LCCC September 2020 minutes

Minutes of the public meeting of Leith Central Community Council, held via Zoom on Monday 21 September 2020 at 7:00pm

Actions and decisions are red italic. nem con means that no-one spoke or voted against a decision.

1 Welcome, apologies, minutes

1.a Attendance

  • LCCC: Jack Caldwell, Alan Dudley, Charlotte Encombe, Pierre Forissier, Nick Gardner, Fee Gerlach, Sheila Kennedy, Ian Mowat, John Tibbitt, Harald Tobermann, John Wilkinson, Amy Woodgate, Bruce Ryan,
  • CEC: Cllr Rob Munn
  • Others:
    • Drum Properties: Calum Fraser, Fife Hyland, Susan Pegg
    • Lisa Clark (For Ben Macpherson MSP)
    • ~16 residents/visitors

2 Stead’s Place – presentation by and Q&A with developers

2.a Presentation

See Drum’s slides – a PDF on LCCC website, made from screen-shots of the Zoom recording (hence not high-resolution).

  • Slide 3 shows the site in context, stretching from Pilrig Park to Leith Walk, consisting currently of industrial warehouses and the red sandstone building (RSB) on Leith Walk.
  • The PAN (slide 4), submitted earlier in 2020, is summarized as ‘demolition of industrial units and development of residential led uses, retention of existing 2-storey sandstone building with potential to include Class 1 (shops), Class 2 (Financial, Professional and Other Services), Class 3 (Food and Drink), Class 4 (Business), Class 10 (Non-residential Institutions), Class 11 (assembly and Leisure) and Sui Generis uses, with associated landscaping, open space and infrastructure. At 106-162 (even numbers), Leith Walk, Edinburgh EH6 5XD’.
    • Uses are as wide as possible to enable as wide a scope as possible for the RSB
  • Slide 5 shows the context: a ‘mixed use development providing: vibrant retail and commercial frontage onto Leith Walk via the retention and refurbishment of the RSB; a community of high-quality apartments designed for renting, catering for local people at rent levels that correspond to the Leith area; improved open access and public spaces between Leith Walk and Pilrig Park’.
  • Slide 6 begins to show Drum’s ‘approach is influenced by a number of factors: retention and refurbishment of the RSB; having a clear identity drawing references from the diverse surrounding area’.
    • ‘There is no real pattern to the streetscape and the surrounding area at the bottom of Leith Walk – it varies greatly. There is a rich tapestry of references that [Drum] can draw from.’
  • Slide 7 continues Drum’s approach: ‘to reflect and celebrate the sites industrial heritage as a former sawmill and railway goods yard; take design cues from local historical references’.
  • Slide 8 continues Drum’s approach: ‘enhancing the connectivity between Leith Walk and Pilrig park – the site has an important roe locally in terms of providing an east-west connection but at present the route through the site is neither attractive or welcoming’, especially in the evening.
  • Slide 9 begins to show Drum’s vision and ideas: ‘The emerging design concept draws upon positive characteristics of the surrounding area to create a real sense of place that features and vibrant and dynamic retail frontage facing Leith Walk, and a mix of private and affordable housing. The proposals will retain and refurbish the RSB, establishing a bustling retail and commercial frontage to Leith Walk that will serve the local community.’
    • However, this will take a while: Drum’s priority is the residential area to the rear of the RSB.
  • Slide 10 continues Drum’s vision and ideas: ‘create new spaces and gateways; strengthen existing connections and allow for future connections. This allows the site to be broken down into a variety of interlinked spaces.’
    • This includes access to the high railway line to the rear. Drum does not currently plan to knock through the RSB.
  • Slide 11 continues Drum’s vision and ideas, with ‘illustrations of example external public, semi-private and private spaces and site wayfinding on the proposed site plan’. Wayfinding includes a clear, well-lit path through the site.
  • Slide 12 begins to show Drum’s ideas on massing, using split gables to ‘reduce visual impact on approach from the cycle path; a part 4-storey to front of the site keeps the height low along Leith Walk and in context with adjacent building heights; a stepped façade to the north provides visual interest and articulation when viewed from Jane St and beyond; pitched roof forms emulate the railways sheds previously on the site and around Halmyre St’.
    • Drum is currently at an early stage, considering initial approaches.
    • The rear would be between 4 and 6 storeys to the rear.
  • Slide 13 continues on massing: ‘Introducing lower and varied heights toward Leith Walk, rising as the site moves toward Pilrig Park reduces impact on the Walk itself and provides for a varied skyline. Referencing local and historical roofscape precedents allows for the introduction of pitched roofs, again providing for a layered skyline that blends with its surroundings.’
  • Slide 14 illustrates some potential views. These drawings are ‘indicative only to illustrate the proposed massign and external arrangements’.
  • Slide 15 is an ‘indicative view of public space to the rear of the RSB. Whilst this plan shows access through the RSB, this is merely indicative of potential accss points in the future if an as appropriate given the final usage of the building.’
  • Slide 16 is an ‘indicative view of cycleway to Pilrig Park’.
  • Slide 17 précises the initial report on consultation feedback:
    • 116 visitors, 60% from Edinburgh, significant interest frot eh central belt
    • 84 completed questionnairs – 89% describing themselves as living close to the site
    • 53% of respondents had not attended previous consultation events about this site. Hence online engagement has higher potential than in-person only events.
    • 79% of respondents thought the site should be developed; 80% [of these?] wishing to retain the RSB.
    • 73% of respondents favoured redeveloping the industrial units for residential use
    • 24% against proposals, 42% in favour, 33% not sure
      • The 24% against may be due to such respondents not realizing that Drum now does not plans for a hotel or student accommodation.
      • Many of the 33% not sure indicated that they could not decide without further information.
    • Comments from respondents will inform design development.

