Short-term Lets, Control Areas and planning consents

POSTED ON December 15, 2023

On 1 December 2023, Lord Braid issued his Opinion on a judicial review on the approach taken by the City of Edinburgh Council’s interpretation of the Short-Term Let Control Area and its impact on STL properties prior its designation. His decision that it cannot be retrospectively applied may be disappointing for communities affected by STLs but consent for a Change of Use remains a live issue.

On 1 December 2023, Lord Braid issued his Opinion on a judicial review on the approach taken by the City of Edinburgh Council’s interpretation of the Short-Term Let Control Area and its impact on STL properties prior its designation. His decision that it cannot be retrospectively applied may be disappointing for communities affected by STLs but consent for a Change of Use remains a live issue.

Support the Cockburn

Donate
Join Us

West Edinburgh Placemaking Framework – Cockburn comments

Posted on: October 18, 2023

West Edinburgh Placemaking Framework support and comments

West Edinburgh Placemaking Framework support and comments

Cockburn Response

Planning background & City Plan 2030

The WEPF specially addresses the City Plan 2030’s Place Policy 16 (PP16)– West Edinburgh.  In our comments on CP2030, we said, “PLACE 16 – West Edinburgh We are concerned with the growth strategies for West Edinburgh and therefore require clarification of the mitigation measures which will address the negative environmental impacts identified in the Strategic Environmental Assessment Environmental Report related to this development expansion.”

NPF4 is currently the primary development plan for Edinburgh until such time as City Plan 2030 is adopted.  The primary objectives of climate change mitigation and biodiversity enhancement in NPF4 need to be fully worked into the proposals.  Our initial reading of the framework suggests some areas of concern resulting from the developments themselves.  This will be addressed below.

Background

The WEPF covers new development proposals in and around Edinburgh Airport and land at West Craigs/Maybury.  It also includes the consented scheme known variously has the “Garden District” or East of Milburn Tower with PPP for 1,350 units.

However, it does not look beyond this or south of the A8.  This framework should be better connected to the wider strategy.  The vision of WEPF should be expanded to include the Gyle and the wider Edinburgh Park Area.  We are aware of proposals to restructure the Gyle Centre akin to proposals at Ocean Terminal.  Also, other western areas of the city are undergoing change on a piecemeal, ad hoc basis.   The WEPF should provide positive connections with these areas, and this will be crucial for its success.

Some approvals and projects in pipeline

Schemes adjacent to WEPF area

Cammo Meadows – 665 homes (approved)

West Craigs – 1,650 homes approved; further extension of NW section (Rosebery estates)for further housing but no application yet.

Edinburgh Garden District/East of Milburn Tower – major Green Belt release with up to 9,000 houses (1,350 consented) with major commercial and office space & up to 1,150 hotel rooms.

SAICA site (aka Maybury Quarter) – Early discussions with presentation to EUDP; no firm scheme but city plan suggests 1,000 houses with new Primary School.

Edinburgh Park (south end) – c.1,750 new homes with commercial and 170bed hotel.

TOTAL – Potential 14,000 new homes

 

WEFP Area (land south and east or Airport bounded by A8 and railway; includes Gogar Designed landscape)

International Business gateway (IBG) phase one – PPP call in with 10000m2 office & 400 homes.

IBG phase 2 or WEST TOWN – shift from mixed-se to  largely residential with no specific housing numbers but can assume c.5000 or so.

Crosswind (Turnhouse runway) – 2500 homes and 43,000m2 commercial with 170-bed hotel.

TOTAL – potentially 7,900 new homes.

 

IBG – Phase one has essentially been granted and includes 400 new homes.  However, the developers have now argued that the wider commercial aspirations of the IBG are no longer viable, so propose a major shift to housing across the later phases.

 

Cockburn Comments

General

The Association believes that a “total development” approach is required, including the fundamental infrastructure of water and waste in addition to net zero and energy generation/conservation. Indeed the interrelationship of energy, water and waste management are key issues in driving overarching principles of ecology and good environmental standards. These should feature very clearly in this framework document and should have ambitious environmental targets that go beyond current regulatory requirements.

