2020 October Minutes

Merchiston Community Council: Minutes of Public Business Meeting (Zoom meeting)

Date: 20th October 2020

Started: 19:00

Ended: 21:00

Attendees:

  • Ian Doig (MCC Chair)
  • Joan Houston (MCC)
  • Vivien Kitteringham (MCC)
  • Bridget Stevens (MCC)
  • Peter Brett (MCC)
  • Jake Horsburgh (MCC)
  • Ewan Klein (MCC)
  • Frances Hawarden (MCC)
  • Michael Lugton (MCC)
  • Cllr Melanie Main (CEC)
  • Cllr Neil Ross (CEC)
  • Mike Talbot – resident
  • Patrick Edington – resident
  • Susan Logie – resident
  • Mary McQueen – resident
  • Karen Galloway – Bruntsfield Parents Council Chair
  • Ewan Maclean – Gillespie’s Parents Council
  • Steven Simpson
  • Alasdair Seale – Trader
  • Lesley Drummond – Trader
  • Yolanda Luca – Trader
  • Paul Bailey
  • Christine Carr – resident
  • Thomas Hochkins
  • Norman Tinlin
  • Steven Simpson

Welcome and Introduction by Chair – Ian Doig

Declarations of interest 

No declarations of interest given

Minutes of AGM and Business Meeting on 15th September, and Matters Arising 

The minutes were accepted

Peter Brett added that he had obtained the graffiti removal kit.

Chair’s report

  • MCC Members agreed that the Chair would seek Associate Members from local schools and Napier University for 2020-21
  • Chair spoke about desirability of obtaining regular Police Reports to obtain statistics and other important information on crime. Unfortunately, Police Scotland said funding has been cut by CEC for community policing, which made resources available for police to attend community councils becoming very stretched. Police participation in MCC meetings may no longer be possible; however they will try to provide information, if possible, but subject to operational priorities.
    Cllr Main agreed to get in touch with Police to ask for reinstatement of regular Police reports, as that is contradictory to what she was told by a senior Police officer.
  • Chair discussed Edinburgh Poverty Commission Report.
  • Chair spoke about smoke alarms and new legislation coming into effect 2021 (post meeting note – new smoke and fire alarm requirements now postponed until February 2022) which imposed new requirements. Legal requirement included that that all alarms need to be interlinked. Raised an issue that there is no or little awareness of this, concerns about scams, and tradesmen visiting houses during Coronavirus, were also raised. Cllr Neil Ross said there may be a postponement of requirements. 
    Cllr Melanie Main added that the legislation is not new, if work has been done for you in the last couple of years then it may already be implemented in your home

Licensing Report – Bridget Stevens

Bridget spoke about some pubs, bars and restaurants interpreting the new regulations in different ways. CEC are available to advise and enforce.   Bridget encouraged residents to get in touch with CEC if they have any concerns about any licensing issues, including adherence to lockdown rules.

Planning Report – Mairianna Clyde

No report given due to Mairianna’s absence

CEC Spaces for People Project and Street Changes

Discussion led by Cllr Melanie Main.

Discussion paper provided by a Bruntsfield trader, Mike Billinghurst of 181 Delicatessen (who was unable to be present at meeting)

Cllr Melanie Main explained the background on Spaces for People:

  • Funds were given by Scottish Government to areas of Edinburgh for Spaces for People, including measures to facilitate social distancing on pavements and to encourage safe walking and cycling
  • CEC consultation received 4k suggestions and then CEC prioritised the suggestions.

Cllr Melanie Main discussed the concerns laid out by Mike Billinghurst, including input to the meeting from several traders. Traders’ main frustration is of the lack of quick and effective response from CEC following consultations. Traders asked for seven changes to be considered. Cllr Melanie Main says they are being considered as part of next review. Any major changes will be brought forward to meeting with CEC on 12th of November.

