This blog is where you will find community council information, including meeting times, minutes and agenda. Do please comment on postings.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Public Meeting with Guest Speaker David Middleton

MSCC Public Meeting with Guest Speaker David Middleton
11th June 2008

If MSCC are looking for a solution to local social problems then perhaps it would be useful to consider the situation in St Andrew’s. While the residents of St Andrew’s accept the importance of students to the economy and know that students like to live as part of the community, there are problems brought about by the concentration of HMO’s in certain areas.
In St Andrews half of the students live in halls of residence while 3500 live in the community in the historic core of St Andrews. This has led to a deterioration to the fabric of these buildings. HMO’s tend to pack together leading to 100% HMO’s in some areas. Those who would carry on the historical spirit of the area are no longer there. The student community is transient bringing no sense of identity to the area.
This is not confined to St Andrews but occurs also in Glasgow. To accommodate more people, landlords here have repositioned kitchens and bathrooms and the noises from formica type flooring presents a problem for neighbours. In conservation areas where there is no limitation to HMO’s this results in a degradation of the area rather than an enhancement.
Government has recognised that there is a problem and SPP3 looks at housing in general. In Northern Ireland the law on HMO’s has changed. There could be fines of £20,000.
SUSCOMS makes the sensible suggestion of the need for sustainable communities to avoid the adverse cumulative effect of development.
There are 180,000 students in Scotland, i.e. more than the population of Dundee.
No one is taking responsibility for this group of people. Planning departments just take a guess at how many purpose built properties for students are required.
We need to analyse the situation and estimate properly the numbers required for purpose built accommodation. It is not helpful to victimise one group be they students, landlords, developers or planners.
What does sustainable communities mean? Does it mean families? Certainly families should have the option of living in the same area. HMO’s increase the value of properties and tend to price out young families and first time buyers. The rent obtained from an HMO is not a practical rent for a young family.
Other factors of concern include
a) the clash of lifestyles of young people and families. A group of well behaved students one year may be followed by a differently behaving group the next year.
b) If an area is predominately HMO the shops change
c) In St Andrews, an area of social housing built in the 1930’s is now predominately HMO. This has exacerbated the problem of homelessness in St Andrews making it the highest in UK
d) New tenants do not have the right to buy

So what is the solution. Suggestions are:
1. Build more accommodation.
2. Ecofriendly area, socially inclusive
3. Glasgow partnership with social landlords
4. St Andrews student association, properties owned by the students
A reminder that if HMO’s are restricted, it is not the students who are made homeless.

We can see this non-sustainability occurring in Tollcross area. When a new HMO application goes forward there should be a list of neighbouring HMO’s made available. Fife Council are forced to provide this information under Freedom of Information. Dundee have the licensing and planning informatiion available on the internet.
In Edinburgh there is the problem of lack of enforcement. The licensing department need to consider the needs of the whole community.
People have the right to object to a license but councils usually very resistant.
Planning should deal with the concentration of HMO’s but there is no law to control the planning process. Complacency will result in there being no change in the effect of planning regulations.

In Edinburgh there are 41,000 FT students. There is some dedicated student accommodation but when landlords overstep the rules, council do not enforce the regulations.
Family homes are for families. We have to determine if University is still expanding or static. Then purpose built accommodation in the right location is the way to go. On a campus is good, part of the University enabling social interaction.
There has been a soft touch approach to enforcement. The concordat has been discredited because no risk assessment included. We must encourage all lanlords to have a license. If no enforcement we need a risk assessment.
If we restrict HMO’s, we will depress the property price. Some residents will be concerned that we depress their asset.
What will be a suitable percentage sugested to allow a good mix in an area.
Other issues discussed were requirement to maintain gardens , clean windows and stairs. Historic properties should be looked after.
There should be a survey to find out what do students want. ?? Eco villages, co-operative housing, stand alone groups of houses. Instead of this we have historic buildings destroyed, fireplaces ripped out.

Students comments
1.Purpose built accommodation provides no privacy and the rooms are of minimum size.
2.Some students are at University for 8-9 years.
3.Students understand the concerns of residents and suggest compulsory carpets to reduce noise
5. Private landlords often more responsible than University accommodation.
6. One problem for overseas students is that university accommodation is too expensive. It is cheaper in private sector. This may be because University pays council tax whereas private landlords do not.

1. Student grant should cover cost of accommodation and council tax. Council obtains finance from landlords via licensing fee. This fee should cover cost of garbage collection and other council activity.
2. The licensing scheme should be financially self supporting. We have a low licensing fee which is not properly enforced. There is a direct connection between the level of the licensing fee and the level of enforcement.

