Thursday, 21 August 2014

Edinburgh WILL fly the flag

Yesterday I noted there was a move to fly the Palestinian flag. 

Initially the Labour and SNP leadership of the Council indicated they would not accept this - but at the last minute they changed their position and agreed to fly the Palestinain flag apparently as a 'gesture of support for the people of Gaza.'   Certainly it is only for one day and there will be the longer term appeal flag to enable/encourage contributions to the DEC fund for Gaza.  But there will be a letter of condemnation to the the Israeli ambassador in London.  There was little attempt to be non partisan or even to recognise the context of the events in Israel and Gaza - and scant regard for the other conflicts which are causing humanitarian suffering on an enormous scale.

I moved the counter motion which was, alas, defeated:  Edinburgh Council. . .
1. notes the appalling suffering associated with the death, injury and displacement of families in current conflicts which include:
a. Gaza
b. Syria
c. Iraq
d. Ukraine
e. South Sudan
2. recognises the desire of many in Edinburgh to contribute to the relief of such suffering
3. notes that Edinburgh already has strong links with Mercy Corps, an international humanitarian agency experienced and active in relieving suffering in disaster areas including most of the above current conflict areas
4. notes that the European Headquarters of Mercy Corps is in Edinburgh
5. resolves to fly an appeal flag which prominently features Mercy Corps appeal donation information to encourage generous giving for humanitarian relief in the above, and other, conflicts and disasters
6. agrees to promote actively the significance of the flag and the opportunity to give generously via Mercy Corps.
My comments are at this link (11 mins long)  A sad day for Edinburgh.

Note:  Mercy Corps provide humanitarian relief in, I think 40 countries.  Despite what the Council Leader claimed, it would have been a simple matter to promote a single number for donations for the majority of the places I have highlighted via Mercy Corps - instead of the single Gaza relief number.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Flying the flag

Tomorrow your councillors will be discussing a proposal to fly a Palestinian flag above the City Chambers in 'solidarity with the people of Gaza'.  I'm afraid that kind of campaigning and politicking on international issues doesn't excite me.  Especially where, with dreadful conflict and suffering in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, South Sudan as well as Gaza there are plenty of conflict hotspots.

Better would be flying a flag of a humanitarian relief agency with contact details enabling people to give generously.   And we have the European Headquarters of one such agency right here in the ward.  Mercy Corps is based in Sciennes and it is active in most of the current theatres of conflict.

Certainly, I have been moved to make a donation to them (along with another charity working in Iraq).    I just think that is rather a more appropriate response than making a onesided political gesture which picks sides in a complex Middle East conflict. 

And so the Conservative will move against the flag proposal tomorrow.

For more comments on this see the website of the Edinburgh Conservative councillors.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Jack and the WW1 memorial

Local historian and author Jack Alexander is fronting an appeal to improve the Hearts Memorial clock at Haymarket with an appeal to fund some historical inscriptions and improvements to the clock.  In his words:
"The memorial is sacrosanct, but since it’s been returned to the traffic island, to commemorate the centenary of the First World War we will be putting in some landscaping around it. Some of the slabs around it will be carved. It’s going to be very discreet. It’s not going to be grand or fussy.“We decided that it would be a good idea to put some simple carving into the paving slabs around it, and also to add a very low railing around the paving at the bottom of the memorial to secure wreaths that are placed during the main service in November."
All very appropriate in this 100th anniversary year. More here.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Ticking off for Tikka

I've been away for a few days.  Normal service with more regular local posts will now resume.

In April the Tikka Masala Indian Takeaway in the Pleasance was closed down for a couple of weeks because an 'infestation' and other problems.

See the details here in this report.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Tenement cycle parking update

Pilots for onstreet and secure cycle parking are taking a long time.   The one pilot site within the Southside/Newington area is in South Oxford Street.  Alas, there are delays as this extract from a letter notes.
". . . Unfortunately our supplier has experienced delays in manufacturing the roll-top style units which are proposed for South Oxford Street. Whilst we are pressuring the supplier for installation as soon as possible, we have yet to receive a date for installation. Please accept our apologies for not updating residents on the delays sooner. We will update interested applicants on this delay by the end of the week. . . . "

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

KB wave simulator now open

UK Government minister Amber Rudd MP officially opened the new wave simulator at King's Buildings yesterday.  More details of this research facility here.

