Minutes of the ordinary meeting of Leith Central Community Council, held in Nelson Hall, McDonald Road library on Monday 21 May at 7:00pm
Actions and decisions are red italic. nem con means that no-one spoke or voted against a decision.
Please note that section 5 below (on Stead’s Place) has not been adopted, and so remains in draft status. This is due to need to check Drum Property Group’s record against ours. All other sections below have been adopted.
1 Attendance, apologies, declarations of interest
1.a Attendance and apologies (LHNCC members)
|Cllr Marion Donaldson||✓|
|Cllr Amy Mcneese-Mechan||A|
|Cllr Susan Rae||A|
|Cllr Lewis Ritchie||✓|
|Ben Macpherson MSP||✓|
|Deidre Brock MP||A|
✓ = present, A = not present, sent apology, * = not present, did not send apology
|Alan McIntosh||Broughton Spurtle||~30 residents and visitors|
|Don Giles||LHNCC||Fife Hyland||Communications Director, Drum Property Group|
|PC Joe Kennedy||Police Scotland||Michael Halliday||Halliday Fraser Munro archtects|
1.b Declarations of interest
2 Approval of Minutes of 16 April 2018 meeting
Approved subject to correction of minor typos (proposed L Moore, seconded H Tobermann, nem con)
3 Matters arising
- Item 3.1: H T has written to the Scottish Government chief planner about 154 McDonald Road, but has not yet received a reply.
- Item 3.3: Cllr Ritchie acknowledged that he had not attended LCCC for some time. This was initially due to his role as CEC’s planning convenor, then because he was on administrative leave (i.e. forbidden to attend public meetings). He emphasised that he is extremely sorry for various mistakes, he is getting help to deal with various personal issues and he wishes to put things right. He wishes to play a full role as he had previously, doing what is right for the community.
- Item 5:C Encombe noted that of 25 questions put to the trams team during LCCC’s April meeting, 17 replies we ‘well come back to you’. Hence it is important that pressure is kept on the trams team to answer outstanding questions. H Tobermann noted that some questions had been subsequently answered.
- Item 8b: J SIann noted that 8 sites have been considered for the advertising drums, but none are in LCCC’s area.
- Item 14: Future meetings have been booked and disseminated by the secretary.
- Action: LCCC members to email office bearers to add items to agendas.
- Action:Secretary to send out a prompt 2 weeks before each meeting
- Attendance and vacancies
- Action: LCCC members to send apologies if they cannot attend meetings.
- It was noted that 6 contiguous months’ non-attendance (even with apologies) leads to automatic disqualification.
- Action: Any individual wishing to join LCCC, and any local group wishing representation on LCCC, to email office-bearers.
4 Community Police Officer’s Report
PC Kennedy reported
- Last month, there were several operations about drugs: much drugs had been seized, and operations are on-going.
- There was a robbery at the local co-op – a male has been remanded in custody.
- The housing support team has rehoused outwith the area a person who has done much antisocial behaviour (ASB).
- He is aware of on-going issues at Dalmeny St Park. Police are working with local businesses about this.
- There was a day of action by police from Leith and Craigmillar, including plain-clothes and unformed patrols, against ASB.
- There was a cycling initiative, in which 10 vehicles were stopped for driving too close to cyclists.
- Enquiries are ongoign into a robbery on Elm Row.
- There has been emphasis on theft of bicycles – 18 stolen bicycles have been recovered.
J Hein asked whether police are tackling people who cycle on the pavement, noting that a policeperson had let one go past him without taking any action. Action: PC Kennedy to feed this back
- It was recommended that cyclists join https://www.veloeye.com to mark their bikes with identifiers. This will be available at Leith Gala.
J Darot asked PC Kennedy [and colleagues] to tell Lothian Bus drivers to pull in to bus stop bays fully, so that they do not block cycle lanes and can see what is behind them in their mirrors. He also noted that drug activity increasing again in Dalmeny St Park. Action. PC Kennedy to feed this back, others to phone in concerns.
5 Presentation and Q&A: Steads Place (18/01015/PAN)
H Tobermann noted that this presentation is the culmination of the pre-application process, and explained how that works.
Fife Hyland and Michael Halliday presented as follows:
- Drum Property Group has purchased this 3-acre site in March 2017. It was earmarked for development by CEC in 2008.
- The proposal is for a mixed-use development, with £50m being invested when all current tenants vacate the site in 2019.
- ‘old and tired’ office space would be replaced with a new, more flexible, higher quality development.
