SOUTHSIDE COMMUNITY COUNCIL
Monday 14 March 2016, at 7pm
The Gray Room, Nelson Hall, 5 Spittalfield Crescent, Edinburgh
Present: Philip McDowell (PMcD, chair), Deborah Charlesworth (DC Secretary), Joan Carter (JC), Kaaren Haughton (KH), Robert Hodgart (RH), Nicholas Oddy (NO), Councillor Perry
1. Apologies for absence: Gloria Lo, David Benyon, Dora Lola-Luz, Barbara O’Loughlin, Svetlana Repanova, Tim Pogson, David Wood, Jonny Ross-Tatam
2. Police Report
PC Leslie reported on crimes during the month (total 93, of which 41% were solved). Most were drug crimes (19), vandalism (13), and a minority were robbery (1), assault (5), and housebreaking (2). The police have been checking for anti-social behavior in the Innocent Railway tunnel, and making foot patrols around pubs. A decrease in legal high problems has been maintained.
There will be an event with advice on security of domestic properties at the Eric Liddell Centre, from 6-8 pm on Thursday March 24th.
3. Minutes of the Community Council meeting held on 8 February 2016
The minutes of the Community Council meeting were approved after 2 clarifications (that the developers mentioned in item 3 are the developers of the Homebase site, and the replacement of trees is for Lutton Place, and that RH provided a report on the MABLAG meeting held on 16th Nov. 2015 at the 11 January SCC meeting).
KH attended a MABLAG meeting, and reported that the main topic was the use of the Meadows for events during the summer, and that none of the money paid by organisers of events is ring-fenced specifically to pay for anything in the Meadows, and that it was requested that rangers to patrol the Meadows were requested to be provided from this money.
JC supported an application by Benet Haughton for funds from “South Centra£ Decides” funding for neighbourhood improvements might be to improve the path from St. Leonards to Dumbiedykes and Holyrood Park, specifically for the kerb to be replaced with a ramp at the bottom, and an entrance to the park to be made.
JC proposed that a future funding attempt might be to support activities to
encourage proper use of refuse bins.
JC will contact the students who came to the February meeting, from a course on conservation architecture, to offer to discuss with them how the presence of students affects the neighbourhood. RH also offered to meet these students.
4. Councillor’s report
Cllr Ian Perry outlined the council’s plans to reduce staff by 2,000 (about 10%). This should save the amount of money that is necessitated by the cuts in funding, and takes into account the possibility of a 3% increase in council tax. He stated that no community centres will be closed, but that they will be offered the option to set themselves up as separate from the council, which would give access to funding, such as the lottery funds, that are not possible for council-run organisations.
He described a consultation meeting about student housing in the Southside at which it was agreed that efforts should be made to maintain a mixed community. However, he explained that the council has no effective control, as the Scottish government reporter can over-rule planning decisions, as has recently happened in our area. In answer to questions, he explained that no guidelines for the reporter’s decisions exist, and that student housing developments do not pay business rates, and the student residents pay no council tax, making these developments very attractive to developers. However, it has been agreed that developments larger than 2.5 hectares must be mixed, with 25% social housing at affordable rents, as in other developments, though or in some cases these are for sale at mid-market prices.
He outlined the current situation with respect to the Skelf bike skills park, and the opposition to trees having been cut down, despite the fact that few objections were raised during the consultations, and how this will be resolved.
He also outlined events on the Meadows during the summer, including the offer from Underbelly to pay extra money for extra set-up and take-down time.
5. Reports from Chair, Secretary & Treasurer
Treasurer’s report: The bank account is now open.
Secretary’s report: DC to write complaining about the short notice for funding opportunities, specifically the Scottish Civic Trust My Place award, and to Historic Environment Scotland in support of the requests from the East Parkside Proprietors' Association concerning road management in Holyrood Park.
6. Reports from Committees
Communication Group: PMcD showed the set of potential logos for the SCC, including one he designed, which was preferred to the others, and which it was agreed to adopt, subject to some minor changes. He distributed postcards advertising the SCC and explaining its work, with pictures of the Gifford Park mural. These are for distribution to libraries and other public places.
The community day on May 14th was briefly discussed. Gareth Barwell, from the Waste Management team has offered to send a member of his team to attend, and JC agreed to draft a set of questions to help start discussions with people who stop at the SCC’s table.
Planning Group: GL provided a report, but was unable to attend. No agreed to move to this group, which has few members, from the Environment group, and DC agreed to join the planning group.
7. Public Question Time: Angus Calder (firstname.lastname@example.org) reported on the current status of the Skelf bike project (see also http://theskelf.org.uk), and explained that the tree cutting was done suddenly because the season for birds nesting starts soon after permission was given, and it is important not to cut trees once the birds have built their nests for the spring. He mentioned that wood chips are available for anyone interested, and that a tree planting day has been arranged for Saturday March 26th, and the area should then start to improve. The SCC expressed confidence that the environment will be appropriately respected. The SCC expressed support for this project.
8. Any other business: There was a brief discussion of RH’s paper on the operation of community councils. RH had circulated a paper on the implications of CCs being democratic forums, like City of Edinburgh Council and the Scottish Parliament. RH's paper emphasised that CCs as genuine democratic forums must show respect for minority views and be tolerant of frank debate and open dissent and not confuse dissent with disloyalty. There was a brief discussion of the paper. Comments were generally supportive of the ideas in the paper. JC pointed out, however, that while CCs had the right to change decisions previously made as a result of ongoing debate, if decisions and policies were changed or reversed too quickly, frequently and radically, this could disrupt consensus building, especially if the issue was not of major or urgent significance. KH said she thought that the contents of RH's paper were incontestable, but added that the discussion of democracy needed to be expanded to thinking about the need for other democratic forums like CEC and its agencies and like the SP to treat CCs with respect for their views as fellow democratic bodies in our system of democratic government and participation. RH agreed on the latter point, but noted that his paper as such was really only concerned with the internal operations and practices of CCs, not with how external bodies behaved towards them.
Date of next meeting: April 12th 2016