CRAMOND & BARNTON COMMUNITY COUNCIL
Incorporating Cramond, Barnton, Cammo & Quality Street (West)
Minutes of Meeting held on Thurs 20th April 2023 in
Cramond Kirk Millennium Hall
Present: John Loudon (Chair), Ian Williamson (Secretary), Peter Scott (Planning Lead), Dianne Stein, James Hancock, Bert Scott and Percy Feketey.
In Attendance: Councillor Kevin Lang and more than 65 members of the community
Councillor Louise Young, Councillor Lewis Younie and Councillor Norman Work, John Howison, Gena Wylie and Hamish Barrie, along with notifications from a number of other community attendees.
John Loudon welcomed those attending acknowledging that the significant turnout was an indicator that the presence of a spokesperson from the City of Edinburgh Council and an emotive subject matter were clearly the recipe for a full house. (While some 40 people signed the attendance sheet this was an under recording of the numbers present given the number of seats occupied). Before moving on to the business of the evening the Chairman noted that he had received an intimation from Robert Bruce that for health reasons he was standing down temporarily from the Committee. The Chairman thanked Robert for his service to the Committee and the community.
Approval of March 2023 Minute of Business Meeting
Confirmation of the accuracy of the draft minute of the March meeting was given by James Hancock and was seconded by Percy Feketey; the minutes were approved.
There were no matters arising from the March meeting that were not covered in the agenda.
Ian Williamson summarised what was a light report for March with minimal criminality. Regular speed checks and traffic checks continued in an effort to reduce dangerous/careless driving. Patrols of Anti-Social hotpots continued. The inappropriate use of Off-Road bikes and Quad Bikes was the subject of increased patrols designed to deter such use.
Ian Williamson reminded those present that implementation of the Council’s 30mph speed limits on certain designated roads was scheduled to come into force at the end of August 2023. The CBCC had been assured that regular speed checks on the section of Queensferry Road affected would be conducted especially in the early period following introduction.
A recent near miss at the pedestrian lights on the Queensferry Road near the junction with Cammo Road brought into question the need for traffic/speed cameras at key points on the road. The proposal that an approach be made to the Council about this was supported by the membership. (Note – Councillor Lang came back after the meeting to confirm that fine money (from speeding) is paid to the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service and goes to Scottish Government. No money goes to local government. Also, he advised that “red light” cameras at junctions are also operated by Police Scotland.)
Presentation on Bus Services and the Cammo Meadows Hub
Stuart Lowrie introduced himself as the City’s Public Transport Manager with responsibilities which included bus information, park and ride sites, trams’ performance and, most relevant in the context of the presentation, management of subsidised bus services. This requires close partnership working with bus operators in an effort to influence the provision of services where, at least in the short to medium term, a commercial service was deemed to be unviable. The budget available for subsidised services in Edinburgh is limited. At present such services include the service 63, 20, 68, 13 as well as the X40 and 7.
The scoping work he has been conducting had focused on the service 63 – which currently runs between South Queensferry and Balerno via Kirkliston and the Gyle. Preliminary discussions had already taken place with the current service operator – McGills – and with Lothian Buses with a view to building in the Cammo Meadows Hub to the Gyle section as a means of addressing the “south bound section on the Maybury” gap. In the case of Lothian Buses these discussions necessitated it looking at all its routes recognising that even a small variation on one can have a knock-on effect across the piece. The developer contribution from the Cala/David Wilson Homes would make such an adjusted service viable for some years – and hopefully to be enough to optimise the possibility of it becoming commercially viable in the longer term.
Much has changed following Covid. Bus patronage has declined, operating costs increased, and the retention of bus drivers is a problem besetting the industry generally. However recent months has seen all of these factors changing for the better. Lothian Buses for example is seeing bus patronage back up to 80 to 85% of levels pre-Covid. Recruitment and retention of drivers had improved. The pattern of travel times by commuters looks different from that which prevailed before, albeit the changes during the morning are marginal but the afternoon peaks have levelled out more consistently across the period. In short, the late afternoon rush hour peak has smoothed out. All things together a picture is emerging that supported now as being an optimal time to look to tender the emerging route for a re-vamped service 63.
The issue was the opened to the audience for questions.
