Tuesday, 24 May 2016

I'll be voting Leave

Yesterday I gave a few deadline dates for the referendum on Thursday 23rd June.  Today I note my position.

There are many reasons why I will vote to leave the EU.  I laid out just a few of them in this article.

Below is the trailer and a short clip on life outside the EU from the film.  You can get the full film here.  It is well worth just over an hour of your time.


There are many more in Brexit the Movie.  It is just over an hour long and well worth your time.


Monday, 23 May 2016

Useful facts about the referendum

Four weeks to the referendum this Thursday.  To Remain or to Leave, that is the question.  I'll give my view tomorrow but in the meantime here is some helpful information about registering, getting a postal vote or a proxy (getting someone else to vote for you).

If you are eligible to vote you will by now have received (or will receive in the next few days) a card notifying you of your entitlement to vote, or a letter stating that you will in due course be sent a postal voting form.

You can still register to vote or apply for a postal or proxy vote.  Here are the deadline dates.

  • Register to vote by Tuesday 7th June
  • Application for a postal vote must be received by 5pm on Wednesday 8th June
  • If you wish to apply for a proxy vote your application must be in by 5pm, 15th June
  • It you want to change or cancel existing arrangements that must be done by 5pm on 8th June
EU citizens and 16 and 17 year olds cannot vote in the referendum.

If you are not sure if you are already registered you can phone 0131 344 2500 to check.

And there is more information on this website.  You can download application forms at the same link.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Syrian refugees update

I'm often asked about the progress of the settlement programme for Edinburgh.  As some of this has not been reported widely elsewhere here are a few key points to update.
  • The first families arrived on 17th November last year
  • There are currently 15 families and 58 individuals in Edinburgh
  • Housing has been provided in the private rented sector
  • Almost all costs have been provided by the UK Home Office 
  • Schooling, English language teaching and job coaching is all being provided as appropriate
  • Edinburgh Council committed to take 100 in the first year and the remainder of those planned to come to Edinburgh are expected over the summer
  • Edinburgh Council agreed earlier this week to extend the city's involvement in the resettlement scheme taking similar numbers (around 100) each year for a further four years.
  • Discussions are under way for the resettlement of some unaccompanied asylum seeking children
  • Whilst the Council is leading in negotiations, a number of other organisations are involved such as Edinburgh Churches for Sanctuary, FreshStart, the Central Mosque as well as private individuals
  • It should be noted that there are many other refugees and asylum seekers in Edinburgh beyond this UK Government sponsored programme as well as organisations endeavouring to help them
You can see the latest Council report here.

I've made contact with some of the refugees - some of whom were provided with accommodation in the ward.  That has been a good experience though basic things like language has been a challenge in communication at this stage.  In many ways they are well provided for.  I sense the biggest need is for meaningful socialisation and integration with neighbours and the community.  Early days yet.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Road repairs coming up in Southside & Newington

Here are the streets scheduled for repair before the end of March 2017.  They are in no order.

  • Clerk Street from Rankeillor St to South Clerk St - 1038 sqm of resurfacing
  • Clerk St/S Clerk St to West Preston Street - 4015 sqm, resurfacing
  • Nicolson Street, S College St to Nicolson Sq - 1922 sqm resurfacing
  • Newington Road, West Preston Street to W Newington Pl - 1332 sqm resurfacing
  • Blackford Avenue, Oswald Road to S Oswald Road -1331 sqm of surface treatment
  • Chapel Street, Windmill Street to Bussleuch St - 494 sqm surface treatment
  • Holyrood Park Road, Dalkeith Road to sub station - 2869 sqm surface treatment
  • Pleasance - 8807 sqm surface treatment
  • Buccleuch Street, Meadow Lane to Boroloch - 502 sqm surface treatment
  • Priestfield Road - 3563 sqm of pavement treatment
  • MacDowall Road - 631 sqm of pavement treatment both sides
It remains to be seen how many of these will be completed by March 2017.

It's the Grange Fair this Saturday

Between 1pm and 4:30pm at Newington Library in Fountainhall Road the Grange Fair will provide much entertainment, stalls and the opportunity to meet people.

More details on this Facebook page.

Community Day in the Southside

Southside Community Council have organised a Community Day for Saturday between 10am and 4pm.

Members of the Community Council will be based beside Tesco in Nicolson Street and will welcome comments and ideas to improve life in the Southside.