I have the distinct impression from academics I have spoken to in the ward recently that the provision of research facilities and funding from or via the UK government inclines many of them to favour the UK staying together.  Cue debate.

Blackford/Newington priority parking update

Priority Parking is now set to proceed in the above area.  I last posted at the beginning of June when there was a report to the Transport Committee recommending a further consultation because only 6% of residents in the area supported the scheme.

In the event the Transport Committee did not accept that recommendation and decided to proceed with the scheme subject to consultation with the four councillors.    At the subsequent discussion amongst the councillors I argued that there should be a consultation on a smaller scheme covering the areas where there was stronger support.  The other three councillors disagreed - and so the scheme is to go ahead.

Therefore, because the Committee decision is to go ahead on the original area subject to consultation, there is no requirement for further consultation.  Work is therefore expected to being on implementing the scheme in the late autumn.

Just a reminder of the streets affected:
  • Blackbarony Road
  • Craigmillar park
  • Crawfurd Road
  • East Savile Road
  • Gilmour Road
  • Gordon Terrace
  • Hallhead Road
  • Lygon Road
  • Mayfield Road
  • Ross Road
  • Savile Terrace
  • Suffolk Road
  • West Savile Road
  • Wilton Road
The scheme will create a selection of parking bays which will be restricted to permit holders for an hour and a half (or so) each day, thus limiting (but not eliminating) commuter parking.

See the link above to my last post on this for a further link to the report to the Transport Committee which contains much more detail.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Advertising hoardings appeal now in

The appeal by Forrest Media against the decision of the Council planning committee to have the internally lit advertising panel removed, is now in.  The planning committee decision has been upheld.  Now this is going to be another technical post.  In fact, as I know a number of people locally have been following this closely, I will replicate the appeal decision in full. In due course (but not yet) it should be available at this link.  (Previous posts September 2012 and February 2014.)
I dismiss the appeal and refuse to grant advertisement consent.
1. Regulation 4(1) of the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements)
(Scotland) Regulations 1984 limits the exercise of the powers of control of advertisements
solely to the interests of amenity and public safety, and these matters are elaborated in
regulation 4(2). In particular regulation 4(2)(a) requires consideration “in the light of the
general characteristics of the locality, including the presence of any feature of historic,
architectural, cultural or similar interests”. In this case the council’s reason for refusal
relates solely to amenity and no issues of concern were raised in relation to public safety.
With the benefit of my site visit, and having regard to road conditions in the locality, that is not a view with which I would agree. In terms of regulation 21(7), Scottish Ministers may reverse or vary any part of the decision of the planning authority whether or not the appeal relates to that part or may deal with the application as if it had been made to them in the first instance. Accordingly, on the basis of the site inspection and the written submissions, I consider that the determining issues in this appeal are whether the proposed display would be contrary to the interests of amenity and public safety.
2. The appeal site is situated on the east side of Holyrood Park Road, a short distance
to the north of its traffic light controlled junction with Dalkeith Road. It is the south-west
corner of ground occupied by Parkside Bowling Club which lies immediately adjacent to the public car park entrance to the Royal Commonwealth Pool. To the south, north and west the bowling club is bounded by a substantial stone boundary wall measuring some 2
metres in height. The Royal Commonwealth Pool, to the south, and the Scottish Widows
hexagonal office building, which lie directly opposite the site and also face toward Dalkeith Road, are both category A listed buildings.  To the immediate north of the site are the grounds of the University of Edinburgh Pollock Halls of Residence where a number of the buildings are Category A listed.  There is a shared vehicular entrance to the bowling club car park and the grounds of Pollock Halls.

