LCCC April 2021 minutes

Minutes of Leith Central Community Council ordinary meeting, held via
MS Teams, on Monday 19 April 2021 at 7:00pm

1 Welcome, introductions, attendance, apologies

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

1.a Attendees

  • LCCC voting members: Jack Caldwell, Alan Dudley, Charlotte Encombe, Pierre Forissier, Nick Gardner, Sheila Kennedy, Ian Mowat,
  • LCCC ex-officio and non-voting members: Bruce Ryan (minutes secretary), Cllrs Amy McNeese-Mechan, Susan Rae (both Leith Walk ward)
  • Others: Alan McIntosh (Broughton Spurtle), David Maxwell (Thistle-Peat), Sheila Hobbs (Scott Hobbs Planning), Guy Morgan (Morgan McDonnell), Michael Perkins, over 25 residents and visitors

1.b Apologies

Cllr Rob Munn (Leith Walk ward), Deidre Brock MP (Edinburgh North & Leith)

NB Cllr Lewis Ritchie’s email is bouncing back messages, so he presumably did not see the notification of this meeting.

1.c Simplified agenda (on experimental basis) to streamline online meetings

This was noted.

1.d Declarations of interest in any items on the agenda

none

1.e Order of business below

This was agreed nem con.

2 Approval of previous LCCC minutes

2.a Ordinary LCCC meeting on 15 March 2021

Approved subject to a minor change in item 5b (proposed S Kennedy, seconded I Mowat, nem con)

2.b Ordinary LCCC meeting on 19 October 2020

These had not been approved in November 2020, but approval was needed to formally document LCCC’s decision to spend over £500 on Teams. They were approved at the end of the meeting (proposed I Mowat, seconded J Caldwell, nem con)

3 Matters arising from previous minutes (and not included on agenda below)

None

4 Presentation and Q&A on 21/00991/FUL (Demolition of existing buildings and structures; erection of apartments and associated development) @ 27 Arthur Street EH6 5DA by Thistle-Peat Limited and their advisors

4.a Presentation

See Thistle-Peat’s slides (PDF) on LCCC website.

  • P Foressier: it is proposed to replace some buildings on Arthur St with flats (some affordable, some market-priced). There are concerns about this in the community, hence this session. The normal deadline for comments on the application has passed. However, LCCC has until the end of this week to comment. Also, LCCC has helped some residents understand the proposal documents on CEC’s planning portal. 
  • Thistle-Peat developers (TPDs): slide 1. Thank you for opportunity to present our proposals. We will explain how these have evolved. This has taken some time. All documents we’ve submitted are available on CEC’s planning portal.
  • TPDs (slide 2): The site is 0·167 hectares, on the south of Arthur St,  behind some Leith Walk properties.
  • TPDs (slide 3): The site includes a ‘utilitarian’ warehouse building, in an area of relatively mixed-scale design. We have made a detailed assessment of the area and its history.
  • TPDs (slide 4): Most of the site’s rear is a ‘dump-site’ – a number of old cars have been dumped here. The site borders, but is separate from, Leith Walk properties. The site has been partially cleared recently here, but there is only a small pedestrian access from Leith Walk so further clearance has not been possible.
  • TPDs (slide 5): This slide shows the area’s mixed nature, with building-heights ranging from 1 to 5 storeys. The building on the site has 2 storeys.
  • TPDs (slide 6): Building heights relate to their uses. For example, some have commercial ground floors with other floors being residential. Arthur St has mixed use, including industrial and residential. 
  • TPDs (slide 7): The site is within the Pilrig conservation area. There are some listed buildings nearby.
  • TPDs (slide 8): This slide shows the listed buildings on Leith Walk. Only the town-house frontages are of importance.
  • TPDs (slide 9): TPDs have assessed the area’s history. Traditional garden/drying-green areas (in yellow on the slide) have been developed over time (marked in orange on the slide). TPD intends to continue this theme.
  • TPDs (slide 10): In 1989, only a few original gardens/drying greens were being used for this purpose. There has been further development since then, e.g. Pilrig Glebe has replaced the sheds in the bottom right of the photograph.
  • TPDs (slide 11): Concerning design development, TPD plans for an L-shaped building with pedestrian/cycle access and a common garden to the rear. The part of the building next to the Leith Walk listed properties would have 2 storeys. The block on Arthur St would have a set-back upper storey. The lower storeys would have brick frontage.
  • TPDs (slide 12): This shows the planned scale of the building on Arthur St. it is ‘commensurate’ with other buildings here.
  • TPDs (slide 13): This shows the planned materials: buff/biscuit brick on lower storeys, metal cladding on upper storeys, a green or brown roof on the lower storeys towards Leith Walk. (The main roof above the Arthur St part would have photovoltaic cells.)
  • TPDs (slide 14): This shows the planned materials in a view from the west.
  • TPDs (slides 15, 16): These shows views of the planned building from Pilrig St and Arthur St respectively.
  • TPDs (slide 17): This shows a view from the planned communal garden.
  • TPDs (slide 18): Some parts of the garden would be private, mostly for 3-bed units. There would be some gardens along the lane. There would be cycle-storage at the entrance to the communal gardens, and some flats would have balconies.
  • TPDs (slide 19): This shows an initial brief sun-path analysis. Further calculations will be done.
  • TPDs (slides 20, 21, 22): The development would have 34 flats (4 1-bed, 22 2-bed, 8 3-bed). The development would be car-free, because the location is well connected to tram- and bus-routes. There will be 8 affordable units near the ‘block A bin-store. TPDs have discussed this with Port of Leith Housing Association.  Affordable housing would be tenure-blind.
  • TPDs: we recognise that we were incorrect to say the current building is unoccupied – it has 3 tenants, all on short-term leases. We will submit further information on this to CEC. We believe this development would enhance the area.

