“George Street – First New Town” Proposals

Posted on: March 26, 2021

Our comments on the latest proposals for the future of George Street

Our comments on the latest proposals for the future of George Street

Cockburn Response

The Cockburn has been involved in this project since the outset and has seen the designs evolve and mature.

The Experimental TRO conducted several years ago showed an appetite for change to George Street and its shift from a trafficked street to a destination for civic living.  Key was increased pedestrian space, facilitating the east-west cycle route and generally producing a more amenable place whilst respecting and enhancing the qualities and characteristics of the World Heritage Site.  We endorse all of these objectives and feel that the designs have generally reflected these well.

In addition, we offer these specific comments:

  • Materials need to reflect the recognised palette of stone used throughout the New Town and as articulated in the Street Design Guide.
  • The desire to add the small sections of planters with seating etc should not come at the price of reducing circulation space.  In addition, careful management of street licenses to hospitality venues needs to be put in place with effective and clear guidance so that, again, pedestrian space is not lost.
  • A clear events strategy must be developed and enforced to ensure clarity of use.
  • It is essential that a long-term maintenance strategy is put in place for the street and especially the planters, with dedicated financial resources to ensure a rigorous cleaning and planting regime.

On the subject of trees, we acknowledge the significant public interest in introducing trees into the street.  Indeed, we also acknowledge that throughout the history of the Association, we have been long-standing advocates for street trees, having campaigned for them in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Since this time, our understanding of the significance of George Street as one of the centrepieces of the World Heritage Site, inscribed in 1995, has grown hugely.  George Street was not designed as a boulevard but as a set-piece along a strong axis from Charlotte Square to St Andrew’s Square, with the intervisibility of each crucial to its urban form.  The current proposals have evolved to respect this key feature, which we welcome. If trees were to be introduced, it is important that this key element of the street is not undermined.

There are also challenging design issues including a substantial amount of undersurface voids including cellars and service tunnels, which not only introduce planting and technical hurdles but also legal and ownership ones too.  These would need to be fully explored and considered, with additional consultative programmes put in place if it were to advance.

Similarly, not all trees are equal.  There is a very real difference between ornamental species versus “forest” species are considerable, and clarity of thought in this is required.  If underground planting is not possible, and large plant pots required, this would limit the scale of trees possible, which would also limit carbon, biodiversity and other benefits accordingly.  Finally, and as already noted, a long-term management and maintenance regime specific to this street would be required.

Portobello Beach Sauna

Posted on:

Our comments on proposals to introduce a sauna on Portobello Prom

Our comments on proposals to introduce a sauna on Portobello Prom

Cockburn Response

The Cockburn Association has had the proposed license application for a mobile sauna unit brought to its attention by local civic bodies. Whilst we do not usually comment on licensing applications, this proposal brings forward several issues of amenity and precedent.

Firstly, the location of the proposed mobile sauna unit is at a heavily used, and congested, part of the Portobello Promenade.  Although the hard-standing suggests a suitable area for such a facility, it is in direct conflict with the need for space for people.  It would effectively privatise this small area of public space, which would be larger than the mere footprint of the structure with space for queuing, power, etc.  For this reason alone, it would not be suitable to grant a license for this facility.

Secondly, the proposed use of wood-burning heaters could cause considerable local air pollution.  Other fuel forms might also cause amenity impacts.

Thirdly, placing temporary facilities in this location would create a precedent that would make it harder for the licensing authority to refuse other applications.

For these reasons, the Cockburn feels that this is unsuitable and that the licensing application should NOT be granted.

That said, we appreciate the intention behind the operator of the mobile sauna is to support an increased interest in “wild swimming”, which has become more popular over the past decade or so.  We can understand the merit of the proposal in supporting increased access to the water and the benefits of wild swimming.  Whilst the nearby Portobello Baths provides some support facilities relevant to this interest, they may not be ideally placed for wild swimmers.

This requires a much more strategic approach than this opportunistic application provides. Enhanced beachside facilities would perhaps increase the enjoyment and experience if well-managed and deployed sensitively.

Indeed, there might be other areas along the coastline which could also benefit from such enhancements.  The City Council or its arm’s length organisation Edinburgh Leisure are well-placed to develop a strategic framework to carry this forward.

 

Council Decision: We were contacted by the Council Licensing Dept on 19th May 2021 to inform us that the application had been refused in terms of Paragraph 5(3)(c)(i) of Schedule 1 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982).

This part of the Act specifies:

Where the licence applied for relates to an activity consisting of or including the use of premises or a vehicle or vessel, those premises are not or, as the case may be, that vehicle or vessel is not suitable or convenient for the conduct of the activity having regard to—

  1. the location, character or condition of the premises or the character or condition of the vehicle or vessel;
  2. the nature and extent of the proposed activity;
  3. the kind of persons likely to be in the premises, vehicle or vessel;
  4. the possibility of undue public nuisance; or
  5. public order or public safety;

 

Edinburgh City-wide Parking Phase 2 Consultation

Posted on:

Our comments on the Council proposals for controlled parking in parts of the city.

Our comments on the Council proposals for controlled parking in parts of the city.

Cockburn Response

Our concerns mainly focus on managing the amenity and environmental impacts of these proposed parking controlled zones.

Residential gardens form a major part of Edinburgh’s streetscapes, helping to improve air quality, support biodiversity, improve health and wellbeing, and enhance the traditional sense of place of communities across the city. They are also important because they help surface water management as garden vegetation acts as a “sponge” by soaking up rainfall and filtering pollution. This fact will become increasingly important as out local climate changes in the years to come.

However, many gardens across Edinburgh have already been covered by hard paving by residents to create off-street parking. Replacing natural vegetation with impermeable surfaces reduces the amount of rainfall that can infiltrate naturally into the ground and increases the rate and volume of runoff flowing to the city’s drainage systems. During storm events, this can cause the system to become overwhelmed and lead to localised flooding and storm events are expected to become much more common in the future.

The further expansion of on-street parking may encourage the further conversion of gardens to driveways. It is entirely understandable why householders would seek to repurpose their front gardens in this way, especially to avoid parking permit costs when including within a Parking Control Zone. However, this represents the semi-privatisation of adjacent public streets with new dropped curbs and potentially more roadside restrictions preventing the new driveway from being blocked by street parking.  In most places, this will result in a significant further reduction in on-street parking, exacerbating the problem of supply rather than alleviating it. It is also important to flag up that that a proliferation of dropped kerbs can present addition problems for pedestrians and wheelers, especially those with mobility or sight issues and with young children.

Without urban planning controls and design guidance, further restrictions to on-street parking run the risk of promoting more unsustainable garden to driveway conversions. If Parking Control Areas are being expanded and the associated increased pressure to form private drives in increasing. Then it is essential that the City of Edinburgh’s guidance for parking in front gardens is up-to-date and fit for purpose. It also needs be consistent with other Council traffic and transport policies and initiatives.

Public Space Management Plan – Pre-consultation Exercise

Posted on: January 20, 2021

The Cockburn Association welcomes the development of a Public Spaces Management Plan, seeking to amalgamate and improve existing policies, plans and guidelines into a single unified document and process. However, we note that the Public Space Management Plan offers no strategic insight or assistance with the controversial issue of the commodification of open space.  Instead, it proposes a set of …

The Cockburn Association welcomes the development of a Public Spaces Management Plan, seeking to amalgamate and improve existing policies, plans and guidelines into a single unified document and process. However, we note that the Public Space Management Plan offers no strategic insight or assistance with the controversial issue of the commodification of open space.  Instead, it proposes a set of …

Cockburn Response

A precis of the issues

It is generally accepted that this is not a management plan for public spaces per se, but an operational guide for the management of events (including filming) in a limited number of Council-controlled public spaces.

This is evidenced by the objective of the plan, which will “set out how we can manage public open spaces (parks, greenspace, roads, plazas, squares under City of Edinburgh Council control) for events, filming and festivals”.  The PSMP continues to assume that the commodification of open space is an acceptable public objective.

The starting point for plan should be a “first principles” review and consideration of the scale and nature of the use of public spaces.  Many if not most events and activities are relatively modest and limited in their impact. An analysis of existing activity would be very useful in preparing the PSMP.

We accept that activities in public spaces can be positive and indeed desirable.  They can contribute to interest and vitality and can support local communities.  They can also be divisive, exclusive/restrictive and anti-community as well introduce disruptive and intrusive activities in places most appreciate for peace and tranquillity. It is this paradigm that the development of the plan should concentrate, and a criteria-based approach developed.  At the moment, it is left to the event organiser to determine how the event is to be delivered.  Whilst this might seem logical from an events management perspective, from a civic perspective, the Council should set criteria to which the operator must adhere to.  For example, a default position against the use of amplified music would mean that any event which wishes it, must justify the need against set criteria (e.g. impact on residents) and outline management and mitigation measures before consent is considered.  Similarly, the closure of streets for filming should be an unreasonable disruption and justification would need to put forward.

The current processes exclude civic engagement.  This should change.  Of course, very small activities over short periods of time could be exempt but some form of public signposting is needed much in the same way as a planning application.

The information that is required to be submitted for event approvals at the moment is very light.  The Cockburn Association has participated in a consultation forum for events in key public spaces such as Calton Hill and has seen just how poor the level of information required to gain consent is.  This Plan provides a very positive opportunity to address this, and we would advocate the creation of a task group to help define what types and levels of information should be required.

Future imperatives

The current premium on open space as a result of Covid-19 isn’t reflected in this paper.  Covid has helped society understand and appreciate the value of open spaces, providing places for well-being activities. Whilst we might question to the implementation of schemes such as Streets for People, the sentiment encouraging greater civic use of streets is a fair one and reflects a changing attitude to civic space and civic amenity.  Commodifying open space is counter to this and the Plan should reflect this.

