16th January Minutes

MINUTES of PUBLIC MEETING of MERCHISTON COMMUNITY COUNCIL

Tuesday 16th January 2024 at 19.00 on Zoom

Attendees:   

Ian Doig (ID) Chair
Vivien Kitteringham (VK) Vice-Chair
Frances Hawarden (FH) Treasurer
Joan Houston (JH) MCC
John McKenna (JMc) MCC
Roma Menlowe (RM) MCC
Bridget Stevens (BS) MCC
Declan Murray (DM) MCC
Klaus Glenk (KG) MCC
Vanessa Meadu (VM) MCC (from 20:30)
Councillor Val Walker (VW) Ward 9
Councillor Ben Parker (BP) Ward 10
Rubén Manso (RM) Resident
Mary Breatnach (MB) Resident
Ian Pattison (IP) Resident
Leslie Howson (LH) Resident
Fraser McLaren (FM) Resident (from 19:30)

  1. Introduction by Chair

Apologies:  

Mairianna Clyde MCC
Daniel Cairns MCC
Helen Zealley MCC
Jed Calvert MCC Associate
Rafael Uddin MCC Associate
Councillor Neil Ross
Councillor David Key
Councillor Christopher Cowdy

Declarations of Interest: None

  1. Minutes of 21stNovember Public Meeting (for approval).
    The minutes were approved unanimously.
    Matters Arising: BS was to enquire about commissioning benches to replace worn ones on the grass verges by the canal. She has asked Cllr. Walker to find out whether the benches stand on Council or Scottish Canal land and will continue her enquiries.
  1. Chair’s Report (ID): Chair’s written report had been circulated to MCC members. Items discussed:
  • Bin hubs: MCC is aware of a number of complaints from residents about various aspects of the new bin hubs. ID met with ward councillors, council officers and residents in Forbes Road. A compromise was reached in this case and councillors say they will listen to residents’ complaints, but realistically not compromise will be required and it may not be possible to satisfy everyone.
    BP confirms there have been problems, e.g. with noise, but generally feedback has been positive, and the new hubs should improve recycling rates.
    VW refers to problems specific to Shandon where CEC will try to resolve the mix up with parking restrictions and bin locations. She is pursuing this.
    ID had received some complaints about overflowing bins and dumped items. The council says it monitors this regularly.
    BP will follow up poor placing of bins in Polwarth Place.
    To report bin problems use the council (CEC) Report function and/or contact councillors (see * below).
  • Proposed Transient Visitor Levy (TVL)/Tourist Tax:This can only be imposed by CEC after the Scottish Government has passed additional legislation; this is likely to delay implementation until 2026. The basis of the charge is likely to be the same throughout Scotland, but councils may have discretion about the level, and whether to introduce it. Edinburgh is likely to be the first. What the funds should be used for is still to be agreed – used to augment general city funds or specific to tourism is not yet resolved.
    VW: CEC supports a percentage rate as fairer than a flat rate and she supports Councils having flexibility in the use of this tax. CEC wants to avoid only the tourism industry specifying how the funds are spent.
    BP: A consultation on the TVL has now closed but the council’s current intentions for the TVL
    can be found on CEC’s website (see * below) It could raise up to about £40 million each year for Edinburgh.
    ID pointed out that “Overtourism” is at risk of swamping the city and TVL could help damp that down without being a significant disincentive because it would be a small element of visitors’ total cost of their visit.
  • City Council Finances:The effects of the council tax freeze are already becoming apparent in the increasing financial pressures on the city.
    BP: Council budget will be set on February 22nd; there has been a change in procedure: budget plans come out a week earlier to allow discussion and representation. There hasn’t been a public consultation in the last 2 years, so there will be consideration by CEC of how consultations can best be held in future.
  1. Residents’ Issues Forum:

RM: Reported that cables had been stolen from within his tenement. Copper wire is valuable although the cables were unused – asked if anyone had heard of anything similar. VW asked RM to get in touch with her so she can ask if other cases are known.
RM also asked about the scaffolding at the corner of Yeaman Place and Dundee Street and generally how long scaffolding which causes an obstruction can be left standing and unused. Do the scaffolders need to pay for use of public space? What is CEC policy?

