Merchiston Community Council: Minutes of Public Business Meeting (Zoom meeting)
Date: 18th January 2022
Chaired by Ian Doig, Chair of Merchiston Community Council (MCC)
MCC Members: Ian Doig (ID, Chair), Vivien Kitteringham (VK, Vice-Chair), Frances Hawarden (FH, Treasurer), Mairianna Clyde (MC), Joan Houston (JH), Roma Menlowe (RM, Minute taker), Declan Murray (DM, Zoom host), Bridget Stevens (BS), Amelie Lacey (Associate), Henry Reynold
Ben Parker (Scottish Green Party candidate for the Morningside ward)
Megan McHaney (Scottish Green Party candidate for Fountainbridge and Craiglockhart ward)
Christopher Cowdy (Conservative Party candidate for Fountainbridge and Craiglockhart ward)
Residents: Marian Lartey, Ian Lartey, Eleanor Logan
- Introduction – Ian Doig, MCC Chair
No declarations of interest.
- Minutes of Public Meeting on 16th November 2021 were agreed as a correct record and approved.
Matters Arising: None
- Chair’s Report —ID: The report [link] was noted. On Covid, ID welcomed the First Minister’s statement earlier in the day which announced a relaxation of restrictions as from Monday 24 January. Caution was still however required: MC noted that the positivity rate was still quite high and a substantial number of people (c1550) were in hospital, though relatively few (c50) in intensive care. The NHS Scotland director had stressed that the higher transmissibility of a Covid variant did not necessarily mean that it was less severe. The behaviour of Omicron was not a reliable guide to what might happen under future variants. Given also that the protection offered by vaccines was time—limited, continuing caution seemed prudent.
BS asked whether, given the improvement in the pandemic situation, future meetings of MCC would continue online. ID proposed to continue online meetings for at least the remainder of the winter. There was little space at the tennis club (MCC’s normal venue) for social distancing, which some members might wish to observe. ID reported that the Police continued to decline MCC invitations to attend by Zoom, citing security concerns with that application. EL suggested the problem might lie in technology interfaces rather than security and that the public sector equality duty on the police might encourage their future participation. ID suggested and it was agreed that MCC would re-trial MS Teams at the February meeting and would again press for police representation. The use of Teams might also facilitate Councillor representation.
- Licensing Report – BS:
BS referred to licensing applications for Sainsbury’s Bruntsfield, Sainsbury’s Dundee Street and Myreside Pavilion, all of which had been discussed at recent MCC meetings. MCC’s support had been given subject to there being no complaints about noise or other disturbance. None had been received. Likewise, there had been no complaints about McLarens, which is no longer required to give advance public notice of extended festive season hours. BS had visited the Myreside Pavilion and met with the manager who assured her that door staff are always on hand to prevent problems. The premises are fully accessible and there is limited parking on site.
Bruntsfield Christmas Night on 1st December had been a great success, with many local businesses taking part. Photos and videos can be found on Twitter. MCC had helped to promote the event and remains in close touch with Bruntsfield Living who had been the main organisers.
- Planning Report – MC:
MC focused on application 21/06791/FUL at 36–38 Yeaman Place for a pizza restaurant with carry-out facilities at the north west end of the Walker Bridge. There seemed to be several difficulties with this application.
First, the proposed external staircase leading down to canal level at the rear of the proposed bistro encroached on public land: the staircase jutted out over the curtilage of the building and onto the public towpath. That path would as a result become very narrow, just at the point where it already pinched at the bridge. While access to and from the canal to the proposed restaurant was attractive for the business, it was not to be confused with public access or a right of way. The only people who could access the stair from the canal to Yeaman Place would be patrons of the bistro.
Secondly, the application seemed to propose an external flue up the total height of the gable end of the adjoining tenement block. This would be unsightly and would detract from the interesting Victorian detail on that wall.
Thirdly, it was unclear how far the proposed frosted glass on the rear-facing windows of the bistro would protect the privacy of the residents in the adjoining block, whose communal garden stretched from the back door of the proposed restaurant.
MC proposed that MCC ask for statutory consultee status in relation to this application. Various points were made in the ensuing discussion. EL, as neighbour to the proposed development, drew attention to possible adverse impacts from the development — increased traffic from patrons and delivery vehicles (in an already congested street), noise, odours, loss of amenity (especially in terms of reduced privacy for residents using their communal garden). Others pointed to the risks of vehicle idling (for takeaway food) and hence obstruction, illegal parking, queuing outside adjacent dwellings, and encroachment on a useful stretch of wider pavement at the north end of the bridge.