Various consultation surveys show that the most valued attributes of parks and gardens are their tranquil and green nature (West Princes Street Gardens, for example).  These qualities can be shared and experienced by all visitors, whether residents, workers or tourists.  The default position for the PSMP must be the retention of these qualities.  Commercial events with an element of exclusive ticketing or branding should be avoided or kept to a minimum.  The Summer Session concerts illustrated the conflict between open space as a performance arena and open space as a civic amenity, especially for commercial ventures that require a high degree of exclusivity.  Hoardings, crowd-control gates and threats of street closures to management public safety are all illustrations of the unsuitability of such activities in public parks.

A paper considered by the Policy and Sustainability Committee on 10 January 2021on filming noted that this activity generated less than £250,000 for the city although it highlighted the brand and marketing value. The benefit of allowing public spaces to be used for private ventures should be required to demonstrate a direct benefit to the City. At the moment, there is little in the way of meaningful consultation with residents and civic groups on the impacts of street closures, etc, only noting that local businesses impact may be able to negotiate compensation from filming companies.

This suggests an Activity for Activity’s sake ideology behind the initiative.  A more strategic approach considering the carry capacity of places to absorb events and activities is needed, where civic and amenity requirements are equal to tourist and cultural economic activities.

Need for overarching Strategy

In agreeing with the need for effective operational management of events, there is a need for a more strategic management plan for the wider use of streets and other public spaces and going well-beyond event management.   The impact on public spaces due to construction and development activities can bring significant issues including pedestrian disruption, noise, etc.

It is the nature of many spaces that they are unable to take significant pressures of major events.  The damage to East Princes Street Gardens caused by successive Winter Festivals/Christmas Markets highlights all too well the issue.  In 2019, for the 6 weeks operation of the enhanced market with its large space deck, the gardens were closed for a total of 6 months (including set-up, take down and landscape repair/recovery time). Thus, a civic asset was unavailable for public use as a result of a commercial venture for a significant period of time.  This cannot be acceptable.

A Public Spaces Management Strategy should also include other issues affecting public space, such as street closures facilitating construction work, etc.  These need not be managed through any central department but the criteria for use of civic assets should be set out in a coherent manner.  This should also include spaces not under the control of the City Council but also those under institutional or private management.

Pseudo-public space

Pseudo-public spaces – large squares, parks and thoroughfares that appear to be public but are owned and controlled by developers or private interests are a feature of Edinburgh.  The criteria used for assessing suitability for events or other activities should be applied these spaces as well.  Although they are seemingly accessible to members of the public and have the look and feel of public land, these sites – also known as privately owned public spaces or “Pops” – are not subject to ordinary local authority bylaws but rather governed by restrictions drawn up the landowner and usually enforced by private security companies.  For example, Bristo Square and George Square are owned by the University and host large scale events but would not be covered by the PSMP despite the potential impacts and the perceived civic nature of the space.

Other examples of Pops would be the various New Town gardens.  Charlotte Square has become synonymous with the Book Festival, but its management sits outside the PSMP as it is a private space.  Concern has been expressed over many years about the physical state of the land post the festival, which has visual amenity impact borne by many. As such, its regulation through the PSMP would be beneficial to the city.

Such spaces need to be included in the PSMP because their use as event spaces can have significant impact on public amenity.

Overlap with other consenting regimes

Following on from this point, it is important that the PSMP articulates the wider consenting regime.  The scandal of the space deck being erected in East Princes Street gardens without planning consent illustrates this issue perfectly.  The Cockburn has undertaken a very quick review of other open spaces and has found that major events have operated without planning consent, or so it seems.

Common Goods Land

In 1491, the Scots parliament passed the Common Good Act affirming that the land and property of Scotland’s royal burghs “be obseruit and kepit to the commoune gude of the toune and to be spendit in commoune And necessare thingis of the burgh. From that year until the Burgh Reform Act of 1833, the landowners and the commercial bourgeois class controlled all burghal administration of the common lands and controlled it in such a way that vast areas of common lands were quietly appropriated.

Much of Edinburgh’s public space is Common Good Land.  It is held for the benefit of citizens.  As such, a separate vehicle for oversight should be required as part of the management process.  This might be built into the PSMP and should require special attention to the played.

Summary and Some Cockburn suggestions

The following represents some ideas and thoughts which we feel should be considered as part of this exercise:

  • All events, in all public spaces including streets should be covered by any emerging plan;
  • The remit of the PSMP should include all public spaces, and not be limited CEC owned and/or controlled spaces is too limiting and not acceptable;
  • Common Good Land is not CEC property – this requires a separate process for management and event approval and management;
  • Commercially exclusive events which require restriction of public access for even relatively short period of time should be discouraged;
  • For major events that require ticketing, the assumption should be that most tickets should be free to users, allowing a small percentage of sold tickets for VIP and commercial reasons. As in New York City, the assumption should be use of a public space is for public benefit and enjoyment;
  • Community events and major commercial events require different and bespoke registration and management processes and fee structures;
  • The acceptability of holding major events in public spaces at times of year when access to public spaces are in high demand for informal recreation, rest and well-being should be heavily restricted;
  • The PSMP must have city-wide and community-wide climate mitigation, climate adaptation, biodiversity, tree expansion and sustainability issues at its heart. ISO20121 should be the minimum standard required.
  • Future events in public spaces should be required to clearly express how they will add to or detract from the quality of life in the city as a whole and their host residential communities.
  • All collateral impacts of events in public spaces e.g. noise, pollution, policing costs must be identified, and mitigation frameworks brought forward and incorporated into events approval and management processes. The cost of meeting these and remedying any impact must fall wholly to the event and not the public purse.

The Cockburn Association would be delighted to assist in the development of this ideas and the furtherance of effective management policies for the city’s public and quasi-public open spaces.

City Mobility Plan – Consultation Response

Posted on: April 27, 2020

Our detailed response to Edinburgh City Council’s consultation on its City Mobility Plan

Our detailed response to Edinburgh City Council’s consultation on its City Mobility Plan

Cockburn Response

The City Mobility Plan ‘Connecting people, transforming place’

When presented to the City of Edinburgh Council for consideration, the draft City Mobility Plan was premised on the statement that more people in Edinburgh use public transport and active travel modes (walking and ­­­­cycling) than in any other Scottish city and most UK cities and that the public transport companies operating in the city such as Edinburgh Trams and Lothian Buses are generally regarded as being both popular and affordable. This is part of the successful foundation on which the draft City Mobility Plan is based.

On the other hand, Edinburgh is now consistently rated as one of the most congested cities in the UK. As reported to Council committee 19% of peak driving time in Edinburgh is spent in congestion, which adds 40% travel time to each peak time journey (Inrix traffic scorecard report, 2016). The cost of Edinburgh’s congestion to the local economy is estimated at £225m per annum (Tom Tom Traffic Index); air quality as a result of transport-related emissions across parts of the city is worryingly low and has been consistently so for some time,  bus use is declining, car use is increasing with no sign of congestion easing.. The cost of public transport is also increasing while arguably accessibility and utility for some user groups is declining.

The draft SEA Environmental Report which accompanied the draft City Mobility Plan highlights that in addition to congestion there are several other issues affecting the city’s transport system resulting in the system operating below its capabilities. These include roads in need of maintenance, a limited cycle network, a limited bus lane network and poorly maintained public transport facilities in some locations. A fuller detailing of these issues and opportunities for their resolution would be an appropriate addition to the final City Mobility Plan

In addition, given the anticipated short-term significant  population growth for the city and the numerous recent or consented low density housing developments in and around Edinburgh and the city region – many with limited or not sustainable transport infrastructure – the existing transport related problems seem intractable.  A radical transport intervention would seem to be required.

The Cockburn welcomes the overall vision and objectives of the City Mobility Plan. When considered in conjunction with the draft policy revisions in the City Plan 2030, there is clearly an emerging potential for the city  to take major steps forward toward a lower carbon, climate-ready and more sustainable city with a diversity of sustainable travel opportunities.

Taken in the round, the draft City Mobility Plan arguably does show ambition, proposing concrete measures to reduce/manage demand for car trips into the city and to promote and encourage the use of sustainable transport modes. It includes plans to develop high-capacity transit corridors and cycle routes on major arterial roads, tackle freight transport issues, and enable transhipment hubs and green last-mile deliveries.

However, the Cockburn does not believe that this is a plan nor even a strategic framework. It reads like a project list, a wish list or an infrastructure and Investment programme. But on this last and fundamental point, there is almost a complete lack of detail. An infrastructure and investment programme is not the same thing as a mobility plan.  There needs to be much more focus on the underlying actions and behaviours of individuals, and how to influence those. It would also be reasonable for such a plan to be accompanied with an indication of cost and how it will be funded. In addition, since turning policy/plan into action is often problematic.

The draft SEA Environmental Report which accompanies the draft City Mobility Plan makes clear that “the CMP plays a pivotal role in linking national, regional and city policy context through to guiding delivery plans and resourcing across the city”. On the other hand, the draft City Mobility Plan lacks any detail on how this linkage will facilitated and monitored to achieve tangible and positive transport benefits particularly in the context or the emerging City Plan 2030 and in relation to the Edinburgh City Centre Transformation Programme and the Sustainability Strategy 2030.

We would also like detail to be provided on a process to measure success/failure of the draft Mobility Plan set within the context of the success/failure of the Local Transport Strategy 2014-2019 and associated land-use planning policies and with an indication how the draft Mobility Plan addresses previous failures and builds on established successes.

More than ever, climate change adaptation actions, for environmental, ecological and health reasons also need to be included in the final version of the Mobility Plan by not at the expense of the safely and utility of streets for pedestrian and cyclists.

When the draft plan was written no consideration had to be given to the dramatic change in circumstances represented by the current COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the Scottish and UK Government’s measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, including closing schools, advising working from home and restricting personal freedoms, have created enormous uncertainty for projects and construction in terms of how these restrictions apply to site operations. At this stage it is impossible to know how big an impact the pandemic is going to have on the projects listed within the draft mobility plan, how long the impact will last and what its full impact is going to be. However, the impact may be significant and long-lasting.  Given that the draft Mobility Plan is essentially an infrastructure and investment plan, the impact of COVIS-19 must be addressed.  It may be that a “do minimum” infrastructure and investment option must now be considered which focuses on how to achieve significant behaviour change and modal shift without large-scale new investment and projects.

