ANNUAL REPORT FROM THE CHAIR FOR
2019 to 2020
Headlines for the year
- Another active year – including 9 Community Council meetings, extensive involvement in planning matters, and ongoing liaison with local partner organisations, neighbouring Community Councils and CEC
- Frequent frustrations over the lack of productive engagement with City Council at Locality and HQ levels on issues, often of great importance to our community
- Development of Community Council’s communications through our web site, Facebook page and occasional newsletters.
It is with great regret that I have to report that the last 18 months have been the most disheartening, depressing and frustrating of my 10 years or so acting as your chair. Despite herculean efforts by the Community Council office bearers whose inputs have seemed more and more like a full-time job, we have been rewarded by consistent failures to move the monolith that is the City of Edinburgh Council.
The CC depends totally for its effectiveness on its interfaces with central functions, sometimes directly with officers and otherwise via intermediate structures such as the Neighbourhood Partnerships. Our Partnership, although not perfect, was maturing and beginning to show promise. They were summarily scrapped and replaced by 4 groups covering the whole city and to meet quarterly. Scrapped after two meetings and replaced by wide ranging area groups representing any constituted group in the area. Community Councils with their years of experience were abandoned to the periphery. This new all-embracing group has apparently met twice – the second meeting breaking up in disorder. CCs were invited to neither of these meetings and we are not aware of any subsequent meeting. The result of this organisational chaos is that CCs have been cast adrift and totally dependent for any influence of direct contact with individual officers.
Interface with Officers
The turmoil within CEC with redundancies, Covid restrictions, officers changing post like musical chairs has made for a total lack of consistency and a continuing need to educate the officer filling the post this month on the local issues. They have also developed the not so subtle technique of ignoring e-mails on difficult issues backed up by a computer mail system that despatched e-mails it receives that contain photos or attachments to junk. We have had to rely on hand delivery to Market Street on occasions although this then depends on the vagaries of the internal mail.
Given the absence of the Neighbourhood Partnerships and their replacement we have resorted to seeking meetings with representatives of Committees such as the Transport and Environment, and while generating a worthy exchange of views on current issues, have consistently delivered no follow up action. These have now been discontinued due to a lack of enthusiasm on both sides.
We felt that perhaps Cramond and Barnton fighting battles on its own lacked a broad enough representation so I have encouraged an informal co-ordinating group consisting of myself with Keith Giblett (Queensferry and District CC), David Buchanan (Kirkliston CC), Rod Alexander (Davidson Mains and Silverknowes Assoc.), Kenny Wright (DrumBrae CC), and Judy Wightman (Ratho Station CC) in an effort to try to influence CEC at a more senior level. Although much has been promised nothing has been delivered to date. Enthusiasm is running low as you can only try to push water uphill for so long!
We have become so exasperated at the multitude of conflicting responses to issues we raise (is this better than no response), that we have invoked a formal Scottish Government procedure, Community Participation Request, that puts very formal requirements on CEC. The virtual hearing/process is in early September by Microsoft Teams and we will update residents on the outcomes.
What Has Absorbed Our Time
The activities are many and varied most demanding significant time inputs to do them justice. Some of the more notable are listed below:
- Traffic management in Glebe Road and the hated TRO
- Traffic management in Cramond generally and around the primary school
- The Cammo fields development, community hub and legal issues for bordering residents
- Issues of traffic management around Cammo, Cammo Walk and Cammo Gardens onto the Maybury, including a community survey
- The Status of the Maybury road itself, and Maybury and Barnton junctions
- Many planning applications requiring extensive detailed work such as Brighouse, Barnton Avenue West and Craigiehall.
- The future of the Cramond promenade toilets.
- Problems of parking on the promenade obstructing access for emergency vehicles
- Parking on double yellows in the village – usually CEC vehicles!
- Requests for consultation responses e.g. National Planning Framework, City Plan 2020, Granton Waterfront, Crosswinds and numerous local planning and roads issues.
- The ongoing saga of the Cramond Inn
- Representation on Edinburgh City Forum, Edinburgh Association of Community Councils, and Cammo Estate Advisory Committee.
We are very conscious we exist to represent the community as a whole and not just ourselves as individuals. In normal times getting Community agreement to our proposals at CC meetings was straightforward. However, in the Covid environment it has been much more difficult. On one occasion we had to resort to a door to door survey, but mostly we have had to rely on the promoting official consulting all the other Community Councillors for agreement.
Work is ongoing to expand our website (www.cramond-barnton.org) and social media presence. Our recently established Facebook page (www.facebook.com/CramondandBarntonCC/) is attracting interest from across our community and reached 1,366 individuals between 21 July and 18 August, with the most popular post attracting 995 views.
The governance section of CEC require us to appoint a Communication Officer. This I declined to do and submitted a paper in justification. There was no reaction, so I assume that either they were happy or never read my paper. I summarise my justification below.
- As a member of the Kirk session I can communicate issues of relevance to 100 elders at session meetings
- I chair regular collaboration meetings with our 4 local sister organisations
- Our notice boards at Cramond and Barnton are kept up to date and names and contact details for key officials are prominently displayed.
Nevertheless, we are conscious the more can be done and work is ongoing to expand and maintain our website and increase our use of social websites.
The Future of the Chair Tenure
The current Councillors are content to support my nomination to continue as your Chair. However, at my age and length of tenure coupled with not so good health it is my intention to demit office next year and make way for a new Chair although I will remain as a councillor in the background.
A Tribute to my Colleagues
As I said in my opening this has been a frenetic period, sadly with too much frustration and disappointment. Despite this I cannot praise too highly the talent and dedication shown by my fellow councillors and the office bearers in particular. Also, our four elected councillors who have supported us with advice and gone on missions to support us on issues dear to our hearts.
A Final Wish
Community Councils have a lot to offer. We know our issues and constraints inside out. In many cases our Community Councillors have years of business experience at high levels. We have this earnest desire to work with officers as they develop proposals to help bring forward better approaches and solutions. Too often we are only “consulted” when conclusions have been reached and so we are ignored – again! We dislike constantly being forced into a position of having to represent our community’s interests, but therefore opposing CEC officials. It is this desperate wish to contribute to making things better all round that keeps us going, but such enthusiasm is running out!
However, we can only achieve miracles in partnership with CEC. Some changes in their approach would make for a much more constructive relationship:
- That planning and heritage are no longer sacrificed on the altar of development.
- That strategic transport planning objectives are not driven by Active Travel dogmas.
- That development commitments are delivered and enforced where appropriate.
- That community engagement and partnership working are real and not just empty rhetoric.
- That the CEC recognise that when governance structures are bringing transparency and challenge to its considerations then they are working – and should not be dismantled.
As a fundamental step in achieving the above it is, in our view, essential that there is clarification, establishment, formalisation and reinforcement of direct communication channels and relationship links between CCs and Council Officials.
Andrew Mather, Chair,
Cramond and Barnton Community Council. September 2020.