DM reminded the meeting that the opportunity to create a public access point to the canal from the Walker Bridge would occur only very rarely, when the planning authority was invited to agree a change of use. This was one such opportunity and it would be a pity to see access created solely for commercial benefit. Moreover, there was an equality dimension to any access proposal: what was envisaged in this application took no account of the needs of those with restricted mobility, whether wheelchair or pram users.
MC reminded the meeting that planning controls were a blunt instrument and were not designed to deal with factors such as noise, odours, waste management etc. Those were for CEC’s Environmental Health department. A site visit, with planners and developers present, would be useful before this application was determined.
It was agreed that MC, on behalf of MCC, should seek statutory consultee status in relation to this application.
MC reported that the applications for 8 Napier Road (21/05149/FUL) and for the pink canopy at McLarens (21/04866/FUL) were both still pending with CEC.
- Climate Emergency: Proposal — DM
DM invited the meeting to consider follow-up action to its declaration of a climate emergency. It could sign up to the Scotland Climate Assembly Civic Charter and/ or to the Climate Emergency UK. Appearing as a signatory on the websites of these (apolitical) organisations was one way to inspire other community councils in Edinburgh and beyond.
The meeting agreed that MCC should be a signatory on both of these websites. ID reported that the Edinburgh Association of Community Councils was itself considering the declaration of a climate emergency and had invited DM and EK to address its next meeting in February.
- Transport and Travel Safely — DM: The report [link] was noted.
- DM confirmed that Braid Road would be reopened in both directions.
- On the future of the Cycle Hire scheme, an interim scheme might use local cycle shops, allowing people to hire a bike from one shop and drop it off at a different shop. The plan for the longer term is to reintroduce something like the JustEat bikes. Members noted that any new scheme would have to address the problems of vandalism and theft that had dogged the earlier one.
- The issue of electric car charging points was raised. DM confirmed that new charging points were planned for Newbattle Terrace. This however was right at the MCC boundary. More points were needed. A list of charging points in MCC’s area would be useful—an action point for the future.
- Polwarth Pavements Improvement Project, Progress Report — RM: An update report had been circulated to members.
The comments of the South West Community Grant awarding panel were noted as were the actions in hand to address them. DM & RM hope to be in a position to resubmit the application at the end of January. Engagement by the CEC Transport & Road Safety officials would be essential, and Cllr Main had been very helpful in trying to facilitate this. Reaction from residents and others to the Webpost on the MCC site had been favourable and encouraging. Cllr MacInness, Convener of the Tranportation Committee had tweeted her support. There would be a further report at the next meeting.
- Leaf-Clearing Project: Progress Report — JH:
The report on this initiative was noted. The key points were as follows:
- A total of 1,259 bags of leaves had been filled by volunteer residents and collected by CEC for composting. In addition the bags of grit and contaminated material that were filled were collected by CEC to be recycled for use in roads etc.
- Many residents remained unaware that, due to resource pressures, CEC were unable to mount regular, mechanised leaf-clearing operations. In early Autumn 2022, MCC should leaflet as many neighbours as possible in leafy streets to remind them to attend to any build up of leaves near their houses. MCC could deliver bags to residents to assist with their own clean-ups.
- Good working relations had been built up with CEC through this pilot project. For the autumn 2022, it would be helpful if CEC would clarify when it expects to make any visits so that MCC can direct them to the streets most in need of mechanised sweeping.
- Additional support from within MCC for this annual project would be welcome, so as to spread the considerable burden amongst more members. ID complimented JH and HZ on an excellent and highly successful initiative. It would be further publicised on the website.
- Treasurer’s Report – FH: The cash flow report was noted. There was a healthy balance of just over £3k.
- After discussion, it was agreed that MCC would make, by Standing Order, an annual payment of £50 to the Friends of the Meadows and Bruntsfield Links (FOMBL), covering a subscription and modest donation.
- BS raised a point about a Polwarth Church garden bench. This garden is much visited by members of the community and regularly hosts topical exhibitions such as the recent one on COP 26. An old wooden bench overlooking the canal has become so dilapidated and unsafe that it has had to be removed. An Edinburgh-based woman who makes traditional wood furniture has been asked to submit draft designs for a replacement. It was decided that BS should discuss with Polwarth Church Officer the possibility of a new bench being paid for/part-funded by MCC, perhaps with a CEC Community Grant.
- BS asked if MCC had formally joined the Bruntsfield Community Hub, St Oswald’s Centre, which is now in community ownership. ID confirmed that MCC had joined with an Associate Membership subscription in February 2021, at a cost of £3 per year.
- In view of the decision under item 3 above, it was decided to defer a decision on method of payments to Zoom hosts for MCC meetings to enable clarification by FH of bank payment options.