3. The proposal seeks consent for the display of an internally illuminated advertisement
panel measuring 6.540 metres long by 3.456 metres high sitting on a single pedestal unit
giving an overall display height of 5.5 metres. The panel would replace an existing
unauthorised display of the same dimensions. The difference between the proposal and
the existing display is that the lower edge of the proposed panel would sit level with the top of the boundary wall rather than there being a gap between the two, thus reducing the
overall height of the display.
4. Government policy remains that which is set out in SDD Circular 10/1984, and whilst
paragraph 17 recognises that properly displayed and well designed advertisements are well accepted and approved by the general public and their presence in many street scenes will enhance and improve the environment, it also makes clear that applications for consent must be considered on their merits, in terms of their effects on the area concerned.
5. In this case the appeal site lies in close proximity to a number of listed buildings, the
boundary of a conservation area and, to an area of Great Landscape Value. The
immediate and wider area, although of mixed leisure, commercial and residential use,
enjoys a high standard of environment quality. In such circumstances there is a need for
careful control and there must be a reasonable degree of restraint in any proposed
commercial advertisement display so that undistinguished or irrelevant proposals do not
compromise such buildings or locations.
6. In amenity terms, even allowing for the qualified support to be found in Circular
10/1984, there is no doubt that the appeal site is located in a very sensitive location and it
is reasonable to adopt a stricter approach to the control of advertisements than might be
appropriate in some other areas. Whilst I acknowledge that the proposal would have little
impact on the views or settings of the listed buildings or disrupt the views to Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Craggs, it would nevertheless be an unrelated feature which would have no functional relationship with the site. It would be isolated and would offer no improvement to the site or the area in general. The panels proportions are large and even allowing for the slight lowering of overall display height, it would create an over conspicuous and obtrusive feature in the streetscape and this impact would clearly increase when it is illuminated. My conclusion is that the proposal would have an intolerable visual impact on the amenity of the locality, therefore, it would be detrimental to the interests of amenity.
7. The second determining issue relates to the question of public safety. The primary
purpose of any roadside advertisement is, of course, to be noticeable and to draw attention otherwise it would not be performing the function for which it is intended. Holyrood Park Road in the vicinity of the appeal has a wide two lane carriageway on both sides which are separated with a hard surfaced central reservation. It is a busy commuter route. For vehicles joining from Dalkeith Road and seeking entrance to the Royal Commonwealth Pool car park and the Pollock Halls of Residence there are breaks in the central reservation plus filter lanes.  A pedestrian controlled crossing is located, approximately at an equal distance, between the two access points. On the opposite side of the road there is an entrance to the Scottish Widows car park.  I noted on my site visit traffic flow was regular in both directions, and although the pedestrian crossing and public use of the Commonwealth Pool car park was temporarily suspended, there was constant movement to and from the Pollock Halls and the Scottish Widows car park together with pedestrians regularly crossing the road carriageway.  Where there is a combination of regular traffic flow, lane and turning manoeuvres and continual pedestrian crossing, there will be cause for concern. Although such concern may be minimal, a large raised eyecatching advertisement display has the potential to unnecessarily distract drivers’ attention to the extent that public safety standards would be reduced. I therefore conclude that the proposal could be a potentially dangerous additional distraction to road users and consent should also be refused on public safety criteria.

8. I have taken account of all matters raised in the submissions, giving careful
consideration in particular to the site history, the council’s earlier decision under reference 12/02171/ADV and the grounds of appeal, but find none that outweigh the considerations that the proposal subject to appeal is unacceptable because it would be contrary to the interests of amenity and public safety.
D T Alexander

Organic Jim

Like many of you I have spent some time chatting with Organic Jim. He's back in my part of the ward.  A number of you have contacted me over the last couple of years or more asking what we can do about him or for him.

For those not familiar with Jim, he is a tramp, quite an articulate gentleman of the road, who sleeps mainly al fresco or in stairs.  He has an absolute mass of stuff which he has collected and drags around with him.  Much of it is salvaged from your bins.  He frequents the Grange, Newington and Sciennes and, doubtless, many other places. 

He doesn't want the accommodation offered and, although he would like a room in which to listen to music on his hifi, he doesn't like the rigours of a fixed abode.  Police, social work and many others have tried to help him (or rein him in).  He annoys and evokes sympathy and kindness in equal measure.

His catch-phrase is 'Do you know you are what you eat?', usually followed by a lecture on how important it is to eat only organic food.   There are several places online where you can find more about Jim.  Here is one.

I should say that, apart from his obsessions (what we eat) and a penchant for chatting, he has seemed to me to be courteous and harmless.  Apart, that is, for the mess he leaves around.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

La Galerie 1940

I visited a new art gallery now open at the Meadows. 

