2021 November Minutes

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

Date: Tuesday 16th November 2021

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

Started: 19:00
Ended: 21:15


MCC Members: Ian Doig (ID, Chair), Vivien Kitteringham (VK, Vice-Chair), Frances Hawarden (FH, Treasurer), Mairianna Clyde (MC), Joan Houston (JH), Ewan Klein (Minute taker), Roma Menlowe (RM), Declan Murray (DM, Zoom host), Bridget Stevens (BS) 

Councillor Neil Ross (City of Edinburgh Council — CEC) 

Residents: Christopher Cowdy, Michele Holubek, Dan Thompson

Presentation: Paula McLeay, Head of Policy and Insight at CEC


Helen Zealley (MCC), Daniel Cairns (MCC Secretary), Navid Saberi (MCC), Ted Tate (MCC), Ros Classe (Bruntsfield Primary), Marcia McSween

Presentation: Edinburgh’s 2030 Climate Strategy and Net Zero Plan

Ms McLeay’s talk focussed on the main objectives of the plan, the action priorities, and the community / citizen-oriented aspects. The draft is scheduled for publication in late November, together with a detailed implementation plan.  Implementation will try to overcome the ‘inaction triangle’, whereby government, business and citizens each look to the others to take the lead. 

Discussion mainly focussed on two aspects of retrofitting old properties in Edinburgh (to lessen dependence on fossil fuels), namely:

  • the extent to which the costs of would fall on individual householders; and
  • the lack of reliable information and expertise on the best ways to carry out measures such as improving insulation and moving away from natural gas for heating.

Ms McLeay said that it was recognised that there was still a gap in the planning for private homeowners, but mentioned the following points:

  1. CEC owns an extensive built estate, including many tenements, which will need to be retrofitted to meet better energy efficiency standards; £700m over ten years has been earmarked for this initiative. It will give the council an opportunity to explore best practice, identify appropriate partners, and distil the learning into advice for citizens and community groups. They will look at options which avoid stripping out current central heating systems in properties.
  2. CEC believes that in many cases it will be more efficient and cost-effective to address retrofitting and heat distribution at the level of streets or whole communities. This should reduce the burden on individual households.  As an example, a commercial partner could pay the capital costs of installing a neighbourhood solar power generation system in a way that supports the local economy, then recouping costs as an affordable power supplier over a period of years.
  3. CEC will work on providing information about trusted delivery agents for retrofitting older properties and in using City Deal funding to train up a pool of suitably qualified contractors.