4.b Q&A

  • P Forissier: most questions are taken from public comments already received by LCCC. An organisation called Rhubaba is one of the current tenants.
  • Rhubaba representatives: Our objections include
    • Our being ‘erased’ due to TPD’s negligence
    • We are a unique space that’s crucial to Edinburgh’s arts eco-system, including work to highlight black artists and providing covid-safe arts activities. Our loss could bring ‘erasure of a large part of Scotland’s cultural economy’: we provide affordable studios for many artists.
    • The application would not provide 25% affordable housing. It would clash with CEC policies on heritage, e.g. by erasing part of Leith’s built heritage, and would be in direct contrast to community needs

(The above is a précis of Rhubaba’s full statement – see Appendix 1.)

  • P Forissier: have TPDs approached current tenants to offer alternative accommodation?
    • TPDs: When we bought the existing building, leases were about to end. We spoke to Rhubaba at this time. We have huge sympathy for their plight. We allowed their lease to continue – it was better for all for the building to be occupied. The current building is not fit for purpose – there are roof-leaks and vermin, and asbestos in the rear ‘dump’. We need to remediate this. We have not been heavy-handed, and Rhubaba has a 6-month lease.
    • TPDs: we are not big enough to offer alternative accommodation – we work on one development at a time. We suggest this is a matter for government.
  • P Forissier: Many people are concerned about TPD’s analysis of overshadowing – this does not provide measurements for potentially affected windows, and does not follow the normal methodology.
    • TPDs: The information in the application is derived from the highly accurate city model, so it’s entirely accurate. We will do a full daylight/sunlight/privacy analysis, to be undertaken by an outside party. We believe our initial analysis shows the development would meet requirements. If it does not, CEC will tell us.
  • P Forissier: residents tell us that mature trees on the site have been felled, despite being protected by conservation regulations. No notices for such felling are available.
    • TPDs: permissions (see the CEC planning portal) for felling was granted because some were infected. No felling took place until permission had been granted.
    • Action: TPDs to forward permission documents, via P Foressier, to residents.
  •  P Forissier: In block 8, is it correct that there would be windows on the site-boundary, overlooking leith Walk gardens?
    • TPDs: Yes. CEC is aware of this, but it has not yet been discussed with TPD ‘at length’.
    • TPDs: there were pre-application discussion with CEC, so it has seen layout-plans. We look forward to CEC’s feedback.
  • P Forissier: The plans appear to deliver less than 25% affordable housing. 8 ÷ 34 is less than 25%.
    • TPDs: there would be 8 such units – this is 25% when rounded. It is not true that the affordable units would only be buy-to-let. These 8 units would be delivered with Port of Leith Housing Association for people on low incomes.
    • TPDs: we had initially planned 9 affordable units but POLHA requested larger units, so we combined two smaller ones.
  • P Forissier: has there been a detailed ecological survey, e.g. of bats and other protected species?
    • TPDs: No – we have not been asked for this. Bat surveys cannot be done until May.
  • P Forissier: please described planned use of local and sustainable materials.
    • TPDs: we cannot promise to use Portobello brick, but given Brexit, bricks will be British. We can’t guarantee use of local materials but our proposed palette means that the zinc would almost certainly be provided by VM, a non-UK company. There would be PV cells on the higher roof, and the 3-story block would have a brown roof made from soil from the site, to attain biodiversity and self-seeding.
  • P Forissier: Would at least 25% of the site be green space?
    • TPDs: The open areas would total 665 m2, in excess of the requirement. 
  • P Forissier: there are concerns of access to the site and security. One access is from Arthur St to the garden – this appears to be a cul-de-sac. Are there any police reports on security? Will there be access from Leith Walk.
    • TPDs: there would be no access from Leith Walk. There will be relevant discussion with police on whether the Arthur St access-route should be gated – we prefer it is not.