Similarly, it would be good to see ambitious environmental targets being sought through both the creation and ongoing management of this new area of the city. The framework should also have clear statements on delivering very high levels of accessibility including public and active travel routes both to the city and countryside.  Detailed design codes for sub-neighbourhoods are required, which would then form the basis of contracts with developers.

One good example of a large-scale masterplan incorporating guiding principles of ecology and sustainability can be seen at Hammerby Sjostad in Stockholm.  Here, a large c10,000 homes extension to the city was designed and built as a self-contained ecosystem. CaBE wrote it up as a case study in 2006 and this should be available for reference.

A Strategic Approach

The framework and masterplan should be considered as an extension of Edinburgh but as a new settlement/town.  This is due, in urban design terms, by the fact that the area of land is bound by very hard boundaries, not well or easily connected to other areas and very isolated.  Therefore, its planning will have to include all the amenities and uses associated with a new settlement/new town and not designed as an extension of Edinburgh which it clearly is not.

The TCPA new settlement network and “Healthy new towns network” may be useful reference points for addition to the WEPF.

Environmental Constraints

There are several significant environmental constraints associated with the framework area key of which are the environmental issues of placing a residential led development adjacent to an international airport.   This is not the context of a normal green field site, as aviation pollution and noise can be a health risk and the airport safeguarding requirements can influence the urban design both built form and green spaces.

Connectivity

There are major challenges in forming strategic connections and facilitating public access and linkages to and from the wider context given the framework area is isolated and  bound by hard physical edges including the airport.    The difficulties of integrating the tram route with future development particularly is important as the tram is currently running at capacity.  The developers’ assumptions that “there is a tram so everything’s OK” must be fundamentally challenged.

Also, critical access travel routes to the Gyle will be essential.  The A8/Gogar roundabout poses major barriers in both physical access terms but also in wider integration of facilities.  The Gyle remains a key comparison shopping centre for the area.

Heritage and Landscape

There are several historic assets both on and near to the site.  The use of the historic assets/environment as a key principle/design tool in the framework is essential.  These assets include Castle Gogar (A-listed with its designed landscape), Castle Mains (a scheduled ancient monument) and Milburn Tower (designed landscape).

The design of a strategic blue green network including the possible realignment of the Gogar Burn will be crucial to the success of any major development.  The contribution that these make towards positive place-making objectives and climate adaptation is direct.  Also, a strategic level approach to other environmental/community facilities is needed including burial grounds, sport and leisure facilities, community growing, play space etc.

Climate Emergency

In general, there is insufficient emphasis and weight has been placed in the framework requiring development coming forward to address the climate emergency.  The requirements of NPF4’s emphasis on biodiversity and climate mitigation are not strongly enough articulated in the WEPF.

The concept of embodied/embedded carbon must form a key focus on sustainable construction. The normal palette of concrete and brick materials should be challenged, as these are hugely carbon and energy intensive in production.  Nett zero should embrace a total development concept, not just operational.

District heating and local energy production should be built into the WEPF aimed at reduction of energy importation into the area.  This goes well-beyond passivehaus design standards with an expectation that all buildings should aim to be contributors to local grid, not just neutral.  For example, all roofs should be solar collectors, extensive use of micro-wind built into the local landscape and linkage with blue networks with ground/water source heat pump distribution technologies.

Place-Making

In general, we welcome the importance of establishing clear placemaking guidance.  Greater clarity of the proposed heights and densities is needed as it is unclear in the framework.  More detailed and localised studies and view analyses will be required.  Fundamental to this is the need to ensure a “total development” vision rather than leaving to individual developers and their design teams to determine what is, or is not, acceptable.

We support the general thrust of the place-making principles, and in particular welcome the ambition to create “a collaborative, multi-disciplinary, master plan led approach to creating a high density, mixed use, urban extension to the city, compact in form with a sense of place and community attractive to residents, workers and visitors.”

SUMMARY

There is much to commend in the West Edinburgh Place-making Framework.

The approach to development here should be the creation of a new settlement rather than extension to the existing western fringes of Edinburgh.

