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Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Minutes of meeting 14th May 2008

Minutes of meeting held on 14th May 2008
In St Catherine Argyle Church Community Hall, Grange Road, 7.30pm

1 Sederunt
Anne Laird (Chair), Susanna Lacey (Secretary and Minutes)
LindsayThomson (Police),Alastair Philp(NP) Cherry Ledlie(JGPS Safe routes to school), Dorothy Ryle (Grange Association), Brian Harris (Magpie) Josh McAlister (EUSA)
Tina Cumming,,Claire MacGregor, Sarah Sandow, M.Malik, Cllr Mark McInnes, Linda Smith, Fiona Savage, John Simon, Audrey Simon, Ruth Stroud, Neil Brierley, Peter Warren, Margo MacDonald MSP, David Rintoul

Susie Agnew, Mike Pringle MSP, Mike Shields, Fiona Scott, Cllr Steve Burgess, Cllr Cameron Rose, Cllr Allison Johnstone, Sarah Marchbanks, Anne Laing, Cllr Marylin McLaren

3. Minutes of meeting held 9th April 2008
Amendment “on behalf of Friends of the Meadows and Bruntsfield Links”
The minutes were accepted as a true record. Proposed: Linda Smith; Seconded: Cherry Ledlie.

4. Matters Arising
Chair requested to suspend matters arising to move swiftly onto police report followed by Margo MacDonald to speak on HMO’s

4 Police Report
PC Lindsey Thomson provided an update on crime trends in Marchmont and mentioned that PC Neil Sinclair, based in St Leonards is the new community beat officer for Sciennes area.
2x break-ins to business premises- both solved
Cycle theft is prolific, 6 stolen this month, slightly less than average. 2 have been solved.
Motor theft I theft and 2 attempts—none solved
Vandalism to vehicles on Marchmont Rd but no witnesses.
No graffitti reported
Minor assault 26th April on Meadows by youth 15-17yrs old. He attacked a man at 2am and then he attacked a couple at 2.10am
Sexual Offences
9th May 11pm report from 2 female students that a male 30yrs old followed them and exposed himself. He had thick wavy shoulder length hair and was wearing beige shorts.
16th April 10pm Similar incident. Female returning home was propositioned by a man standing under a lampost who then approached and tried to make contact with her. CID are following this up.
Summer plans for zero tolerance: in August there will be environmental wardens patrolling until 2am to combat violence and sexual crimes.There will be Police vans with CCTV cameras.
PC Lindsay then invited MSCC to make any suggestions as to how best to concentrate resources in the Meadows.
The Police will be watching for under 18yrs approaching off-licences. They will be using youngsters to attempt “test purchases of alcohol” to detect offending shopkeepers.
Margo MacDonald enquired if the police will challenge the licenses of offending off licences who have been targetted. The police can object to a licence and the licensing department can suspend it. Cllr Marjorie Thomas is addressing this.

5 HMO Discussion
The Chair and welcomed Margot Macdonald and Peter Warren who were attending to hear the discussion and Josh McAlister from EUSA. She said that she welcomed his participation and that the MSCC community benefited from the student presence. She introduced the discussion by summarising the difference between planning and licensing in HMOs. She wanted the discussion to consider whether there were too many HMOS and if so should these be restricted in some way. One of the problems was that HMOs in tenements differed in its effect from an HMO in ahouse. If there were too many HMOs would this ultimately affect the viability of the community... The need for the discussion was prompted by some complaints from residents received recentlyby members of the Community Council and the “Right to Rent” campaign launched by the students. It was some time since there had been discussion on this topic and the MSCC felt it was useful to identify where there might be problems and ascertain whether the community wished them to take further action and if so what action.