ID: Many residents still ask about the blocked right of way at McLarens. BP has pursued this and received a response (see * below) that, although there has been a breach of planning control, CEC does not intend to pursue this further and suggests there are no breaches of human rights and no safety concerns. Our City Ward Councillors are unhappy with this decision and want to follow this up and BP asked for MCC’s response.
The discussion centred around Health and Safety problems caused by safety risks caused by the narrow pavement at Holy Corner, including flooding problems and bus stop queues, which the right of way avoids. It was agreed that MCC should continue to pursue this. Either the right of way should be re-opened and/or the pavement widened.
KG asked if this junction is on the council list of priority junctions for improvement
BP: will look to see if it is on the (very long) list (it is, see * below). Also, he has often complained about the flooding at that corner. Encourages MCC to join with him and other councillors stressing Health and Safety, Equality, and Active Travel to take this further.

  1. Planning Report:
    In the absence of MCC’s Planning Lead (MC), there was uncertainty about the status of the planning application for Dundee Street and Dundee Terrace, and it was decided to monitor the situation. VW will put an enquiry in.
    A change of use planning application for 17 Fowler Terrace was also discussed, with concerns raised about lack of transparency in the process. VW will keep MCC
  2. Licensing Report
    BS: There have been staff changes at CEC Licensing Department, but BS has now established a new contact there. There are no new licensing issues to report.
  3. Polwarth Pavements Improvements Project
    RM: There is little positive news and an update will be posted on MCC website. The team expressed disappointment that Sustrans was withdrawing their street design program for 2024, and so MCC now intends a direct approach to the Council’s Transport and Environment Committee for funding for the Polwarth Pavement Project. Cllr Mandy Watt will be approached to seek her advice on a possible deputation to CEC’s Transport and Environment Committee. Edinburgh Living Streets is helping behind the scenes.

Dissatisfaction was expressed with CEC for not considering the MCC project’s much-needed improvement recommendations, including for short-term and cost-effective improvements, as well as CEC’s refusal to pause the pavement surfacing along Polwarth Gardens leading to the roundabout, due apparently to the contract’s long-committed status. This would lead to a smoother but still inadequate pavement and continuing dangers to pedestrians.

The frustration was shared by JMc who expressed concern about the decline of the Polwarth Roundabout area and the need for improvements to enable it to become a safer and more pleasant local neighbourhood hub.

The City Ward Councillors present expressed their support and agreed to bring up the matter in their next Ward Councillor coordination meeting and consider taking it up with the CEC Transport and Environment Committee.

Possibly Cllr. Munro could propose a relevant motion to that committee because she is a member of that T and E committee; that would enable MCC to send a deputation to address the Committee. RM will send VW a copy of a draft letter to Cllr Arthur for information.

ID agreed and reminded the meeting of the wider implications of the urgent need for improvements in the area, including road safety risks for schoolchildren and students passing through the roundabout area. He also suggested a site visit by Transport and Environment Committee councillors.

  1. City Councillors’ Reports. Scheduled Ward Councillor – Cllr Ben Parker (In addition, all Ward 9 and Ward 10 City Councillors are invited to MCC meetings)

BP: Most topics have already been covered, but re Napier University trees: BP has emailed the principal of Napier and is trying to organise a site visit, expecting positive information about tree replacement. A new notification for works (in this conservation area) refers to removal of 6 further trees at Napier because of roots damaging tarmac. BP will enquire further and keep MCC informed. Comments and contributions from MCC and residents are welcomed.
3 new CEC citywide consultations are live (*see link to consultation hub below): Climate Ready Edinburgh; Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategy (LHEES); Workplace Parking Levy.