A “total development” approach to net zero carbon and energy is required, which includes the embodied energy/carbon of materials rather than just operational targets.  The framework area should aim to be self-sufficient in energy production and generation.  A new baseline for sustainable development needs to be set.

The exploitation of existing heritage and landscape assets to inform development is key, which must also integrate and compliment new blue-green networks.  Increasing biodiversity whilst offering localised climate impact mitigation strategies should also be a strategic objective of development.

A Letter from Dundas Street

POSTED ON September 26, 2023 BY Christopher Day

When a planning application was lodged in 2020 for the demolition and redevelopment of the former Bupa and Centrum Houses, local resident Christopher Day and his neighbours were pretty horrified. Here he writes about his experience of multiple Council meetings, affected technical jargon and a process that favours development professionals over local communities.
He notes that every so often, an email or social media message pops up about one development or other, inviting people to ‘let us know what you think’. Following this experience, he suggests it’s difficult not to reply by quoting my neighbour who asked, basically, ‘what’s the point?’

When a planning application was lodged in 2020 for the demolition and redevelopment of the former Bupa and Centrum Houses, local resident Christopher Day and his neighbours were pretty horrified. Here he writes about his experience of multiple Council meetings, affected technical jargon and a process that favours development professionals over local communities.
He notes that every so often, an email or social media message pops up about one development or other, inviting people to ‘let us know what you think’. Following this experience, he suggests it’s difficult not to reply by quoting my neighbour who asked, basically, ‘what’s the point?’

Support the Cockburn

Donate
Join Us

The future of Cultural facilities and the well-being of Edinburgh – It’s Up to All of Us

POSTED ON September 11, 2023

We know the impact that cultural activity and social interaction has on our wellbeing.  We are blessed in this city with parks, museums, galleries and theatres that educate and enrich our lives but only if we all support them with our presence. How many of us take advantage of it and support it?  As the Filmhouse showed, if we don’t we are at risk of losing them and in doing so our city would be the poorer for it. (Barbara Cummins, Chair of the Association).

We know the impact that cultural activity and social interaction has on our wellbeing.  We are blessed in this city with parks, museums, galleries and theatres that educate and enrich our lives but only if we all support them with our presence. How many of us take advantage of it and support it?  As the Filmhouse showed, if we don’t we are at risk of losing them and in doing so our city would be the poorer for it. (Barbara Cummins, Chair of the Association).

Support the Cockburn

Donate
Join Us

Communities support new Short-term Let regulations

POSTED ON August 30, 2023 BY Terry Levinthal

The Cockburn with local community and housing groups ask that the City of Edinburgh Council and Scottish Government give little weight to the pressures posed by a well-funded industry lobby group to delay the implementation of STL regulations.  Local communities have been placed under huge pressures by the untrammeled expansion of STLs across the city.  It is time to restore some balance and ensure that Edinburgh remains a place for people to live. 

The Cockburn with local community and housing groups ask that the City of Edinburgh Council and Scottish Government give little weight to the pressures posed by a well-funded industry lobby group to delay the implementation of STL regulations.  Local communities have been placed under huge pressures by the untrammeled expansion of STLs across the city.  It is time to restore some balance and ensure that Edinburgh remains a place for people to live. 

Support the Cockburn

Donate
Join Us

The Cockburn Association and the Green Belt: A history and case study of civic action

POSTED ON

The Cockburn Association has a long history of support for Edinburgh’s Green Belt.

The Cockburn Association has a long history of support for Edinburgh’s Green Belt.

Support the Cockburn

Donate
Join Us

The Colonies: Future proofing your home

Monday 6th June at 7pm in Edinburgh Academy, 42 Henderson Row

Do you want to find out how to make your colonies home more energy efficient and save money on your energy bills? Then sign up for this free event which is hosted by Stockbridge and Inverleith Community Council and Home Energy Scotland. A range of experts will be on hand at the FREE event. Speakers include: Home Energy Scotland City of …

Book Here

Demolition and development near 139 Leith Walk

Posted on: May 20, 2022

Although we find much to support in this scheme, the overdominance of student housing against formal policy and excessive height of some of the blocks means we cannot support the proposals as they stand.

