Leith Central Community Council October 2020 Annual Report

NB. This report covers the period from June 2019 – May 2020. This was approved at the November 2020 AGM.

It has been quite an eventful year for Leith Central Community Council and one of adapt or die. We have had to make a stand to Edinburgh Council to keep our usual meeting place, the Nelson Hall at McDonald Road Library, open at a time that was suitable for the elected members of the Community Council; at one point we were forced to hold meetings in the café of the Kirkgate community centre; and lately we became early – if reluctant – adopters of virtual meeting technology when the Covid19 lockdown Started, unfortunately only able to communicate amongst elected Community Council Members.

Following Community Council elections in October 2019, our membership stands at 13 members and one nominated group. Recently we refined how our 5 sub-committees operate, with clear, available on-line remits: Communications and Co-operation, Licensing, Parks, Planning and Transport & Clean Streets. There is also a working group on Parking and anotherinter-community council working group, Community Councils together on Trams (CCTT). Each of these provide updates during the monthly meetings.

Planning

As one of the most centrally located and most densely populated areas in Edinburgh there are always plenty of developers wishing to build in our area. The year under review was no exception.

LCCC’s Planning Committee participated in, commented on and engaged with significant planning applications in our area, concerning hundreds of new homes, student accommodation, hotels, houses of multiple occupation, a restaurant and a building-sized illuminated advertising board.

For one application the three Leith Community Councils (Leith Central, Leith Links and Leith Harbour & Newhaven) worked together and alongside the grassroots Save Leith Walk campaign and managed to persuade Edinburgh Council to reject a planning application that would have involved the demolition of a much-loved sandstone building designed by Horace Gildard White between Stead’s Place and Jane street. Currently the same developer has come back with a new pre-application notice (PAN) for the same site, proposing an online-only consultation. LCCC unanimously agreed not to participate in such a restricted process, which inherently lacks transparency and open challenge and is therefore likely to undermine public support for planning procedures and indeed democracy itself. After extended negotiations, it has been agreed to consult also through the well-understood established methods of a presentation and Q&A to a public LCCC meeting, and – hopefully – a public staffed exhibition.

Trams to Newhaven Project

Since Summer 2018, CCTT have had regular monthly meetings with the Tram Project Team. The purpose of these meetings is to keep abreast of how the tram works will affect our area: both final design details as well as – during construction – timings, road closures, bus diversions, effect on local businesses. communications, bin collections. By providing a sounding board for the Tram Team, a number of potential issues have been resolved/ameliorated.

That said, a large construction project such as this can potentially be the cause of a significant headache for our community, especially in combination with other roadworks in the vicinity.

Out meeting venue – the Nelson Hall – Zoom

For the past 10 years or so we have held our meetings at the Nelson Hall at McDonald Road Library between 7-9pm. It was therefore disappointing to receive notice from Edinburgh Council that unless we were to finish at 8pm we should find another venue. Currently all our meetings have been via one of the members’ Zoom account.

Neighbourhood Networks

At the beginning of 2019 Edinburgh Council rolled out Neighbourhood Networks. As far as LCCC understands they are not unlike the previous Neighbourhood Partnerships. According to their own information they have a key role in community planning processes, and through their new remit and membership, provide a way of increasing community influence and involvement across the city. Some of our members attended a number of meetings, but LCCC had to come to the conclusion that, having no clear remit, authority or funds available, better opportunities for shaping our community probably lay elsewhere.

Green Spaces

LCCC members are well aware that in our area there is less greenspace available for residents than in any other ward in Edinburgh. Luckily most of our parks are in a reasonable state, partly thanks to the various Friends’ groups that have been co-opted onto LCCC (Pilrig Park and Dalmeny Park).

There is another park in our area that should get a mention as it currently doesn’t have a formal name although it plays a vital role in recreation and active travel. Known to locals as Coalie Park, area GRE 193 covers over 3 hectares along the Water of Leith and is in dire need of comprehensive refurbishment. Members of LCCC have periodically raised this issue and will continue to lobby for improvements.

Another important active travel transport link, the Water of Leith walkway, finally re-opened the bit between Bonnington Road and Anderson Place, following 18 months of lobbying CEC and pressing Miller Homes, who, while developing land immediately south of the walkway, had closed the footpath claiming is was unsafe.

Another potential new active travel route on the LCCC radar is the Powderhall Railway Path.

Funding has now been secured for a feasibility study to look into developing the disused railway

into an active east/west travel corridor.

Parking

Having taken the decision to introduce parking restrictions all over North Edinburgh to be operational when the tram starts running, Edinburgh Council carried out extensive consultations. LCCC was able to assist some small business owners and make sure their voices were heard after Edinburgh Council omitted to post out notices to them.

The resulting Traffic Regulation Order for a Controlled Parking Zone covering most of our area was due to be advertised later this year, but due to Covid 19 this time scale is now uncertain.

Profile and Presence on Social Media

We have a noticeboard on Leith Walk next to McDonald Road Library and thanks to our active Communications Group our website has 1600 subscribers and our Twitter feed 1,187 followers.

We have added an Engagement Officer to our existing roster of Chair, Vicechair, Secretary and Treasurer to expand LCCC’s visibility and impact.

I would like to thank all members for their active support of LCCC and in particular those who have represented LCCC on other bodies and contributed to working groups and sub committees, which require an additional and nat insignificant input of time and effort. A particular thanks goes to Julian Siann who, after many years, retired as our Planning Convenor.

Charlotte Encombe – Chair