Cllr Melanie Main explained the scheme is under constant review. Traders are concerned about not receiving details about a second meeting taking place. Cllr Melanie Main will follow up on this second meeting will Cllr Neil Ross.

Cllr Melanie Main spoke about related road safety issues around schools, which is another concern. Parents are heavily involved in this scheme, including Bruntsfield Primary School. There are more improvements to be done. Basic Coronavirus health and safety measures are in place and will be reviewed by CEC on an ongoing basis.

Cllr Melanie Main spoke about new Quiet Routes Scheme to link cycle and walking routes from further out of town. The aim is to relieve traffic on Braid Road and Comiston Road. Schools are keen on these quiet routes as they will pass a lot of schools. Aim is to encourage children and parents to walk and give confidence they can walk safely to school, and to alleviate traffic congestion and exhaust pollution. 

Ewan Maclean is from Gillespie’s Primary Parents Council.  Ewan Maclean expressed concern about children walking on their own along the Quiet Routes. Ewan said he works with Blackford Safe Routes, whose aim it is to reduce rat runs.

Karen Galloway (Bruntsfield Parents Council) said they support Quiet Routes, expressed concern about volume of traffic and road safety risks around the area. Karen explained many vehicles come down the road too fast, and Bruntsfield Primary appreciates the Spaces for People initiative, particularly in the mornings and afternoons.

Karen explained that parents are concerned about the change in time during pick-up times because it will be dark. Karen said she and parents also understand the concern for local traders and support them, they hope for a balanced approach.

Karen explained Bruntsfield Parents Council works closely with Spaces for People.

Karen hopes for continued and better communication with parents and local traders to share the space and make sure that children are safe. Karen reported there were numerous “close misses” between pedestrians and traffic and gave an example about a child being injured in Leith, but recognises it may have been a different setup to Spaces for People in Bruntsfield. Karen reiterated they want to work with traders and parents.

Lesley Drummond (owner of Vivaldi clothes shop in Bruntsfield) spoke about her frustration about several meetings with CEC, walked the neighbourhood to point out areas where they are having problems.  Lesley Drummond explained they are not asking for blanket removals of the Spaces for People, but seek a more balanced approach by CEC to remedy reduced business footfall. 

Lesley Drummond complained that traders aren’t being listened to by CEC and that change is not happening quickly enough. She spoke about the traders’ understanding of the need to keep children safe and highlights the need to keep elderly safe too.

 Lesley Drummond explained the impact of Spaces for People, for example her business’s turnover is down by 30-40%; and 60% reduction reported in another business. Lesley Drummond made it clear traders want to work with all factions. The 7 areas which traders would like changed mainly highlight safety issues; Lesley Drummond gave an example of cyclists feeling squeezed.

 The petition (city-wide) by traders has more than 4,300 signatures Traders felt that 12th November for next meeting with CEC is too far away. Traders are waiting too long for CEC to react to them, with the risk that business will go under and jobs will be lost. She explained her shopper demographic has changed, elderly people are hardly visiting, possibly because they feel unsafe. Lesley Drummond spoke about the need to consider the elderly, such as parking for those who are less mobile and/or do not wish to use buses because of Coronavirus.

Lesley Drummond urges everyone to read Mike’s paper. She made it clear traders are not against Spaces for People.

 Lesley Drummond urged that time is running out for traders, this was reiterated by another trader Yolanda Luca, who joined the meeting towards the end. 

Lesley Drummond understands there is a difficult balance and explained Bruntsfield relies on wider communities and neighbourhoods for business viability. If people can’t get to and park in Bruntsfield, it affects traders. This was reiterated by Yolanda Luca.

Lesley Drummond said they are confident they represent all traders and expressed a surprise that more traders did not attend this public meeting. 

Cllr Melanie Main reacted to the comment about things taking too long. Spoke about balancing what needs to be done quickly with consulting with all members of the neighbourhood.  She acknowledged it is a learning process and understands the concerns of the traders.