We suggest an increase in the license fee which should include a requirement for stairs and gardens.
Should it be through licensing or planning??
If planning system is to be used as suggested by government, then we need to make changes.
Planning permission should be required for all HMO’s even if there are only 3 residents. Houses need to be brought into the scheme as well.

Minutes of Ordinary Meeting held on 11th June 2008

Marchmont and Sciennes Community Council
Minutes of Ordinary Meeting held on 11th June 2008,
St Catherine’s Argyle Church Community Hall, Grange Road

Sederunt :
Susie Agnew(Chair), Anne Laird (vice chair), Susanna Lacey(secretary) Sarah Marchbanks (Treasurer)

Peng Lee Yap( FOMBL), Muriel Robertson(Magpie), Lindsay Thomson (Lothian and Borders Police), Mike Shields (CEC Service for Communities), Tony Reeves (Grange Association), Alastair Philp (Neighbourhood Partnership)

Ruth Stroud, Tina Cumming, Linda Smith, John Simon, Roseanna Agnew, Fiona Scott, Ken Dougall, Sarah Sandow, Cllr Marilyn McLaren, Alastair Philp, Cllr Cameron Rose, Masoud Malik, Richard Beauchamp, Roslyn Evans, Adam McMinn, Nan McMinn, Tony Reeves (Grange Association) Colette Meyer, Thomas Underwood, Melanie Main, Dorothy Ryle, Brian Harris.

Alison Johnstone, Cllr Gordon McKenzie, Anne Laing, Cherry Ledlie, Neil Brierly

Minutes of previous meeting
Proposed Anne Laird, seconded John Simon

Matters Arising
Item 9 . It was pointed out that there is going to be only one community council representative on the temporary (for one year) South Edinburgh Partnership Forum.
Item 4. Margo MacDonald had enquired if the police intend to challenge the licenses of off-licenses who sell alcohol to under-age drinkers. In response to this the Cabinet Secretary for Justice , Kenny MacAskill has informed that in September the law will be changed such that off-licenses who are caught selling alcohol to underage drinkers will have their licenses revoked with immediate effect. Previously these shopkeepers could lodge an appeal and still trade as off-licenses until a decision had been reached.

Police Report
Lindsay said that she would have to make her report brief this time.
Vandalism has been higher than normal in Southside and Morningside with wing mirrors and windscreens vandalised.
Housebreaking down, only 3 domestic and 1 busines.
Pedal cycle theft and auto crime down
There is to be a new pedal cycle initiative.
Sexual offences: another incident on the meadows 1st June.

Trams Update
Sarah Sandow attended this meeting chaired by Oscar Wells of West End CC.
The trams will ease the congestion produced by the expected increase in population of 50,000 by 2024.
Edinburgh is now 20th retail city in UK compared to previous position as 5th retail city.
There is a great deal of anxiety within the small business group on Leith Walk.
The second tram route 1B may not now happen due to cost.
Trams will serve only 7% of Edinburgh population and 60% of passengers will be standing.
If trams are not a financial success the money will come from the buses which will exacerbate the public transport situation.
These decisions have not taken into account the wishes of the local community.
There is concern about getting on and alighting from the trams safely.

Nomination for Licensing Forum
This forum is not a decision making body but a way to see how the licensing board works.
It was agreed that with her legal background, Anne Laird should be our representative on this Forum.

Health Improvement:
Ruth Stroud highlighted the the 4 main points of the health inequalities improvement plan for 2008-2011: food and health, physical activity, social capital and healthy environment. The meeting was in agreement with this focus to the health improvement plan and that Ruth Stroud should represent MSCC at the next meeting on 18th July 2008.
Post Office Closures:
Possible closures will be listed by 19th August. If Warrender Park Road is on the list then it will be closed but there is a period of 4-6weeks for objections then decision will be made.
A funfair has applied for a license along with the Urban Circus. FOMBL are concerned re noise and late times and want to object. Residents in Silvan Place and Fingal Place concerned re the extent of use of the Meadows for events such as Taste of Edinburgh and Moonwalk. There is a meeting of FOMBL in Peter’s Yard on the Meadows.

