2023 November Minutes

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

Date: 21 November 2023

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), John McKenna (JMcK), Raphael Uddin (Associate member, Boroughmuir High School), Roma Menlowe (RM, Minute taker).

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

Residents: Mr Dons, Peter Robson (PR), Amal Al Sayegh, Kay Smith (KS), Mike Talbot, Mary Breatnach (MB), Vanessa Meadu (VM), Jay Feeney, Bruntsfield Primary School Parents’ Council, Kersti [] Craiglockhart Primary School Parents’ Council, Ruben Manso.


Douglas Rogers, Community Councillor for Marchmont & Sciennes, offered a presentation on ‘The Challenge of Insulating our Homes for Greater Energy Efficiency’.

His slides are now available on the MCC website here –


Questions to Douglas ranged across sources of impartial advice on insulation; the pros & cons of cavity wall insulation (which applied only to post-1960 buildings); issues arising for residents in multiple occupancy dwellings; and options for early & cost-effective action by residents.

ID thanked Douglas for a comprehensive and thought-provoking presentation.  MCC would no doubt return to this theme many times.

Business Meeting

  1.   Introduction, Apologies & Declarations of Interest

There were apologies from: Joan Houston & Helen Zealley.

There were no declarations.

  1.   Minutes of Public Meeting on 17 October; Matters Arising

The minutes of the meeting held on 17 October 2023 were approved.  There were no matters arising.

  1.   Chair’s Report

ID drew attention to various items in his report, including the recent Police Forum at which he had raised the issues of dangerous and irresponsible cycling and the risks to pedestrians and cyclists at the Polwarth intersection.  In an effort to curb vehicle speeding the Police will instal speed checkers at various points in SW Edinburgh. ID also referred to the financial viability challenges facing the St Oswald’s Centre Bruntsfield Community Hub and to his meeting with and engagement with residents on Leamington Terrace.

  1.   Residents’ Issues Forum

PR raised the issue of the Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) recently inaugurated in Shandon.  He doubted its merits and whether there was local support for it.  Back in 2009 there had been a clear majority against a CPZ in Shandon: what had changed?

Cllrs VW & CC explained that the more recent neighbourhood consultation exercise had shown a clear majority in favour of a CPZ.  Its designation could not now be revoked; but it was still possible to effect improvements and both councillors were willing to take up issues on behalf of residents.  For example, mistakes had been made by the contractors doing road markings for the new bin hubs who seemed uncertain about the final locations of the new hubs.  This would be rectified.  Councillors would ask officers to communicate clearly to residents about this.

Several residents expressed concern that many more permits had been issued than there were parking spaces.  Competition for spaces was acute and, outwith restricted parking times, residents consistently found it impossible to secure a space anywhere near their home.

Two issues were raised about street lighting: one non-functional light was identified as still faulty despite residents’ reporting it to CEC; and one light at the corner of Ashley Terrace and Ashley Drive was obscured by a tree on the property of Scottish Canals.  VW would take this up. 

  1.  City Councillors Reports

ID invited Councillors, in giving their reports, also to highlight the top three issues of current concern to their constituents.

MW spoke about bin hubs.  Some new locations had been found, where there were clear and pressing objections to the original placing.  But it wasn’t sensible simply to displace problems on to other residents: the reasons for moving a hub had to be compelling.  On St Oswald’s, she reported that prospective funders were being enlisted.

KS objected to the noise of the new bins, especially the glass recycling bin which seemed thin and unlined.  Other residents endorsed this complaint.

CC recognised that bin noise was a problem.  This had been raised at CEC Committee: officers maintained that the bins were insulated.  CC also mentioned the new CPZ in Shandon, speeding traffic and blocked gullies as matters of concern.

VW’s top three items were the CPZ, cyclist behaviour on the canal towpath, and road safety.

Summing up, ID suggested that CEC officers be tasked again to review the construction and insulation of the new bins, especially the glass recycling bin which was widely criticised as causing unacceptable noise in residential streets.