- Existing shops would be replicated; there would be a music venue (in place of an existing one that has decided to move away) and space for a range of creative arts; there would be affordable accommodation, managed by Places for People; there would be accommodation for postgraduate students, run by Edinburgh University; a bar and restaurant. There would be modern landscape and lighting safely connecting Leith Walk and Pilrig Park.
- The design has evolved, in part thanks to community representations. The height of the development would correspond with existing surrounding buildings. The proposed design is for bold, creative, exciting (not bland, corporate) buildings, but retaining the existing sandstone frontages.
- There would be small trader units, incorporating artwork created by the local community. This could involve children from local primary schools.
- Drum continues to work with existing business tenants so that they can return when the development is complete. Formal offers, including subsidised rent levels, have been made to such tenants, whose leases will expire in 2019.
- Drum believes that the proposals will enhance Leith Walk’s vibrancy: future-proofing and opening up what is now an inhospitable area at night; providing a better route for cyclists and pedestrians.
- Drum wishes to finalise the design soon, so it can submit its planning application in June.
5.a Questions by LCCC Stead’s Place Taskforce
5.a.i Why are you referring to the development as Stead’s Place’, when Stead’s Place is shown to the south of your site (as shown on the 1817 Kirkwood map)?
This is merely an identifier.
5.a.ii What is Drum’s experience of successfully developing comparable sites?
Drum has 3 sites under construction in Glasgow. It has developed a site in Alloa, and House of Fraser in Aberdeen. There are always at least a couple of objections to planning applications, but the HoF one received around 24.
5.a.iii Given the site’s industrial history, has a contamination survey been carried out? Any results?
So far, desktop analysis has been undertaken, showing low risk of contamination. In-situ investigation is planned.
5.a.iv We are aware of potential heavy metals contamination on the old railway embankment. If these are also present on your site, how would you deal with it safely? How would this impact on the project timetable and budget?
Contamination would be mitigated by relevant experts. It is impossible to know how long this would take until the size of this currently hypothetical task is known. Findings will be made public via the CEC planning portal.
5.a.v The ground behind the sandstone building is substantially higher than land to the north (Jane Street) south (Stead’s Place) and west of the site which was acceptable when all these plots were used for industrial purposes. Do you think the warehouses behind the sandstone building sit on landfilled ground? How will you deal with the differences in level?
The landscape may have been changed to accommodate the railway. Buildings will be designed accordingly. If the ground is soft (the likelihood of this was pointed out by a resident), the developers do whatever is necessary to meet buildings standards. If piling turns out to be necessary, the developers will agree an environmental construction management plan with CEC to counteract potential noise issues.
5.a.vi You will be aware of the Leith Conservation Area Character Appraisal and the Leith Town Centre Supplementary Guidance. How does your proposal meet the requirements of these policies? Where does it depart from the policies?
We feel it complies with the policies. The key characteristics in these documents are about other buildings. We are trying to improve the area, butting back something better and not detrimental to the conservation area. The features Drum proposes are part of relevant strategy, adding vitality and vibrancy. It all matches national and local policy. There will be open, public places in the development where people can sit and take leisure. Drum has made offers to existing tenants that will be 50% of rental costs in nearby new-builds. (Shrub Place is the relevant comparator – these are currently vacant.) Drum wishes to get local businesses into the building, to encourage local footfall and use of the development.
- HT noted that demolition of unlisted buildings that make positive contributions to their area is only permitted in exceptional circumstances.
- Drum believes that its proposed development would be better than the existing buildings, which are not of great quality.
5.a.vii What is the role of the University of Edinburgh at this point in time? Have any legal agreements been entered into?
The university will take a 20-year lease on the building. This has been agreed in principle, and legal documentation is in progress.
5.a.viii We understand that Drum is currently in discussion with Out of the Blue about the community use in the proposed development? What is the upshot of these discussions?
Nothing so far – there has just been an informal meeting.
5.a.ix What is the reason for Drum’s plan to demolish the sandstone building?
Are you not concerned about the loss of initial embodied energy and carbon if you demolish the sandstone building?
The current building doesn’t work for Drum’s plans. Drum cannot build on top of it – it will not take the weight. Nor can a basement be added. The building is not unsound but cannot be incorporated into Drum’s proposals. If Drum doesn’t obtain planning permission for its current proposals, hence necessitating just refurbishing the existing buildings, it will need to attract national chains paying full rent to recoup its investment.
5.a.x You may be aware of LCCC’s presumption against yet more student and hotel accommodation in our area, both of which increase the proportion of transient population. How would you convince us that these aspects of your proposals benefit our area?