In addition to all of the points made above, we encourage the council to ensure that the approved City Mobility Plan is amended to specifically highlight the importance good and timely maintenance of transport infrastructure, both existing and proposed, the maintenance of good road surfaces, pavements and pedestrian routes and of cycleways which are essential for active travel.

We particularly emphasise the importance of the timely and high-quality maintenance of existing pedestrian-focused infrastructure including pavement surfaces, kerbs, setts, crossing points and road markings is a pre-requisite of people friendly streets. The provision of new infrastructure is not a substitution or replacement for the maintenance and upgrading of existing pedestrian infrastructure or for any of the other issues identified in the draft SEA Environmental Report which detract from the performance of Edinburgh’s transport system. We believe that it is essential that the final City Mobility Plan included a costed and timetabled maintenance plan for Edinburgh current and future transport infrastructure.

Contributors to the Cockburn’s series of “Our Unique City” soapbox sessions which were run over the last twelve months made a point which is highly relevant to the City Mobility Plan which the draft plan acknowledges but should address more fully. The way residents and commuters travel around the city has changed and is still changing.  The days of simple home-to-work or home-to-shop linear point-to-point journeys are a thing of the past for many people. Life has become much for complex. 24/7 working, caring responsibilities and the challenges of the gig economy can mean that the individual journeys undertaken by residents and commuters have become more multi-functional and convoluted.  This complexity will not be easy to address in a manner that fulfils the needs of most citizens and it is not a challenge that can be address by traditional infrastructural interventions alone.  But it is a challenge which the City Mobility Plan must rise to.

However, turning policy into action is the big issue with the plan. Most of the proposed actions to 2022 are in progress or are in development. Although the scale and nature of their impact in terms of a tangible improvement to sustainable travel is a matter of debate and conjecture, to a degree.

Even before the advent of COVID-19 the actions listed in the plan  as ‘bolder actions’ and ‘a city transformed’ looked ambitious in a 10-year delivery context when compared with the time taken on comparatively minor projects to date – some of these are also likely to be wishful thinking, contentious, difficult or now impossible to deliver or fund and relatively minor in terms of a positive contribution towards city-wide sustainable transport and carbon reduction targets.

Nevertheless, over time, other cities have managed a transformational change in their transport infrastructure and there is no real reason why it could not happen in Edinburgh if there were to be the political will at a national and local level, community support and cultural change and funding.

Specific Comments on Consultation Questions

 

5. To what extent do you support or oppose the vision set out for 2022

The Cockburn supports the Council’s vision set out for 2022 the majority of which are being implemented or actively progressed  And we have welcomed the opportunity to contribute to and participate in associated consultation activities and stakeholders’ events that have help to shape the nature and details of major programmes coming forward begore 2022 such are the City Centre Transformation Programme and the Edinburgh Waverley master planning process. We continue to engage with the project team working on this latter initiative and, at this point, are still seeking resolution of a number of our concerns and issues

Arguably, the provisions set out for 2020 are relatively limited and will make a consequentially limited contribution towards the council’s 2030 carbon reduction targets However, it must be acknowledged that the City Mobility Plan both builds on the foundation of practical sustainable development infrastructure and opportunities which have already been implemented in the city and the plan’s objectives will be assisted by proposed policy changes coming forward in City Plan 2030.

But, we welcome the council’s wish to roll out Low Emission Zones as a means of reducing the many dis-benefits associated with high-polluting vehicles, such as large vans, pickups and HGVs. This should encourage residents and commuters to use cleaner vehicles, such as hybrids and electric cars, and ultimately improve the quality of the air. However, the cost of hybrids and electric cars and other vehicle is still prohibitive for many drivers.

The absence for the draft City Mobility Plan of a specific programme to support and facilitate the use of electric vehicles, or those using hydrogen technologies, in Edinburgh is notable and this omission should be addressed. Electric mobility is widely seen as a way to improve air quality and meet climate goals. But it is unlikely that market forces alone will be able to significantly increase the use of electric cars and other vehicles across Edinburgh by 2030. The public sector and its key partners will need to be involved in promoting a local electric vehicle infrastructure that related to the city’s energy system, residents’ needs, mobility culture and patterns. The draft City Mobility Plan should seek to more actively prioritise and incentivise the electrification of high-use vehicles such as taxis and public transportation. This is likely to have a positive impact in reducing carbon and polluting emissions. These types of vehicles are driven far more than personal-use vehicles, so commercial and public electric fleet development should be encouraged. In addition, provision must be made in the City Mobility Plan, or in other plans with which it is being linked, to ensure  that electric vehicle charging infrastructure is developed along roads, at destination points and close to public transportation nodes in advance of user demand. This will ensure that current electric vehicle users always have access to charging points and promote the transition to electric vehicles in in commercial and private market.

 

6. To what extent do you support or oppose the vision set out for 2025?

The Cockburn supports the Council’s vision set out for 2025 but with some reservations.

Given the very limited timeframe available for the implementation  of the City Mobility Plan we would have expected to see a significant ramping up of city-wide project activity and sustainable travel interventions if serious inroads into the substantial contribution made by transport- related emissions to the city’s carbon footprint are to be achieved.  In this context the vision set out for 2025 does not seem ambitious enough.

However, we welcome the fact that a detailed plan will be in place to reallocate road space on all arterial routes to deliver improved public transport and dedicated active travel infrastructure.  If this can be implemented, this is a positive development which will improve the active travel experience of many residents.

It is particularly welcome to see an ambition to improve the conditions for pedestrians. If a city-wide and meaningful delivery of the Edinburgh street design guidance policy and a rigorous approach to enforcement can be achieve this will also be positive.

We note that funding from a workplace parking level will be a source of funding for sustainable travel interventions.  Such levies may indeed be a useful source of funding and their implementation may have the beneficial effect of making more land available for other uses such as “pocket parks” or additional active travel infrastructure. However, building support for a workplace parking levy will require careful planning while the implementation of a comprehensive exemption scheme could also help win support citywide. We believe that the roll out of a workplace parking levy by 2025 will be challenging in Edinburgh. But we accept that in such a congested city workplace parking levy may be a relatively fair and efficient way to raise the money needed to improve citywide sustainable transport infrastructure.

As vehicular technology becomes cleaner and more sustainable and as travel patterns evolve across the city it may be appropriate to consider to develop additional residential and general parking proposals that keep pace with these changes and that are designed to encourage residents to switch to cleaner, more sustainable modes of transport whilst support the needs of residents and commuters that require everyday car and parking access.

We also welcome the council’s plan for sustainable neighbourhoods and in this context new policy with the City Plan 2030 will be very importance. Nevertheless, it will be extremely challenging in the available timeframe to deliver transport sustainability to new built residential estates on the urban fringe or within the city region which have, in so many case, were limited access to sustainable travel opportunities at this time.

The impact of COVIS-19 must be addressed, and, in this context, the Council’s vision set out for 2025 should only be included in the finalised Mobility Plan if, on reassessment, there is a realistic possibility of delivering this vision.   It may be that a “do minimum” infrastructure and investment option must now be considered which focuses on how to achieve significant behaviour change and modal shift without large-scale new investment and projects.

 

7. To what extent do you support or oppose the vision set out for 2030?

The Cockburn supports the Council’s vision set out for 2025 but with some reservations.

If the proposed the mass transit network can be developed by 2030 this will be a positive development.

However, we are concerned that building additional parking, for example additional park and ride spaces on the outskirts of the city or elsewhere in the city region, without managing the existing demand for car based commuting could encourage driving, increase the demand for even more parking in the longer term and do little to reduce the environmental and carbon dis-benefits associated with car based travel in general terms albeit it may alleviate these issues in the city centre.

In this context we note that there is no reference to the planned major road schemes that will take place during the plan period at Sheriffhall and Gogarburn. These and similar transport initiatives around the city being brough forward through the City Deal have the potential to generate more car-based traffic. The council’s ability to co-ordinate with local authorities across the city region and with the Scottish Government is vitally important is the City Mobility Plan is to achieve its aims.

If the city’s cycling network and associated cycling infrastructure is improved by 2030, as proposed. There can be every expectation that rates of cycling will improve. But in the limited timeframe available the anticipation of “mass commuting” is pre-mature. When the densities of pedestrians and bicycles are low, pedestrian cyclist conflicts are relatively infrequent. But since both the number of residents in Edinburgh is projected to significantly increase and the number of cyclists is expected to increase it is reasonable to assume that the potential for conflicts among road space users may become more frequent. It is timely for the draft City Mobility Plan to include clear and specific provisions to reduce conflict and remove the potential for conflict between cyclists and pedestrians on existing paths, pavements and road crossing-points and when new facilities are being designed.

We contend that it is unrealistic to aspire to a car free city centre by 2030, except in a very restricted sense of what constitutes the city centre.  The draft City Mobility Plan is simply not ambition enough to bring about truly radical changes to citywide travel behaviour. A more achievable and appropriate goal for a city like Edinburgh would be to seek to achieve a car free “central business district” rather than the whole “city centre”.

On the other hand, the implementation of seamless ticketing and a much-improved cycling network by 2030 should be possible, will be beneficial to many and is to be commended.

We urge the council to press ahead with the development of goods micro-distribution hubs across the city. The Cockburn has been supportive of this idea for some time in the context of city centre brownfield development, but the opportunity should be taken to facilitate such innovative delivery option across the city in conjunction with the city’s emerging sustainable travel infrastructure.

And we further welcome any increase in the provision of strategic walking and cycling networks that can be achieved by 2030.  But note how difficult and time-consuming the implementation of similar, existing schemes has been.  Within the limited timeframe of 10 years, achieving significant beneficial change will be challenging. In parallel, existing city guidance will need to be updated and revised to ensure that the expansion of walking and cycling infrastructure adds to, never detracts from, the unique sense-of-place of communities. Neighbourhoods and conservation areas across the city and always supports Edinburgh built and natural heritage.

