Minutes of Marchmont & Sciennes Community Council
Meeting of Wed 22 January 2020 at St Catherine’s Argyle Church Halls,
Present: – Brian Gilmore (Chair, MSCC), Mike Shields (Edinburgh Council Parks), Shane Voss (MSCC), Alison Service (MSCC), Adam Stewart (MSCC), Anna Nicol (Minute Secretary), Nigel Ayton (Grange Association), May Bowie (local resident), Sheila Spraule (local resident), Barry Mercer (Police), Anne Laing (MSCC), Anthony Holmes (Thirlestane Lane Association), Mick Brettle (local resident), Douglas Rogers (MSCC), Cllr Burgess (CEC), Rosheen Wallace (Vice President Community for Edinburgh University Students’ Association), Keith Douglas (local resident).
Apologies: – No apologies.
Draft Minutes from the last meeting, 27th November 2019, have been circulated. They are approved by Alison and seconded by Shane.
Barry Mercer based at St. Leonards as Police Sergeant – firstname.lastname@example.org
The southeast was the busiest area in Scotland during Hogmanay, resulting in higher profile crimes over the holiday. There have been two arrests in relation to the McEwan Hall theft on New Year’s Day.
On 11th January a man was stabbed by the Meadows tennis courts. Sgt Mercer says the attacks are not random but there have been no arrests thus far.
The police are deploying 20mph speed limit checks on streets as part of their drink and drive campaign in the new year.
They are also trying to give as much advice on house and shed break-ins as there have been a few instances of this in the last few weeks e.g. make sure lights are turned on and lock bikes within a locked shed. Sgt Mercer states the culprits tend to target the Just Eat bikes, forcing them from their docking racks, so be vigilant of any suspicious behaviour. The police can give crime prevention advice and if anyone sees anything suspicious at night then call 101 or 999, depending on the severity of circumstances.
Adam Stewart enquires about the ongoing issue re. youth activity near the student halls on Warrender Park Road. The local shop was targeted and so the school liaison officer has been in touch with Adam. The school is setting up an initiative to help increase surveillance of activities on Friday evenings.
Anthony Holmes asked how Neighbourhood Watch groups were informed about events. Sgt Mercer stated that they act separately from the police. It is best NHW consults the police for advice on how to approach community crime. Sgt Mercer has left his contact information (see above) so he can send out crime prevention advice.
Mick Brettle asked about more information about the speed limit initiative because cars speed up on the incline on Marchmont Road. Sgt Mercer notes any speed signs would have to be from the council and he has applied for a van to be stationed on the road but to no success.
Meadows and Bruntsfield Links:
The applications for the main events taking place in the Meadows in August were closed last week and the decision will be announced in late February. At present he is unsure of the cash amount, what they’ll do on the Meadows and how they’ll give back to the community. Adam asked if they have increased the number of placeholders but it is the same number as last year.
On 23rd January, bulbs will be planted along Melville Drive close to the Victor Hugo cafe. Mike says the community has been invited to take part.
Mike notes the higher wind speeds from the last couple of weeks but assures the MSCC that there was no significant damage.
Anne Laing asks whether the empty plant containers on Marchmont Crescent will be filled and Mike says that bulbs will be planted there as well and will take a couple of months to bloom. Anne has asked for volunteers to help tidy up and maintain the plants and has had a reply from one person. Adam says that in a few months James Gillespies High School will be restarting their community gardening.
Adam highlights that it’s important to think ahead of how to raise awareness against scorch marks on the Meadows in the summer. Mike states that the park ranger will be putting more signs up but not much can be done until the end of March.
There is a discussion regarding the potential for collisions at the junctions on the sloping northern section of Middle Meadow Walk. Mike says the path has been changed to try and slow down the cyclists with signs but some cyclists occasionally ignore them. Adam suggests an addition of a “SLOW” sign. Mike says that they are doing something about signage but don’t have the funding to roll it out further. Anna Nicol suggests connecting with the university to try and highlight safety for pedestrians and cyclists. Douglas Rogers suggests altering the proportionate width of the path for cycles to be less than 50%, and improving signage and possibly differentiating the surface material and colour to try and make it clearer that it’s a cycle path. Mike says that issues with the path itself are to do with roads rather than parks.
City Councillor Report on topical local issues
Cllr Steve Burgess:
The budget setting is the current priority for the council. Usually there would be a public consultation for the budget in February but because of the UK General Election, Westminster is behind schedule and won’t be setting its budget until March. This is a problem for the council because legally Scottish councils have to set their council tax by the end of February but also need knowledge of their funding to do so. Therefore, the budget will be completed using an estimate. The council might have to revisit the budget after the national budget is confirmed.
Councils are assuming there will be a cash cap from Scottish government and they will be allowed to raise council tax by no more than 3%. On 17th February, the Council’s Finance and Resources Committee are meeting to address the budget proposal which will then be decided on 20th February. On 10th February the proposal will be published in the papers and therefore will be available for the public to view.
Proposal information is being leaked e.g. Edinburgh Evening News reported cuts to Edinburgh Leisure. Cllr Burgess stated that these leaks are likely to continue but assures the MSCC that they are just proposals and not confirmed action.
The council have embarked on a consultation with residents about the climate emergency. There is a public online survey which takes 15 minutes, asking what residents would like to see, and how the council should respond. Google ‘Edinburgh Talks Climate’ which will take you to a link and a multiple choice consultation. Cllr Burgess encourages as many people to respond as possible.