Lesley Drummond explained they got a response from CEC and how it wasn’t good enough. Cllr Melanie Main explained she understands the frustration

Christine Carr (resident) explained her perspective about schools and road safety. She explained there is a confusion about what the solution is and wants to support Safer Spaces. Explained her concern about closing roads and said the increase in traffic is due to school drop-off and pick-up. Suggests more public consultation and understanding of traffic is needed, feels that CEC are taking a “sledgehammer to crack a nut”. Would like roads to be open during rest of the day when there is no pick-up and drop-off at schools.

Peter Brett (MCC) expresses support for all 3 aspects of SfP program in Merchiston CC area and asks for clarification and enforcement of measures near schools.

Alastair Seale (resident and trader) expressed that consultation isn’t enough, we need more scrutiny and for CEC members to come out and see the issues for themselves, such as the bollards and people tripping on them. Feels the CEC are not listening, but understands they have a difficult job. Spoke about bad behaviour from all road and pedestrian users. Also spoke about the unnecessary need for roads to be cut off all day, believes it should just be for drop-off and pick-up. 

Cllr Neil Ross agrees with the above points on Spaces for People and says he took on board the comments

Chair summarised the points made for Spaces for People:

  1. We need ongoing consultation on the reviews of the Spaces for People between councillors, CEC, residents and traders.
  2. Concern about road safety issues: Increased policing (white vans, bad parking, cyclists ignoring red lights, cycling on pavements, going the wrong way in one-way streets, ignoring speed limit etc)
  3. Wants to invite Bruntsfield primary school to give presentation about their concerns
  4. MCC could possibly assist the revitalisation of the Bruntsfield Living.   A survey could be sent out to see if traders are willing to form an organisation.

Recommendations following from discussion

MCC suggests the following recommendations for improvements:

  1. Ongoing consultation should take place between CEC, MCC, residents and traders about issues arising from coronavirus street changes.
  2. CEC should now review Spaces for People to assess whether street changes are achieving the intended objectives of Coronavirus infection reduction, while balancing reduced turnover on traders.
  3. CEC should review reported “unintended consequences” of street changes.
  4. MCC should consider ways to support local traders and residents to adapt to the restrictions of Coronavirus, including encouraging local shopping and restaurants etc, and revitalising Bruntsfield Living Organisation.
  5. Consideration of Road Safety Issues, particularly around schools – topic for a future MCC meeting.

COVID-19

  • Cllr Melanie Main says people are bracing for a possible difficult winter
  • Vivien Kitteringham (MCC) asks residents for their option and feedback to see if MCC can do anything
    • Christine Carr (resident) reported people are breaking lockdown rules of 6 on Bruntsfield Links.. Wants to know how to help people in community most in need, other than checking in with elderly residents and supporting food banks.
      Bridget Stevens (MCC) spoke about NextDoor Merchiston, a useful platform for the exchange of information of interest to local residents. To register go to NextDoor.com and enter your residential street address and email address.  Then “Choose your neighbourhood”.
  • Chair reminded meeting about winter coming on and the importance of flu inoculations for everyone. 
  • Cllr Melanie Main reminded everyone that the NHS will contact those who are at high risk and explained there is no vaccine shortage reported for Edinburgh. Spoke about walk-in locations for vaccines where you can just turn up. 

City Councillors’ Reports

Cllr Melanie Main

  • Scaffolding lorry obstructing loading bay for a couple of days. Reported to police. If anyone sees obstructions, they should contact the police or local councillors who can do that for you
  • Cars parked on double-yellow line, police are aware and will take action
  • Received suggestion from traders to setup an association
  • Public toilet strategy by the council: There will be new public toilet sites and building suggestions. If anyone has any suggestions Cllr Main suggests they get in touch. Public toilets will be kept open during winter and upgraded. However, there will need to be increased cleaning and hygiene because of coronavirus infection risks.
  • When asked for any questions, Michael Lugton spoke about closure of Colinton Road and the traffic volume and traffic diversion consequences.

