LCCC community planning event notes (final version)

This replaces a post with draft notes, which has now been deleted.

2019_09_21, Nelson Hall, McDonald Rd Library. Notes taken by Bruce Ryan

1 Introduction to the event

Duncan Bremner (DB) of Citizen Curator introduced the event.

Harald Tobermann (HT), vicechair of Leith Central Community Council (LCCC), introduced LCCC’s role in this event. He noted that the event is about the Local Development Plan (LDP), called CityPlan 2030, that is currently in development. The event would also touch on other relevant legislation, such as the Community Empowerment Act, including Asset Transfer. (This enables local communities to request to run publicly-owned assets.)

DB noted that Edinburgh Council (CEC) is due to put CityPlan 2030 out to public consultation towards the end of 2019. Then the final version is due to be published in 2022, and would be in place until 2032. This LDP is the document that developers refer to when planning developments. It also informs many other CEC services and activities, especially land-use.

DB noted that the Scottish Government (SG) has recently passed a Planning Act. Now some secondary legislation is needed to complete it. However, this act enables community organisations to develop local place plans (LPPs), and obliges local authorities to ‘have regard’ to LPPs. This legislation is so far untested.

DB also noted that the Scottish Land Commission is considering land-use, and how communities should be involved in such discussions.

1.1 Introductory presentations, self-introductions and points from the floor

1.1.1 Liz Thomas

Liz introduced herself as a landscape architect specialising in co-design. This is bringing people into the planning and design process. With regard to the ‘Leith proposals’, she has focussed on community engagement. This work includes using photos to stimulate peoples’ thoughts. For example, an event at Norton park gathered thoughts on both intangible and physical connections between people and places. She noted that people have different amounts of time and energy to put into such considerations, but all such input is valid. The current work will inform the community conference at the end of October. She has also been using ‘conversation coffee tables’ that have word-clouds around assets and challenges.

1.1.2 Cockburn Association presentation

This was given by Cliff Hague, chair of the Cockburn Association (CA). Photos of Cliff’s slides are online here.

  • Cliff outlined the CA’s history, aims and activities (slide 1). It was founded in 1875, and is a charity that works to protect and enhance Edinburgh’s special qualities. It welcomes ‘everyone who loves Edinburgh’. It delivers ‘b’ each year.
  • In anticipation of CityPlan 2030 the CA has published 5 thought-pieces (slide 2) on
    • The residential city
    • The prosperous city
    • The connected city
    • The expanding city
    • The heritage city
  • Concerning the future of Leith, it could be
    • A place to accommodate growth (slide 3), as in the current LDP. Housing pressures are predicted to increase dramatically over the next 10-15 years, so the Scottish Government currently assumes housing growth in Leith. Hence Leith could be ‘used’ to accommodate high-value uses such as student housing or tourism.
    • Developed to prioritise reaction to the climate emergency (slide 4). This would include green and blue infrastructure such as nature corridors, sustainable urban drainage schemes, green roofs. It would have a concerted focus on ‘looking after what we’ve got’, i.e. repair, maintenance and energy-saving.
    • Focused on health, wellbeing for all and inclusion (slide 5). This would include features such as dementia friendly design, age-friendliness, child- friendliness, diversity and place-identity.
  • CityPlan 2030 also offers opportunities (slide 6) such as
    • A local place plan for Leith
    • A short-term lets control zone (SG is due to provide further guidance on such zones.)
    • A community-led development model using community asset transfer.

So we need to ensure that CityPlan 2030 does not set an unwanted trajectory, and to take advantage of the opportunities.

  • CA’s contact details are on slide 7.

1.2 Anne Docherty (Living Streets)

Living Streets is all about (everyday) walking, and its benefits. Hence Anne is working on a project called ‘walking connects’ that is investigating the barriers to older people walking. These include ‘wonky’ pavements, lack of leaf-clearing, poor road-crossings (e.g. unhelpful traffic-light sequences), poor parking (e.g. on dropped kerbs) and cycles’ bells being too quiet. Ann played the trailer to a film about work with the Pilmany Older Mens’ group on such issues. This is available here – all about (everyday) walking

DB noted that we need to think about planning/design for users.

An attendee noted that he had met CEC planning staff walking around Edinburgh, and that Lesley Porteous is leading CityPlan 2030.

2 Table-discussion session 1

2.1 Notes from table 2

This is the table where Bruce Ryan sat.

  • The green [cycling] corridor needs access to/from Dryden St and all other street intersections, especially Leith Walk.
  • Light industry, especially the mix of residential and [light] industrial land-use is important.
  • Community centres/assets (and other infrastructure) need to scale with population.
  • Height of [proposed] buildings matching is troublesome.
  • We need clearly usable green spaces, not just narrow verges or a fixed % of green space.
  • We need consultation on nature of green spaces, not just ensuring green spaces within developments.
  • Pilrig Park is in the middle of the developments being discussed. So we need to think about how the park connects and interact with these developments, and about [whether and] how it can be enhanced.
  • Policy 2 touches on a need for even more green spaces (not just token spaces) & infrastructure. For example, the green corridor needs access from St Mark’s park and Leith links.
  • We need to make the most of the blue pathway along the Water of Leith; this pathway needs access to/from other networks.
  • We need to get realcommunity input on plans. Each proposed site should have an in-situboard asking for input – and using simple language without acronyms.
  • We need to map where people are travelling to and from, so that informed decisions can be made.
  • We need to decide/understand the relative contributions of leisure, health, commuting to active travel.
  • We need more buses/routes crossing Leith Walk.
  • Segregated cycle paths are needed, especially along major roads.
  • There should be a limit on the number of times developers can make the same [or substantially similar] planning application – and a mechanism for handling submission of same/similar applications by different developers.
  • Ownership of land is a major factor [in deciding what developments happen].