- City Councillors’ Reports – no CEC councillors present, and no reports submitted.
- Issues Raised by Residents, and Other Reports
Malcolm Good had emailed in advance of the meeting to register concern about graffiti in the neighbourhood. In his absence from the online meeting, members sympathised with his concern but noted that action on this issue lay with the City of Edinburgh Council and/or with the police (who might investigate in certain cases)
Eleanor Logan noted that graffiti was a problem in her part of MCC’s area as well. There had also been an increase in anti-social behaviour at night. ID offered to write to the police on this point (and reiterate MCC’s view that police engagement in MCC discussions was essential). It was agreed to revisit this topic at the next meeting.
Marian Lartey wished to alert MCC to the implementation of CEC’s new strategy on bin hubs — roadside installations which are intended to increase the volume and range of materials for recycling and to streamline uplifts from communal bins. The new bin hubs would be huge — 8 metres long — and would be installed during 2022. They would in her view bring with them an increased risk of vandalism, dirt, noise pollution and footfall in certain areas. ML was herself a strong supporter of recycling and her family all took care to recycle food waste, cardboard, plastic etc appropriately. But the new hubs would be unsightly and disfiguring to many streets. In her own case, a new hub was destined for outside her front entrance and would stretch across the whole frontage of the ground floor flat. She added that CEC consultation on this initiative had been poor: the details were difficult to locate online and residents generally were unsighted on the changes.
ID noted that the recent presentation to MCC by the CEC Head of Waste Management had made no mention of this initiative, of which he personally was unaware. In discussion, the following points were made:
- MCC should contact New Town & Broughton CC, who have challenged CEC’s new strategy on waste management on various fronts; this action point would be taken by ID.
- There did not seem to be any policy on the maintenance of the new hubs, though it was clear that, without regular cleaning, they would quickly become unsightly.
- Those most affected by the location of the hubs might want to check whether their title deeds prohibited any ‘middens’ in front of their dwellings, though the meeting noted it might be hard to win an argument that communal bin hubs were rubbish tips.
- Summing up discussion on this topic, ID said that MCC was sympathetic to ML’s concerns. The topic would be revisited at the next meeting. ML was meanwhile requested to copy MCC into her earlier and any future correspondence with CEC on this topic.
- Information on CEC’s bin hubs initiative can be found at https://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/binhubs and also in the Communal Bin Enhancement Update (February 2020) by the CEC’s Transport and Environment Committee.
- Any Other Business
MC drew attention to the recent launch of the James Webb telescope — the most daring, complex and inspiring astronomical experiment in decades. It had been a particularly proud and moving moment for FH, whose late husband Tim Hawarden had been intimately connected with the project and who had solved the previously intractable problem of how such telescopes were to be kept cool in space. His contribution to the science behind the project had been acknowledged by NASA and can be viewed in more detail at https://www.roe.ac.uk/roe/staff/tgh/index.html
- Future Public Meeting Dates:
- 18th January
- 15th February
- 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.
|Date Started||Action||Owner||Status / Target Date|
|2022-01-18||MCC to seek statutory consultee status in relation to planning application 21/06791/FUL at 36—38 Yeaman Place for a pizza restaurant with carry-out facilities, at the northwest end of the Walker Bridge.||Mairianna Clyde||Before Feb ’22 MCC meeting|
|2022-01-18||MCC to contact New Town & Broughton CC about bin hubs||Ian Doig||Before Feb ’22 MCC meeting|
|2022-01-18||ID to write to the Police about anti-social behaviour and press for Police representation at MCC meetings.||Ian Doig||Before Feb ’22 MCC meeting|
|2022-01-18||Discuss with Polwarth Church Officer the possibility of a new bench being paid for or part-funded by MCC||Bridget Stevens||When info available|
|2021-10-19||Explore ways of recruiting new members for MCC||Ian Doig||Ongoing|
|2021-11-16||Draft response to Scot Gov consultation on aviation strategy||Declan Murray||Deadline 21 Jan 2022Completed?|
|2021-11-16||Initiate discussion on possible uses of funds in MCC account||Ian Doig and Frances Hawarden||For January 2022 MCC meeting.|
|2021-11-16||Place the climate emergency declaration, with wording close to that proposed by DM, on the MCC website, together with an invitation for comments.||Ewan Klein, Declan Murray||Completed|
|2021-11-16||Respond to licensing application by Sainsbury’s Dundee Street||Bridget Stevens||Completed|
|2021-11-16||Put resident Michele Holubek in contact with relevant people in Polwarth area regarding sewer backups||Bridget Stevens||Completed|
|2021-10-19||Consider response to move by private hire taxi group to be given access to bus lanes and bus gates||Navid Saberi||Completed|