The accommodation will be for around 600 postgraduate students, who will be present for at least a year. (Undergraduate students would disappear after 9 months, and their accommodation would become hotels.) The presence of students will help make the businesses beneath the accommodation financially viable. The proposed development follows CEC’s briefs. Also, the university wants to give students experience of all of Edinburgh.
5.b Comments and requests by LCCC Stead’s Place taskforce
5.b.i LCCC is keen to obtain your commitment to building ‘affordable’ flats as part of the proposed development (and not off-site), with particular focus on accommodation for key workers.
The proposed mix includes both social and affordable housing. This is under discussion with Places for People.
5.b.ii LCCC is keen for you to commit to substantial planning contributions (beyond the tram contribution), in particular for towards a GP practice, the proposed cycle/pedestrian bridge north of the site, early years day care and enhancements towards Pilrig Park.
Drum’s planning obligations will be according to CEC guidance. (This is publicly available.) It will include contributions beyond the trams; especially education, cycleways. Drum will not know exactly what will be requested until it formally submits its application, but it will comply with CEC policy.
- HT noted that some developers have asked CEC to waive some contributions. Can Drum promise it will not do this.
- Such waivers can only be sought on financial viability grounds showing that the permitted development is not deliverable. This is not part of Drum’s plans.
5.b.iii The height of any buildings to the rear of the site must not exceed 5 storeys or dominate nearby residential lower developments in Stead’s Place and Stanwell Street (which are rising from a lower level). (The plans include a 7 storey building only 20m away from other accommodation.)
Drum has taken references all around the site. Elsewhere in the city, tall buildings have worked well.
5.b.iv LCCC strongly favours the current mix of independent shops, cafes and restaurants that is typical of this part of Leith Walk; this means, rents – post-development – have to remain affordable.
Written offers have been made, based on current rent levels. Drum will seek out other local community businesses if the current tenants do not wish to return.
Request that rents match what paying now – this is what we are doing
5.b.v LCCC strongly favours an improved access route for pedestrians and cycles route between Pilrig Park and Leith Walk.
The route will be better than it is now.
5.b.vi LCCC is keen on minimising car use and would therefore ask you to provide car-club parking on site and to include appropriate legal clauses in any sales or letting agreements that prevent residents from bringing cars into the site. Any space gained from such measures should be used either for quality public realm and not for increasing the building footprints.
Drum proposes to minimise parking deliberately. There would be 25 spaces for the affordable housing tenants. This would be about 20% less than the current number of cars on the site. There could be a green travel plan with the university’s consent. However, it is very difficult to actually ban cars. There will be a car club requirement in the developer contribution.
5.b.vii LCCC is keen that the design for any additions befits the standard of this Conservation Area. We would certainly object to faceless bland boxes. Similarly, the design for green spaces and public realm must be of commensurate quality.
Noted and agreed.
5.b.viii LCCC is keen for any new development on this site to respect the generally varied nature of building form and line on the west side of Leith Walk (which unlike the East side is not uniformly tenemental). This means in this location: low height and modest massing.
(No comment was made.)
5.b.ix LCCC would draw your attention to the predominantly 2 and 3 storey high buildings on the east side of Leith Walk (opposite to your site); building up to tenement height at this location – which was never previously seen such height – would unacceptably impact on air pollution in the wider area by adding to the canyon and chimney effect. In addition, it would substantially reduce sunlight hours currently available to buildings opposite to your site.
Drum has an idea of what the massing will be. It will comply with CEC’s guidance on sunlight. All of this will be in the full formal planning application – and people will be able to comment on or object to these.
5.b.x LCCC strongly opposes the demolition of the existing sandstone building at 104-140 Leith Walk and encourages you to revisit this aspect of your proposal.
5.c Questions and comments by other Community Councillors
- C Encombe expressed disappointment that there was not more detail on building heights on the plans. She requested a plan showing proposed circulation of pedestrians and cyclists.
- D Sefton asked about the extent to which this construction would conflict with the trams construction, and asked for reassurance that this construction would not leave a mess.
- Drum is in discussion with the tram team – there should be no additional disruption or double-digs. Leith Walk will be left in a better state than it is now.
- J Caldwell suggested that the north-west of the site includes part of Pilrig Park, and asked how it would be maintained.
- An estate management team and the university will look after this part, which is a no-build zone.
- B Ryan asked for digital versions of the plans to put on LCCC’s website, and asked how Drum’s plans would change if the tram proposal was refused.
- Drum representatives agreed to send plans.
- In this case, while the construction plans might change and developer contributions would change, the final outcome would not change.
- J Siann asked about the rationale for student accommodation, given that there are 5 student buildings within a mile of this site, and asked whether Drum has a dispensation from CEC policy against detrimental amounts of student accommodation.
