Incorporating Cramond, Barnton, Cammo & Quality Street (West)

Minutes of Meeting held on Thurs 15th October 2020 via Zoom

Participating: John Howison (Vice-Chair and Acting Chair for the meeting), Ian Williamson (Secretary), John Loudon, Jean Morley, Bert Scott, Peter Scott, Percy Feketey, Tom Foggo, Robert Bruce, Gena Wylie, Sally Chalmers and Michael Dick. Councillors Young, Hutchison and Work had given their apologies – the first being on holiday and the second two named reflecting Council policy about concerns with use of ZOOM. Councillor Lang had intended participating but with a full Council meeting running on throughout the day and into the evening this did not prove possible.

Vice Chair’s Introductions

John confirmed that following a lengthy operation Andrew Mather was now home and was making slow but steady progress. Best wishes were conveyed by all to Andrew and his wife. With Andrew’s absence the AGM and Annual Report meeting had been postponed and would now form the substantive business of the November meeting. The accounts for 2019/20 would be presented and the draft Annual Report would come before the meeting for sign off.

A police report for September had been received from PC Macleod reflecting very little criminality in the area during the period in question. Apart from a handful of incidents of vandalism and anti-social behaviour involving youths there were no other incidents to report, including none involving the Divisional priorities including housebreaking, assault/violent crime and hate crime.

At the Vice- Chair’s request Sally Chalmers gave a run through of the activity of the CC’s new Facebook pages. The reach in terms of numbers accessing the site had almost doubled in the last month due in large part to some of the other local groups establishing links on their sites to the new CC page. The Council’s proposals for speed limits on section of Cammo Walk and Cammo Road had attracted significant activity. Sally again repeated her offer of training for those members less comfortable with the media.

Report from Richard Adlington, Friends of the River Almond Walkway

Richard gave an update on what had been happening regarding the proposals for Dowies Mill and for the Salvesen Steps. When FRAW had last reported on Dowies Mill at the beginning of the year the report reflected the Council’s determination to steamroller through a proposal which would see the removal of the millpond impacting on the marine life in the river. This was despite the fact that the then preferred proposal was also scheduled to cost more than alternative, environmentally friendly, options which FRAW – with support from environmentalists and marine engineers had identified. Since then FRAW along with the CC and the various local groups had mounted a successful campaign to persuade the Council of the desirability and viability of an alternative which would preserve the millpond. While the now preferred option has not progressed as matters stand the future for this part of the river now seems more secure.

The picture concerning the replacement of the Salvesen Steps was however less favourable, Richard went on to describe the long and chequered history of the efforts to secure a disability compliant replacement for the steps. The temporary steps structure supported by scaffolding was costly for the Council to maintain and provided a sub-standard steps solution especially during the Autumn and Winter where fallen leaves and wet conditions made using the metal step treads perilous.

The stone steps on the northern side at least had some points of relief but the toes of some of the steps were now worn and/or broken. The costings of the suspended walkway round the knowl had however increased considerably (from some £0.9m to £3.5m) and while there was a belief that they included some unnecessary design features as well as excessively generous contingencies, even without these the total was now considered to be unaffordable. This was the message which had come in recent weeks from CEC to FRAW. A meeting was scheduled to take place with officials before the end of October and FRAW undertook to report back. The Council’s focus at that meeting was understood to be back on progressing an outline design for more steps.

Richard advised that in pursuing such a policy the Council would find itself hard up against an earlier stated commitment that not only would replacement steps be contrary to the disability regulations but also that it could not justify signing off on funding a non-compliant structure. Their argument may now be that delivery of such a policy cannot or should not be at any cost.

The discussion continued around the options. Replacement steps was an option and would represent a significant improvement on those that currently were in place. Without them there was a risk that the existing ones could simply be removed, and the section of the walkway lost / users being required to follow a convoluted route back up to Whitehouse Road before re-joining the walkway. Steps also provided a disincentive for many cyclists to use the route – which some walkers saw as an advantage -even if the price was an aerobic challenge for some.