  • P Forissier: will TPD provide parking spaces for people with disabilities/limited mobility?
    • TPDS: it might be an option to have these just off Arthur St. We have yet to consult with CEC transport on this. Other than that, there would be no parking on the site.
  • P Forissier: has TPD surveyed parking provision? If so, what are the findings?
    • TPDs: we have not done such a survey. The site would be car-free. Full cycle-provision would be made. The site is very accessible from Leith Walk, which has bus- and tram-routes and many amenities.
  • P Forissier: how would the development fit with the Pilrig conservation area?
    • TPDs: the whole area has changed over time. The current warehouse building, with its blank frontage, does not contribute to the conservation area’s appearance. Its replacement with an attractive building would enhance the conservation area. Our development would match the scale of development promoted in this area, and would have high-quality design. It would make better use of the ‘dump’ area to the rear of the site.
  • P Forissier: What would the developer’s contribution be?
    • TPDs: CEC has not yet fully specified these. There would be a contribution to the tram. We don’t know yet about contributions to education.
  • P Forissier: there are many questions in the chat.
  • J Caldwell: there are many questions about security.
    • TPDs: to reiterate, we will consult with police on this topic, among other topics about gating the development.
  • Cllr McNeese-Mechan: this community arts space is important. It has received Creative Scotland funding. CEC has invested much into local art, and related diversity so that local arts reflect our communities. There is a CEC specifically working on such matters. Rhubaba’s community art is a vital part of our economy – Cllrs Rae and Munn agree with this.
    • TPDs: as stated, we are sympathetic with Rhubaba. Even if the site remained industrial, the current building requires much work, so it would need to be vacated at some point. Protecting such spaces is a task for government, not small developers such as TPD.
  • Cllr Rae: on a wider scale, there is concern that developers are using Leith’s arts-reputation to sell their schemes, but artists are being priced out of the area. Developers should be prepared for much community knowledge at CC meetings.
    • TPDs: in response to this and other questions in the chat, we have looked hard into the area. We are happy to meet with Rhubaba to look at options, but their future accommodation is unlikely to be in the current building. TPDs’ scope is limited. CEC encourages car-free developments.
  • A resident: The CC needs to let residents speak. Arthur St/Pilrig St residents have been overlooked. Concerns include:
    1.  The wall next to my back garden is 1·8m high. TPDs plan to make it 31m high. The lean-to at the back of the site would be on back-lands.
    2. Access/security issues are real for residents – TPD should have commissioned a police report on the proposed lane, which has never existed, before submitting its application. (Access has always been from Leith Walk and Arthur St.)
    3. Sun-lighting is one thing – security and privacy are very important. I share two walls with the site, so I would suffer a major loss of privacy. TPD needs to meet residents face-to-face about this.
    4. TPD has bought the block in which Ian Cameron operates – residents need to know what will happen here.
    5. There must be direct dialogue with TPD to answer residents’ concerns, especially with residents of 7 to 5 Pilrig St.
  • TPDs:
    • we are happy to meet with representative residents, but much is driven by CEC requirements. Everyone in this meeting would be affected by the development, not just residents of 7 to 5 Pilrig St.
    • the building would be 14m high at its highest point – 31m is the height above sea-level.
  • P Forissier: it is disappointing that this meeting did not take place before the application was submitted, and that more assurance was not supplied then. I hope that TPD will resolve the concerns raised.
    • TPD: we did offer to meet LCCC before the application was submitted.
  • H Tobermann: (1) the conservation area predominantly has pitched roofs, so I suggest the new building does too. (2) the plans show drainage goes into a Scottish Water pipe on Arthur St Lane. This floods regularly, so I am concerned about drainage capacity – please consider this carefully.