Sciennes school playground extension and school street scheme is still a problem. Parents have restarted morning vigils trying to keep cars from going in front of the school. The council is going to make build outs into the road and move signs.
Adam asked about some of the developments taking place over the next year whether they will affect the budget and whether the public/MSCC will get a say in that e.g. the issue regarding short term lets. Cllr Burgess assumes there will be a consultation to see how the levy will be applied. The Scottish government need to go through legislating tourist tax before the council decides how to proceed with using it.
Election of Secretary (repeat):
No one is standing for election.
Brian Gilmore intends to resign as secretary at the next AGM and the community council needs one to run effectively. If one is not chosen then there will have to be a new election.
Items for Discussion
Royal Hospital for Sick Children Redevelopment: update
Planning committee for Sick Kids is this week. Cllr Burgess says they asked for a further extension. A legal agreement with the developer and the council has not yet been achieved. Last Cllr Burgess heard is the move is still happening in the autumn.
Douglas Rogers only knows that there is a new representative for the Downing group. Scottish Churches Building Trust is still trying to raise a grant to acquire the mortuary chapel building.
Section 10 accommodation – no solution to if it’ll be used for community use, art use etc. It is too small for Marchmont and Sciennes development trust so any ideas will be welcome.
While it is believed the move is in the autumn, Brian highlights how they are still finding problems with the Glasgow hospital building and so the date could be extended.
Astley Ainslie Hospital Redevelopment: update
Nigel Ayton says they had a meeting on Monday with NHS Lothian and the council. The council is drafting the place brief and it was expected to go to the planning committee in May. However, it became clear that it will be delayed. The presentation of the Place Brief to planning committee for approval is more likely to happen in August.
The NHS has committed to not approaching the market until the place brief is approved.
MSCC Priorities and Objectives
Adam wanted to think about what MSCC priorities are for the year ahead and how they can be achieved in order to show the community that the MSCC are taking on ideas and issues.
Alison suggests everyone emails ideas to Brian in order to collate a list done by locals to then be circulated to define priorities and future action.
There are induction sessions for new members to help identify all the parties mentioned in these meetings and about approaching community planning.
Nigel suggests using the Annual Review to highlight MSCC actions that have taken place throughout the year. Brian comments on the lack of power for MSCC to make significant changes and how the MSCC is mainly driven by community questions and issues. Douglas mentions the potential for MSCC to lobby the council but it does have significant power in planning.
Rosheen suggests using social media more to communicate more with people and creating an opportunity for a voluntary student intern to help promote the MSCC. May highlights how some council members will do things such as appearing at a supermarket on a Saturday to find out community problems.
Shane Voss highlighted a past initiative in which the community council would invite someone to speak at the meeting on a specific issue e.g. planning. Nigel notes how there is information from the council online but the issue is with signposting the information so then people can find it. Anne mentions how there used to be a free newspaper to advertise information.
If anyone has ideas of people that they could invite people along to talk about issues then let Brian know.
Regulation of short term lets
Brian reported that all councils will participate in a compulsory scheme to license lets but they won’t control numbers. Planning permission would be required to short term let.
Edinburgh council will be consulting (option to designate areas) as part of its wider plan for consultation on City Plan 2030. The Scottish government refused Edinburgh’s application to include the entire city. Doubts where councils will be able to enforce planning requirement properly – with funding constraints this would be difficult.
Cllr Burgess says Airbnb accommodation now need planning permission and anybody who applies for an Airbnb in a tenement is being refused permission because of potential disturbances to neighbours.
While someone can rent an Airbnb, there are no requirements like those used in HMOs so Cllr Burgess thinks that there will soon be similar requirements necessary for an Airbnb. Casual landlords may then think again about using an Airbnb because of the need to reach these standards. People are supposed to apply and it requires someone in the planning department to notice those who haven’t. In practice it is difficult to investigate and enforce because of large numbers.
Douglas asks if the council has the right to find out information on which properties in the area are trying to use Airbnb to help regulate numbers. Cllr Burgess says it is difficult to find out information because Airbnb is private about agreements. Douglas notes that once a tourist tax is introduced it’ll be more important for Airbnb to provide exact information on where their accommodation locations are. Adam says there are 424 registered Airbnb locations in Marchmont and that doesn’t include other short term let properties such as booking.com.
HM Fires Service Consultation
Consultation has not happened yet.
Planning (Applications and Consultations)
A couple of new planning ideas but nothing of the same scale as the hospitals.
Items of Information
Has been circulated. Balance of the bank at the end of the year was £713.58.
The Xmas tree event raised £174 for Children 1st Scotland
City Plan 2030 about to happen again.
A couple of months ago the issue of seagull nesting growth was raised. At the time, it was proposed that the community work with the council to approach pest control. The council has provided a quote. Cllr Ross is taking action to work with officers and complete the work. April has been recommended for starting the process. It is £120 a treatment and 6 treatments are needed for Adam’s block. Alison says it would be a good thing to leaflet around the block of how much it costs and how it was done to try and encourage other blocks.
Local resident, May Bowie, is concerned regarding the increasing homelessness in the city and how it seems to be beggars, rather than homeless people, sitting outside local supermarkets. Cllr Burgess has seen this discussed city-wide but not locally and states that it’s hard to tackle because there isn’t a law against begging. Cllr Burgess offered to look at recent reports and forward on any information that has been raised. Rosheen Wallace suggests that if they are part of organised crime then it’s probably a matter for the police rather than the council.
Date of next meeting: 26th February 2020