Particularly when considering the longer terms aims of the mobility plan, it is important to emphasis that mobility, travel and transport management and infrastructural development is not an end in itself. At a city and city-region level mobility and transport planning relates directly to wider aspects of local and regional land use planning, architecture, landscape urban realm design, urban economics and social policy. It touches all aspects of city and city-region life such as economic development, quality of life, social equity, public health and ecological sustainability.  It is a prerequisite for the successful and sustainable mobility planning for Edinburgh that city-based actions are clearly and explicitly set within a city-region and national context.

As above, the impact of COVIS-19 must be addressed, and, in this context, the Council’s vision set out for 2030 should only be included in the finalised Mobility Plan if, on reassessment, there is a realistic possibility of delivering this vision.   It may be that a “do minimum” infrastructure and investment option must now be considered which focuses on how to achieve significant behaviour change and modal shift without large-scale new investment and projects.

 

8. To what extent do you support or oppose the following proposals to enhance public transport?

The Cockburn strongly supports the following proposals:

  • Co-ordinate bus, tram and bike hire operations to better serve the city and wider region
  • Expand the tram network in the city and potentially into the wider region in order to carry high volumes of people in a clean and efficient way
  • Introduce smart contactless payment options across all public transport and operators
  • Support the introduction of shared transport options to complement timetabled public transport – this could include community run buses, car clubs and bike hire

 

9. Please use the space below for any comments or suggestions on what we are doing, or propose to do, to enhance public transport

Clean, safe, efficient public transportation that means the travelling needs of residents and commuters will be an important contributing factor to Edinburgh’s sustainability and carbon neutrality by 2030. But transport does not exist in a vacuum and at all times public transportation must consider issues such as accessibility affordability; connectivity; holistic transportation and land use planning; and planning with the environment in mind if it is to be truly sustainable in the 21st century.

We are particularly mindful of points made by contributors to our recent ‘Our Unique City’ discussions relevant to the City Mobility Plan which the draft plan acknowledges but should address more fully. The way residents and commuters travel around the city has changed and is still changing.  The days of simple home-to-work or home-to-shop linear point-to-point journeys are a thing of the past for many people. Life has become much for complex. 24/7 working, caring responsibilities and the challenges of the gig economy can mean that the individual journeys undertaken by residents and commuters have become more multi-functional and convoluted.  This complexity will not be easy to address in a manner that fulfils the needs of most citizens and it is not a challenge that can be address by traditional infrastructural interventions alone.  But it is a challenge which the City Mobility Plan must rise to.  It is not clear to us that the draft Mobility Plan does rise to this challenge in terms of its proposals for public transport.

 

10. To what extent do you support or oppose the following proposals to create people friendly streets?

The Cockburn strongly supports the following proposals:

  • Create direct, segregated cycling routes along main arterial roads to provide for safe and quick journeys by bicycle
  • To support the transition to cleaner vehicles, develop a comprehensive network of electric vehicle charging points
  • Minimise the number of freight vehicle trips by developing distribution centres and click-and-collect hubs across the city

 

11. Please use the space below for any comments or suggestions on what we are doing, or propose to do, to create people friendly streets.

We fully endorse the comments by Living Streets Edinburgh relating to absence of references to the ‘movement hierarchy’ in the draft mobility plan.

We particularly agree that the draft plan makes insufficient reference to the needs, requirements and expectations of pedestrians and to the promotion of ‘everyday walking’ by improving pedestrian infrastructure across Edinburgh as a while.

Here we particularly emphasise the importance of the timely and high-quality maintenance of existing infrastructure including pavement surfaces, kerbs, setts, crossing point and road markings is a pre-requisite of people friendly streets. The provision of new infrastructure is not a substitution or replacement for the maintenance and upgrading of existing pedestrian infrastructure.

Walking is the most environmentally sustainable and healthy mode of travel. For many people in Edinburgh walking remains the most convenient and pleasant way of getting around the city for work or pleasure.

However many of the city’s road are significant barriers to pedestrian movement and where pavements are present these may be too narrow in busy areas  or pedestrian movement may be restricted in other ways by  such by Illegally parked cars, street furniture, high kerbs, cycle lanes, absent or poorly maintained street and road marking etc.

In addition, we believe that increasingly roads, streets and paths will also need to find a way of accommodating actions to address the Climate Emergency. Space for additional trees, shrubs, flowerbeds, grass and sustainable urban drainage to make streets more resilient to a changing local climate and more attractive and safer for active travel modes such as walking and cycling. More than ever, climate change adaptation actions, for environmental, ecological and health reasons also need to be included in the final version of the City Mobility Plan by not at the expense of the safely and utility of streets for pedestrian and cyclists. We signpost taking an urban ecology approach to understand and  demonstrate how nature and greenspace can permeate Edinburgh’s transport infrastructure, contribute to sustainable everyday urban living, and how streets and paths can be managed to make Edinburgh a climate-resilient and healthier place in which to live and work.

Finally, we reiterate the important point that the draft City Mobility Plan must clearly demonstrate how it links to, benefits from, and adds to the associated national, regional and city policy context.

 

12. To what extent do you support or oppose the following proposals relating to planning new developments?

The Cockburn strongly supports the following proposals:

  • Introduce transport hubs in major new developments to accommodate public and shared transport, and to enable co-ordinated deliveries and click-and-collect hubs
  • Control the level of parking in and around new developments and include requirements for car club, electric vehicles and bike hire provision
  • To change travel behaviours, require travel plans for major new developments, workplaces and schools that include targets for walking, cycling and public transport use

 

13. Please use the space below for any comments or suggestions on what we are doing, or propose to do, regarding planning new developments.

The delivery of the City Mobility Plans objectives regarding planning new development will be high dependant on the new policy framework emerging from the City Plan 2030 consultation.  On this we have made a separate representation.

 

14. To what extent do you support or oppose the following proposals to manage travel demand?

The Cockburn strongly supports the following proposals:

  • To create space for public transport, walking and cycling, reduce the level of on-street parking in areas well-served by public transport whilst enabling parking for residents and people with mobility difficulties
  • Explore the introduction of road user charging within the city to reduce the number of vehicles

 

15. Please use the space below for any comments or suggestions on what we are doing, or propose to do, to manage travel demand.

We are particularly keen to ensure that the council meets the legitimate and reasonable expectations and needs of residents, people with mobility difficulties, essential car users and low-paid workers in the gig economy.

End

 

Choices for City Plan 2030 – Consultation Response

Posted on: April 20, 2020

As Edinburgh City Council prepares its new Local Development Plan for Edinburgh, called the City Plan 2030, local community groups, organisations and residents have been asked for their input in a consultation called “Choices for City Plan 2030.” After extensive consultation with our members, individuals and affiliates, and members of the Edinburgh Civic Forum, this post contains the Cockburn Association’s …

As Edinburgh City Council prepares its new Local Development Plan for Edinburgh, called the City Plan 2030, local community groups, organisations and residents have been asked for their input in a consultation called “Choices for City Plan 2030.” After extensive consultation with our members, individuals and affiliates, and members of the Edinburgh Civic Forum, this post contains the Cockburn Association’s …

Cockburn Response

General summary of comments

The Cockburn is broadly supportive of the draft policies being proposed in the ‘Choices for City Plan 2030’ document. However, it appears to us that many of the new policies, as proposed, are already within the scope of the city’s existing planning policy and have been the subject of discussion within the land use planning community for many years.

In addition, although many of the new policies being proposed are commendable in themselves, we have significant reservation regarding their deliverability in any meaningful or significant way.  It this context, it would be helpful and appropriate for the City of Edinburgh Council to provide an assessment of the effectiveness of the policies contained within the previous local plan.  Which policies were effective?  Which where not effective? What was this so?  How is this directly addressed by the policy framework now being proposed?

We have reservations about the robustness of the proposals over the extended plan period of up to 10 years,  Whilst this is an outcome of the recent legislative changes, the rapid change of modern society from technological innovations to amending trading patterns suggests that many of the assumptions built into the plan and related plans (such as the City Mobility Plan) will be unfounded in years to come.  For example, the clinical changes to healthcare provision which has driven the consolidation of infrastructure onto major new “campuses” in the past, might revert to the need for more locally-based provision. This would require a potentially significant amended to land-use allocations in existing urban areas to provide sites.

Much of the Plan’s quantitative growth projections are based on projections and extrapolations of data.  It is regrettable that the timing of this document hasn’t allowed for the 2021 Census data to be used.  The implications of Brexit and outward migration of seasonal workers could have a significant impact on housing projections as could any variance to the Higher Education and the need to provide for further student accommodation.  We would therefore advocate that, as a Choice for the City, the Council indicates that it will review the plan in the next few years if emerging data from the census challenges the assumptions built into this plan.

Finally, there is an inbuilt inconsistency in a local development plan predicated on, to a greater or lesser degree, quantitative growth projections and the declared Climate Emergency and the stated political ambition to be carbon neutral by 2030.  A “No Growth” option should be included in this Choices Report to enable a coherent and structured discussion on the major challenges facing the City.  Pretending that this dichotomy doesn’t exist is not a way forward.

 

Specific Comments on Consultation Questions

Choice 1 – Making Edinburgh a sustainable, active and connected city

We support the following proposed changes:

A         We want to create a new policy which will help connect our places, parks and greenspaces together as part of a         multi-functional, local, city-wide, regional, and national green network

B        We want all development (including change of use) to include green and blue infrastructure. Where appropriate this should include trees, living roofs, and nature-based drainage solutions including, ponds, swales, rain gardens and ecosystem services as well as making best use of natural features in the surrounding environment

E        We want to introduce a new ‘extra-large green space standard’ which recognises the need for new communities to have access to green spaces more than 5 hectares, as well as smaller greenspaces. A 5-hectare green space is the equivalent of The Meadows or Saughton Park. At present our policies require new development areas to provide a park of 2 hectares. We want to increase this requirement.

Additional Comment:

We believe that if Edinburgh is to remain an attractive and “liveable” city it is essential that suitable and attractive greenspaces, accessible and well-managed open spaces and green-blue infrastructure are provided for its residents. Such spaces and places are an ever more important component of a positive urban land use policy that enhances biodiversity, boosts public health, creates opportunities to enrich and build communities, assists with adaptation to a changing local climate and provides economic development openings.  Well-connected and appropriately managed urban green and blue spaces are an essential part of making cities work for residents.

