Following a sudden change of advice issued by City of Edinburgh Council (CEC), Leith Central Community Council (LCCC) has been forced to cancel its first properly constituted meeting since March, scheduled for 17 August. Alongside other important live issues, the main item on the agenda was a presentation by Drum (Steads Place) Ltd and their advisors regarding their fresh plans to develop 106 – 162 Leith Walk, followed by a Q&A, as part of the Pre-Application consultation process.
Drum had submitted their Pre-Application notice on 24 March, shortly after lockdown. In response, LCCC immediately flagged up that the timing would make it problematic to agree an appropriate consultation format. In early April, the Pre-Application rules were changed allowing online-only consultations, despite LCCC’s clearly articulated misgivings. However, this rule change – after Drum’s submission – did not impact on LCCC’s carefully considered view: online meetings are unable to support equitable, large group interaction, and lack the accountability and independence of a properly constituted in-person public meeting. Over the following months, negotiations with Drum continued, inching slowly towards a hybrid model: an online consultation, followed by the well-established format of a presentation and Q&A session at a public LCCC meeting.
LCCC’s 17 August meeting was called following advice from CEC on 6 July that the latest Scottish Government guidance gave more leeway for community councils to re-start physical meetings. This was confirmed by phone conversations with relevant Edinburgh Council officers. In view of the public interest in the fresh Drum application (which followed the high profile Save Leith Walk campaign in response to Drum’s previous application), it was decided to take advantage of CEC’s guidance and call a properly constituted meeting in an extra large venue. This would enable very generous physical distancing, appropriate mitigation measures while overall attendance would be strictly limited by a ticketing system which recorded track and trace information in a GDPR compliant way. LCCC was confident that this created a safe environment for a properly constituted meeting which was duly called on 2 August.
When LCCC received new advice on 5 August from the Chief Executive of CEC, strongly recommending “that all Edinburgh’s community councils continue to meet remotely during this period […] in the interest of safety and public health”, albeit without referencing their earlier advice and the reasons for the change, LCCC’s office bearers felt that there was no choice but to cancel the meeting on 17 August.
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