2.b Q&A

F Hyland stated in advance of detailed questions that Drum is at a very early stage, only looking at key principles around access, massing and heights. Drum will be happy to answer questions on detail in consultations on its future detailed [‘FUL’] application, in which it will have to demonstrate compliance will all relevant guidance, policies etc.

  • P Forissier commended the detailed questions demonstrating that people are engaging with the planning process.

2.b.i Pre-prepared questions

General
  1. To what extent have the comments from the previous application been taken into account in the design of the new proposal?
    • This is shown by the new plan including retention of the RSB, focus on residential, no student accommodation, no hotel, focus on access to Pilrig Park.
  1. Are you (Drum) engaging with the masterplan for both sides of Leith Walk? If so, how?
    • Drum has to respond to the Jane St brief, but has considered how it could ‘flex’ the RSB to fit the Halmyre brief.

Design quality and context

  1. How is the proposed development creating or contributing towards a sense of place?
    • This is shown by plans for access, focus on creating a residential community, eventually refurbishing the RSB. Drum’s vision is around creating sense of place, safe through-access and a place where people will want to stop.
  1. How is the proposed development demonstrating that is not detrimental to the architectural character, appearance or historic interest of the building, or to its setting?
    • This will be demonstrated in the detailed application. Drum has to address such issues in this application.
Design setting and place
  1. How is the proposed development demonstrating that is not detrimental to the architectural character, appearance or historic interest of the building, or to its setting?
    • See response to Q4
  1. How is the proposed development preserving or enhancing the special character or appearance of the conservation area and is consistent with the relevant conservation area character appraisal?
    • [P Forissier noted that the conservation area is to the rear of the building.]
    • The majority of the site is outwith the conservation area, but the full application will respond to and demonstrate compliance to conservation criteria.
  1. How does the proposed development demonstrate high standards of design and utilise materials appropriate to the historic environment?
    • Drum is currently considering massing and height for this site, in collaboration with CEC planning. Drum points out its other developments, which have high design qualities, landscaping and sense of place.
    • Development design: Incorporating and Enhancing Existing and Potential Features
  1. How does the proposed development demonstrate that existing characteristics and features worthy of retention on the site and in the surrounding area, have been identified, incorporated and enhanced through its design?
    • These are matters for the future detailed design.
Development design: Impact on Setting
  1. How does the proposed development demonstrate that it will have a positive impact on its surroundings, including the character of the wider townscape and landscape, and impact on existing views, having regard to:
    a) height and form
    b) scale and proportions, including the spaces between buildings
    c) position of buildings and other features on the site
    d) materials and detailing?
    • These are matters for the future detailed design.
Building design
  1. One of the 3 sketches of the apartments has pitched roofs. Presumably these roofs will be inhabited. Compared to the other 2 designs this will add an extra level.
    • Drum does not yet know whether pitched roofs will be inhabited.
  1. Could you confirm in all 3 designs the various number of floors above what is the present ground level (i.e. ground level of that of the 2 storey Gildard White bldg).
    • The buildings will be between 4 and 6 storeys above ground level.
  1. This present ground level is chosen, as some designs seem to have a lowered ground floor (by excavating down) and just saying numbers of floors for each design is not clear enough.
    • Drum does not plan to excavate below ground level.
  1. The building proposal is still too tall; have you had new estimates on the amount of sunlight interference to Leith Walk?
    • These are matters for the future detailed design.
Amenities design
  1. According to the latest traffic management plan on Tram plans Oct 2019, there is no parking or loading bay to the front of Stead’s Place (only a bus stop). Can you say how deliveries, rubbish removal etc will be addressed?