Cllr Neil Ross

  • Colinton road and diversion of traffic – nothing further to add as it had been spoken about earlier in the meeting.
  • St Oswald’s Hall and successful community asset transfer.

Points raised from members of the public:

  • Christine Carr (resident) asked about lack of public toilets: Asked if there is a CEC proposal in place that the public could look at. Cllr Melanie Main said it is at early stages so no proposal available to refer to yet for information.
  • Yolanda Luca: Horrified at what CEC has done in Morningside, it is a ghost town due to Spaces for People street changes. Three ambulances called out in one day, but she claimed nothing is being done by CEC to improve situation. Said that Lloyd Richardson (a CEC Traffic Engineer) says Spaces for People can be tweaked and improved as appropriate, but Yolanda claimed nothing is being done. Luca’s ice-cream employs 42 people. Situation is dire as there are no spaces where customers can park nearby, nor elderly people can visit, example for why elderly people can visit was given; it is due to the advice to not take public transport. Urged the need for Cllr Adam McVey of CEC to listen to traders’ concerns about adverse impact on businesses.
    Jake Horsburgh (MCC) asked if there is a reduction in school children visiting Luca’s business.  Yolanda said she couldn’t comment.

Treasurer’s report – Frances Hawarden

  • Accounts have been audited and were formally approved by MCC.
  • Accounts have been registered electronically with CEC, making things easier to manage.
  • Current balance: £2700. Two cheques pending (signature from Chair and another signatory required, cheques for Jake for reimbursement of expenses and for auditor)
  • No financial problems to report. Only issue is to obtain information on how to setup a standing order with Bank of Scotland.

Other reports 

None given

Any other Business

  • Chair thanked Joan Houston, Mike and Helen Talbot for the graffiti removal which was done in Colinton Road
  • Karen (Bruntsfield Parents’ Chair) gave further information about St Oswald’s Hall. It has been purchased and permission given to use the building as a community asset, it took two years and is in progress to its next stage of development. Gave thanks to Cllr Neil Ross. They are working with Eric Liddell Centre. Seeking grants to improve the building and remove vegetation. Wants to create a community centre/hub for childcare for local schools, states it will not be a night club. The focus is on children and families including inter-generation projects, looking for members and organisations to get involved
  • Daniel Cairns (MCC) requested Karen to send a piece on St Oswald’s so it can be put up on MCC website

Action points summary, plus continuous improvements review

  • Action points summarised by Daniel Cairns
  • Chair asked what went well 
    Bridget suggested to send these by email due to the lack of time
  • Chair asked for improvement suggestions.
    Karen (Bruntsfield Parents’ Council) suggests having meetings when parents are available, such as a slighter later start time

Business Meeting finished at 21.00

Previous Action Points

  • Cllr Melanie Main to follow up with Cllr Neil Ross on second meeting CEC regarding Spaces for People.
  • MCC to get in touch with traders’ representative to see if traders want to help revitalise Bruntsfield Living
  • Cllr Melanie Main to ask Police Scotland to request periodic update reports to MCC, which Police said they may not have resources to do because of withdrawal of CEC Community policing funding.   Cllr Main had been assured by a senior Police officer that reports should continue to be sent to MCC.
    • Daniel Cairns to send Melanie Main a copy of Police Scotland’s response to MCC Chair
  • Peter Brett to ask EACC about Police input into other community council meetings
  • Daniel Cairns to get in touch with Bruntsfield Parents’ Council, as they left a request to get in touch during the meeting
  • Daniel Cairns to post information about the NHS vaccine information
  • Joan Houston to liaise with Cllr Melanie Main on the graffiti kit and how it can be replenished and improved
  • Cllr Melanie Main will get in touch with Joan Houston about leaf cleaning
  • Daniel Cairns to setup MCC public meeting dates for 2021