La Galerie 1940 is situated in Melville Terrace overlooking the Meadows and next to Victor Hugo's. Allan Thompson.  They are specialising in local artists and will be open during the festival between 11am and 8pm.


Friday, 1 August 2014

An update on the Odeon

There is currently a flurry of correspondence about the Odeon. This is a detailed post - in order to put the main relevant facts in a readily accessible form - followed by a few comments from myself. 

In short, clearing of the site at the Buccleuch Street side is underway and the demolition of the 'flytower' part of the Odeon at the Buccleuch Street side is due to begin. The vacant land will then be developed with student flats.

This was all approved at a planning meeting on 17th April 2013 as part of an 'enabling' arrangement to get the main part of Odeon back into use.  At that time Gerry Boyle (brother of Susan Boyle) had negotiated a 10 year lease with Duddingston House Properties, the building's owners - with a substantial free rent period.  Thus it was anticipated that the capital generated from the building project at the Buccleuch Street side would 'enable' the return of the main auditorium into use by Gerry Boyle's 'Instant World' project.  The April 2013 report put it thus:
"The specific circumstances of this case are different to other projects where enabling development is used to fund an identified conservation deficit normally involving the expensive restoration of depleted heritage assets. The proposal in this case is based on the economic interdependence of two parts of a mixed development where the new build elements will release the funds necessary to subsidise an otherwise uneconomic occupation of the heritage asset." page 10 of 25
This was written into the planning permission in the form of a condition as follows:
No works or development hereby authorised (including for the avoidance of doubt demolition of the existing former cinema flytower) shall take place until the planning authority has received satisfactory evidence to confirm that the proposed occupation of the remainder of the former Odeon cinema building, 7 Clerk Street, Edinburgh for the purposes of live entertainment and as a cinema within Class11 of the Town and Country Planning uses (Scotland) Order 1997 together with ancillary bar, restaurant and coffee shop premises (as approved under the terms of the certificate of lawful use ref: 12/04368/CLP issued by the planning authority on 14 January 2013) has commenced and contracts let for the associated enabling and internal fit out works. 
The saga continues with Instant World, after substantial delays, opening for business on Friday 1st November 2013.  It lasted a few days and I understand there were a number of creditors from the failed project.

However, officials from the Planning Department have interpreted the brief opening as satisfying the condition required for the student flats to go ahead.  That seems to me to be a moot decision. If it is allowed to stand the building of the flats need not and will not contribute to the objective of bringing the main building back into use.  The Gerry Boyle project satisfied the legal requirement for the flats but delivers nothing for the use of the main premises.

I have meetings next week to scrutinise that.  Certainly if the legal interpretation of planning officials is correct, it does not meet the intention of the Planning Committee in setting out the agreement in April 2013.

Stepping back, however, the question of what to do with the Odeon has been a running sore for over a decade now.  It has been a dead spot within the Southside which does the area and local residents no good.  An empty building, especially such a large one as this, benefits no one.  Meanwhile, the fabric deteriorates with every passing year.

The valiant aspirations to return the building to its former use and glory have been noble and thus far hopelessly unrealistic.  Certainly, the main building has been preserved - though it continues to deteriorate -  but the prospect of being brought back into its original (or similar) use has receded as the years have passed.

The current pronounced uptick in the economy might provide an economic environment in which dreams could be realised.  I think things are too far gone and, unless a philanthropist with considerable capital comes forward, the attempts to preserve the building will have to face reality.

In all this we have not been helped by the Scottish Government planning policy or the listing function of Historic Scotland.  It is a form of 'listing blight' on communities. 

My own view is that the wholly appropriate process for preserving our heritage has been allowed to get out of hand.  We have around 25% too many listed buildings - drawing away focus and energy from those parts of our heritage which we must preserve.  Planning and heritage policy is about getting a balance across a range of objectives. 

I want a Southside which is vibrant not delapidated. 