    • These are matters for the future detailed design. Drum will be cognizant of swept-path analysis around refuse collection etc. Drum does not yet know whether refuse trucks will enter the development.
  1. Please provide a clear diagram of how pedestrian/cycle circulation will be designed. Access to Pilrig Park from Leith Walk?
    • These are matters for the future detailed design, in which clear informative diagrams will be provided.
    • The paths will be public, to help create a sense of place and increase public access/throughput.
    • Safety will be enhanced by residents having close views of the path and by improved lighting.
  1. How is the proposed development demonstrating that the amenity of neighbouring developments is not adversely affected and that future occupiers have acceptable levels of amenity in relation to noise, daylight, sunlight, privacy or immediate outlook?
    • Drum will comply with relevant local policies and guidance. Drum will report on these aspects in the future.
    • Drum has spoken with owners of nearby garages, and will do so again.
  1. How is the proposed development facilitating adaptability in the future to the needs of different occupiers, and in appropriate locations promoting opportunities for mixed uses?
    P Forissier also asked whether the development would be rental-only for all time.
    • There will be two operators (yet to be decided on) of the housing. Future changes will be up to these operators.
    • There is potential for mixed use between the RSB and the residential areas. What will happen depends on future plans for the RSB etc. Drum is actively considering Ideas that would boost the sense of community.
Residency
  1. The student accommodation aspect has been removed but my understanding is that the flats will be operated under a ‘build to rent’ model and are not for sale. Is this correct? In that case there is little material change other than it being an exercise in extracting wealth from working tenants rather than students.
    • The student accommodation and hotel have been removed from the new plans. Drum is looking at a rental model for the residential accommodation, not sales. Drum has no comment on ‘wealth-extraction’.
  1. What proportion of affordable homes do you envisage for the scheme?
    • 25%, in line with CEC policy. Affordable accommodation will consist of social housing, run by a registered housing association.
  1. Are you open to offering some homes on a shared equity model, i.e. partial ownership with an option to buy at a later date?
    • That will be up to the future operators but Drum is currently only considering rental.
Business and Community
  1. Can you revisit your plans so that the community, and not commercial priorities are given precedence?
    [P Forissier suggested that community and commercial are not necessarily contradictory.]
    • These are matters for the future detailed design, but Drum’s vision is for the RSB to be part of a vibrant community including residents on this site and nearby.
    • Businesses occupying the RSB will almost automatically be part of the community.
    • Drum is continues to build relationships with current and potential future occupants. Drum is happy to continue engaging with any potential occupants.
  1. Will you prioritise small businesses in the Stead’s place building?
    • The nature of the RBS ensures that occupant businesses will be small.
  1. Will there be a special rent for previous evicted tenants to return?
    • Drum is in discussion with previous tenants that are interested in returning.
  1. What will public access be like, between the rear of the site and Leith Walk? (Walking, cycling, wheeling).
    • See also previous answers. It will be landscaped, attractive and fully open to the public.
  1. Why did you force out the businesses which were using the premises? Why don’t you make the best of what you have? You could preserve this row – maybe put a roof garden on it as it has a flat roof.
    • Drum does not believe it forced out the businesses. It took vacant occupation following a recommendation for approval from CEC planning for Drum’s previous application. Leases came to a natural end or businesses decided to move out early.
    • Hence Drum believes it is making the best of what it has, getting it ready for a long winter (waterproofing etc).
    • Drum does not yet know whether renovation will be staged, enabling current occupants to remain.