Do go along and chat and meet.   More details here.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

More on roads

I have now obtained a list of Southside & Newington streets to undergo carriageway works in the current financial year. But I'll leave them till the next post and concentrate on one of the reasons why our roads are in such a mess.

That reason is because not all the planned work for last year was achieved.  In Southside & Newington ward along, the following works scheduled for the financial year up to March 2016 were not carried out:
  • St Patrick Square and Clerk Street - 561 square meters of strengthening
  • East Preston Street - 3260 sqm of strengthening the whole road
  • (Priestfield Road - 3563 sqm of footway surfacing)* 
  • (MacDowall Road - 631 sqm footway surface treatment, both sides)*
  • Viewcraig Street - 1148 sqm of footway flags
So all of these plans were not achieved last year.

And overall for the city, there is little prospect of catching up at all this year - partly because of the reorganisation within the Council which is ongoing.  It will take the new reorganised staff some time to get up to speed.  Certainly there is a plan, belatedly, but it is unlikely to begin to eat into the backlog until the next financial year - April 2017.  If at all. 

I'll leave the list for 2016/17 repairs in the ward to a subsequent post.

*Correction 1050hrs 110516:  I made an error copying from the spreadsheet and included the Priestfield Road and MacDowell Road in the list of works carried over from 2015/16.  I understand they were allocated to the current financial year. Apologies for the error.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Whitehouse Loan saga continues

A candidate for the most potholed street in Scotland, Whitehouse Loan is a mess.  I noted the other day an MSP tweeting that it is the street with potholes inside the potholes.  Not good at all.

First the latest update on its scheduled repair.  Then a few more general comments about why Edinburgh is in this mess.

Having asked as recently as the beginning of March, only to be told that the long awaited repair was scheduled for the beginning of the financial year (April/May), I can now report further slippage!  The current plan is for work to begin in July to September.  Sigh.  This is for the section from Bruntsfield Place to Strathearn.

So why is Edinburgh the worst performing Council of the four Scottish cities for maintaining its roads?

It is not just a question of not enough money - though more than the current approximately £20m allocated could go a long way.  I say 'could' because it is easy to see the money available is not being used efficiently as I will show in a subsequent post.

Managing our roads is wracked by inefficiency and wrong strategic decisions.  And the stewardship of the current administration over the last 4 years has seen our roads get worse.  Oh for an opportunity to sort them out.  We'll have to wait till the Council elections next May for that opportunity.

NB For more on the history of Whitehouse Loan roads see my post here.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Scottish Charity Awards - Local group short listed

The Southside Association has been shortlisted for the 2016 competition for organising the mural which, over the last year, has brightened up Gifford Park.

You can find details of the awards on the SCVO website here and the 'Celebrating Communities' section is here.

You can vote and find more information about the Southside Association nomination here.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Royal Blind project wins community grant vote

Forward Vision is a programme for young people between 17 and 25 who have severe visual impairment or other serious disabilities.  The winning proposal for a community grant is to provide a speciality Bird's Nest Swing for young people at the Royal Blind Centre in Canaan Lane under this programme.  See full details of the very worthy project here.

All of the other projects bidding can be seen on this page.  The results, after votes had been cast are in the order shown below (the ones mentioned are likely to benefit from a grant - click on each for more details):

  1. Royal Blind
  2. Access to Industry - helping young people recover from substance abuse
  3. Home Link family support - providing support for struggling families
  4. Tap Into It - an organisation helping people, especially older people get online for the first time.
  5. Crags Community Sports Centre - project to take basketball and football into community settings
  6. CY - Canongate Youth provides support to children and their families.  This project is to develop their Cafe run as a training experience for young people.
  7. Bamboobelly Bandstand - a project to improve the grassy area behind the police box at the top of Middle Meadow Walk and provide a performance area.
There were other votes too.  The following roads and pavement repairs were prioritised:
  1. Nicolson Street pavement repairs - click link to see where
  2. More Nicolson Street pavement repairs
  3. Braid Road - resurface the north end
  4. Granville Terrace - resurface part of footway
  1. Viewcraig Gardens steps to community garden at Brown Street
  2. Prestonfield Park
I didn't manage to note the order of the remaining bids.

Additional note 2200hrs 300416:  I understand there were around 230 people voting.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Millers win appeal for 10 homes at East Suffolk Road

On 18th December last year the Development Management Sub-Committee refused the application by Miller Homes to build 10 houses on the former St Margaret's playing fields.  The refusal was by 8 votes to six.  Permission was given for the moving of the Pavilion on an even closer vote - a 7-7 tied vote was approved by the Convenor's casting vote.

