOs may lead to illegal HMOs.
- There is a need for mixed, sustainable communities.
- HMO quotas could be perceived as social engineering.

The issue of HMO quotas triggered much discussion and speculation amongst MSCC members, and various issues were raised, including the following:
- The MSCC has spent considerable time in previous years looking at the issue of HMOs.
- There is an “HMO team” at the Council who will investigate suspected HMOs.
- 12% of the Edinburgh population is students.
- There is a recent trend towards the opening of new managed accommodation for students.
- There was some discussion of “difficult behaviour” by residents, whether this can be attributed mainly to students or HMO occupants, and the use of the HMO list as a tool to deal with difficult behaviour. It was suggested that strict tenancy agreements from landlords could help with anti-social behaviour by tenants, and it was questioned whether HMO licenses were relevant to anti-social behaviour since HMO licenses are mainly about ensuring the safety of tenants through the introduction of smoke alarms etc.
- The legality of applying quotas to HMOs has been questioned, and although Glasgow Council has introduced some quotas, it has been said that this was against the advice of their legal department. Certainly, Edinburgh Council maintains that it cannot legally introduce HMO quotas.
- HMO quotas are a planning issue, licensing is a separate issue.
- HMO licenses last for a year (possibly now extended to 3 years) and are difficult to remove. However, the Council can refuse to renew licences.

After lengthy discussion around many of these issues, it appeared that many within the MSCC were in favour of HMO quotas, and the group agreed that it would like to investigate this issue further.
Susie Agnew will invite appropriate individuals from Edinburgh Council licensing department and planning department to the June meeting, which will include this issue as a main item on the agenda. A student representative will also be invited.

6 Planning Act 2006
A consultation is currently underway on the implementation of this act, and ends in May. There was brief discussion of this consultation, and though few people present had read the consultation document, preliminary indications were that the new arrangements are likely to have positive rather than negative implications for the MSCC. It is likely that the MSCC will have to be more organised in its planning objections in the future, but that the community will have an earlier opportunity to hear about and feed back on new plans.
Anne Laird will review the consultation document and prepare a response if appropriate.

7 Meadows Festival
The Meadows Festival will take place on 7th/8th June. There will be various stalls, bands and activities, including football. Although it was not possible this year to plan the festival to coincide with Keith Taylor’s amusements on the Meadows, he has agreed to provide a bouncy castle and a few rides for children, and it is hoped that the two events will be able to coincide next year.

£30,000 is required to put on the festival. An Arts Council grant of £10,000 has been applied for, £500 sponsorship has been provided for the football, and there are plans to apply for a Neighbourhood Partnership grant for further funds. Prices for hiring stalls are available at the Meadows Festival blogspot:

- Cameron Rose will e-mail Susanna Lacey the relevant form for applying for a Neighbourhood Partnership grant.
- Mike Shields will arrange with Susanna Lacey to meet with the planning committee.
- Susie Agnew and Sarah Marchbanks will look at the MSCC accounts with a view to the MSCC making a small donation towards the funding of the festival.
- Anyone who is interested in volunteering to help out with the festival should contact Susanna Lacey: or access via the blog at

8 Urban Circus (Ladyboys of Bangkok)
Susie Agnew informed the group that Peng Lee Yap has written to the Council expressing the view that a limit of 10pm for music should be imposed through the public entertainment license. Cllr Cameron Rose reported that a short-life working group has been set up to look at issues such as this concerning the Meadows, but won’t have guidelines drawn up by August.

Peng Lee Yap has also objected to the granting of a liquor licence to the Urban Circus. Such a license has not yet been applied for, but has been granted in previous years. Peng Lee Yap’s letter also suggested that if a liquor license is granted it should have a limit of 10pm and be on condition that the area is tidied up afterwards.

Mike Shields reported that he will be meeting with representatives from the Urban Circus to discuss exactly what the Urban Circus require in terms of vehicles, caravans etc for their camp during August, bearing in mind various concerns that have been raised by local residents in the past.
ACTION Mike Shields will convey the feelings of the community council at his meeting next week.

9 Any other business
9.1 Streetscape
Developments to the Marchmont streetscape (discussed in length at previous meetings) are now underway, and Susie Agnew reported that they are not quite as she had expected, with pavements being widened by 75cm rather than 150 cm due to some issues uncovered during the development work.

Some extra money has been found for the project, and will be used to lay a new surface on the footpath down Argyle Place to match Roseneath Street. A request for additional cycle racks was made by traders, and these are being placed on Argyle Park Terrace. Susie Agnew also reported that the pavement on the south side of the street between the hardware shop and near the Earl of Marchmont has very bad tarmac and she will write to request an improvement.
9.2 Cycle Racks
There are new cycle racks available for public use outside Marchmont St Giles Church.
9.2 Benches in Grange Cemetery
George Bell, Susie Agnew and Dorothy Ryle met to discuss the more helpful positioning of benches in the Grange Cemetery. They agreed that one of the existing benches would be moved to a better place, and that the Council will probably be able to find another bench to put in the cemetery. Susie Agnew expressed appreciation for the helpfulness and co-operation of the Council in this matter.
9.3 Grant from Neighbourhood Partnership
The £2000 grant from the Neighbourhood Partnership has now arrived and needs to be used within the next 4 months.
Susie Agnew will ask Melanie Main if she will action the spending of this grant.
Susie Agnew will make inquiries into the location of the MSCC’s hanging baskets, which were apparently used once a few years ago and have not been seen since.
Fiona Scott will look into the location of the MSCC’s gazebos, which also seem to have disappeared. If they are located, they will be lent to the Meadows Festival.
9.4 Other items of interest
Susanna Lacey notified the group of various other items of interest, including:
- Community Council training sessions
- World Heritage Day, taking place on 18th April in the Scottish Storytelling Centre
- Care & Repair for older and disabled people
- Energy Efficiency in historic homes conference on the 2nd May
- Community Council Joint Meeting on 24th April at 7pm in the Council Headquarters, looking particularly at partnership working and the role of community councils.
Information about all of these items will be available on the community council blog:
ACTION Anyone wishing to attend the Community Council joint meeting should let Susanna know:
John Simon reported that an emergency meeting of MAGPIE will take place on 17th April at 7.30pm at the Croquet Club to discuss the future of MAGPIE. Various individuals expressed an interest in attending, and John Simon and Susanna Lacey intend to attend.

10 Date of next meeting
The next meeting will take place on Wednesday 14 May 2008, beginning at 7.30pm at St Catherine’s Argyle Community Hall, Grange Road, Edinburgh.

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