VW: Fountainbridge-Craiglockhart councillors VW and Cllr Cowdy will alternate attendance at MCC meetings as far as possible.
There are problems with new controlled parking areas e.g. the placement of new communal bins, the number of disabled parking bays, and availability of parking for residents in the evenings and visitors’ and carers’ parking permits. VW also brought up the problem of residential streets being turned into parking lots in certain uncontrolled areas beyond the boundaries of the newly controlled areas. She will arrange a meeting between council officers and local residents.Problems with cyclists along the canal persist but she mentioned a proposal for active travel improvements for Dundee Street/Fountain Bridge, which could potentially re-route and therefore reduce numbers of cyclists on the canal path. (see also CEC Canal strategy document link at * below).

Lastly, she recommended an upcoming CEC consultation about public libraries (*see consultation hub – link below, consultation not yet available). 

  1. Treasurer’s Report
    FH: There has been no financial transactions since November. MCC has approx. £4,000 in the bank account, of which £1,200 is earmarked for the Polwarth Pavements project from the grant MCC received. A cheque request for £85 is due to reimburse JH for the leaf-clearing project thank-you event.

ID asked about the proposed Merchiston History project and finding a new strategy for funding it, including the possibility of applying for grants elsewhere. It was suggested to consider the Morningside Community Grants Fund (BS offered support with framing an application) and the Cockburn Society for potential support. FH suggested a small group could meet to discuss this. 

  1. Other Reports and Correspondence: None
  2. Any Other Business
    ID welcomed DM back to MCC activities after he had been away.

ID proposed co-opting Rubén Manso as a member of MCC, especially due to due to RM’s active involvement in planning issues. Seconded by VK and agreed unanimously. Co-opted members have full voting rights, except regarding other co-options.

ID referred to continuing problems with minute writing as only a small pool of members are willing to do it. He asked for suggestions. VK is trying out the Zoom AI summary for this meeting. DM and VM agreed to do minutes on occasion.

Future Meetings in 2024 (3rd Tuesday of most months):

20 February, 19 March, 21 May, 18 June, 17 September, 15 October, 19 November (no public meetings April, July, August & December)

Meeting Finished at 20:53

Actions Log:
1. BS will continue to investigate replacing benches on the canal towpath.

  1. VW will find out if the grass verges along the canal paths are the responsibility of the council or not.
  2. BP will follow up on the planning enforcement case and discuss it with relevant officers.
  3. ID and others will draft a response expressing dissatisfaction with the blocked McLarens pathway /Narrow pavement at Holy Corner and requesting ward councillors to pursue this issue with the city council.
  4. VW will enquire about status of Dundee Street planning application and update MCC on application at 17 Fowler Terrace.
  5. BP will follow up on the tree issue at Napier.
    7. A small group around FH will consider other sources of funding for the Merchiston History project and discuss with BS and JMc.

*Further information and useful links from the meeting:
To report problems e.g. with bins: https://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/report

To contact the councillors on this meeting:  

Cllr.ben.parker@edinburgh.gov.uk
Cllr.val.walker@edinburgh.gov.uk

For future reference:
https://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/directory/10241/christmas-tree-collections

Transient Visitor Levy/Tourist Tax

https://consultationhub.edinburgh.gov.uk/ce/tvl/#:~:text=A%20TVL%20or%20tourist%20tax,booking%20or%20when%20checking%20out.

CEC on Visitor Levy and BP’s motion on the link to the housing emergency
https://democracy.edinburgh.gov.uk/documents/s60115/A%20visitor%20levy%20for%20Edinburgh%20Progress%20Update%20and%20Draft%20Proposal-FINAL.pdf?$LO$=1

https://democracy.edinburgh.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=150&MId=6935&Ver=4)  Item 8.7

CEC response to BP re blocked right of way at McLarens (Holy Corner)
https://citydev-portal.edinburgh.gov.uk/idoxpa-web/enforcementDetails.do?activeTab=documents&keyVal=RZ88O6EW0ZA00

Major Junctions Review update: https://democracy.edinburgh.gov.uk/documents/s65395/Item%207.1%20-%20Major%20Junctions%20Review%20Update.pdf

CEC Consultation Hub

https://consultationhub.edinburgh.gov.uk

Update to CEC Union Canal Strategy:

https://democracy.edinburgh.gov.uk/documents/s65260/Item%207.7%20-%20Edinburgh%20Union%20Canal%20Strategy%20Refresh%20Final.pdf

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