Minutes of Marchmont & Sciennes Community Council
Meeting of Wed 26 February 2020 at St Catherine’s Argyle Church Halls,
Present: – Brian Gilmore (Chair, MSCC), Mike Shields (Edinburgh Council Parks), Anna Nicol (Minute Secretary), Nigel Ayton (Grange Association), May Bowie (local resident), Sheila Spraule (local resident), Anne Laing (MSCC), Anthony Holmes (Thirlestane Lane Association), Cllr Ian Perry (CEC), Cllr Cameron Rose (CEC), Karen Neilson (Police), Johnny Wong (Police).
Apologies: – Adam Stewart, Cllr. Mandy Watt, Alison Service, Susan Agnew
Draft Minutes from the last meeting, 2nd January 2020, have been circulated. They are approved by Anne Laing and seconded by Brian Gilmore.
The school break saw increased patrols around the area. The police assisted in identifying three juveniles who were behind the robbery on Melville Terrace and charged them. Two persons identified in the robbery at knifepoint, one was a juvenile who was charged and sent to secure accommodation.
A 14 year old boy was charged for bringing a knife into James Gillespies High School.
Road checks taken in the area over February, e.g. Marchmont Rd and Grange Rd. Led to the reporting a driver for driving 37mph in a 20mph area.
Recent drug warrants executed in Pleasance, leading to the recovery of cannabis, prescription drugs and crack cocaine.
There has also been a crackdown on house thefts.
Local resident May Bowie brought up the issue of beggars positioned outside supermarkets in the Marchmont area who appear to be a part of organised group. Karen Neilson replied that it is a UK-wide issue and they are potentially victims of trafficking and organised crime. The police try to interact with them and find Romanian interpreters but they don’t seem to have an issue. They aren’t undocumented immigrants because they are EU nationals. Karen Neilson says that she will take it back to the police. Brian Gilmore received a report from Cllr Burgess which has been commissioned by the council with Shelter and he has circulated the link to the members of the MSCC. The report is attempting to distinguish different groups of people who beg around the city; one of those groups seem to be of eastern European origin and are not homeless and are not engaging with the council. Cllr Rose said it was inadvisable to give them money and if you want to give them something then it is best to buy a sandwich.
Meadows and Bruntsfield Links:
After the wind and the rain there were a few flooding issues but nothing major in the meadows and no major tree damage.
Forestry is arranging to plant nine new trees near the play area. One of the local residents in the Bruntsfield area has paid for another three new trees.
This weekend is the Meadows Marathon on Sunday 1st March. No major disruption to roads. People involved in the marathon are arranging their own litter arrangement.
Anthony Holmes noticed at the bottom of the Middle Meadow Walk there are two signs for toilets which are misleading as they are closed so Mike will look into it.
Cllr Rose mentions that a 2009 inventory of trees on Meadows and Bruntsfield links says there were 1350 trees in the area which increased by 18% to 2015 when there were 1595. The planning commission currently looking at the appraisal say there are 1731 trees, a 28% increase from 2009. Mike says most trees are tagged and labelled and so these statistics are likely to be accurate. Cllr Rose says planting more trees on streets has to be planned more carefully because of leaf upkeep. Anne Laing says a few of the trees on Warrender Park Road are dead which she thinks were planted when the pavements were widened. Mike says that he and forestry are continuing to work on planting trees, phasing them in around the area.
City Councillor Report on topical local issues:
Every so often there is a character appraisal of a conservation area and so Marchmont, Bruntsfield Links and the Meadows area has just had its appraisal. A number of things have changed but nothing major – it will be published online imminently as it has been approved and so will become available to the public.
The Council has decided on an interim budget which includes increasing council tax to protect services. It is an interim budget because the UK budget has not yet been announced and so the national parliament hasn’t set its own budget and are working on interim figures. These figures are therefore subject to change. Hopefully the Council will be able to reverse some of the cuts once the budget is complete in March.
Items for Discussion
Royal Hospital for Sick Children Redevelopment: current position
No change, in status.
Cllr Rose reported that a number of questions have been raised whether monies were being paid to Downing. The initial response several months ago from the Health Minister was that no money has been paid to them and there has been little clarity on whether they will start to be paid.
Astley Ainslie Hospital Redevelopment: update – report on consultation meetings
In terms of the community engagement group there is no further update since the last meeting. Still expecting the place brief to go to the planning committee in August, but it could still be later. It is dependent on the NHS doing the heritage and landscape assessment in time.