  1.  Planning Report (MC)

In the absence of MC, there was no planning report; but KS raised the matter of the application for a change of use relating to premises at the corner of Fowler Terrace and Bryson Road.  The proposal was to change from retail use to flatted accommodation with a reception area (which suggested some kind of Air B&B).  The application had been refused but the applicant had lodged an appeal.

ID asked Councillors what they could report on the decision, due on 9 November, about enforcement of the planning condition on McLaren’s pub at Holy Corner, which stipulated that the pedestrian right of way (RoW) had to be respected.  The locked gate at the south end of the establishment made the RoW impassable and also caused dangerous congestion of pedestrians on a narrow pavement at a very busy intersection.  No councillor had news of the decision, which hinged on the appropriateness and proportionality of enforcement action. Further information is awaited from CEC on a decision by Planning Committee about enforcement action.

  1.  Licensing Report (BS)

BS reported that there had been no new applications.   A recent application relating to 128 Dundee Street (Fountainpark Fun Station) had been supported by MCC with the proviso that full accessibility to all areas of the premises must be guaranteed.  This reassurance had now been provided and the application was granted.     Another application, in respect of 60 Angle Park Terrace, had also been granted.   The Licensing Board has the following standard Music Condition which it applies in the case of all premises understood to provide music:   “All amplified music and vocals shall be so controlled so as not to be an audible nuisance in neighbouring residential premises.”   BS explained that this Condition did not have the support of everybody living near licensed premises on account of the subjective nature of what does/does not constitute ‘nuisance’. The phrase lacked precision and objectivity.  MCC would always reserve its position in relation to such nuisance, making clear it would return to the Licensing Board if complaints from residents were received.

  1.  Polwarth Pavements Improvement Project (RM & JMcK)

A paper had been circulated to members.  JMcK spoke to the current snag relating to the pavement resurfacing works that the City Council had started on Polwarth Gardens.  The last phase of this 22-week project would involve the resurfacing of the pavements at the Polwarth intersection; but no widening of the pavements was planned, nor would any of the other improvements recommended in MCC’s report on the junction be incorporated, as things currently stood.

MCC had asked for that last phase of the pavement resurfacing to the paused, while further consideration was given to the scope for incorporating the recommended improvements.  But no response had been received from the Council.  This was most unfortunate: simple resurfacing, without any extension of public space and without reconfiguration of the intersection, ran counter to everything the community had proposed and argued for.  If those changes were later agreed, the pavements would need to be torn up again and expenditure wasted.  Daisy Narayanan had promised better coordination between CEC’s programmes and those brought forward by communities: this was a case in point.

RU mentioned that, in his experience previously as a primary school pupil at Bruntsfield and now as a secondary student at Boroughmuir, the traffic at the roundabout was dangerous; and crossings for pedestrians were inadequate.  The crossing patrol officer had retired four years ago: another was needed (or other improvements to the physical layout of the crossings).  JF confirmed that the state of the crossings was a risk issue for children attending Bruntsfield Primary School.

Cllr MW offered to take up with the Chair of CEC’s Transport and Environment Committee the question of pausing the last part of the Polwarth pavement resurfacing; and the wider question of the recommendations in MCC’s report.  She would liaise with Councillor Ross, who had made some earlier enquiries of officers.

  1.  Leaf Clearing Project

A report had been circulated.  This showed high levels of volunteer activity, which was commendable.  It was noted that CEC had managed to provide some mechanical clearance on certain streets.

  1.  Treasurer’s Report

There was a balance of some £4000 in MCC’s accounts, of which some £1200 was earmarked for the Polwarth pavement project.

BS asked if money could be spared for the refurbishment of the benches alongside the Canal towpath, which MCC had originally funded.   This suggestion was supported. She would obtain estimates and bring a proposal to the next meeting.

  1.  Other reports & correspondence 

Membership – ID was delighted to propose that Vanessa Meadu and Klaus Glenk be appointed as co-opted members; this was swiftly seconded and unanimously approved.  VM spoke briefly to her and Klaus’ interests and commitment to the area.

There was no other correspondence to report.  

  1.  Any other business – nil.

Future Meetings: 2024 – 16 January, 20 February, 19 March, 21 May, 18 June, 17 September, 15 October, 19 November (no public meetings in April, July, August, and December).  

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