This needs to take into account the characteristics of existing places.  Provision for the care and maintenance of what already exists is essential and adding to the list of areas to be managed by an overstretched municipal authority might have unforeseen consequences.  Therefore, a review on the how and what of section 75 planning agreements is necessary and should consider the possibility of long-term maintenance issues.

Choice 2 – Improving the quality and density of development

We support the following proposed changes:

B        We want to revise our policies on density. This is to ensure that we make best use of the limited space in our city and that sites are not under-developed.

  • Across the city, on both urban area and greenfield sites, housing development must achieve a minimum of 65 dwellings per hectare.
  • Where identified in the plan, higher density housing development with a minimum of 100 dwellings per hectare will be required.
  • A vertical mix of uses to support the efficient use of land.

Additional Comment:

Many parts of Edinburgh are already a ‘vertical’ city dominated by traditional tenement dwellings. We believe that densification is acceptable over other parts of the city and we support the development of brownfield sites, in preference to using greenbelt/greenfield land, but only if it is accompanied by an expansion of associated high quality, well-managed and accessible urban greenspace provision. Part of this process should encompass a vertical aggregation of uses as well as a horizontal one.  A prime feature of historic parts of the city is the mix of ground floor retail/commercial use and residential above. Whilst we accept that the traditional pattern might not apply universally (it will in many circumstances) a greater range of uses might be permitted including home-work facilities, small scale industrial/warehousing/manufacturing, etc.

In addition, a re-assessment of current housing quality standards, including space standards, in urgently required to avoid urban residential densification exacerbating the ‘cramped’ living conditions which are so typical of contemporary housing developments across the city.

The number of Edinburgh properties advertised as short term lets has grown tremendously in recent years as have associated concerns that a lack of regulation has exacerbated the housing crisis in the city and threatened the social cohesion of some traditionally residential areas. Achieving a balance in the provision of short-term retails for transient visitors and retails for permanent residents and works is essential.

Choice 3 – Delivering carbon neutral buildings

We do not support the following proposed change:

A        We want to require all buildings and conversions to meet the zero carbon / platinum standards as set out in the current Scottish Building Regulations. We will continue to require at least 50% of the carbon reduction target to be met through low and zero-carbon generating technologies

Additional Comment:

Energy use in buildings in Edinburgh accounts for a significant proportion of all citywide carbon emissions and energy use.  Therefore, minimising the carbon emissions associated with new buildings and conversions, maximising energy efficiency and using renewable energy presents a substantial opportunity to work towards the city’s 2030 carbon reduction target.

However, the proposed change needs to clearly refer to new buildings and to recognise that there may be limitations to the extent to which existing historical fabric can accommodate new energy efficiency interventions without detracting from or damaging existing historical or cultural interest. The term “platinum” standard requires further clarification.

Embodied energy and carbon, the energy used, and carbon emitted in the past: the ‘sunk’ embodied energy and carbon associated with existing buildings is important and should be acknowledged. Replacing a building has significant energy, carbon and cost implications.  The retention of existing building stock is preferable when energy and carbon performance can be improved to reasonable level, in context and with sensitivity with building conservation and sustainability.

 

Choice 4 – Creating Place Briefs and supporting the use of Local Place Plans in our communities

We support the following proposed changes:

A        We want to work with local communities to prepare Place Briefs for areas and sites within City Plan 2030 highlighting the key elements of design, layout, open space, biodiversity net gain and community infrastructure development should deliver

Additional Comment:

We are supportive of Place Plans. However, clarity is required is required on where Place Briefs sit in the hierarchy of strategies, plans and policies. Which have pre-eminence?  In addition, for the meaningful and inclusive delivery of Place Plans considerable support will be required at community level if residents are to play an equal part in the preparation of Place Plans alongside stakeholders from professional communities of interest.

The Plan identifies several areas for the preparation of place briefs, mainly around the proposed sites for new developments.  We recognise the resource and inputs required for the preparation of these plans. We believe, however, there are a number of other communities under pressure, especially in and around the city centre, where place briefs could be a useful tool to engage local communities, manage local pressures and bring an end to excessive commercial development which displaces local populations.

We believe that if the preparation of Place Briefs and support for Place Plans are to have any real relevance or utility within communities of place and communities of interest across the city then existing community engagement processes and activities with community-controlled organisations must be significantly strengthened, fully resourced and professionally supported.  The challenges to the successful delivery of this policy can be overcome.  It may be appropriate to run a number of pilots across the city to establish models of good practice to be rolled out across the city as a whole.

The City of Edinburgh Council and other public bodies must find ways to open up consultation processes and activities to a much wider and fully more representative community-based audience both in general terms and, in particular, when preparing Place Briefs or undertaking place planning activities across the city.

 

Choice 5 – Delivering community infrastructure

We support the following proposed changes:

A        We want City Plan 2030 to direct development to where there is existing infrastructure capacity, including education, healthcare and sustainable transport, or where potential new infrastructure will be accommodated (deliverable within the plan period), encouraging improvements and investment in the services on offer.

Additional Comment:

Successfully delivering community infrastructure needs to be understood within the wider agenda of community wellbeing which can be defined as the “ combination of social, economic, environmental, cultural, and political conditions identified by individuals and their communities as essential for them to flourish and fulfil their potential.

If this policy is to be effective, then it must be taken forward on a starting point of a comprehensive evidence base of the actual, rather than perceived, infrastructure capacity across different communities of the city, which must include the key attributes of connectedness, liveability and equity. This will need to be developed in a co-ordinated way with all council stakeholders. And it should certainly start with a comprehensive understanding   of the infrastructural needs and expectations of established residential communities across the city and an assessment of if and how these needs and expectations are currently being met to an acceptable standard through existing public sector and other infrastructural providers. This will give an insight into what is important to residents in a local community. From the quality of education, housing affordability, and public transport – to the amount of green space and the number of community centres in an area.

Before any further development is directed to existing residential areas there must be community-wide agreement on what needs to be achieved within local communities to meet existing local needs, support existing businesses, promote social cohesion and sustain local accessible greenspace before further development is allocated.  When further development is allocated, this must only be done if coupled with a programme of infrastructural expansion and support to address rather than aggravate any existing infrastructure and services deficits that have been identified.

 

Choice 6 – Creating places for people, not cars

We support the following proposed changes:

A        We want to create a new policy that assesses development against its ability to meet our targets for public transport usage and walking and cycling. These targets will vary according to the current or planned public transport services and high-quality active travel routes.

B        We want to use Place Briefs to set the targets for trips by walking, cycling and public transport based on current and planned transit interventions. This will determine appropriate parking levels to support high use of public transport.

Additional Comment:

We fully support the ambition of the council and its partners to promote the use of public transport and active travel modes. Promoting the use of cycling and walking are particularly important. Not only are they the least carbon intensive transport modes they can contribute to the alleviation of Edinburgh’s significant traffic congestion and car parking demand. In addition, both can also contribute towards community health and fitness.

However, there is a large segment of the population that does not at present have convenient access to public transport.  Greater priority will need to be given to developing routes that serve the whole population, and to the frequency of services throughout the day if public transport is to be an attractive option for people and to enable a significant modal shift. It will require significant policy innovation and expenditure to achieve this,

Also, it is important to acknowledge and make provision for those members of the Edinburgh community, both residents and commuters, who for a variety entirely

legitimate and entirely unavoidable reasons cannot access public transport and active travel modes.  The implementation of this policy must not penalise or discriminate against those community members.

 

Choice 7 – Supporting the reduction in car use in Edinburgh

We support the following proposed changes:

A        We want to determine parking levels in development based on targets for trips by walking, cycling and public transport. These targets could be set by area, development type, or both and will be supported by other measures to control on-street parking.

B        We want to protect against the development of additional car parking in the city centre to support the delivery of the Council’s city centre transformation programme.

C        We want to update our parking policies to control demand and to support parking for bikes, those with disabilities and electric vehicles via charging infrastructure.

D        We want to support the city’s park and ride infrastructure by safeguarding sites for new park and ride at Gilmerton Road and Lasswade Road and extensions to the current sites at Hermiston and Newcraighall. There is also the potential to safeguard an extension to the park and ride at Ingliston as part of the International Business Gateway masterplan. Policies on Park and Rides will be amended to reference these sites and any other sites that are identified in the City Mobility Plan or its action plan.

Additional Comment:

We broadly support the council’s ambition to reduce car use within the city.  This is entirely consistent with the similar action being taken by other major cities across the world who are seeking to prioritise walkable urban development and public transport over car use. However, we do note that Edinburgh has a very high active travel level already, and we need to recognise that the greater impact comes from travel from outside the built-up city rather than within it.

We note that the intention is to address the legitimate needs of car users who require access to a car.  This is a positive move. In addition, the needs of permanent city centre residents must also be protected. The design and management of parking supply could, if it does not address the needs of city centre residents, negatively impacts on the liveability of the city centre for those residents who require regular access to a car and to an affordable car parking space.

We are concerned that building additional parking, for example additional park and ride spaces on the outskirts of the city or elsewhere in the city region, without managing the existing demand for car based commuting could encourage driving, increase the demand for even more parking in the longer term and do little to reduce the environmental and carbon dis-benefits associated with car based travel in general terms.

Where parking space are being lost from the city centre this should, if appropriate, be a local environmental improvement opportunity.   The development of, for example, “pocket parks” in such locations may make a positive contribution towards adapting the city centre and other build-up areas of the city to the anticipated challenges of a changing local climate.

One of Edinburgh’s most pressing challenges for parking will be to find the right balance between supply and demand.

 

Choice 8 – Delivering new walking and cycle routes

We support the following proposed changes:

A        We want to update our policy on the Cycle and Footpath Network to provide criteria for identifying new routes.

B        As part of the City Centre Transformation and other Council and partner projects we want to add strategic routes to our network.