- Drum has no dispensation from CEC policy, and will comply with it.
- Cllr Donaldson stated her opposition to development of the sandstone building. She noted that other sites (e.g. West Bank St) have taken part in place-making exercises with the wider community, and requested that Drum follows suit prior to submitting its planning request.
- Drum currently has no plans to do this. It believes it has already carried out extensive consultation, well beyond the statutory minimum.
- L Moore asked how much students will be charged for a 1-year let. She asked that Drum does not replicate the tiny student accommodation in Brunswick St.
- This will be set by the university, but it is likely to be cheaper than comparable accommodation.
- Drum aims to get students out of their rooms and into the community. There will be varieties of student accommodation, not just single-room accommodation.
5.d Questions and comments by local residents
- B Macpherson noted that there are many varied concerns, and that the most emotive are about preservation of the current building and sustainability of local businesses.. He acknowledged that Drum’s plans have changed somewhat, but urged reconsideration of demolition by obtaining yields elsewhere, and allowing well-liked businesses to sustain their current residencies.
- Drum’s plans do not accommodate this – the site will be empty in 2019. This is the only way this site can be made to work.
- A resident noted that businesses opposite and near the proposed development will suffer from noise and disruption, and traffic will be one-way during construction, leading to loss of footfall.
- Another resident noted the uncertainty for businesses currently in the site. Many are feeling pressure about how to relocate, and believe that returning, even on a favourable rent, may not work for them. He also feared that unfavourable rents will encourage more corporate presence in the finished development. He noted that many people, including elected representatives, are against demolition.
6 Transport & Clean Streets
6.a Parking Working Group
6.a.i Petition on Improving Parking in the Leith Central Area (LCA) at CEC Transport and Environment Committee
I Mcleod noted that the petition gained 390 signatures. She was invited to speak to CEC’s transport and environment committee on 17 May, as was Cllr Rae. IM noted that Cllr Rae is very much in favour of parking restrictions, and is aware of many problems – especially around elderly people receiving deliveries and not being able to get out. LCCC’s position is for parking to be sorted before tram-construction starts.
IM noted that there will be a city-wide review of parking. If the proposed city-wide strategy is agreed, this area will be in the first phase of roll-out. Meanwhile there will be more enforcement. People should tell CEC about poor parking by phoning 0131 469 5400, option 4.
6.a.ii Next steps and possible timeline
IM is waiting to hear about reinforcement. She will keep LCCC informed.
6.b Update on ‘Leith Programme’ Phase 4 snagging and remediation works
H Tobermann noted that this phase was ‘completed’ in September 2017, but with defects. It was promised that CEC would correct these, but this has not been done. HT continues to ask CEC for news of when this will be done, but has not even received CEC’s list of defects. HT suggested that this means CEC does not have the capacity to undertake major projects.
J Hein asked whether delays might be due to the proposed tram works. HT replied that this had not been stated officially.
6.c Tramline completion York Place to Newhaven
HT noted that this was submitted just before the deadline, and that he has asked 4 times when promised community workshops will take place. No reply has yet been received.
6.c.ii The Tram Extension Outline Business Case relies on an environmental impact statement that was prepared for the 2006 Tram Act
HT noted that there is no plan for a new environmental assessment, and stated that a new environmental cost-benefit analysis is needed. Apparently the Tram Act allows this.
6.c.iii Update, next steps/options – seeking improvements, support from MSPs, petition, collaboration with other CCs, upcoming tram workshops
HT noted that tenders would soon come back, and that there would be a second phase of consultation. Hence LCCC needs to work out how it will pursue its key demand that trams may only be installed in a high-quality scheme. HT noted that while the Tram Act sets a deadline for starting construction, this is years away, so CEC has and should use the time available to consult and design properly. He noted how much work LCCC had to do just for this submission, and acknowledged the support of MSPs. HT also noted the possibility of creating a petition, and collaborating with neighbouring CCs. Furtherance of the LCCC tram taskforce, collaboration with neighbouring CCs and working with MSPs were all agreed nem con.
6.c.iv Tram Taskforce to look into a compensation scheme for businesses that are vital to the unique Leith Walk ‘ecosystem’
HT noted that the tram team will provide logistical support for local businesses using delivery hubs. HT suggested that small local businesses will lose trade during tram construction. It was suggested that a first step would be to document the numbers of such businesses. These actions were agreed nem con.
Ben Macpherson MSP noted that he has met with several local businesses about compensation, and is happy to assist with this matter. Nick Gardner suggested that businesses may need individual packages, not a one-size-fits-all scheme.
