LCCC minutes: 2017 AGM

Minutes of the AGM of Leith Central Community Council, held in Nelson Hall, McDonald Road library on Monday 22 May 2017 at 7:00pm

Actions and decisions are red italic underlined. nem con means that no-one spoke or voted against a decision. URLs added by minutes secretary.

1 Attendance and apologies

1.1 Attendance

Jack Caldwell LCCC Michael Trail Leith Links CC
Alan Dudley LCCC Richard Price New Town & Broughton CC
Charlotte Encombe LCCC Cllr Marion Donaldson Leith Walk ward (Labour)
Darius Garab LCCC Cllr Amy McNeese-Mechan Leith Walk ward (SNP)
Andrew Harlick LCCC Cllr Susan Rae Leith Walk ward (Scottish Greens)
John Hein LCCC Andy Wightman MSP Lothian (Scottish Greens)
Sheila Kennedy LCCC PC Mhairi McDonald Police Scotland
Lorraine Moore LCCC PC Gavin Spence Police Scotland
Damian Sefton LCCC Alan McIntosh Broughton Spurtle
Julian Siann LCCC 11 residents
Harald Toberman LCCC

1.2 Apologies

Jeremy Darot LCCC Ben Macpherson MSP Edinburgh Northern & Leith (SNP)
Iona McLeod LCCC Deidre Brock MP Edinburgh North & Leith (SNP)
Gavin Rankin LCCC

2 Community Police Officers’ report

PCs McDonald and Spence reported

  • They did not have recent crime statistics.
  • 2 noteworthy incidents had occurred recently in or near LCCC’s area, one a serious assault. Suspects for both incidents have been arrested.

Cllr Rae asked about a fire in the Craigleith area: police investigations are ongoing.

3 Review of year to March 2017

H Tobermann and C Encombe reported that LCCC’s main business had been the Leith Walk works: notably the slow progress, quality and delays. LCCC had had some influence on Leith Walk Stakeholder meetings. Other work included

  • commenting on ‘a good number of’ large planning developments. LCCC’s success rate has been relatively low: only 1 council decision went as LCCC wished. (LCCC had objected to lighting of a student accommodation building.)
  • LCCC has received regular [in-person] reports from community police officers, and has received some crime statistics. This will allow some trends analysis
  • Work on traffic, parking and congestion – this is work in progress
  • Work on cyclepaths

4 Finance

(See also full statement in Appendix.) L Moore reported

4.1 Accounts for financial year 2016-17

  • Opening balance £2033.92.
  • Total expenditure £ 921·00 includes payment for minutes secretary, advertising, room hire, printing
  • A grant received from Edinburgh Council covers most expenditure.
  • Some cheques issued in FY2016-17 that had not been cleared by the end of that FY have now cleared.
  • Hence current balance is £2161·98

Accounts were adopted (proposed H Tobermann, seconded C Encombe, nem con)

4.2 Budget for financial year 2017-18

£650 minutes secretary/web-weaver, domain renewal, WordPress link to domain
£335 advertising in print and online Broughton Spurtle.
£215 venue hire (including Out of the Blue venue for 2017 general election hustings)
£100 printing and stationery
£1300 total

This would leave reserves of ~£1782. Expenditure would not be fully covered by the CEC grant (~£1000), hence LCCC needs to work on cutting costs in future years.

Budget for FY 2017-18 was approved (proposed C Encombe, seconded J Caldwell, nem con)

5 Elections and appointments

5.1 Office-bearer elections

There was a vote for each position, even though there was only 1 actual candidate for three of the roles.

Position Candidates Proposers Seconders Result
Chair C Encombe J Siann H Tobermann C Encombe elected (8 votes to 0)
Chair S Kennedy J Caldwell L Moore
Vicechair H Tobermann C Encombe L Moore H Tobermann elected nem con
(J Caldwell declined nomination due to personal commitments)
Vicechair J Caldwell A Harlick A McNeese‑Mechan
Secretary S Kennedy L Moore J Caldwell S Kennedy elected nem con
Treasurer L Moore A McNeese‑Mechan J Caldwell L Moore elected nem con

The outgoing chair, John Hein, was formally thanked for his contributions to LCCC’s work over many years.