I will attend the show

The cancellation of performances of a Fringe show by the Incubator Theatre, based in Jerusalem, has left promoters Underbelly looking for a venue which can be more secure.  The show did start its run at the Reid Hall in Bristo Square but police, Edinburgh University and Underbelly apparently decided that they could not guarantee security under the threat from anti Israeli protestors organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

A number of people in the arts world had earlier made their views felt in a publicity campaign against the Israeli based company - which receives part funding from the Israeli Government.

However, the campaign took on a thuggish character when demonstrators attending the opening performance attempted (successfully) to intimidate those attending.  An eye witness said:
"On Tuesday I went to see the Israeli show The City at the Underbelly, as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
I believe in the right to peaceful protest but this was something else. This was frightening.
A crowd of people were screaming and shouting in my face, chanting at me: “There is blood on your tickets” and wilfully intimidating the public in the hope that they would be too afraid to go in.
Mostly it worked. A small number of people including five bewildered girls ran the gauntlet with help from the police.
The Fringe staff were wonderful and tried to offer some sympathy. “Is this Scotland?” I thought. Did I just get vilified for going to a theatre performance?
I am not ignorant of the current situation in Israel/Palestine. It is one of many conflicts that rage throughout the globe.
However, it is time for people to do some soul-searching.
The Israeli show is the only one that will be forced to shut down at the Fringe this year.
At the recent Palestine Solidarity Campaign demonstrations in France there were shocking outbreaks of antisemitism and in London placards that read “Hitler was right”.
How easily passion can turn dark. I wonder how the Scottish public going to the Fringe will respond.
Will they congratulate the protesters on their success at shutting these artists down, or (if another safer venue can be found) will the public dare to run the gauntlet like I did?"
I can understand differing views on the complex situation unfolding in Israel and Gaza.  But intimidation and thuggery is an own goal to whoever espouses them, striking against free speech and artistic freedom.

In support of free speech and public order I am minded to attend the new venue if and when arranged.


Thursday, 31 July 2014

And a fringe venue fire alarm evacuation

The Pleasance Theatre performance of THIS IS BRAZIL was interrupted last night during the show's opening nightlast night.  Details here.

The report also notes this venue is in its 30th year.

Dumbiedykes fire yesterday evening

From the Fire Scotland media release:
A man had to be treated for minor burns and smoke inhalation this evening (30 July) following a fire in his kitchen in his flat at Dumbiedykes Road, Edinburgh.

Crews from McDonald Road, Marionville, and Tollcross were mobilised by Operations Control Edinburgh just before 7pm and on arrival discovered a well-developed fire in the kitchen. Four firefighters wearing breathing apparatus extinguished the fire with a line of hose and ventilated the property.

One male casualty suffered smoke inhalation and minor burns. He was treated at the scene by firefighters providing oxygen therapy and applying gel packs to his burns until the arrival of the ambulance.
He was taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary for further treatment.


Friday, 18 July 2014

Jawbone update

Here is an update on progress on the restoration of the Jawbone Arch (from an Edinburgh World Hertage press release):
The City of Edinburgh Council has appointed contractors to carefully remove the Jawbone Arch in the Meadows so that the bones can be stored ahead of conservation work.

In an effort to secure the future of the Jawbone Arch, which has stood in the park through all weathers for over 100 years, the bones will be removed in late July. They will be taken into storage for up to six months to allow them to dry out. Once dry, experts will be appointed to preserve and repair the monument.

 The area surrounding the Jawbone Arch will be cleared of fencing for easy pedestrian and cycle access through the Meadows in time for the Festival season. 
The total estimated repair work for the bones is £49,000, with just over half of the funding being provided by Edinburgh World Heritage and the City of Edinburgh Council.

Additional support from the Marchmont and Sciennes Community Council, the Grange Association, the Samuel Storey Charitable Trust, the Friends of the Meadows and Bruntsfield Links, and a range of individuals has also been pledged, but a further £20,000 fundraising is needed to complete the project.
The footpath running under the Jawbone Arch will, therefore, be accessible soon.

Whalebone arches can be found in many places around Scotland, particularly in areas associated with the whaling industry. Edinburgh’s Arch is one of last relics of the International Exhibition of Science and Art which took place in the Meadows in 1886. The jaw bones of a whale formed part of the stand of the Shetland and Fair Isle Knitters, and after the exhibition they were gifted to the city.