HT noted that the tram team has made all the land purchases it needs to install the trams, and did not have to rely on the compulsory purchase clause of the Act.
7.a Request CEC presentation and/or masterplan on Powderhall Stables
HT noted that this is the old waste station at the end of McDonald Rd. He expressed concern that this proposal is a Trojan horse for nearby development. Action: HT to make the proposed request (agreed nem con)
J Siann noted that LCCC’s planning work is on the website. He noted tht the application for Thorntree St had been refused but the developer will appeal. LCC has submitted an objection to the proposed conversion of a shop at 184 Easter Road into housing.
7.c Proposed Street Names (18/00044): Kilpatrick Grove and Kilpatrick Bow
H Tobermann noted that LCCC had objected to the original development. LCCC did not object to the proposed names.
7.d Any other planning matters
8 Parks & Green Spaces
8.a Powderhall Green Corridor – connecting Easter Road and Leith Walk to North Edinburgh cycle and path network
8.a.i Update on position and role of Transport Scotland, Network Rail, and DB Cargo
HT reported that Transport Scotland have no plans for this line, even though it has not been used for several year. Network Rail have a contract with DB Cargo until 2119 (two thousand one hundred and nineteen). DB Cargo are due to respond to him.
8.a.ii To ask MSPs and CEC to support formal closure of rail line
Ben Macpherson MSP stated that he is happy to write to the transport minister about this. Action: LCCC to send him its confirmed position.
J Hein expressed his opposition to this proposal, stating that light rapid transport can co-exist with heavy rail, and that LCCC should push for increased transport options in its area.
8.b Friends of Pilrig Park report
No representative, hence no report.
8.c Update on other Friends groups
N Gardner noted that FoMSP’s AGM will be on Wednesday 6 June (8pm) at the Old Calton Centre.
A resident asked how to complain about paucity of refuse collection. Residents should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
9 LCCC Office Bearers’ Reports
9.a Activities and plans of Communications Group
9.a.i Information Management Guidance in light of new GDPR regulations
- J Caldwell noted work to implement GDPR compliance. He will contact office-bearers about what they need to do.
- He also noted the success of the parking group’s communications.
- Action: all LCCC members to read and act upon the guidance.
9.b Other office bearers’ reports
S Kennedy noted that no-one had volunteered to help at Leith Gala. C Encombe offered to help during the morning.
She was emailed by the PT of Lorne Primary School – the school is looking for land for an allotment for its pupils. Cllr Donaldson replied that she has put the PT in contact with relevant CEC officials. It was also suggested that some land on Dalmeny St might be available, and that the PT should contact Crops in Pots.
10 Councillors’ reports, MSPs’ reports, MP’s report
10.a Cllr Donaldson
- She took Cllr Day to meet the Save Leith Walk (SLW) campaign group. This was a productive meeting.
- Wellington St is being used to trial bin-housing and increased bin uplifts as part of review of waste services. She met with the community, who will feed back views.
10.b Ben Macpherson MSP
- His office has been liaising with SLW to pressurise Drum Properties as much as possible. He stated that demolition would be a mistake, not least because the community is very much against it. He will work with other elected members to try to save this building, and to act on other concerns raised.
- He noted that the Planning bill is now past stage 1, and will now move to the committee stage. He is not on the relevant Scottish Parliament committee. Hence he is pulling together thoughts to write to the minister – he will send LCCC a copy of his letter. Student accommodation (SA) in Edinburgh is affected by a caveat facilitated by national policy: purpose-built SA doesn’t have to provide affordable accommodation., but he is trying to change this.
- I McLeod asked about progress on short-term lets. CEC is considering how to move on this, including possible changes to national legislation. SG’s position is to regulate (not prevent) the sharing economy so it doesn’t hollow out communities
- He is leading a set of debates and conversations around tenement maintenance, due to the statutory notice scandal.
- He is happy to have a longer session/discussion with LCCC.
10.c Update on NE Locality Committee and LCCC representation
C Encombe will attend the next meeting of NELC on 21 June.
10.d Update on Leith Neighbourhood Partnership
The next meeting will be on 14 June.
11 Open Forum
A resident asked about the Water of Leith walkway, which was due to reopen in April. H Tobermann replied that CEC has found various issues, but he continues to push for news and progress.
The following items were noted. Action: LCCC members to read the documentation.
12.a Old Town Community Council dossier ‘Our Streets’ (November 2017)
12.b Identifying quiet and calm urban outdoor places (Heriot Watt research survey)
14 Future Meetings (usually 3rd Monday of the month) and meeting topics/presentations
H Tobermann noted that a special meeting could be arranged at the end of June about the St James project. Action: HT to arrange this.