Although we find much to support in this scheme, the overdominance of student housing against formal policy and excessive height of some of the blocks means we cannot support the proposals as they stand.

Cockburn Response

The Cockburn Association has reviewed these proposals for a student housing development with additional housing and offer the following comments.

We accept that this is a development opportunity and are aware of the Halmyre Street Development Brief that was prepared by the City Council recently.  We are also aware that the Edinburgh Urban Design Panel reviewed these proposals (comments are on the planning portal) and noted their concern that the proposal appears out of context and advocated a design approach which integrates with the city. They also expressed concern at the proposed land use of residential and student accommodation and advocated that the proposed height, mass and scale should be reconsidered. The Panel did not consider it appropriate to use the Mecca Bingo building as a datum level to set heights on the site.

We agree with the points raised and whilst we think that some amendments have been made since the EUDP considered the proposals, these do not go far enough to make this scheme acceptable.

Firstly, we have strong reservations about the uses.  In relative terms, the scheme is dominated by student housing where the need is for mainstream housing, especially affordable.  The proposed 235 student flats and only 45 flats is not acceptable and falls far short of guidelines which suggest a minimum of 50% housing for such a site as this.  On this ground alone, the application should be refused consent.

In terms of scale and massing, we believe that the proposed 6-storey high block B is too large for this site.  A reduction in height would be more in keeping with the character of the area.

Against these concerns, the overall layout has produced some very interesting internal spaces and the landscape architecture is well-considered and developed.  We also find the architectural disposition and composition positive with much to commend it.  Perhaps the exception to this is the affordable housing block with its monopitch roof and generally bland elevational treatment.

In summary, whilst we can see positive elements in these proposals, the overconcentration of student accommodation versus mainstream housing coupled with the excessive height means we cannot support this application.

Installation of venues in George Square Gardens

Posted on:

We have offered a NEUTRAL comment on this application as there are certain planning conditions we would like to see attached before permission is granted.

We have offered a NEUTRAL comment on this application as there are certain planning conditions we would like to see attached before permission is granted.

Cockburn Response

The Cockburn Association has considered these plans for the use of the George Square Gardens as a Fringe venue by Assembly Festival Ltd.  We acknowledge the fact that the applicant has erected similar infrastructure on this site in previous years. We also acknowledge that George Square Gardens in not a publicly-owned open space per se but it does function of one.    

The Cockburn is also aware that, with the exception of last year (2021), no planning consent has ever been sought for operations in George Square Gardens despite it being a very clear Change of Use to Class 11 (Assembly and Leisure).  As such, the past history of occupation should not be taken as a material consideration in this application and should be given minimal weight.  

Whilst we do not object to this application, we feel that it would be inappropriate at this stage to grant consent for 3 years, as requested.  We feel that proposed arrangements for tree safety are inadequate, and the requirement for a Noise Impact Study, which we understand the Council have asked for, should be available before any consent is considered.  A full and proper independent monitoring regime should be put in place as a planning condition, and the outcome of this should be used to consider if consent should be considered in future years.   

 The Cockburn has advocated that soft surfaced areas such as parks and gardens should not be used for infrastructure-heavy events due to the damage they cause to the ground and to the loss of essential public amenity space, even for relatively short periods of time.  We are very concerned with the impact to the trees in the Square due to the proximity of the large tented structure, hospitality kiosks and related infrastructure to the trees, resulting in potential damage to the root systems.  Local Development Plan Policy ENV12 on Trees states “Development will not be permitted if likely to have a damaging impact on a tree protected by a Tree Preservation Order or on any other tree or woodland worthy of retention unless necessary for good arboricultural reasons. Where such permission is granted, replacement planting of appropriate species and numbers will be required to offset the loss to amenity.”  The develop is likely to have a damaging impact on the root systems of trees in the Square and is therefore inconsistent with this policy.   