5.2 Friends of Montgomery Street Park representative

It was noted that N Gardner is now FoMSP’s nominated representative to, and hence a voting member of, LCCC.

6 Appendix: 2016-17 Finances

INCOME 2016-2017
Grants £1,049.06
Other income £0.00
Total Income £1,049.06
Grants Given £0.00
Affiliation fees £0.00
Adverts -£335.00
Training and conferences £0.00
Minutes Secretary -£285.00
Website -£265.00
Room/venue hire -£15.00
Printing and stationery -£21.00
Gift to speaker £0.00
Total Expenditure -£921.00
SURPLUS 2016-2017
= income – expenditure £128.06
Current assets
Cash at bank 31 March 2017 £2,637.98
Less uncleared cheques -£476.00
Current assets 31 March 2017 £2,161.98
Current liabilities
unpaid bills £0.00
Current liabilities 31 March 2017 £0.00
Represented by
Reserves at beginning of FY £2,033.92
Surplus/deficit for year £128.06

7 Martin Perry, Director of Development THRE (developers of St James Quarter) on ‘St James Quarter & associated works: impact on Leith Walk and mitigating measures’

Mr Perry presented as follows:

  • His presentation is about the public realm works in Picardy Place, Leith St and York Place. It does not cover the intricacies of the Scottish Government (SG) and Edinburgh Council (CEC) involvement.
  • THREis the world’s third largest property company, and is owned by the USA’s biggest pension fund. THRE works and invests on behalf of third parties (nearly all are also pension funds). It aims for long-term investments and growth for the pension funds.
  • THRE choses its locations worldwide, responding to demographics megatrends that enable long-term views.
  • The presentation is on behalf of THRE, Laing O’Rourke(contractor, wikipedia), SWECO (highways consultant to Laing O’Rourke, Wikipedia) and Gardiner & Theobald (THRE’s project managers)

Speaking to slide 01, the St James Quarter project (SJC) is roughly 1,7000,000 foot2(just under 7 acres). This includes

  • 850,000 footretail space
  • up to 150 new homes
  • deluxe multi-screen cinema
  • 5* luxury hotel
  • 30 new restaurants
  • an ‘apart-hotel’
  • refurbished, extended branch of John Lewis (including a branch of Waitrose)
  • 3 new civic spaces
  • improvements to streetscape of surrounding area
  • Anticipated benefits include:
    • More than 1000 jobs during construction (currently ~480 people are working on the project, most in Edinburgh)
    • 3000 permanent jobs on completion

Street-works are implemented under the SG/CEC growth accelerator model that intends to create new business and hence increase business rate income. An advance on this projected income has been given to pump-prime the public works. Contracts exist between by SG and CEC, and between CEC and THRE.

Speaking to slide 02, public realm works include

Leith St

  • ‘pretty much everything underground and on the surface’, e.g. dealing with abandoned services, old tram-tracks, old pipes and cellars, in order to provide for current needs and anticipated future needs
  • diversion and renewal of water main
  • diversion and upgrade of gas infrastructure
  • now foul and surface water drainage
  • realignment and upgrade of public footpaths
  • new cycle-ways and bus stops
  • new road profiles and construction

This work also includes removal of the central balustrade and bridge (to be replaced by a pedestrian crossing), adding priority for public transport, cyclists and pedestrians, use of high-quality materials. It has been found that the Victorian sewer in Leith St is in very poor condition. Also, at the top of Leith St, the sewer is ~6m underground – hence the need to close Leith St (more detail below)

Picardy Place

This work is about trams – THRE had anticipated that trams would be running to Newhaven by now hence ‘serving the community’. Were trams to be installed de novo later, this would maximise chaos. Hence THRE will deliver Picardy Place such that trams can be added later. High quality materials will be used, and new services will be installed. Work includes

  • New road alignment and finishes
  • Creation of development site

Elder St/York Place

This work will not touch York Place’s main corridor. It includes

  • Junction improvements
  • new alignment and road finishes
  • improved footways

Speaking to slide 03, Leith St will be completed first, before starting work on Picardy Place. That work will be finished before Work on York Place is started, to avoid gridlock. THRE prefers minimal closure of Leith St, also to avoid traffic issues.