Margo MacDonald said that as she was living in this area, and as she was aware that there was a problem regarding HMO’s, she was willing to help build any bridges of communication which needed to be built and wanted to hear the views of the Community.
The recent “right to rent” campaign of local students had been aimed to influence MSPs
Alastair Philp said it would be useful to know why the students had started this campaign.
Josh McAlister said that following the recent SPP3 discussion, students had been concerned that planning laws were to be changed and the changes to a “quota” system would disadvantage students looking for rented accommodation. They were willing to engage with local communities in discussing solutions.
Susanna Lacey said that Government was addressing the problem through Planning to maintain sustainable communities while at the city council level the issue could be tackled via licensing departments limiting the numbers of HMO’s in an area.
Cllr Mark McInnes said the CEC were looking again at the quota system. Chris Wigglesworth conducted a study for the licensing dept but the paper was not signed through as there were concerns that controlling the HMO balance might lead to homelessness. Colin Keir has said that he will start proceedings now to look at this again
Josh McAlister asked again why there was a need to limit HMO’s. If the CEC took this action, then the students will take it to the Government level via student/city forums. He reminded MSCC that for students this is the first time that they are moving into the rented sector and that there is a shortage of flats.
The Chair asked what problems were encountered by MSCC members.

A number of people gave examples of problems they had encountered:
One member has made complaints regularly. 3 flats were suspended for 6 months but their licences will be renewed to coincide with arrival of new students at the start of term. There are 3 HMO’s with 5 students in each of these 4 bedroomed flats. They put fat down the drain, the door lock to the stair is always broken. The local residents have to pay for repairs caused by tenants of a landlord who is making a lot of money out of them. They complain, the landlord gets his licence renewed and nothing changes. The landlord is indifferent. The council is ineffectual.
The residents are disturbed by the constant noise through the wall, through the ceiling and in the shared back green.
Another member said he has a similar problem with the student neighbours and an absentee landlord.
A third member: there is also the problem when 5 people share a flat and then each brings in a partner so that there are 10 people living in a four bedroomed flat.
A fourth member also has problems from people in HMO flat above. She put in a complaint but nothing happened, the case was closed and the situation remains unchanged.

Josh McAlister said that if there is a problem with the numbers in a flat then licensing will come round to check. The feeling of the meeting was that this did not happen in practice.
Young professionals are a large part of HMO occupiers. He suggests a list of named HMO occupiers and carpets to muffle the noise. He asked what is a sustainable community, and who decides what is sustainable. The fact is that the student population in Edinburgh has doubled. He quoted figures of 2500 HMO’s in Glasgow where there is capping and 5100 HMO’s in Edinburgh where there is no capping.
Susanna Lacey reminded him that Glasgow has a very high proportion of domicillary students.
It was suggested that provision of purpose built property for students might be an answer to the problem
A resident who has lived in the area for 35 years said he was not aware of any problem and has not noticed any change in that time.
Margo McDonald said that one of the concerns of the CEC would be the provision of schools and how to decide what was required. If there are no young families what will happen to the schools in the area..
A resident pointed out the difference in hours that are kept, the difference in age groups, difference in lifestyle is one of the factors that causes problems.
Josh McAlister stated that there is an increase in postgraduate and international students with longer study periods and this should result in a change in the behaviour.
Another disagreed that there has been no change in the area. The licensing laws have changed and now young people do not go out until 11pm. Previously that is when they would be expected to return to their homes. Houses were built as a family home. These buildings are not being used as they were intended. It is wrong to have so many HMO’s
Another questioned poised was who looks after the stairs if there are too many HMO’s. Students don’t bother with maintenance of the tenements and don’t contact the landlord about problems they are having.
Some of the problems stem from landlords. There are the duties of a landlord. But there have been only two attempts at prosecution of landlords in the last two years.
Another member said that she has benefited from having some very good student neighbours.

Mark McInnes: people feel frustrated with the regulatory committee. If there is a problem they should use the powers they have. Councillors have been told that there is a conflict of interest if they try to represent the case for individual residents to the regulatory committee. This should be investigated

The Chair summed up the discussion: HMO’s were still causing problems in the area. The problems discussed were:
1. tenements not suited for overpopulation – tenants bringing in partners sometimes leads to overpopulation
2. regulatory process not satisfactory
3. there are some areas where the building structures are different and changing their use from their original purpose is not good.
4. need to improve the relationship between citizens and city council
5. Anti social behaviour is a separate issue but there can be a cause for concern in HMO properties; The regulatory must be made aware that the noise levels in HMO’s has gone up
6. The consensus seem to be that the regulatory authorities did not use the powers they had

Margo Macdonald said: The council are changing their housing policy to provide more affordable housing and that includes students. 25% affordable housing has been suggested for Edinburgh and 12% of the total population is student. Purpose built accommodation is required to maintain and increase the level of available rented accommodation.