FRAW was keen try to maintain the pressure for a disability compliant solution. The SUSTRANS contribution was still on the table and it was evident that the CEC had resources where schemes were deemed supportive of the active travel agenda. The locality was a wealthy community and there was a view that the right scheme could attract donations. One of the members of the community pointed to the history of the Brig which at one time was a toll brig. Residents could be encouraged to “fund a stone” as a means of securing buy-in to the structure.

But much would depend on the meeting to take place at the end of October and Richard undertook to keep the CC informed.

Planning Report

Peter Scott reported on a variety of planning issues. On a more positive note – albeit concerning a planned development in Davidson’s Mains – he described how the proposals for a residential development on the site behind the Tesco’s car park at the back of the store had been roundly criticised by the planning officer in the report to go before the Committee. The reasons given reflected many of the concerns which had been returned by the Community and by C&BCC leading the officer to conclude that the application should not be supported.

On the Brighouse planning application concerning the developers determination to secure a 5 year extension to the period within which they could try to secure a sports partner to provide facilities on the site the CC had made its views known (following consultation with those most affected in the community – i.e. the residents and those householders “looking onto” the now derelict and unkempt site that had once been the jewel of the Dunfermline College sports fields).

The CC had also made clear its desire for a hearing when the application came before the Committee. The CC, the community and the local Councillors shared a common concern to avoid the scenario where AMA was allowed to walk away from its commitment to provide sporting and/or recreational facilities – citing lack of interest in a partnership – and seeking therefore to raise a fresh application for residential accommodation across the site. The concept of the ground being used to support more informal sporting activity securing its future as green space was considered as a more supportable option and one which would also help go some way to compensate for the loss of “playing fields around the Primary School (where land had been used for additional classroom accommodation). This would require a change of use in the LDP and that was something which Peer was pursuing with the Parks and Greenspace team.

Michael Dick reported that some superficial attempts had been made to improve the site. During the meeting e-mails were received from Councillors Kevin Lang, Norman Work and Louise Young expressing the need for caution in releasing AMA from their previously agreed obligations and the risk of the developer seeking consent for housing on the site.

The Community Participation Request approach made nearly a year ago to the Council arose out of absence of any sense of real engagement with the Council on roads issues arising out of the Cammo Fields development, concerns about the Barnton Junction and the wider strategic road network and about Cammo Walk and Cammo Gardens which was increasingly at risk of becoming and locked-in community for those dependent on cars. The actions of the Council especially arising out of its Active Travel policies seemed inconsistent and unsupportive of any reasonable strategic transport vision covering arterial routes feeding into the Barnton junction.

The first meeting under the CPR process had been more positive but then in the weeks that followed some of the new TTROs brought into force through expedited means paid scant regard to the concern of many living in Cammo. Even where some merit could be seen in some schemes – e.g. the proposed 20mph limit on some of Cammo Road and Cammo Walk the sense was this was a lost opportunity which could have been remedied with earlier consultation.

The next meeting of the CPR was to be held on 20 October and a report back would follow. This sense of lack of real engagement was not just one growing with C&BCC; a number of the NW CCs had combined to submit a CPR focusing on the recent dismantling of some of the local Committee structures which had been fruitful in supporting meaningful engagement. This reflected a growing frustration – and resentment – about the way in which the Council was operating. (Since the CC meeting the CC has been copied into another CPR – from the DB CC – about the way in which the many Active Travel initiatives have been imposed on the Craigs Road area of Corstorphine).

On the Cramond public toilets a meeting with Council officials was scheduled to be held the next day – on 16 October – to discuss the CC’s proposals paper and find out more about where the ross the Council had got to with its strategic review of public toilets across the City.

Some points were made about the status of the many Active Travel/Spaces for People initiatives which were being rolled out across the city. Were these or some of these destined to become permanent features. The answer that had been given was that money had been set aside within the programme to cover the costs of removing the measures. But this fell short of a definitive answer to the question. Some of the Facebook posts suggested that there were disparate local views on the proposed speed limits and on keeping some local routes open that were used/abused as rat runs. In the context of the Cammo Fields the need to continue to seek interest in the Community hub was emphasised, linked to this it was suggested that the first show houses could be in situ around Christmas.

Date of Next Meeting

  • Thursday 19 November 2020 to cover the AGM and present the Annual Report and Accounts.
  • Subject to a satisfactory trial the meeting will be held using Microsoft Teams.