Additional Comment:

We support the council’s ambition to develop new walking and cycling routes across the city.  These will provide many additional benefits for recreational walkers and cyclists alike and for active commuters.

However, these benefits will only be achieved if the existing cycle and footpath network and any additional expansion of the network is properly maintained.  Expansion of the existing network should only be undertaking if and when all parts of the existing network are acknowledge as being maintained to an acceptable standard by user groups, particularly walkers.

We have concerns about the over-engineering of cycle infrastructure in the city centre, and the consequential impacts on space and amenity that results.

Choice 9 – Protecting against the loss of Edinburgh’s homes to other uses

We support the following proposed change:

A        We want to consult on designating Edinburgh, or parts of Edinburgh, as a ‘Short Term Let Control Area’ where planning permission will always be required for the change of use of whole properties for short-term lets.

Additional Comment:

Housing is not only somewhere to live. Affordable, secure and pleasant housing is a fundamental driver of urban regeneration and well-being. The good availability of a range of housing stimulates both physical and economic improvement, and the resulting enhancements in turn fuel new investment and community cohesion. Conversely, a lack of available and affordable houses for non-transient Edinburgh residents and works risks undermining community cohesion and many wider aspects of the civic life of the city.

This policy change recognises the fragility of residential communities across the city and the concerns of residents. The largest and best-documented potential social and economic dis-benefit of the recent expansion of short term lets across cities such as Edinburgh  is the reduced supply of housing and increased cost of housing as property owners move from serving the needs of established local residents to serving the requirements of transient visitors.  Clarity and transparency in the roll out of this policy is essential.

 

Choice 10 – Creating sustainable communities

We support the following proposed changes:

A        We want to revise our policy on purpose-built student housing. We want to ensure that student housing is delivered at the right scale and in the right locations, helps create sustainable communities and looks after student’s wellbeing.

B        We want to create a new policy framework which sets out a requirement for housing on all sites over a certain size coming forward for development.

Additional Comment:

Off-campus student housing developments has grown considerably in recent years across many Edinburgh neighbourhoods.  This has led some communities to express concern over this spread and the potential or actual negative impacts on their neighbourhoods and the local available affordable housing that may, in other  circumstances, have been developed on sites given over to student housing.

We support the proposal to revise policy on student housing. We believe change is much needed in the light of recent growth in student housing which has had significant impact on the character of some neighbourhoods, and the need to give greater priority to housing for Edinburgh residents and those who wish to live and work permanently in the city.

Student housing should be treated as housing for the purposes of social housing provision in the same way that market housing is treated.  There are needs to be a policy barrier to large mono-use student housing developments that can sterilise areas in terms of vitality and vibrancy.  All student developments should have an element of mixed uses therefore, perhaps mixing with social care provision as we have seen in some Dutch developments.

It is unlikely that any single policy intervention will be able to address the many concerns arising from the perceived or actual concentration of students in some established residential communities across Edinburgh. A wide range of stakeholder perspectives is likely to be required to make changes to the existing policy framework successfully. Therefore, it is essential that in developing a revised policy framework, the council works with local communities and a diverse range of relevant stakeholders, which should include the student community, in order to ensure the joined-up delivery of new and workable policy interventions.

The integration of student accommodation with other types of residential and residential supported care accommodation should be encouraged, where appropriate.

 

Choice 11 – Delivering more affordable homes

We support the following proposed changes:

A        We want to amend our policy to increase the provision of affordable housing requirement from 25% to 35%.All development, including conversions, which consist of 12 residential units or more must include provision for affordable housing amounting to 35% of the total units.

B        We want City Plan 2030 to require a mix of housing types and tenures – we want the plan to be prescriptive on the required mix, including the percentage requirement for family housing and support for the Private Rented Sector.

Additional Comment:

Efforts to improve the supply of affordable housing across Edinburgh will need to be informed by new solutions, following international best practice, if a high quality residential environment of affordable housing is to be achieved and sustained in the longer-term  This may mean that it will be necessary to review  the established understanding of  physical housing form – in terms of size, interior space provision, design, materials used, and reuse of existing buildings – and to consider more community-led solutions if the needs of present and future residents of the city are to be met. This specifically includes the affordable housing requirements generated by increasing life expectancy, immigration and the rise in one-person households.

We support the proposal to revise policy on student housing. We believe change is much needed in the light of recent growth in student housing which has had significant impact on the character of some neighbourhoods, and the need to give greater priority to housing for Edinburgh residents and those who wish to live and work permanently in the city.

These proposed changes are to be welcomed but they must be enforced if they are to have any meaningful impact. Exceptions to the revised policy should only be allowed in very exceptional circumstances.  Indeed, it may be that provision for affordable housing amounting to 50% of the total units would be a higher ambition appropriate to the city of Edinburgh.

It is also of concern, that the number of homes that have not been built in the city of Edinburgh area despite receiving planning permission appears to be rising, potentially meaning that sites for thousands of new properties are being left undeveloped.  Research is required to understand why such sites are not being developed across Edinburgh.  Following on from this consideration should be given to a “use it or lose it” approach by the City of Edinburgh Council to prevent developers and landowners leaving sites undeveloped before further permissions for large scale housing developments are awarded.

 

Choice 12 – Building our new homes and infrastructure

We support the following proposed changes:

Option 1        We want our new homes to be delivered by the Council and its partners within the Urban Area.

Option 3 may be acceptable if carefully controlled and strictly limited.

Option 2        Instead of making this change we could use a market-led greenfield approach

Option 3        Instead we could intervene to deliver significantly more housing (11,000 homes) in the existing urban area, as set out in option 1 and release some land (6,600 homes) from the green belt  where it can be supported by the Council, and with viable new infrastructure required to support it.

Additional Comment:

The release of further greenbelt land for housing development should be resisted at this time.  Considerable areas of formerly greenbelt land already has planning permission in place for housing development. In some, perhaps many, instances this approved development has not been progress for many years and shows no indication of being progressed in the near term.  Such “ghost housing” should be developed before any substantial further releases of greenbelt land for housing development are made.

In addition, before new homes are developed, empty or abandoned existing residential properties across the city must be brought back into residential use. The potential of these unused properties to address current and future housing requirements needs to be fully assessed.

Urban brownfield site are often occupied by smaller-scale light industrial and retail uses.  There can have significant utility to the communities within which they are situated, and they can add valuable character to local streetscapes. The residential development of urban brownfield site should, whenever possible, seek to conserve existing industrial and retail functions.

 

Choice 13 – Supporting inclusive growth, innovation, universities, & culture

We broadly support the changes proposed.

Additional Comment:

Edinburgh is a vibrant city with a diversified economic base, and world-leading educational institutions, which is attractive to many people as a place to live and visit.  The plan needs to support economic development across a range of sectors while managing the pressures that can arise from the number of tourist visitors and popular cultural events.

Economic policies should support quality of life in the city, and in particular the quality of life of residents.  This should mean maintaining Edinburgh as an attractive location to visit and for residents.

At the same time, we support policies to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship, and build on the high levels of skills of the city’s workforce and the success of its educational institutions. We believe the plan should commit itself to policies which foster a high value, high pay economy, and create a dynamic and economically successful city.

This means supporting a balance of sectors and opportunities and avoiding undue dependence on sectors such as tourism which may create excessive pressures on the social fabric and infrastructure of the city.

One of the factors that will influence the inclusive growth of Edinburgh will be technological innovation. It is difficult to predict how technology, and particularly emerging technologies, will change city life. Certainly, technology will be increasingly used in the development and running of Edinburgh in the future. Smart planning may harness solar energy for use in housing estates smart mobility technology may alleviate traffic congestion. City Plan 2030 must have a range of policies in place which are sufficiently agile to enable a timely citywide response to the challenges and opportunities of a dynamic technological culture.

The use of environmental technologies which can cool buildings more efficiently or run vehicles that are less polluting will also lead to better future cities. Installing sensors in the homes of ageing seniors living alone can connect them to the community and summon help when they are unwell or hurt.

 

Choice 14 – Delivering West Edinburgh

We do not support the changes proposed.

 

Additional Comment:

We seriously question the wisdom and desirability of further urbanising the area surrounding Edinburgh Airport. The western side of Edinburgh is already heavily developed, and heavily congested, with more housing and associated infrastructure being delivered in the near term. The comparatively undeveloped surroundings of Edinburgh airport provide a contrast to the expanding urban sprawl and an appropriate ‘arrival’ rural setting to the airport for Scotland’s capital city.

Choice 15 – Protecting our city centre, town and local centres

We support the following changes:

       We want to continue to use the national ‘town centre first’ approach. City Plan 2030 will protect and enhance the city centre as the regional core of south east Scotland providing shopping, commercial leisure, and entertainment and tourism activities.

B        We will also support and strengthen our other town and local centres (including any new local centres) by ensuring that new shopping and leisure development is directed to them and only permitted where justified by the Commercial Needs study.  Outwith local centres, small scale proposals will be permitted only in areas where there is evidence of a lack of food shopping within walking distance.

C        We want to review our existing town and local centres including the potential for new identified centres and boundary changes where they support walking and cycling access to local services in outer areas, consistent with the outcomes of the City Mobility Plan.

D        We also want to continue to prepare and update supplementary guidance tailored to the city centre and individual town centres. The use of supplementary guidance allows us to adapt to changing retail patterns and trends over the period of the plan. It also helps us ensure an appropriate balance of uses within our centres to maintain their vitality, viability and deliver good placemaking.

E        We also want to support new hotel provision in local, town, commercial centres and other locations with good public transport access throughout Edinburgh in response to evidence of strong growing visitor demand and reflecting limited availability of sites in the city centre.

Additional Comment:

This policy change is timely. Some of Edinburgh’s traditional shopping centres or “high streets” are in a relatively heathy condition. But many show the tell-tale signs of the ongoing decline which has affected many high street and local shops across the UK in recent years. There is no room for complacency. Neither the local shopping areas of Edinburgh nor the city centre are immune from changing shopping habits, the growth of internet shopping and the ever-expanding offering of out-of-town shopping in the Edinburgh city region.