Miller Homes appealed to the Scottish Government Reporter and their appeal has been granted.  Here is a summary of the Reporter's views.
"The Reporter has issued an intentions letter stating she intends to grant planning permission subject to a legal agreement at the East Suffolk Road site for 10 dwellings.
Summary:  The Reporter considered the determining issues to be the impact on the conservation areaand listed buildings, whether the loss of open space accorded with the development plan and whether material considerations justify approval or refusal.
Conservation Area and listed buildings: The Reporter found that areas of open space and domestic gardens, irrespective of whether they are private or publically accessible, contributed to the character and appearance of the area.  The Reporter found the appeal site was discretely located in terms of its relationship with the wider conservation area and is largely hidden from view from all but the immediately surrounding properties. She noted Arthur's Seat was a prominent landmark from views within the site and at other parts of the conservation area. The Reporter found the site was not a particularly visible feature and did not contribute significantly in visual terms to the character or appearance of the wider conservation area.  She found views of Arthur's Seat would not be obscured by the development and the proposal would not be harmful to the views within and out of the conservation area.  The Reporter was also satisfied the proposed dwellings were in keeping with the conservation area's architectural character. The setting of nearby listed buildings would also be preserved. The Reporter raised no concerns about relocating the pavilion and found passive surveillance would be improved and assist in protecting the building.
 Open Space:  The Reporter found the site's contribution to quality and character was from its use of passive open space and had aesthetic value to the conservation area.  The Reporter noted the appeal proposal would leave 42% of the site as accessible open space, including generous gardens and improved public accessibility.  The Reporter found there would be no significant adverse impact on the quality or character of the environment as a result of the development.
Other consideration: The Reporter considered other material policy considerations and was satisfied the appeal proposal met them.
The  Reporter concluded the proposal accorded with the development plan and there were no material considerations to justify refusal."
Full details of the Reporter's decision should soon be available on this website.  The appeal reference is PPA-230-2172 

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Helping you decide how to cast your vote

Yesterday I posted information about a vote to allocate a small proportion of Council funds locally in which any ward resident vote.

Today this link came across my desk.  Ideal for election geeks, it may be useful in finding out a bit more about candidates, the electoral system and the possible effects of your vote for the Holyrood election one week tomorrow.  Well worth a look.

The local Holyrood constituencies (to this ward) are Edinburgh Southern and Edinburgh Central. The latter takes in from Minto Street and the Pollock Halls of Residence northwards.

I should point out that the link gives access to information about elections all across the country.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Vote for local improvements and projects

This Saturday there is an opportunity for local residents to vote and allocate priorities for small projects within the Southside & Newington and Meadows and Morningside wards.

The event is in Nicolson Square at the Methodist Church from 11am.  The results will be announced between 3 and 4pm.

There are three tranches of money available for projects:

  1. Road Improvement proposals.  You can see the 8 proposals here.  They are estimated to be worth around £134,000 but it is unlikely all can be completed.  Hence the prioritisation required.
  2. Community Grants. There are 21 proposals but insufficient money to go round them all.  Hence the selection of which projects are to be adopted.  See the proposals here.
  3. Housing Revenue Account proposals.  There are 14 and you can see them here.  The amount available is 
You must be a resident in one of the two wards to be allowed to vote.  All residents are welcome.  I'll see you there.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Fill in a survey about the police

Police Scotland are asking for your views.  The survey will take around 15 minutes and includes a free text section for any comments you have which are not covered by the survey questions.

The survey is here.

Friday, 22 April 2016

No clarity on when schools revert to normal

Here is the latest briefing from Edinburgh Council's Chief Executive:
Edinburgh Schools Partnership has advised the Council that it should not expect to receive details of when the PP1 schools will be available for pupils until the end of next week.  We had expected to have a clearer picture by the end of this week and I am disappointed that this information has been delayed.
We have been in constant dialogue with Edinburgh Schools Partnership and they are aware of our concerns. It is important that we have clear information regarding the condition of these schools and when they will be safe to reopen.  I know that parents, teachers and pupils will share my frustration at this delay.  The safety of our children is our number one priority and we all want our schools to reopen safely, as soon as possible.
 We are doing everything we can so that ESP can provide the Council with the information which will allow us to make a decision regarding the next steps.  As soon as I have further information I shall update you.    Andrew Kerr, Chief Executive