Alastair Philp, representative on the Neighbourhood partnership, knew of no plan to change licensing policy.

Susanna Lacey suggested that perhaps Community Councils could ask Edinburgh City Council to reduce the time lag between complaints being made and decisions being taken. Enforcement should be improved and fines should be greatly increased.

Mark will find out when Colin Keir intends to meet with CC’s. He may decide to meet also with Neighbourhood Partnerships. Mark will also find out more about the paper which was produced last year and suggests that the council solicitor moves forward with regard to licensing.

MargoMacDonald said she had a vested interest in her constituents. Margo Macdonald and Mark McInnes will communicate to decide what standards need to be put in place.
Mark McInnes will report to the community council. A meeting has been suggested with Colin Keir and the CC’s.

The Chair asked whether any action should be taken with regard to planning eg should we ask that flats be considered differently from houses in planning regulations.
Margo MacDonald thought it best to go down the regulatory process and improve that process. There was a general consensus that this was what was required. Josh McAlister will keep in contact so that he is kept informed of any proposals for change

Action: As outlined above. Mark McInnes will report back on progress to the next meeting.

6.Consultation of Draft for Community Council Scheme and Code of Conduct

These documents are very extensive and will be put onto the blog
Hard copies will also be obtained before the next meeting. Responses can then be submitted to the Secretary who will forward to Community Council Consultation at Victoria Quay

7.Marchmont Shopping Bag.
There will be an event to launch the shopping bag which will be on sale for £1 .

8.Neighbourhood Partnership

8.1. Motion to recommend installation of bollards after the “ramraid” driving a vehicle into a post office
8.2. Change to controlled parking regulations to include 9hr parking bays in Merchiston
8.3. Environmental forum, housing, tasking(police), improving quality of life in Dumbiedykes
8.4. Training sessions for NP members: understanding committees
8.5. Each NP is allocated £100,000 for roads and footways improvemnet
8.6 Presentation on the very productive and beneficial partnership of the NP, Tollcross and the Traders Association
8.7 Community Grant Application from Meadows Festival. £5000 awarded in principle.
8.8 Funds for streetscape can come from NP £100,000

9. South Edinburgh Public Partnership Forum (Health)

On 10th Dec 2007 the group was suspended. North is running smoothly, but South has had some conflict with an exchange of abusive e-mails. EVOC were called in and they interviewed everyone involved.
They are continuing as an informal group and getting through the work of the consultation documents.
A co-ordinating group is to be formed from among the 54 members to run the Forum for 1 year.
The problem may have been the domination of the community council groups and it was suggested that there should be only one member from each community council. Everyone wants the Forum to be successful, so as to have the opportunity to improve services and address the inequalities in health. (Ruth Stroud)

10.1. Local Neighbourhood Plan: 4 groups to determine priorities. Southside Newington had different priorities from outlying groups. Priorities were graffiti, litter, bins and an electronic, secure voting system was used. (John Simon)
10.2 Meadows Place Closure. A study has been carried out by Neil Brierley which shows that cyclists are not really inconvenienced and in fact closing Meadows Place would be counterproductive.
Mark McInnes has made it clear to the Council that he and Maryline McLaren are not in favour of closure
Brian Harris suggests that police data is essential. There have been 10 accidents in 2 years.
10.3.Edinburgh Association of Community Councils will host their AGM on 21st June. Details on blog.
10.4.Tram Update. There will be a meeting to discuss the Trams on 29th May 7-9 pm.

11. Date of Next meeting is 11th June 2008. This will be the AGM followed by the general meeting.

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