2.2 Feedback from table discussions

2.2.1 Table 1

  • The LDP (i.e. CityPlan 2030) is only part of the picture: there are also local outcome improvement plans (LOIPs).
  • Planning is not just about economic growth but also about wellbeing and (Leith) identities.
  • CEC has opposing drives around active travel (e.g. engineers v planners v building standards). The jury is out on street seating and street trees (because these may interfere with or be affect by underground services). However, people need to be able to sit without spending money in coffee shops.
  • There are questions about the balance of SG and local authority (LA) spending.
  • The local place plan will have (currently undefined) relationship with LOIPs.
  • How can we put forward collaborative reflections of these democratic conversations?
  • How do community councils (CCs) represent the views of people in their areas? (CCs differ from each other.) What resources do CCs need to undertake these processes and be representative?
  • There is power in using people’s own words.
    • For example, CEC acted on the issue in Roseburn of young people using speed-bumps as seats due to lack of seats arising from fears of antisocial behaviour.
  • How can we ensure accessibility?
  • How can we balance aspirations with maintenance/protection. (That is, community aspirations might be fulfilled but then suffer from lack of maintenance or lack of use, leading to these assets being removed.)

2.2.2 Table 2’s ‘top four’

  • We need clearly usable green spaces, not just narrow verges or a fixed % of green space. (That is, we need green spaces that work.)
    • Pilrig Park is in the middle of the developments being discussed. So we need to think about how the park connects and interact with these developments, and about [whether and] how it can be enhanced.
  • Community centres/assets (and other infrastructure) need to scale with population.
  • We need more buses/routes crossing Leith Walk.
    • We also need to make the most of the blue pathway along the Water of Leith; this pathway needs access to/from other networks. That is, we are currently wasting potential transport links
  • It is important to preserve local light industry, to offer job opportunities, to provide environmental benefits from reducing commuting, and to maintain and enhance local skills.
    • However we need to be realistic about global conditions. (For example it can be far more cost-effective to do page-layout in India, or printing in China, than to do these in the UK.)
    • We need flexible and affordable small-scale industrial and creative spaces, with good transport infrastructure.

2.2.3 Table 3

  • This table focussed firstly on light industry.
    • The cluster of sites in the north end of Leith Walk is the ‘beating heart of support’ for the working Leith community.
    • What types of business units are wanted? (Some industries can cause environmental damage.)
    • Industry should work together.
    • So we need development briefs that deliver feasible proposals to support industries and businesses.
  • Proposed policy 1 (strengthening guidelines into policies) is more important than the other, more specific proposed policies. This is because guidelines are too often ignored.
    • For example policies on student housing need a stronger legislative basis.
  • Concerning promotion of permeability/connectivity for active travel, we need stricter, more forthright language that denies wiggle-room to developers.
  • Leith Walk needs celebrated and protected.
  • We need new enterprises to provide jobs for young people

2.2.4 Reactions from other attendees

  • How can we establish collective voices?
  • CityPlan 2030 covers all of Edinburgh.
    • While individual CCs cannot tell other CCs what should happen in their areas LCCC, it is likely that there are shared problems/issues.
  • Local democracy could boil down to the views of one or two streets. Leith is not the same as [all of] Edinburgh. So we need to articulate what is distinctive about Leith.

3 Table discussion session 2

This discussion had only 2 tables. Bruce Ryan sat at table 1, so the following notes are on the whole discussion, not just its major points.

3.1 Table 1

This discussion was also recorded on paper.

  • Aspirations will inform policies; policies will inform how specific sites are used.
  • Whether people walk in places is a principal test of the success of places, policies & sites.
  • Desire-lines (i.e. the routes people wish to use) should not be severed.
    • Should desire-lines be mapped?
  • There should not be cul-de-sacs, except for cars.
  • We should not mess with Leith’s ‘mixedness’ – Leithers value it.
  • Proposed policy (strengthening guidelines into policies).
    • We need examples of existing policies that underpin others.
    • There is currently lots of policy that isn’t put into practice.
  • Enforcement is lacking.
    • Negotiations with developers tend to undercut [CEC] policies.
  • Green space needs maintenance.
  • Can developers’ obligations be implemented elsewhere if they cannot be achieved in each development?
  • The current LDP includes developers’ contributions to green space.

3.2 Table 2

  • 11 proposed policies is too many – this dilutes their impact.
  • Hence they should be reduced to the following four:
    • Sustainability (i.e. standards for new developments.
    • A clear policy on student accommodation. This should include minimum standards, and get a grip on numbers
    • Protection of mix of land-use
    • Concerning developments’ heights and densities, it should not be that developments’ heights match those of neighbouring buildings. That is, there should be regard to the massing of developments.

3.2.1 Feedback

  • Local authority planning staff can deal with 100s of policies.
  • However it is sensible to boil these down to four or thereby.
  • The proposals in the list are based on CCs relevant experiences over many years.