Business Meeting Agenda

  1. Introduction — Ian Doig, MCC Chair.
    No declarations of interest
  2. Minutes of last meeting: The minutes of the meeting on 19th October 2021 were agreed as a correct record and approved.
    Matters Arising: none.
  3. Chair’s Report —ID: The chair’s report was taken as read.
  4. Licensing Report — BS
    1. McLarens Pub at Holy Corner have been granted permission during the Festive Season (this year 18 Dec – 3 Jan) and during the festivals season (effectively the month of August) to extend by two hours their on-sales terminal hour (normally midnight).  Such extensions need not be advertised in advance so that the public no longer has a chance to comment.
    2. Sainsbury’s Bruntsfield was granted a licence to modify use of the building in various ways, subject to the condition that there be no audible nuisance. MCC will respond if there are complaints from residents nearby.
    3. George Watson’s College Pavilion, Myreside Road, has been granted a change of license which will restrict the terminal hour of drinking outside to 10 pm.
    4. Sainsbury’s Dundee Street has made a similar application for change of licensing to that made by Sainsbury’s Bruntsfield. It was agreed that BS should write a similar response to that she made for the latter case.
  5. Planning — MC: see tabled report. Cllr Ross later confirmed that the planning application 96 Temple Park Crescent was accepted on 22 September.
  6. Climate Emergency: Proposal — DM
    DM presented his proposal (see link to slides) that MCC should declare a climate and ecological emergency. The meeting was supportive, and discussion focussed on ways in which MCC could follow through. RM suggested that it amounted to a commitment that in all our business and deliberations, we will keep the climate emergency in the forefront of our minds. Cllr Ross commented that in the absence of a meaningful budget, there would be clear limitations to what MCC could achieve; but encouraging positive climate action by local communities would still be valuable.
    It was agreed that we should put the declaration on the MCC website and also invite comments from residents. 
    It was further suggested that we should consider establishing a ‘climate & ecosystem portfolio’, alongside planning, licensing etc. However, it was felt that this step could be postponed until we could find someone in the MCC membership with the time to fulfil the role adequately.
  7. Transport —DM
    1. DM reported on meetings held by himself and NS and mentioned that they had received good input from a member of Gorgie / Dalry CC.
    2. Scottish Government has opened a consultation on aviation strategy (closes 21 Jan 2022), including the transition to low- and zero-emission aviation. DM will draft a response and circulate it by email for feedback and approval.
    3. Cllr Ross mentioned that he had submitted a council motion to install zebra crossings on side streets, to reinforce the new Highway Code rule 170, which says that once pedestrians have started crossing a junction, they have priority over vehicles. DM said he would take this on board in future work on the Polwarth Pavements Improvement Project.
  8. Polwarth Pavements Improvement Project: Progress Report — RM
    The project has sought and received advice from a wide range of stakeholders. Further organisations and individuals will be consulted in the near future, most notably Andrew Easson, CEC Road Safety and Active Travel Manager. Key points that have emerged from the consultations to date are:
    1. It’s essential to achieve good community engagement.
    2. Start by looking for ‘quick wins’ to encourage participation and to provide a foundation for an incremental approach.
    3. Establish one or more working groups that involve Polwarth residents.
      It was agreed that the project should seek external funding under the auspices of MCC.
  9. Leaf-Clearing Project: Progress Report — JH
    1. 865 bags of leaves were collected for composting as of 16th November 2021; plus 32 bags of grit and contaminated materials from the roads.
    2. Due to a dearth of volunteers, very little leaf clearing has been done to date on the part of Napier Road after the small roundabout, resulting in blocked drains and some flooding. This will be targeted by a dedicated team of volunteers very soon.
    3. HZ will remind volunteers to use the dedicated email address merchistonleafclearing@gmail.com to report pick-up position of the bags and to indicate any further bags etc. required.
    4. We are hoping to have 1,000+ bags collected by the end of the project this year. We still need to get figures from George Watson’s College — some pupils there have volunteered as part of their Duke of Edinburgh Award (Community Input).
    5. It was suggested by BS that future publicity for the project should make it clear that MCC is acting solely as a enabler, not a provider of free labour for leaf-clearing.
  10. Treasurer’s Report — FH
    The finances are in good order, with no transactions in recent months (see tabled report). ID noted that we should explore options of putting to good use the sizeable balance in the account.
  11. City Councillors’ Reports
    Cllr Ross drew attention to the following items: 
    1. He has submitted a proposal to raise licencing standards in HMOs — details on the Liberal Democrat website.
    2. Morningside Library toilets have reopened.
    3. CEC will be issuing an online consultation to guide the naming of the new primary school in Canaan Lane.
    4. Various proposed changes to Newbattle Terrace have been delayed due to the detection of coal tar (a toxin) in the current road surface.
    5. The Astley Ainslie Community Trust will hold its AGM at 7.30 pm, 1st December.
  12. Issues Raised by Residents, and Other Reports
    Michele Holubek
    (MH) raised concerns about the occurrence of sewer backups in Polwarth; in some areas, the sewage pipes are buried only 2m below ground and can therefore be above the floor level of basements. The efforts of her and her insurance company to get this problem fixed have been hampered by lack of clarity on the allocation of responsibility between CEC and Scottish Water — pipes between the surface and the sewers fall within the remit of CEC, but when two or more pipes merge, they are classed as sewers and therefore within the remit of Scottish Water.  BS offered to put her in touch with another Polwarth resident who had experienced similar problems.

    Florian Fusseis voiced his concern and frustration, as parent of a child attending the Edinburgh Steiner School, about the lack of safe pedestrian crossing places on Spylaw Road ever since the school crossing patrol was discontinued. Traffic along the road is heavy and often fast-moving. He was worried that there would be no action to address this until there was a casualty. 
    In a discussion about remedies, Cllr Ross said that a zebra or pelican crossing would cost between £20k – £40k and that a school streets scheme (involving temporary closure at drop-off and pick-up time) was even more expensive. VK wondered whether traffic calming measures might be cheaper to implement and MH observed that a systemic approach to this problem would have to involve George Watson’s College too. 
    It was agreed that MCC supports this request for a safer pedestrian crossing point.
  13. Future Public Meetings for 2022:
    • 18th January
    • 15th February — Presentation by Steve Kerr, Chair of EACC (tbc)
    • 15th March — Union Canal Bi-Centenary 2022 (tbc)
    • 17th May
    • 21st June
    • 20th September
    • 18th October
    • 15th November
      There will be no public meetings in April, July, August, and December.

Action Log

Date StartedActionOwnerStatus / Target Date
2021-10-19Consider response to move by private hire taxi group to be given access to bus lanes and bus gatesNS 
2021-10-19Explore ways of recruiting new members for MCCID 
2021-11-16Respond to licensing application by Sainsbury’s Dundee StreetBS 
2021-11-16Place the declaration, with wording close to that proposed by DM, on the MCC website, together with an invitation for comments. EK, DMCompleted
2021-11-16Draft response to Scot Gov consultation on aviation strategyDMDeadline 21 Jan 2022
2021-11-16Initiate discussion on possible uses of funds in MCC accountIDFor January 2022 MCC meeting.
2021-11-16Put MH in contact with relevant people in Polwarth areaBS 

Attached Papers

Treasurer’s Report

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