The first comment was effusive in praise for the new route for the service 41 which Lothian Buses has been operating from summer 2022. For those for whom easy access to a bus stop on the new route is a reality the service is considered to be of the order of 20 minutes quicker in getting into town. Those who lived near to the Barnton Junction had come off best in terms of service choice. Much applause signalled support for this view although some of the speakers that followed said that for them the change was a diminution in service. This included those who lived in the Barnton Park area which has “lost” the service 41 and is largely reliant on the service 43 from South Queensferry.
While there was a time – as confirmed by Stuart Lowrie – when the patronage on the 43 was low and the service was at risk it was now heavily used. Indeed, for many on the section of the Queensferry Road between the Barnton Junction and Davidsons Mains the reality is no service for those trying to get into town during the morning rush hour (the bus being already full of commuters from South Queensferry before it passes the Barnton Junction).
One lady said that up to 20 people waiting at a bus stop near the foot of Clermiston Road North was not uncommon. And the Fife Buses as a rule do not stop to pick up on this section. One lady who has two small children said that the choices for her were either to walk with a pram along the Queensferry Road to Davidsons Mains or Barnton or to walk via the path through the woods at Barnton Park. The former carried the risk of managing two small children along a pavement on a road where cars regularly travel in excess of the speed limit of 40 mph and with the issues of exhaust emissions. The latter in winter hours currently has sections lit – and unlit.
One lady said that she was now using her car to work more than she had done before – contrary to what it is understood the City of Edinburgh Council would have residents do. Stuart Lowrie undertook to speak to Stagecoach with a view to trying to agree that at least during the peak periods they would stop at agreed stops on the Queensferry Road. Ian Williamson advised that he and John Loudon had been told by Ben Ritchie of Lothian Buses that they were aware of the challenges for people trying to get on the service 43 in this area and that they would be increasing the service timetable this year – focusing first on the peak travel times and then in a second tranche of improvements during the day.
The information which had leaked out about various service and route changes proposed by Lothian Buses became a focus of attention. What was understood was that the service 41 is to be withdrawn. The existing service 47 is to see a route change providing for it to run from Penicuik to Cammo. Stuart Lowrie said that he too had only become aware of this very recently. He did not know what the exact route of the 47 would be but had seen the written assurance from Lothian Buses that it would continue to serve Cammo, Cramond, Barnton and Davidson Mains as per the existing 41. (Beyond that the formal communication from Lothian Buses was silent). This limited understanding of the proposed route of the new 47 prompted speculation – especially in relation to the section from the KwikFit junction.
If the 47 is to continue to service the Western General as that service does at present – but also service Davidsons Mains, Cramond, Barnton and Cammo – then it appeared likely this would be achieved by it progressing north -east down Telford Road to the Crewe Toll roundabout and then south past the Western General and up Orchard Brae before turning into town. It was argued that this redirection would lose all the time which had been gained on the 41 routes from the change last year. Despite the fact that one of the key justifications played out by Lothian Buses for that route change had been time gained.
Councillor Kevin Lang spoke. Regarding the changes to the service 41/47 he was worried and frustrated. The manner in which this information had leaked out was dreadful and understandably very unsettling for the community. The 41 to be withdrawn. The service 47 to run between Penicuik and Cammo. Many children from Barnton and Cramond attend Stewarts Melville and use the service 41 to and from school. What will the route change mean for them? If the route selected by Lothian Buses for the service to replace the existing 41 does not cover the Hillhouse Road and Queensferry Road into town then that would be a wholly unacceptable service. There were two particular points he wished to emphasise. Firstly, a north/south service on the Maybury Road was long overdue. What was the best estimate of timescale for introduction of such a service. Secondly, he sought confirmation that what was being proposed was a service that was going to come into Cramond and not just one which would stop at the Cammo Meadows Hub.
On serving Cramond, Stuart Lowrie gave this assurance. Cala had indicated that they were flexible on the detail of the service the S75 was used for as long as it achieved the south bound connections envisioned for Cammo Meadows. On timing he had one eye on the existing contract for the service 63 which currently is a one-year contract scheduled to end in August 2023 but with an option to extend by 2 years. Realistically he may have to seek to extend the current contract with McGills by several months to allow time to conclude engagement and the development of a specification for the proposed new route.
Peter Scott spoke as the CC Planning Lead. He had been involved in the planning considerations from the time when the development was still a green field site. The whole purpose of the S75 agreement insofar as delivering a south bound public transport service on the Maybury Road was to connect the development into the planned primary care services and primary school at the Community Hub being built on Turnhouse Road. Stuart Lowrie said he would keep an eye on that proposal for the future. Peter e added that he understood that the Craigs Road junction improvements are scheduled to be undertaken in the coming months.