Nigel Ayton states the Astley Ainslie Trust (group investigating an asset transfer) is out to tender at the moment for consultants to produce a feasibility plan – closes at 5pm tomorrow (27th February). Consultants start work in April.
City Plan 2030
Brian has circulated the plan. The city plan hopes to avoid increasing housing on the Green Belt and is proposing to use the Brownfield sites. The plan proposes to increase the density of housing on sites that are available and one of the sites seems to be the Astley Ainslie site. Nigel says that he does not necessarily see conflict with the redevelopment. The initiative is to try and create denser housing without expanding into areas which would require residents to use cars as a mode of transport and so high-density housing can help environmentally-conscious housing development. That does not preclude, say, a decision that only 20% of the land area of Astley Ainslie should be built on, leaving the rest as green open space. Rather, it would mean that the housing built on the 20% would be of a density to support bus services or other transport that would allow the housing to be built without car parking spaces or garages.
Student housing: the current development plan states that planning permission will be granted if the site is close to transport links to university facilities and it doesn’t put all the student housing in one area. Only 40% of the Sick Kids development is being developed into student housing so the accommodation doesn’t dominate the site. The other proposal is that accommodation is only built when it is under control of an institution rather than external companies.
Short-term lets: Scottish government has agreed to give more control so that areas can become designated control areas. The document is looking for views – Edinburgh is strongly in favour of control.
There is a suggestion that there should be more clarity on how the refusal of planning permission would work.
City Mobility Plan
Nigel mentions that it sets out a list of what could be done. There is a discussion of the ideas the plan is suggesting and how best to realistically institute changes which will improve the environment.
Cllr Rose says that the Council is breaching air quality limits because the standards have increased. He also notes that car ownership numbers have increased while bus use has decreased. Anne Laing asks if it’s true that the number of bus stops will decrease. Cllr Rose states that Lothian buses are concerned about congestion, which is in part due to decreasing speed limits. Lothian buses and the Council are trialling decreasing the number of bus stops to see if the buses can flow better and Lothian buses want to prioritise flow of their buses rather than the number of people they pick up. Anne queries why the bus lanes aren’t in use all the time. Cllr Rose replies that all bus lanes, except for one or two, were regularised and a consultation has just closed in which it was proposed to change bus lane times to 7am to 7pm, seven days a week.
Brian proposed that he asks Adam Stewart to write something up on the City Plan to then present at the next MSCC meeting at the end of March.
Anthony is concerned that the new student accommodation is a ruse for local sites to eventually be turned into hotels and asks how long they will be used as student accommodation. Cllr Perry says the use can change but it will rely on the university maintaining its intake of students. Anthony asks how student accommodation is connected to short term lets and Cllr Perry says that they are classed as student accommodation. Cllr Rose says most student accommodation blocks have HMO licences. Cllr Rose says the short term let legislation coming in is not yet defined but will designate appropriate HMO licensing. Cllr Perry states there is no difference letting to students and professionals, both are classified as occupants.
Consultation ends 30 March 2020
Brian says there was some correspondence regarding the masts – MSCC has very little control over the masts being put in. Cllr Perry states they have the right to put them in and the Council have the right to know what’s being put in but the Council cannot refuse the instalment. Cllr Rose says that legitimate objections to planning have little to do with issues such as health risks relating to radio waves.
Planning (Applications & consultations)
No other issues.
Items of Information
Has been circulated. Balance of the bank at the end of January 2020 is £642.46.
None to report.
Grange Association AGM, 3rd March.
Somebody has parked a trailer in one of the controlled parking spaces on Warrender Park Terrace and no one is doing anything about it as it is not a motor vehicle. Cllr Rose says the legislation is not clear but some do think the Council can and should remove them. It is not counted as a motor vehicle as it’s not attached to a car. There is work going on in the ward to find a solution. Under the Road Scotland Act it can be removed. Brian confirms it has been formally reported.
May Bowie mentions that some parents from Sciennes Road primary school have spoken with local elderly residents about closing the first section of Sciennes Road. Cllr Perry and Cllr Rose say that there is an application for a grant to enforce that plan but they are waiting for the move at Sick Kids.
Anne wants to mention the plans to deal with the seagulls and she has found an article that says they are endangered.
Anthony asks who is responsible for maintaining the phone box at the end of Marchmont Road as there is graffiti on it. Cllr Perry suggests it is BT.
Date of next meeting: 25th March 2020