5 Planning

5.a Status of current planning applications (APR 2021)

  • This was noted.
    • P Forissier: LCCC has objected to a development at 32-34 Maryfield that would use the wrong kind of slate.
    • P Forissier: LCCC will submit its comments on Arthur St on Friday 23 April.

5.b LCCC views sought on demolition of industrial warehouses and retention / refurbishment of sandstone building to create a residential-led mixed use development comprising 152 residential units and provision for a range of uses @| 106 – 162 Leith Walk Edinburgh EH6 5DX (20/05553/FUL) – deadline 3/5/21

  • LCCC’s position was delegated to LCCC’s planning committee because the deadline is before the next LCCC meeting.
    •  P Forissier: many new documents have recently been lodged, but it appears there are no major changes to plans.

5.c Any other planning matters relevant to LCCC area

None

6 Transport & clean streets

6.a Trams to Newhaven

1.a.i Proposed traffic regulations ‘to allow for the safe and efficient operation of Trams from York Place to Newhaven’ (TRO/20/24A) – deadline for objections 12/05/21 (likely to be extended by a few days)

  • H Tobermann: these TROs have now been lodged. They would constrain where parking and loading can happen, various turns, location of communal bins. They fit, broadly speaking, with the existing landscape design. There is limited scope to object, due to prior approval from the Tram Act. The underlying map used in these TROs is out of date, due to Ordnance Survey not having update its mapping of the area. 
    • I Mowat: will this matter be handled by LCCC’s transport and clean streets ctte? I would like LCCC to comment on the proposed removal of left turns from Leith Walk onto London Rd, and of right turns from London Rd onto Leith Walk.
    • H Tobermann: this may be the subject of a different TRO which may have already been passed. These TROs will be handled by LCCC’s T&CS committee. 
    • Action: LCCC to send their views to this ctte.
  • A Leith Walk resident: an environmental assessment plan (EIP) was submitted on 9 March. It was circulated to a few people yesterday. It shows that one tree outside my property has been saved but implies that CEC wishes to remove the other. One problem is that the TROs use old maps – it’s very hard to make sense of the TROs and the EIP together.
    • P Forissier: LCCC should ask CEC to clarify its position on these trees.
    • Cllr McNeese-Mechan: CEC has not answered my request for further information on this issue. There are often contradictory statements from different sections of CEC – it is not that officers are trying to hide information.
    • Action: P Forissier to seek clarification from CEC about the fate of these trees.

6.a.ii Further correspondence in the wake of the Atkins report on ground borne noises & vibrations

  • H Tobermann: this correspondence was published after the last LCCC meeting.

6.a.iii    Issues that have arisen for local residents or businesses that have not been dealt with satisfactorily by the Tram Project Team

  • A Leith Walk resident: the road surface outside my house is deteriorating. There is much vibration, causing damage to my property. Please can LCCC submit a complaint? My previous engagements with the trams team have been unproductive.
    • H Tobermann: please can you supply documentary proof, copying this to the trams team.

6.b First stage of (associated) legal process for introduction of Proposed Parking Controls (CPZ) in Pilrig, Leith Walk and Abbeyhill (TRO/21/03): ‘Formal objections are not invited at this stage, as a further period will be allowed for the submission of objections when the proposals are formally advertised […] at an early date’; background here.

This was noted.

6.c Timescale (APR-SEP21) for roll-out of new Communal Bin scheme in Leith Walk ward to coincide with CPZ and tram completion

This was noted.

6.d LCCC response to Bonnington CPZ consultation

This was noted.

