February 20th 2024 Meeting Minutes

Merchiston Community Council —Minutes of Public Business Meeting (by Zoom)

Date: 20 February 2024

Chaired by Ian Doig, Chair of Merchiston Community Council (MCC)

Started: 19:00.
Ended: 20.59.

MCC Members: Ian Doig (ID, Chair), Vivien Kitteringham (VK, Vice-Chair), Daniel Cairns (DC, Secretary), Frances Hawarden (FH, Treasurer), Bridget Stevens (BS, Licensing lead), Mairianna Clyde (MC, Planning lead), John McKenna (JMcK), Raphael Uddin (Associate member, Boroughmuir High School), Declan Murray (DM), Vanessa Meadu (VM), Roma Menlowe (RM, Minute taker).

Councillors Mandy Watt (MW, Scottish Labour), Christopher Cowdy (CC, Scottish Conservative).  

Residents: Dermot McKeown, Rahel Vontobel, Rob Hotchkiss, Diane Scougall (DS).

Representing Glencairn Properties: Daryl Teague and Laura? – for Planning; item 7.

Business Meeting

1.   Introduction, Apologies & Declarations of Interest

There were apologies from John McKenna, Ruben Manso & Helen Zealley.   There were no declarations of interest.  

2.   Minutes of Public Meeting on 16 January; Matters Arising

The minutes of the meeting held on 16th January 2024 were approved.  There were no matters arising.  

3.   Chair’s Report

ID spoke to his Chair’s report (circulated), focusing on CEC’s proposed revisions to the administrative scheme for all 46 of Edinburgh’s community councils (CCs).  In his view, CEC’s proposed tightening of centralised control of CC procedures and additional “red tape” compliance measures proposed was both unnecessary and unworkable without substantial additional resources, which MCC does not have. Additional resources, and in particular support for CC’s websites, had been specifically requested by MCC and many other CCs in CEC’s consultation. Regrettably, CEC’s revised Scheme contained no proposals for any meaningful increased resources for CCs.  Nor had CEC brought forward proposals to rationalise or realign ward and CC boundaries, as several CCs had requested in the consultation. Rationale for this request is that MCC straddles Ward 9 and Ward 10 and this overlap increases workload for both MCC and Ward Councillors; this overlap issue also applies to several other CCs.

4.   Residents’ Issues Forum

No issues that were not already on the agenda were raised.

5.  Police Report

A written report had been received from Sgt. Coull, and circulated.  The meeting welcomed his suggestion that police speed guns could be issued to residents to enable them to monitor activity on certain streets where speeding was known to be a problem.  This could usefully be linked to media activity on the Polwarth Pavement Project.  

6.  City Councillors Reports

Cllr Watt alerted residents to shoplifting and also to threatening anti-social behaviour near the Royal Bank at Bruntsfield.  Witnesses should immediately report any such activity to the police. She expressed her support for a more flexible approach, within CEC’s proposed scheme for CCs, towards the reappointment of CC Chairs.  She spoke about the CEC budget negotiations and in particular about the proposals put forward by the Labour group.  The CEC budget would be finalised on 22 February.

Top issues raised by residents: bin hubs; potholes and poor condition of roads and pavements; future tram routes.

Cllr Cowdy described the outlook for future CEC funding as extremely bleak. It was regrettable that the City was underfunded by the Scottish Government: this intensified the constraints.  His (Conservative) group shared the Labour group’s goal to protect the education service.  

Top issues raised by residents: the CPZ in Shandon and the commuter parking problem in the Lockartons; bin hubs (some incorrect locations would be corrected through new TROs, but this would take time); a report had been commissioned from CEC officers on how to reduce the excessive noise from the glass bin hubs; Craiglockhart Primary School would be interested in acquiring a speed gun, given speeding issues in that locality and resulting safety risk to children.

7.  Planning Report (MC)

MC led the discussion on the Glencairn Properties proposals, now lodged with CEC, for a major new PBSA (purpose-built student accommodation) on Dundee Terrace.  DT & architect Laura spoke to slides with images showing how the proposals would look, and how Glencairn said they had accommodated points raised during the earlier phase of public consultation.  Some 206 bedspaces were now proposed; the elevation had been reduced by one storey; parking spaces along Dundee Terrace had been retained and overlooking of existing houses reduced; there would be more greenery; a charity-service tenant had been identified for ground floor office space.

Resident DS voiced her concerns as a nearby resident.  This development would lead to an excessive population of students locally; the sense of community would be lost; the location of the entrance – across the road from a bus-stop – was misguided; no parking had been identified for charity service users; daylight would be lost to existing residents; the additional green space was sunken and not accessible to residents – it was not ‘public realm’.  

No other residents offered a view.  ID confirmed that MC would assess the proposals with care, listening to the views of residents.  MCC would submit its comments in due course, using the CEC Planning Portal.  The deadline for public comments was 1 March.

8.  Licensing Report (BS)

There were no new applications, nor were there any complaints.  

9.  Polwarth Pavements Improvement Project & CEC’s ‘Future Streets’ strategy (RM)

An update paper on the Polwarth Project had been circulated.  The only added point was that, following advice from a firm of Edinburgh architects, the project team would approach CEC land use planners, offering the Polwarth report as a mini ‘Local Place Plan’.  

Cllr Watt offered to speak to Cllr Scott Arthur, Convenor of the Transport & Environment Committee, about the best way to raise the profile of the Polwarth Improvement Project with CEC’s Transport and Environment Committee, of which Cllr Arthur is Chair.

There were no comments on the supplementary paper (circulated) offering observations on CEC’s ‘Future Streets’ strategy.  This paper would be finalised and sent by ID, as MCC Chair, to all Ward Councillors.  

10.  Treasurer’s Report

There was a balance of some £3,700 in MCC’s accounts, of which some £1,200 was earmarked for the Polwarth Pavement Project.  The balance would be carried forward into the next financial year.

FH outlined her proposals for a project to update the local history section of MCC’s website.  She hoped to make grant applications to several organisations for funding to engage a short-term assistant on a consultancy basis.  The Old Edinburgh Club would be approached again.  RU mentioned that the archives of Boroughmuir High School might offer relevant material, and that Boroughmuir HS might be willing to assist with the project.  

11.  Other reports & correspondence

BS reported that accessible toilets on the Meadows would be opened on 26 February.  The Edinburgh Union Canal Society would hold a fundraising walk along the Forth and Clyde towpaths.

VK reported that the Fountainbridge Canalside Community Development Trust were gathering ideas for the next Canal Festival.  FH’s history project might be a focus for MCC’s stall.  

12.  Any other business

ID invited volunteers to form a sub-group on planning issues to help relieve pressure on MC.  A rota for the preparation of minutes would be reviewed, now that a couple of new members had kindly offered to lend a hand.  Website management remained problematic.  

RU asked if resources currently ring-fenced to schools for ‘Sustainability Champions’ would remain in place so that teacher time for sustainability learning was protected.  Cllr Watt hoped that the CEC schools’ budget would be protected; once the resources had been passed to individual schools, it was for schools to determine their allocation.  

Future Meetings: 2024 – 19 March, 21 May, 18 June, 17 September, 15 October, 19 November.  

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