Speaking to slide 04, key issues include

  • safety of workforce and public
  • closure of Leith St for drainage works is unavoidable: thrust-bore is prohibited by the many existent underground connections
  • lessons from previous projects
  • maximise works in single site v. multiple, sequential, prolonged works and traffic management changes
  • traffic management review panel (TRMP – this includes emergency services, utility companies, CEC) recommendation for closure
  • closure between Calton Road and Waterloo place only, between festivals
  • local business and servicing, including emergency services, maintained via Greenside Row and Calton Rd
  • Stakeholders include Lothian Buses, emergency services, Essential Edinburgh
  • £6 million investment in reconstruction of Leith Street, including upgrading of utilities, cycle and pedestrian facilities (section between Calton Road and Waterloo Place complete after proposed closure)
  • Leith St work timings and duration are critical to the SJC project: work has to fit with Leith Walk improvements and any other nearby works, including any tram program. (A decision is due relatively soon, and may be part of an Edinburgh city-deal.) Hence, for example, utility work has to fit the overall programme.

Speaking to slide 05, safety constraints for Leith Street works include

  • Depth of excavation (up to 6m)
  • Existing utilities
  • Alignment of sewer
  • Safety exclusion zone critical – the deeper the trench, the wider the area that can fall into the trench. Hence there is not enough room for all uses of Leith Street during the works, but pedestrians and cyclists can be accommodated. Emergency services can also be accommodated, so long as workers exit the trench first.
  • No space to accommodate adjacent lane

Extending working hours (to reduce the overall closure period) has been considered, but there is not enough space to enable multiple work-phases.

It was noted that previous signposting and notification about diversions, especially for traffic coming up Leith Walk, had been poor. Mr Perry responded that THRE will learn from these previous ‘mistakes’, and that a project community email address can be used to report issues to the project managers.

Speaking to slide 06 and slide 07, details of the Leith Street work include

  • £6,000,000 investment
  • ‘true city street with active frontage’
  • central reservation removed
  • road geometry re-profiling to improve levels and flexibility – surface heights may change by up to 800 mm
  • footpath widening and enhanced finishes
  • improved pedestrian crossings
  • cycle-lanes extended to Calton Road
  • bus stops

Speaking to slide 08, the closure timescale is 44 weeks (between 2017 and 2018 Edinburgh festivals). In response to a question about over-run penalties, Mr Perry stated that if over-run is likely, CEC would allow work on Saturday afternoons. However, individual workers cannot work more than 5·5 days per week. It would also be undesirable to annoy neighbours by working longer hours. Over-run penalties are between THRE and its contractor, and there are contingency budgets in place for this.

Speaking to slide 09, the part of Leith Street to be closed is shown in red in the slide above. THRE are working with Lothian Buses, who state that the planned diversions will add 6 minutes to bus journeys. This has been calculated using CEC’s model, which uses regular surveys to inform predictions. THRE admits that the model is not perfect – humans do unanticipated things. Hence THRE, having learnt from the trams project, will be reactive.

Speaking to slide 10, the proposed gyratory route will increase vehicle speed by creating capacity. This will help cars, but not buses – their journey times will be increased by 6 minutes. LCCC’s planning convenor (H Tobermann) will be able to see and test the model used to predict this.

  • HT suggested that diversions do not take into account the Leith Walk works, and that it was likely that concurrency of Leith St and Leith Walk works would not be permitted by CEC, hence further delaying Leith Walk works. Hence THRE and CEC should provide some form of mitigation.
  • Cllr McNeese-Mechan commented that while she supported getting the work completed as soon as possible, increasing bus-journey times is preferable to fatalities.

Speaking to slide 11, Mr Perry acknowledged that engagement around the Leith St Closure has been criticised. CEC had been ‘horrified’ when they learnt that closure of Leith St was needed, and pushed for other solutions. This delayed ‘tier 1’ consultations, causing problems with sequencing the works. Delaying consultations until after the May local government elections would have caused legal issues and costs. Hence THRE are informing ‘tier 2’ members as efficiently as possible