6.e Any other Transport & clean streets matters relevant to LCCC area

None

7 Open Forum (local residents)[1]

  • A McIntosh: the Spurtle is holding a hustings for Edinburgh Northern and Leith at 7pm tomorrow.

8 AOCB (LCCC members)[2]

  • J Caldwell: A Woodgate and I did a ‘ward patrol’: we walked 50% of LCCC’s area to directly see current issues. We reported 14 overflowing bins, 2 issues with street-signs, 4 instances of fly-tipping. CEC dealt with a quarter of these within 24 hours.
    • We published the results on LCCC’s MS Team to see which members are using it.
    • We also published on LCCC’s social media, leading to LCCC’s biggest such engagement, including 100 new Facebook followers. We hope to formalise use of ‘ward patrols’ at the forthcoming AGM – it received much public support. For example, we met the resident mention in item 6 above, so could see the issue he’s facing. Patrols could be ‘rotated’ so LCCC colleagues covering licensing, transport, planning etc see what’s happening in the area.
    • A Woodgate: LCCC’s area is massive and diverse. Getting to know the issues is very valuable for my LCCC work.
    • C Encombe: I highly commend this work, but suggest using a less ‘official’ name, e.g. ‘ward walks’.
    • L Watters: I would very much like to be involved.

9 Bulletin[3]

The following items were noted:

  • St Mark’s Park football ground suffering from vandalism (EN, 7/4/21)
  • FOI response: Noise Complaints by ward and month JAN19 – FEB21

10 Future ordinary meetings (usually 3rd Monday of the month), AGM and meeting topics/presentations

  • I Mowat: LCCC’s new auditor is asking many questions, so it may be helpful to delay the AGM until June
  • C Encombe: CEC has not yet advised if such a delay is forbidden, so I am minded to wait until June. I would favour a presentation by the archaeologist.[4]
  • I Mowat: such a presentation might reduce the time needed for discussion at the AGM.
  • H Tobermann: LCCC should ascertain whether members want to continue meeting on 3rd Mondays of each month.
  • Decision: LCCC to continue meeting on 3rd Mondays (nem con)

11 Appendix 1: Rhubaba’s statement about the proposed Arthur St development

‘Erasure of Rhubaba/ Rhubaba’s Positive Impact’

Our first objection is that in the proposal Rhubaba Gallery and Studios, which has been at 25 Arthur Street for 10 years has been erased as if it doesn’t exist on the site. This appears as either a result of major negligence on the part of the developer to research the site which contains a unique space that’s crucial to the art eco system in Edinburgh, or as a tactic to overcome Edinburgh Council’s policies which state they will:

46. Continue to support the city’s major festivals which generate jobs and boost local businesses and increase the funding for local festivals and events. Support the creation of further work spaces for artists and craftspeople.

For those who do not know Rhubaba is a charitable and artist-run organization. It has an exhibition space and a public programme which is funded by Creative Scotland and is always free for the public to attend. In addition to exhibitions we have workshops, events, and a community choir who use the space to rehearse. We are also partners of Edinburgh Art Festival, a major festival in the city which generates jobs/revenue for the city. This year we are running a programme that seeks to centre the voices/impact of Black people in the arts in Scotland. We are currently producing a series of workshops, a publication and a potential public exhibition that highlights the legacy and work of the overlooked Scottish Black artist, Maud Sulter. In addition we are working on a programme of Covid safe art activities with 9-12 year olds who go to Edinburgh Young Carers and supporting 2 emerging artists with research based residencies where they have an opportunity to make a new work or test ideas.

The programme also generates jobs and work for artists with all artists being paid Scottish Artist Union recommended rates. It is estimated that we have helped to support/employ over 400 people in the past 10 years. We have worked closely with students and graduates from Edinburgh College of Art and Edinburgh Colleges Contemporary Art Practice HND. In short, the impact of Rhubaba reaches beyond Leith or Edinburgh, and supports the wider cultural sector over Scotland.