Some traditional shopping streets, such as Princes Street, are likely to change their character quite radically in short term due to new developments such as the St James Centre. And there is a gradually loss of character in in many local shopping streets as major chains and charity shops become more dominant.

At the same time, in some of the more affluent parts of the city traditional shopping and artisanal retail is holding its own or reviving.

 

Choice 16 (part 1) – Delivering office floorspace

We support the following proposed changes:

A        We want to:

  • Continue to support office use at strategic office locations at Edinburgh Park/ South Gyle, the International Business Gateway, Leith, the city centre, and in town and local centres.
  • Support office development at commercial centres as these also provide accessible locations.
  • Strengthen the requirement within the city centre to provide significant office floorspace within major mixed-use developments.
  • Amend the boundary of the Leith strategic office location to remove areas with residential development consent.
  • Continue to support office development in other accessible locations elsewhere in the urban area.

B        We want to identify sites and locations within Edinburgh with potential for office development.

C        We want to introduce a loss of office policy to retain accessible office accommodation. This would not permit the redevelopment of office buildings other than for office use, unless existing office space is provided as part of denser development. This would apply across the city to recognise that office locations outwith the city centre and strategic office locations are important in are limited sites for future development and demand is likely to continue. meeting the needs of the mid-market.

 

Choice 16 (part 2) – Delivering Business and Industrial Space

We support the following proposed changes:

A        We want to identify proposals for new modern business and industrial sites to provide necessary floorspace.

B        We also want to ensure new business space is provided as part of the redevelopment of urban sites and considered in Place Briefs for greenfield site

B        We also want to continue to protect industrial estates that are designated under our current policy on Employment Sites and Premises (Emp 8).

D        We also want to introduce a policy that provides criteria for locations that we would support city-wide and neighbourhood goods distribution hubs.

 

END

 

Pentland Hills Regional Parks Strategic Park Consultation

Posted on: February 7, 2020

The Cockburn’s response to the Pentland Hills Regional Parks Strategic Park Consultation.

The Cockburn’s response to the Pentland Hills Regional Parks Strategic Park Consultation.

Cockburn Response

The Pentland Hills are an essential component of the Lothian landscape – culturally and naturally. They provide a strong boundary between Edinburgh and its hinterland and have been a recreational asset for millions of people over the years.

The context this plan is change.    Edinburgh’s population has increased by 12% over the past decade and predications suggest that the City Region population will grow by 50% over the next 25 years.  Housing pressures continue to rise.  Development pressure both in the Park and in its immediate environs is increasing.  For example, proposals to redevelop the Midlothian Snowsports Centre with hotel, retail and additional catering facilities will have implications and will increase the existing visual intrusion of the dry slopes.  A related but separate proposal to create mountain-biking centre on the former Lothianburn Golf course and adjacent land has been the subject of recent consultation.

Similarly, the potential development of the former Redford Barracks and the further expansion of Burdiehouse will further encroach on the landscape setting of the Park.

Existing visitor infrastructure is already under significant pressure.  Car parks at Harlaw, Flodderstone and Red Moss, and at a number of other more informal access points, overflow during peak times of use intruding onto the public highway and creating localised congestion hotspots.  Here, the main action appears to be the better utilisation of existing space which is laudable but will not address the problems of increasing number of visitors.  The  strategy notes that penetration of public transport into the Park providing opportunities for mitigation.  However, it is very light on how to achieve great modal shift and there appears to be no analysis or consideration of increased penetration into the park (e.g. buses running to Red Moss, for example).

However, the greatest change and  challenge facing the Pentlands Hills, and the one that has the potential to bring about far-reaching and dramatic changes to every aspect of the area, is Scotland’s changing climate.  The Scottish Government and both Edinburgh and Midlothian councils have declared a climate emergency and have announced interventions to address the challenges and opportunities of climate change.  In addition, a range of Scottish and UK national bodies have recently brought  forward a range of reports highlighting the declining condition of UK and Scottish natural habitats and wildlife and the further and accelerating challenges ahead for both species and their habitats

The draft PHRP Strategic Plan does acknowledge climate change but it does not present actions and interventions on a scale which matches the challenge of the Climate Emergency.

In broad terms current research suggests that the climate related challenges for the PHRP are predictable and clear and a range of impacts including (but not limited to) the following can be reliably anticipated:

  • Species loss:
  • Habitat Shift:
  • Non-native species expansion
  • Changing rainfall patterns and seasonality
  • Changes to woodlands and other habitat types
  • Drying out of peat, wetlands, streams
  • Deterioration of standing water bodies
  • Greater risk of extreme weather events
  • Accelerated footpath erosion

At the same time, the recognition of greenspaces to social, health and environmental well-being is increasing.  The Strategy highlights the benefit of outdoor recreation and the need to provide suitable infrastructure to support this.  The growing population will undoubtedly see an increase in people wishing to access the park.  A clear framework for managing this growth is essential.

As a matter of urgency, the draft PHRP Strategic Plan must put in place a set of actions to assess the challenges of a changing climate on all social, economic and environmental aspects of the park and design and implement a set of actions to quickly and effectively address these challenges.

Overall, the Strategy whilst to be welcomed on one level strikes as a “roll-over” document, continuing the same policies without meaningfully attempting to engage in the emerging significant challenges that the Park will face in the short, medium and long term.  As such we think that major revision is required to address:

  1. The ecological damage through decades of land management practice that have eroded the landscape and biological qualities of the Park;
  2. Encroachment of an expanding city through suburbanisation of the Green Belt and exploitation of development opportunities. This could serious erode the landscape and the continuity of countryside that is a current feature of the wider setting of the city and its hinterland.
  3. The inevitable intensification of recreational and visitor activities with associated development pressures.
  4. The challenges of our changing climate.

Without a robust evidence-based resources-supported vision to address these, this Strategy will not achieve its vision or its objectives.

The Cockburn’s support for the Pentland Hills Regional Park is absolute.  We hope that this comments will result in revisions to the Strategy and more ambitious action plan aimed at addressed these key challenges through the Strategy period and beyond.

Tourism Strategy 2030 Consultation

Posted on: December 15, 2019

Our response to the City Council’s strategy for how tourism will look in Edinburgh by 2030

Our response to the City Council’s strategy for how tourism will look in Edinburgh by 2030

Cockburn Response

The Cockburn Association welcomes the opportunity to comment on this draft strategy.  We offer the following comments in the hope that this will be the start of constructive dialogue across all sectors and interests, working towards a more collaborative and inclusive agenda.

Overall, we recognise that tourism is an important sector for the Edinburgh, its economy and for its environment.  Growth in tourism is a global trend, driven by strong economic and social forces, and Edinburgh has an asset base that makes it attractive to a world-wide market.

People come to Edinburgh, first and foremost, because it is a historic city with an architectural and townscape legacy unique to itself.  Also, as a Capital City, it hosts many fine public institutions including national galleries and museums.  Tourism must enhance these assets, not erode them.

The Cockburn’s Ambition for the Tourism Strategy

There is a need for a much more coherent, managed approach to tourism in the city, with much stronger and focused leadership.  Growth should not be an overriding objective for this strategy.  Much greater recognition of the impact of tourism is required by all parties, inside the sector and out.  There need to be a much stronger recognition that tourism needs to be handled and managed, and is as likely to bring significant problems as well as some opportunities. In an overcrowded and congested city (especially the historic core), we need to recognise that tourism growth, especially at peak times, will not be an unmitigated benefit.

Greater emphasis on improving the productivity of the tourism sector, and building value and the quality of the tourism experience rather than just a crude “the more, the better” numbers game is required in this strategy.

There is also a need to pay much more attention to the needs and perceptions of residents and communities.  In the end, the needs of residents and tourist are not necessarily in conflict – a city which is a high quality, accessible, enjoyable place to be will be good for both.  What we need to question is events which are out sync with the character of the city, and large-scale projects, largely financed from outside, mainly designed to generate profit rather than meet the real needs of residents or visitors.  We need to be much more cautious about the capacity of the city to absorb major new projects/events (or expanded existing projects/events).  The Council needs to be more assertive in requiring investors to demonstrate clearly the benefits of projects to the city.  In this, the apparent conflict of the City Council in both promoter and regulator needs a much more coherent framework, and one which residents and local communities in particular can have confidence in.  Regrettably, this is lacking at the moment.

The purpose of supporting tourism should be to benefit the people and communities of Edinburgh and surrounding areas through generating employment and development of local businesses, and infrastructure and events that benefit the whole community.  It is important that outside investment should not be to the detriment of local communities, or lead to over-development in specific economic sectors/ localities, or the displacement of local residents from existing communities.

What we support and think can be improved

In particular, we welcome the suggestion of a guiding principle based on improving the quality of life for residents and making a wider contribution to the city’s economic goals.  However, we feel that economic goals is too narrow, and be expanded to including wider sustainability goals. For example, in the Environment Section, a suggested indicator of success should be “resident satisfaction with parks, gardens and green space”, not visitor satisfaction.

We agree with the five priorities for action.  We would suggest that each one of these might benefit for a dedicated multi-perspective task group as the next phase of the strategy is developed.

We agree that there is a much greater imperative to manage tourism than grow it. Again, the strategy does not fully develop this and in many places, does not align itself to this.

We agree with the sentiment of many of the Ambitions highlighted in the Strategy.  However, many of the Principal Recommendations do not align clearly with the ambitions.  This becomes more apparent in the Potential Indicators which are sector-focussed in many instances and do not seem to align directly with the Ambition.

What is missing?

The lack of a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and clear alignment to the SEA process is a significant gap, and a weaknesses of the strategy.

Resilience management – the tourism sector has vulnerabilities.  Adverse economic developments and/or climate change could at some point lead to quite a sharp contraction in travel.   If the exchange rate was to strengthen post-BREXIT, this could also have quite a sharp impact on tourism and/or result in a reduction in “staycations” with a similar result. This strategy still predicated on a growth model.

An effective mechanism for engaging with residents and local communities is missing, despite the clear ambition to do so.  We understand that there has been little if no discussion with resident/community groups in the preparation or dissemination of this draft strategy.