2.b.ii Other ‘live’ questions

  • I Mowat: isn’t building height part of PAN process, so can this be specified now, ideally in meters rather than stories?
    • Actual heights will come out in time for later public consultation, but the maximum is 6 stories.
  • A resident: when will the demolition and construction begin? Presumably only after tram work has finished?
    • Work is unlikely to start before summer 2021, by which tram-work in the area is scheduled to finish.
  • A resident: to Drum: having this event today and another one is a sign of good practice. The Scottish Government is currently consulting on the idea that a second pre-application consultation event should be mandatory. So if Drum does this, it might get some ‘gold stars’. Moving from co-operation to co-production would be ahead of the curve.
    • It was always Drum’s plan to have two series of events to show initial concepts and gather feedback, add feedback into the detailed designs to gather more feedback, and add this into the final application. Drum is keen to engage.
  • A resident: the next local development plan may well specify higher proportions of affordable housing
    • Noted – thank you.
  • A resident: I know that designs are too early to give any details, but I wanted to ask if the plans will include secure storage for residents’ bikes, prams and buggies. Given the location directly on cycle routes, and the amount of bike theft in the city, this would be a great advantage to future residents.
    • Cycle provision and other amenities will be covered in the detailed plans.
  • C Encombe: Is any private parking envisaged?
    • There might be a small element for the affordable housing. It’s unlikely there will be any for the private rented housing. Drum has yet to meet with CEC transport, but it is aware that CEC planning prefers very low parking levels. There are no plans for underground parking.
  • C Encombe: Would Drum consider a green roof or vertical garden?
    • We can consider this. The site offers some good potential for ground-level green/open space. There are relevant policy requirements.
  • C Encombe: would these spaces be on the sunny side of the building?
    • This has been one of the architect’s considerations. There is a requirement to provide private space (i.e. gardens) for residents, so orientation has been considered.
  • Resident: In the mean time, pending site development work starting, does Drum believe it are doing enough to keep the site in good order?
    • Drum is keeping the site secure and clean. F Hyland is on site weekly to monitor it.
  • I Mowat: Do you know when this area will become a controlled parking zone (CPZ)? If it becomes a CPZ, it is workable to have no parking on the development. Otherwise development residents will park in neighbouring streets.
    • C Encombe: CPZ will be implemented just before trams become operational.
    • I Mowat: the planned CPZ in the New Town & Broughton area was never implemented. Can councilors attending this meeting confirm the CPZ will be implemented in this area?
    • Cllr Munn: my understanding is that the CPZ will be in place prior to trams opening. There is much park-and-ride parking in this area. No definite date is yet available.
    • I Mowat: legal steps, including traffic regulation orders, need to be in place before the planning application is made
    • Cllr Munn: there may be an indication this week of a development in the Leith Walk ward that has 2 parking places. Other developments plan to have minimal parking.
  • A resident: How is sustainability being taken into consideration, e.g. in the building materials, insulation, energy consumption?
    • Drum must provide a sustainability statement and reach CEC’s silver standard. Measures may include considerations of glazing, use of solar panels, use of certain materials.
  • A resident: Due to the long timescale for sandstone building to be renovated, could there be some pop up shops meantime?
    • Drum is currently decommissioning to make the site safe, and undertaking surveys, so pop-up shops are unlikely, at least in the short term
  • A resident: Has there been discussion and sight of tram-track plans of track, and consideration ground-born noise and vibration that might affect the RSB?