The submitted tree safety plan is not adequate or comprehensive.  For example, the protection of root systems needs to extend well beyond the canopy, which in many instances does not.  We are also very concerned with the selective use of tree protection zones on the site.  None of trees along the perimeter of the gardens are proposed for a protection zone despite the very heavy and damaging infrastructure proposed, which included chiller units, water tanks, toilets, site cabins, etc.  

The Cockburn strongly advises that all trees are properly protected from damage and root compression and the applicant must submit a revised protection plan to this effective.   

We can see no plausible reason why most of the infrastructure could not be placed around the Square, reserving the more open section for the large-tented structure if absolutely necessary.  This would reduce the impact on the soft-surfaces and trees in the Square considerably.  

As such, we advocate a number of amendments before this application can be acceptable.  In summary, these include: tree protection arrangements for all trees and not just those in the middle section of the gardens; removal of ancillary infrastructure from the gardens to the hardstanding area surrounding the gardens; and the delivery of a noise impact study as part of the publicly available information with this application.  Also, we advise that consent be given for one year only, with suitable monitoring arrangements in place.  

Fringe venue in the Meadows

Posted on: May 19, 2022

We believe this development is inconsistent with Local Development Plan policies and with the Council’s obligations to manage Common Good Assets for the public benefit. Read more below.

We believe this development is inconsistent with Local Development Plan policies and with the Council’s obligations to manage Common Good Assets for the public benefit. Read more below.

Cockburn Response

The Cockburn Association would wish to offer the following comments on this application.  We do so in the context of the previous consent for use of the site by the same applicant (21/02736/FUL), which was the first ever formal planning decision for the use of the Meadows for a major event.  That consent was issued for a short duration only and in the context of the Covid emergency.  In discussing that application, the Development Management Sub-Committee expressed reservations about the use of such a soft-surfaced public park, although it did approve the application. 

 We would wish to object this application. 

As the direct impact of Covid begins to recede, we continue to believe it is essential for the local economy get back on its feet and to get the iconic Festivals back in operation.  However, we do so in the context of our continued opposition to the use of public parks and gardens for “gated” heavy infrastructure events such as this.  

The Cockburn acknowledges that the applicant has erected similar infrastructure on this site having secured a contract from the City Council to do.  The “Lady Boys of Bangkok” operated from here for several years.  Other events such as the Meadows Festival and Moonwalk use the Meadows, and historically, the 1886 International Exhibition of Industry, Science and Art was sited here where a temporary dispensation to the erection of buildings was allowed. 

However, until last year, no planning consent had been sought for their operation in The Meadows despite it being a very clear Change of Use to Class 11 (Assembly and Leisure) and operates for longer than the 28 days in any year.  We continue to believe that the implications of such a change of use are considerable.  It would permit large wholly commercial developments to use a public open space year-round and could set a dangerous precedent for other open spaces in the city.  

Covid has also demonstrated the critical need to preserve open spaces for well-being, both physical and mental.  The enclosure of a sizable part of the Meadows will have a material impact on space available for informal recreation and enjoyment, and should be resisted.  

Fundamentally, the Cockburn believes that soft landscaped areas should not be used for events that require heavy infrastructure due to the damage that they cause.  The proximity to trees causes further concern due to the potential compaction of root systems leading to long-term decay or even loss.  We dispute the assessment by the applicant that no trees are affected by the application.  Root systems at both Middle Meadow Walk and Boy’s Brigade Walk will be affected, especially the former with the hospitality elements located adjacent to the existing avenue.  We also understand that a Noise Impact Assessment has been requested by the Council but is not included in the application documents.   

We note that the Edinburgh Improvement Act of 1827 expressly stipulates that no buildings may be erected in the Meadows or Bruntsfield Links.  The Meadows are also Common Good Assets, requiring the Council to manage them for the benefit of residents.  We believe that this development is contrary to the spirit, if not fact, of the 1827 Act and to the use as an enclosed, exclusive event space is not consistent with Common Good land.  Also, section 104 of The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 requires the local authority to consult with the local community when it is planning to dispose of common good property or change its use. Additionally, the local authority must publish details of the proposed disposal or change of use of common good property and notify and invite representations from community councils and community bodies.  This suggests that a s.104 consultation needs to take place before any planning decision is taken.  