Date of next meeting 10th September 2008

Minutes of AGM held on 11th June 2008

Marchmont and Sciennes Community Council
Minutes of AGM held on 11th June 2008,
St Catherine’s Argyle Church Community Hall, Grange Road

Sederunt :
Susie Agnew(Chair), Anne Laird (vice chair), Susanna Lacey(secretary) Sarah Marchbanks (Treasurer)

Peng Lee Yap( FOMBL), Muriel Robertson(Magpie), Lindsay Thomson (Lothian and Borders Police), Mike Shields (CEC Service for Communities), Tony Reeves (Grange Association), Alastair Philp (Neighbourhood Partnership)

Ruth Stroud, Tina Cumming, Linda Smith, John Simon, Roseanna Agnew, Fiona Scott, Ken Dougall, Sarah Sandow, Cllr Marilyn McLaren, Alastair Philp, Cllr Cameron Rose, Masoud Malik, Richard Beauchamp, Roslyn Evans, Adam McMinn, Nan McMinn, Tony Reeves (Grange Association) Colette Meyer, Thomas Underwood, Melanie Main, Dorothy Ryle, Brian Harris.

Alison Johnstone, Cllr Gordon McKenzie, Anne Laing, Cherry Ledlie.

Minutes of previous AGM
Proposed Tina Cumming, seconded Linda Smith

Matters Arising:
Streetscape: there has been a communication regarding the wishes of local residents for paving stones rather than asphalt to maintain the traditional ambience of the area. This matter is still ongoing.
For the amount of money spent the results are not very impressive. However the work is still unfinished. If money is spent on paving slabs, lorries can still damage them. When planters are supplied there is no grant money for maintenance of planters. The cycle route through the streetscape area needs clarified.

Action: It was suggested that MSCC should write to the council. Susie Agnew will do this.

Chairperson’s report:
Chairperson’s annual report 2008
The main issues this year which we have discussed and acted upon are:
Streetscape in Roseneath, Meadows Place closure, Grange cemetery, Rubbish collection, Lunch club, Parking zones, HMO’s , and Christmas Party.

Firstly, in no particular order, the streetscape of Roseneath which was intended to enhance the environment of Roseneath Street. We had a presentation by the council and we made considerable suggestions and criticisms, some of which were acted upon, most importantly that they did not proceed with widening the pavement on the Argyle Place side of the corner with Roseneath Street. The works are nearly complete now and I hope that they will have been worth it. Certainly the pavement on the north side is not as wide as originally intended because of drainage from the tenements, but perhaps this is lucky as the extra width has not deterred the double parking and when the buses stop, there is considerable congestion.

The possible closure of Meadow Place caused considerable controversy both for and against it. However the majority of opinion was concerned with the potential dangerous knock on effect that the closure would cause to the junction at the foot of Marchmont Road and there seemed surprise that the council were not looking at the junction as one entity and merely considering the advantage to cyclists at Meadow Place. The figures of accidents at Meadow Place and Marchmont Road did not present a justified case for closing it. At a very emotive meeting the council made a weak presentation and interestingly, although Spokes was well represented, not all their members were in favour of the closure. The meeting finished with the council officials agreeing to look at it again but we have not heard from them since.

The year started with the introduction of a charge for special rubbish uplifts. We had a presentation by the cleansing department, but they had already decided to go ahead with it and agreed to monitor the amount of fly tipping. Again, I have not heard any more from them, neither have I heard complaints or comments about increased rubbish on the streets.

The Grange cemetery has featured often on our agendas and we have undertaken an ambitious programme to find funding to re-erect the headstones which have been laid flat for safety reasons, which is a national policy. Having acquired a list of over 500 flattened stones, I found that the Scottish Genealogical Society has nearly completed cataloguing the inscriptions on the headstones so I have asked them to add the inscriptions to my list. However they are taking a long time, so I plan to start matching inscriptions to the flattened headstones ourselves in the hope of finding individual funding
for some of them.

Another project which is proving frustrating is the lunch club proposed by Mr. Malik. He and I have had meetings with Karen Watson at Marchmont St Giles and the Church is very keen to support the idea. There are some cultural difficulties concerning the menu but the main problem is the venue. Although Marchmont St Giles new hall would be ideal, it is very booked up and not really available, Karen has said that she would ask St Catherine’s but they are without a minister at present and not in a position to make decisions. Karen herself is very busy and progress on the lunch club is slow.

In October Hugh Leather and I attended a transport meeting as they had ideas to tweek the controlled parking zones. We asked them to amalgamate some of zones 7 and 8 with zone S1and this idea was well received and we believe that it will happen. Meanwhile residents in parts of those zones have been given permission to park in some of S1 which has relieved the situation hugely.