    • Drum is at the pre-application stage, so there has been no engagement with the trams team yet. This may well happen when Drum meets with CEC transport. There will be a requirement for a tram contribution. Drum’s experience is that when planning permission is granted, there will be much relevant engagement on construction methods etc.
    • P Forissier: there is much concern among residents about vibrations.
    • F Hyland: noted – than you
  • A resident: if the RSB frontage is going to remain boarded up could something be done to brighten it up in the meantime, e.g. decorate with concept designs/commission local artists to do murals/make it an authorised graffiti wall since the one at ocean terminal is currently inaccessible?
    • Graffiti happens but can quickly get out of control, so illustrating what is coming (I.e. mural) may well be preferable.
    • A resident: Drum could use professional graffiti artists, and regulate what is allowed. There are local precedents.
    • F Hyland: I’m not dismissing this immediately, and am happy to explore options. However it doesn’t sit with us as owners. We understand it’s not looking nice just now.
    • Action: C Encombe/P Forissier to enable this resident to contact F Hyland by email
    • Another resident: There was a beautiful mural on the Victoria Rubber Company (now the Oregano restaurant) when it was being renovated.
    • Another resident: An example: https://streetartnews.net/2013/09/streetart-by-guido-van-helten-in-scotland.html
  • N Gardner: one of Edinburgh’s major issues is transient visitors. I am encouraged by Drum’s new model, but proof will lie in who Drum rents to, tenancy-duration and the sizes of accommodation. This is why I asked about shared equity.
    • Drum does not expect shared equity to be viable in this development, but it will be up to the operator to decide who it rents to. Drum notes the ambition for a settled populace of long-term renters.
  • Resident: I would be against the RSB being altered by an opening being made in it as an entrance and exit.
  • Resident: short-term lets (STLs) are a significant concern. Can STLs and other commercial uses of the residential accommodation be inhibited here in perpetuity, via legal burdens?
    • Drum: We don’t know the answer to this. It is mostly up to CEC planning.
    • A resident: we should all engage with the current consultation on the SG’s STL legislation.
  • J Caldwell: It is very welcome to hear that social housing options are being explored. There are some old trees on the south side of the plan, and on the boundary near the railway line on the north side. Will they be kept as much as feasible, rather than removing them and planting new ones that will take years to mature?
    • Drum will appoint a landscape architect. It will undertake a tree survey, and then will discuss it with the relevant CEC officers. Drum will retain trees where possible.
  • B Ryan: there has been discussion of various forms of sale of the residential accommodation. Is this not moot unless Drum sells the accommodation to the operators, so they can then sell individual flats to occupants?
    • Drum: we plan to sell both types of housing in the development to owner-operators, for them to run as rented accommodation.
    • B Ryan: once you have sold, will Drum have any control over how accommodation is used?
    • Drum: No.
  • C Encombe: is there any chance of the completed buildings being converted into a hotel or student accommodation
    • We have not applied for such uses. Future use outwith the ones applied for now would need a separate application.
  • A resident: You mentioned that 25% of the development will be social housing. Will the remainder be affordable?
    • Drum: This will be up to the operator.
    • A resident: Will Drum apply for relevant government funding?
    • Drum: The social housing element will have funding attached to it, but the RSL (presumably ‘registered social landlord’) applies for it.
  • A resident: Will the RSB be sold on, like the residential accommodation?
    • This has not been decided. We can’t sell it [yet] because a community right to buy has been registered on it.

2.c Closure

F Hyland thanked participants for their engagement, positivity and constructive approaches. Drum looks forward to another round of session like this, and another consultation event before it submits its application. Drum hopes for working together to regenerate this site for the benefit of all.

C Encombe: thank you to LCCC planning and comms teams for arranging this session

3 Any other business

None