A study by the Scottish Artists Union found that Artists and the wider workforce live throughout Scotland but are more likely to reside in the central belt —Half of respondents in this report lived in Glasgow (30%) or Edinburgh (20%).This is important to note as the loss of an organisation such as Rhubaba that works to support so many artists and practitioners in Scotland, would result in the displacement of arts residing in Edinburgh and could even lead to the erasure of a large part of Scotland’s cultural economy, as an integral support system for artists will no longer exist here. This is especially precarious now due to the impacts of the Covid 19 pandemic. During 2020’s lockdown Rhubaba was awarded a large sum of money so we could close for the safety of the community and none of the studio holders had to pay rent for 6 months.

Affordability

As well as the gallery Rhubaba has affordable studios for 23 artists living in Edinburgh at any time, and we have been home to over 120 artists in the past 10 years. There remains a steady demand for the space, especially now with the financial implications of the Covid 19 pandemic on artists and the need for affordable and flexible spaces to work in which are lacking in Edinburgh. Edinburgh lacks affordable (between £60 and £125 per month) work spaces for artists in the city centre which is vital. We feel it is important to give some insight into the working conditions of artists living in an expensive city such as Edinburgh. These are some statistics from the Scottish Artists Union and Creative Scotland and I will post links to these documents in the chat for further reading:

Did you know that in Scotland*

81% of artists are self employed;

83% earn less than £10k per year from their practice;

59% have never received public funding;

88% do not get contracts consistently;

61% receive less than the industry standard rates of pay;

Only 11% state regularly receiving the industry standard rate of pay;

75% seldom or never receive a fee for exhibitions;

53% of artists do not believe the sector is healthy and viable for their practice.

The average (median) income (from all sources) for all respondents was £14,000 which is well below the national average of £27,000*

*https://www.artistsunion.scot/memberssurvey_2017

[https://www.creativescotland.com/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/36485/What-we-learned-SCAN.pdf]

In a Quote by studio holder, Jennifer Cuthilli stated that: ‘Rhubaba is such an important space for community, motivation and support. Without it, Edinburgh would lose one of its only affordable studios, which would be heartbreaking for anyone who lives in the city as an artist.’

Considering the average income of artists being well below the apparent average we also wonder how that correlates to the ‘affordability’ of some of the flats proposed for people on lower incomes. In addition, Edinburgh City Council Policy sets the minimum percentage of affordable housing for developments of 12 units or more at 25%. The proposed application fails to meet this minimum. We feel strongly about this as the developers seek to demolish an important cultural site that supports artists and provides affordable studio spaces, only to replace it with unaffordable profit driven housing that we feel does not seek to benefit the area of Leith or the surrounding residents. The removal of Rhubaba’s studios from Leith would displace artists and creatives from the area which would negatively impact the overall cultural ‘ecosystem’ of Edinburgh as artists will no longer be able to support themselves in the city and move elsewhere.

Heritage

The Heritage Statement cites the buildings as having ‘no architectural merit and have a deadening street presence, comprising large expanses of walls with few openings.’

This is inconsistent with Edinburgh City Council’s stated Commitments for improving lives and futures in the city (available here: https://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/council-commitments), in particular points 15:

15. Protect Edinburgh World Heritage Status and make sure developments maintain the vibrancy of our city in terms of placemaking, design and diversity of use;

The proposal was accompanied with a misleading image of the new-build portion of the site rather than the original brick of section half of the building. In addition, Rhubaba introduced a glass frontage funded by Creative Scotland’s Cultural Economy programme which was a fund aimed to build the long-term organisational resilience and financial sustainability of the cultural and creative sector in Scotland. The frontage was designed to increase its visibility within the street, in direct contrast to the report’s comment that there are ‘few openings’.

The site is a conservation area and the proposal to demolish the site acts as an erasure of the current buildings which removes Leith’s history and the heritage to do with people’s lived experience, through previous industry and the rich history of the area. The proposal will act to further develop Edinburgh and Leith into an area of homogeneous, unaffordable housing set up for personal profit and is in direct contrast to the interest or the benefit of the surrounding communities and the cities’ vital social and cultural hubs.


[1] This agenda point allows members of the public to raise issues of public interest.

[2] This agenda point allows LCCC members to raise issues not covered by the agenda.

[3] Items of local interest that may be raised at a future LCCC meeting (not for discussion at this meeting)

[4] This would be a talk by CEC Archeology Officer and FCA on findings at 70, 72 Newhaven Road (17/01183/FUL)