The subject of HMO properties has recently come to the forefront again following a website on the students union page called the” right to rent” speaking out against the possibility of imposing a quota of HMO’s in the area. In May, Margo MacDonald MSP attended our meeting and heard many points of view including that of the president of the student union. The students undoubtedly bring a vibrancy to the area and it is probably thanks to their presence that we have such good local shops, and recently an increase in cafes. However the permanent residents in the neighbourhood find that too many students in each staircase mean that such things as the stair cleaning rota is not adhered to, the garden is not attended to, the noise is too great and there is a general deterioration of the stair community. Following last month’s meeting, Councillors |Mark McInnes and Marilyn McLaren have taken up the issue and are planning a meeting with our office bearers to discuss a way forward.

On a happier note, we had a most successful Christmas tree lighting party. It was credit to the organisers that despite the weather there was such a good turn-out.

Over the year I have done a huge amount of correspondence informally by e-mail which are too numerous to list. In addition I have written letters about the no. 24 bus, several letters about bicycle access to James Gillespie’s primary school, and several letters to various council departments about retaining the youth worker at the Eric Liddell centre, the latter being successful.

I cannot avoid a mention about the Meadows Festival. It was run by a small group of individual volunteers, who included our very own Susanna. To take on such a huge project was valiant in the extreme and I am sure involved a lot of work and effort. It was undoubtedly a resounding success and we owe the organisers a sincere vote of thanks. Our community council had a presence there all weekend.

I owe my personal thanks to the office bearers without whom I could not have done this job. Initially Hugh Leather was the secretary and he revolutionised the technology of our community council and generally made a big impact. He passed on much of his technical expertise to Susanna who is also a fantastic secretary. It is hard to understand how many e-mails and how much paper work passes by Susanna, who deals with it efficiently and with good humour and I am very grateful to her. Sarah Marchbank as treasurer has had a busy year with helping the Marchmont and Sciennes Business Association, receiving grant money for street improvements outwith the streetscape in Roseneath, and the regular outlays, again all dealt with efficiently and cheerfully. Alastair Philp is an excellent representative on the neighbourhood partnership, reporting back to us clearly and concisely; and Anne Laird, as vice chair, has been a constant and welcome support to me, as well as remaining our spokesman on HMO’s.
So that is a résumé of the past year. What about the future. I am disappointed that we have had such a poor turn out of community councillors at many meetings. We have had 11 meetings and officially those who have not attended at least 6 of those meetings should be resigning. But I am not asking you to resign, or wanting you to resign, but I am asking you to become active in the work of the community council. In the Autumn, I intend to raise the profile of the community council, and get out there and tell people that we exist. See you in September with renewed vigour!

Secretary’s report:
As you know I took over as secretary from Hugh Leather who had taken over previously from Tina Cumming. Both of these were excellent secretaries for me to follow. Tina kept everyone informed, by e-mail and by sharing of documents, of what was happening in the area and at Edinburgh City Council. She increased my interest in the local community of MSCC. Then Hugh came along with his blog and added a new dimension to the procedures. I have continued with the blog entries, ably assisted by Hugh at the beginning. I have also continued with e-mail communications to members of MSCC to inform of blog entries and the other communications I receive. This was for the benefit for those members who did not want to access the blog regularly but who wanted to be kept informed. I have also re-established the previous links with Newington Library so that minutes, agendas and other MSCC communications will be available for those members who do not have access to the internet.

As secretary, I receive an enormous amount of communications from Edinburgh City Council, Police reports and various other groups. Most recently there has been a request from other community councils and the Grange Association to share minutes and agendas. At a meeting of office bearers it was decided not to include the minutes of other groups in our blog as we have a lot of material on the blog already. It was decided rather to post the dates and times of other meetings in our MSCC calendar as well as a link to their websites.

Personally, I have attended as MSCC representative the SPP3-HMO meeting at Victoria Quay, the Magpie AGM meeting at the Croquet Club and a CEC training session for community councils.

Among the communications received and discussed at meetings have been Environmental Fora, Training Sessions at CEC, NHS Consultations, School Closures, Meadows Place Closure, Controlled Parking, Special Uplifts, Grange Cemetery, Cycle Racks, Buses, Neighbourhood Partnership, 3m’s youth Partnership. Issues which are still ongoing are Lunch Club, licenses for events on the Meadows, and HMO licenses.

Treasurer’s report:
Liabilities include £2500 for the Traders Association. This year we have spent more than has come in but we still have a healthy bank balance. We still have to receive an extra streetscape grant and we have until mid September to spend this money. A printed treasurer’s account was available.

There should be more trees in the area as there are some gaps where trees have died but have not been replanted. Mike Shields informed that there is a city wide budget for trees with 30 trees planned for Edinburgh South. This can be discussed further in September.

The AGM was drawn to a close.