The Marchmont, Meadows and Bruntsfield Conservation Area Character Appraisal notes that the Meadows is the largest urban recreational parkland in the city and affords panoramic views to the north and east. It also notes the importance of the recreational open space at Brunstfield Links and Meadows as one of the premier open spaces in the city.  The appraisal indicates that it is designated a Millenium Park, which means that the Council will ensure that the park is protected in perpetuity as community open space. The appraisal also notes the occasional use by festival temporary venues. 

The Cockburn continues to believe that there are other sites in the city more suitable to this event.  Festival Square and the related Conference Square provides a hard surfaced area more than capable of hosting this event this year, close to Princes Street and a variety of public transport corridors.  Large car parks such as Meadowbank Retail Park might also be alternatives.    

In addition, we strongly advocate that pop-up food and drink facilities should be deleted from the proposals.  It is more important that established, permanent year-round neighbouring pubs and restaurants benefit from any trade associated with this type of use.  Almost half the site is given over to its use as a licensed premise.  We liken this to be similar to a cruise ship – self-contained with the objective of reducing off-site sales to a minimum.  Whilst this might be good for the operator, it does little to support the local economy. 

Relevant development plan policies are: 

Policy ENV 6 – Conservation Areas (Development) states, “Development within a conservation area or affecting its setting will be permitted which: a) preserves or enhances the special character or appearance of the conservation area and is consistent with the relevant conservation area character appraisal b) preserves trees, hedges, boundary walls, railings, paving and other features which contribute positively to the character of the area and c) demonstrates high standards of design and utilises materials appropriate to the historic environment.” 

Our view – the CACA makes it clear that its character is an open space and its appearance is as an open parkland.  The erection of a temporary building to host a commercial event with gated access is not consistent with its special character. 

Policy ENV12 Trees states “Development will not be permitted if likely to have a damaging impact on a tree protected by a Tree Preservation Order or on any other tree or woodland worthy of retention unless necessary for good arboricultural reasons. Where such permission is granted, replacement planting of appropriate species and numbers will be required to offset the loss to amenity.” 

Our view – the development is likely to have a damaging impact on the root systems of trees along Middle Meadow Walk and is therefore inconsistent with this policy. We do not agree with the assertion made by the applicants that there will be no damaging impact on the trees to the east and west of the site.  

Policy ENV18 Open Space Protection states, “Proposals involving the loss of open space will not be permitted unless it is demonstrated that: a) there will be no significant impact on the quality or character of the local environment and b) the open space is a small part of a larger area or of limited amenity or leisure value and there is a significant over-provision of open space serving the immediate area and c) the loss would not be detrimental to the wider network including its continuity or biodiversity value and either there will be a local benefit in allowing the development in terms of either alternative equivalent provision being made or improvement to an existing public park or other open space or e) the development is for a community purpose and the benefits to the local community outweigh the loss.” 

Our view – The proposals will result in the loss of open space due to its restrictive enclosure.  We believe that it will have a significant impact on the Meadows overall and will reduce its use for amenity and recreational activity as a result.    

Policy ENV22 Pollution and Air, Water and Soil Quality states, “Planning permission will only be granted for development where: a) there will be no significant adverse effects for health, the environment and amenity and either b) there will be no significant adverse effects on: air, and soil quality; the quality of the water environment; or on ground stability c) appropriate mitigation to minimise any adverse effects can be provided.” 

Our view – there a substantial negative impact on soil compaction and therefore soil quality.  it is clear that the turf is struggling to regenerate over much of the area covered by the application despite no activity in 2020.  

The Association is therefore of the view that the proposed development is inconsistent with Local Development Plan policies and with the duties of the local authority to manage these Common Good Assets for the benefit of the public. 

Should the Committee be minded to approve this, we would strongly advocate that any consent be time limited for this year only and be made personal to the applicant only.  Independent monitoring processes should form part of conditions for approval, and include tree and noise management as key elements.  This could then inform any future policy or guidelines for the use of public space in their area.