7.1 Questions, answers and comments from the floor

  • A resident expressed lack of faith in THRE’s ability to complete the Leith Street work in 44 weeks. She suggested that the SJC works should be co-ordinated with Leith Walk works (i.e. finish Leith Walk first, before closing Leith St). She also stated that local businesses were suffering reduced footfall and turnover since the start of the current phase of Leith Walk work, that Leith Walk works were taking too long (e.g. 6 weeks to renovate 50 yards of pavement), and that CEC was at fault here.
    • Mr Perry responded that he could not influence Leith Walk works per se, but that THRE would be reactive, and could try to integrate its work. THRE has owned SJC for 10 years, and has experienced loss of income due to on-going works. THRE’s aim here is to minimise the need for future, disruptive work around SJC, in part by installing all services simultaneously.
    • Cllr McNeese-Mechan stated that Leith Walk Councillors were concerned about the dust/health and other issues, noting that Edinburgh currently is not meeting air-quality standards.
    • H Tobermann commented that Leith Walk has now been disrupted for 10 years, and that Leith St works will add another year to this disruption.
  • A CC representative stated that the Leith Walk stakeholders group has contact with SWECO, and so should make sure that work is integrated. However, there is lack of historical evidence that work will be done sequentially (i.e. completely finish Leith St before starting on Picardy Place, etc).
    • Mr Perry responded that THRE intends to own SJC for at least 30 years. Hence it can afford to do things properly, unlike CEC which has budget issues. THRE bought the site in 2006 for >£200m. It is trying to achieve integration of buses and trams, and to factor in many different wishes and needs related to SJC.
  • It was suggested that the tram interchange (assuming trams do go on Leith Walk) should not be at Picardy Place because it is a major north-south/east-west interchange and that the plans are based on many unknowns.
    • Mr Perry responded that trams stops should be near people’s desired destinations. With regard to models used in planning, these models are improved by regular resurveys of traffic.
  • Questions were raised about the reliability of traffic modelling
    • Mr Perry responded that the model is regularly updated by resurveying actual traffic.
  • It was suggested that THRE should provide some compensation to Leith Walk [residents and businesses] for the disruption they have suffered over many years.
    • Mr Perry responded that property investment in Scotland has ‘flatlined’, hence Scottish Government involvement, and that SJC is ¾ of current investment, i.e. such compensation is unaffordable.
  • It was asked whether THRE’s investment might be moved, leaving SJC etc unfinished.
    • Mr Perry responded that while individual investors can sell their investments to others, the total investment will remain locked in.
  • In response to questions about rubble-removal and dust-generation caused by crushing rubble, Mr Perry responded that THRE are currently assessing a new crusher that has increased dust suppression. THRE is also trying to minimise the number of vehicles transporting rubble. He walks Leith Walk each month, look at quality of road-surfaces, and how any damage would be remediated. He has seen that there is too much, confusing signage, and so is trying to change this.
  • In response to a question about pedestrian access to Leith St, Mr Perry responded that the next phase will improve pedestrian access by widening the pedestrian zone, and putting in a separate cycle-zone during the closure period. THRE is considering holding an event to promote pedestrian and cyclist use of Leith St, that ‘the city’ wants a cycle-lane all the way down Leith St/Leith Walk, and that because THRE invests in John Lewis, their investment is currently suffering from lack of access.
  • In response to a comment that the planned pedestrian and cycle lanes on Leith Street will be separated only by tactile markings, thus endangering guide-dog users, and that a kerb or verge would provide more safety, Mr Perry responded that [CEC] has specified a 50mm sloped kerb in Leith St. Cllr McNeese-Mechan stated that railings separating pedestrian and cycle zones might lead to people being crushed against them.
  • In response to a comment that the ‘megatrend’ of online sales is increasing, Mr Perry responded that sales predictions were favourable for SJC – because the area have many venues, footfall will be favourable. THRE are also considering features that will increase footfall, e.g. a food market next to the Omni centre. Mr Perry noted that CEC’s brief included removal of the ‘block’ between the city centre and Leith Walk, to encourage people to pass between these two areas and hence get some physical and cultural integration.
  • In response to a question about Leith St Bridge, Mr Perry responded that the bridge was bespoke [i.e. it would be difficult to reuse it elsewhere] – a climbing centre no longer wants it, nor does CEC, so it will be scrapped. Mr Perry also stated that CEC has looked at other solutions and changed its opinion many times. The bridge will be removed in the week beginning, necessitating 1 day’s closure of Leith St.