A variety of comments followed. There were concerns about the age of the buses in use on the 41 and the paucity of bus information – both on these buses and at stops on the route. A route used often by tourists resulting in some getting off at the wrong stops for their destinations (e.g., Cramond Village). The A200 route attracted criticism. Routed close to the CC area but not close enough for many to be able to walk to and yet for many the Airport is a destination of choice. The lack of meaningful connectivity across to Corstorphine and Clermiston was mentioned where the routes currently used by services such as the 21 The Gyle shopping centre was mentioned. Developed with a sizeable public transport interchange but a Centre that appears to be struggling to sustain the mix of shops that it once had. The impact of this can be seen at the transport interchange – where there were once several buses standing now there are seldom one or two. The lack of transport connections from Cramond and Barnton are not helping.
Further voices repeated the expressed concern at the possibility of the new 47 following a different – and far more time consuming – route into town. One lady while welcoming the assurance given by Stuart Lowrie about speaking to Stagecoach about the possibility of getting some of the peak services to stop on the Queensferry Road said that the overriding problem was still that these buses were often full as they passed through this side of the approaches to town and could not take on passengers.
On the issue of bus information Daryl Laing – Stuart’s colleague – said that the new real time information trackers and interactive totems were currently being rolled out. Stuart Lowrie finished by saying that a strategic business case had been submitted to Government for money from the Bus Partnership Fund. This was about trying to secure resources to implement transport infrastructure measures – such as bus priority lanes. This in turn makes it easier to encourage bus operators onto certain routes. The A90 is one of the routes that has been covered in the business case. A lot of effort was going into promoting the role of buses as a transport priority.
Footnote: The Community Council strongly supports the proposal in City Plan 2030 (WE16) for ‘Improved northern and southern orbital bus routes from Maybury (via Maybury Road and Edinburgh Park respectively)’.
Presentation on the Role of the Cramond and Barnton Community Council (CBCC)
John Loudon made a brief presentation on the role of the CBCC covering its status, its key role in relation to substantive local planning matters and the role performed in relation to a myriad of other issues, including roads and transport, general medical services, local public amenities such as the Cramond Toilets, the car park. He talked about the collaboration with the other local groups and with other Community Councils and about the efforts to engage with and influence the City of Edinburgh Council on local service delivery. (The slides may be found on the CBCC website).
Update on Various Issues
These were covered in the April Secretary’s Report.
The Airport had in recent months become the subject of fresh scrutiny within the Community Council reflecting in part the extent to which the awareness of the presence of aircraft in the airspace above the community was growing again as flights were ramping up in the aftermath of Covid. Building on the written report Dianne Stein talked about the fact that Edinburgh was now operating as a 24 hour Airport.
With that came a need to look constantly at the balance between the economic and consumer benefits and the need to manage noise. It was a matter of fact that the numbers of night flights were increasing notwithstanding the charges to airline operators being designed to discourage such use. The focus was less on the numbers operating at night but on measures to manage the noise levels from these operations, that was about aircraft, flight paths, noise emissions and population overflown. Further expansion to the number of noise monitoring points was in train. The next review of flight paths was shortly to begin with the main public consultation scheduled for 2024 and implementation in the Autumn 2025.
Christine Jardine MSP spoke saying the issue of aircraft noise was one which was the subject of many representations she received. She raised the concerns regularly with SG Ministers. She had spoken to some of the main Airline operators and – as an example – she cited Easyjet as one who were introducing a new generation of aircraft that were 50% quieter than those being replaced.
Her main message to the community was to use the forthcoming consultation to get across any and all concerns they may have. Many other airports had similar issues which they were having to grapple with constantly. It was her assessment that the balance was shifting and that there was a growing awareness of the risk of inconvenience to the public. John Loudon advised that he had asked Alex Cole-Hamilton to pursue the matter with the First Minister.
Beyond the inputs which Councillor Lang had made during the presentation about bus services there were no further comments. (See item above).
AOB and Closing Remarks
It was confirmed that the Cramond Inn had re-opened on 19 April. Further work was ongoing regarding the kitchens, and it was understood that it would be a few weeks before food would be served.
The Salvesen Steps had re-opened following the bore works to assess the scope for a tunnel being constructed. The outcome to that assessment were awaited.
Members – and residents – were reminded of the litter picks scheduled for later in the week.
Date of Next Meeting
Thursday 18 May 2023