Authenticity is clearly of significant value to visitors.  A clear objective of the Strategy should be to reinforce the characteristics of the City that make it a special place.  This is includes the fact there is no consideration of the finite carrying capacity of the city and those areas must under pressure from tourism.  The Setting the Scene research suggests the need for a dispersal strategy, both city-wide and across Scotland.  We feel that an underlying assumption of the strategy is a continued focus on specific areas of the city, notably the Old Town.  Overcrowding is a serious issue, and one that it not addressed.

Conclusions and Recommendations

There are many positive aspects of this Strategy.  However, we feel that there is a mismatch between the overarching principals and ambitions stated in the document, and many of the Principal Recommendations and Potential Indicators, which seem are narrow in focus and industry focused.

It is clear that engagement outside of the sector and membership of ETAG has been very limited.  Discussion with resident and community groups has been almost non-existent, which is disappointing given the laudable statements in the document.  As such, a formal and meaningful engagement with a wider constituency should take place before any approval is made.

The desire to move from driving growth to managing growth is welcome, but is still a growth model.  Managing the existing levels of tourism should be the starting point before any quantitative increase is contemplated. The Strategy should provide leadership in this.

A dispersal strategy for activities and events is needed.  This is a clear recommendation of the Setting the Scene research, but is largely missing here.  Specific recommendations relating to the City’s Festivals in this regard is needed.

To help facilitate wider cross-interest and sector discussions, we recommend the creation of a Resident/Community Task Group and a Heritage/Curatorial Task Group to help ETAG and the wider tourism sector develop and mature the ambitions stated in this draft Strategy and advise on more meaningful Recommendation and Potential Indicators.  They should also be in place to assist in the preparation of an Action Plan.

Many of the elements in the more detailed sections would sit better in a related Action Plan.

Finally, the Cockburn would wish continue to acknowledge the importance of tourism to the City and to Scotland. It is essential that it is managed, and managed not from the sector’s interests but from those who live and work in the City.  The foundations for this lie within this draft Edinburgh Tourism Strategy 2030, but it is not there yet.

 

 

Short Term Lets: Consultation on Licensing Proposals

Posted on: July 16, 2019

Cockburn response to Scottish Government consultation on the licensing of Short Term Lets

Cockburn response to Scottish Government consultation on the licensing of Short Term Lets

Cockburn Response

The untrammelled use of whole properties for short-term holiday and other accommodation is a serious issue in Edinburgh and some other parts of Scotland.  Many cities across the world have experienced disruption to housing markets and community amenity by the expansion of STL provision.

The Cockburn Association convened a mini-conference in March 2018 titled, The AirBnB phenomenon – Impact and Opportunities of the Collaborative Economy and Disruptive Technologies: how should Edinburgh respond to short-term letting?.  The Association believed that effective regulation was an imperative and required as a matter of urgency.  Its summary position was:

  • Short-term lets must be regulated. Without regulation, there is a risk that the character and demography of areas of Edinburgh will be changed to the detriment of the qualities that make the city special, and without the approval of residents.
  • Regulation needs to be put in place urgently. Though more information is needed, it seems beyond doubt that not only is change taking place, but the rate of change is rapid and the scale is significant. Market equilibrium is not instant or constant. The time to act is now.
  • A system of licensing offers the most pragmatic way forward. The recent and relatively recent licensing and regulation regimes for landlords and for Houses in Multiple Occupation provide a point of reference.
  • Proof of insurance permitting short-term letting should be part of the licensing regime, except for detached properties. In addition, other safety certifications should be required, consistent with a standard Short Assured Tenancy. These measures would provide reasonable protection for all parties.
  • In tenement properties, consent from a majority of owners (excluding the proposer) should be required before a licence is granted. Tenements are special habitats: their care, maintenance and occupancy are vital to the environmental, social and economic sustainability of Scottish cities, and, in turn, this requires mutual tolerance amongst those in the tenement.
  • The Use Classes Order should be amended to remove ambiguity, while providing a proportionate response. Short-term letting of an entire residential unit should be deemed a commercial use, requiring planning permission.
  • Monitoring is needed. In particular, the impacts of the measures proposed here need to be assessed, and the findings should influence a review within a two-year period.

2020 Consultation Comments

Chapter 4: Definition

Overall, the Cockburn Association supports the definition of STLs as outlined in the consultation document.  We agree with the position with all STL requiring a license as it simplifies the regulation and avoids unforeseen loopholes that might be exploited.  We also support the use of the Repairing Standard as the basis for the licensing regime.

Issue 1: We see an issue per para 4.10 which proposes the exclusion of unconventional dwellings.  Firstly, we can see no logic in this, as several STL platforms specifically market “unique” properties such as tree houses, yurts, canal boats, etc.  Our view is that if they are to be let for short-term periods, they should be subject to regulation.  We accept that caravans and caravan parks are controlled under the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960, etc so can be managed through those processes.

In addition, this exclusion creates a loophole which may see the possible erection of structures under Permitted Development Rights such as pods, garden huts and small studios within the gardens of houses with the sole purpose of providing STL accommodation.  This would undermine the universality of the definition and its application as well as cause serious areas for confusion and strife.

Similarly, student accommodation should be specifically mentioned as in many cases it is let on a short-term basis outside term time.

Issue 2: Another issue relates to existing STL properties, a serious omission in this paper.  Many places are dealing with the impact of holiday lettings now, and evidence suggests that the vast majority of these are “unlawful” in that they do not have a Change of Use consent or may have other deficiencies which have led to these proposals.  We suggest that the Scottish Government states clearly and emphatically that at the point when licensing comes into force, no property currently used as a STL is deemed to be permissible.  That is to say, their current use has no material bearing on whether they can continue so.   The Cockburn accepts, however, that some properties have been in use as STL for many years.  In terms of planning law, a period of 7 years of uninterrupted use is usually considered to be evidence of a material use of land.  We therefore propose that the burden of proof falls firmly on their owner to prove usage over such a period – a Grandfather clause, in effect.  This evidence would need to be brought to the planning authority as part of any Change of Use application.  In a Control Area, this would need to be in every circumstance.

Issue 3: A third issue, which in the context of Scotland’s cities is crucial, is the need for a very clear regulations and guidance on tenements.  This is important in each area of this consultation document.  The Cockburn’s view is that there should be a presumption against commercial short-terms lets in tenement properties, noting that City of Glasgow Council have just such a policy in place.  Also, we could advocate that the default position for all tenements is the need to apply for planning permission even if the property is not in a Control Area.  This is to protect the special community nature of common stairs, and to prevent the erosion of amenity.  Whilst we appreciate that notification with neighbours is covered elsewhere, it is essential that the communal nature of this form of tenure is recognised in the licensing definition.  For example, all parts of the common stair, roof structure and masonry fabric are jointly owned.  Before a license is given, it is therefore essential that all owners consent to that use, and have a say in any conditions.

Issue 4: An initial date should be set for licence applications to be finalised, after which any unregistered properties will be declared unlawful, whether with a previous history of use or not — ‘established use’ should not be a factor.

Chapter 5: Control Area Regulations

We agree with the clear proposal that all STL within a Control Area will be deemed a material change of use.  However, the Cockburn still believes that greater clarity is required on a change of use, and we point to the volume of enforcement appeal cases that suggests that all STL properties involve a material change.  We believe that the Town & Country Planning Development Orders need to be amended to give full clarity to this position.

Issue 1: We have an issue with the proposals in para 5.13.  Whilst we support a policy-based approach to managing Control Areas, the example given of a de facto granting of planning consent for STL subject to temporal restrictions illustrates how easily the purpose of a Control Area could be undermined.  Firstly, a blanket issue of consents would set a precedent for future applications.  In the context of Edinburgh where a large-scale event could be defined as the summer Festival Season which lasts for 3+ months or longer, means that the impacts of over-provision on housing stock, community cohesion, etc would not be addressed.  In effect, the purpose of the control is undermined that a universal decision to grant consent.   We believe strongly that this proposal should be deleted.

Issue 2: The designation of Control Areas should cover as wide an area as possible in order to prevent serious disruption on the edge of the area.  It is generally accepted that wherever a policy boundary is drawn, the hinterland of that area will be subjected to increased pressures as a result.  Just as there is logic in licensing all STL, there is an equal logic that the whole of the municipal area should be subjected to a designation if made.  Thus, the City of Edinburgh Council could be a SHL Control Area by way of example.  We appreciate the challenges that this might raise in large rural areas such as the Highlands or the Scottish Borders.  Here, former parish or county boundaries would permit a more targeted approach (e.g. Badenoch or Skye & Lochalsh; or Berwickshire or Roxburgh).

Issue 3: Whilst we note the proposal to follow the approach for the designation of a Conservation Area for a Control Area (which we would agree with), it is essential that the Control Area aligns directly with planning policies.  As such, we would suggest that the Local Development Plan may provide a more effective means of designation as it could then link directly with the necessary regulatory policies required to govern it. In this way, it avoids a potential gap between designation and regulation.  It also ensures a wider consultation on policies and links STL management to other important management issues such as housing land supply, heritage management and amenity.

Issue 4: Also, and as stated above, we advocate that the default position for all tenements is the need to apply for planning permission even if the property is not in a Control Area.  This is to protect the special community nature of common stairs, and to prevent the erosion of amenity.

Chapter 6: Licensing Orders

Overall, the Cockburn agrees with the proposals as set out.  In particular, we welcome the recognition of noise and other impacts on neighbours and neighbouring communities.  A Maximum Occupancy condition is particularly supportable in tenement properties, where the intensification of use can cause serious amenity and safety issues.

Issue 1: The use of discretionary powers to add licensing conditions will help address the fact that not all areas in Scotland (or indeed within a local authority area) have the same issues that need to be managed. However, these should be contained in national guidance to ensure consistency and transparency. 

Issue 2: A potential management issue arises where the property is sub-let from another owner.  Evidence must be provided that they have the owner’s permission, and that the owner understands that he could be jointly liable for any issues arising from the let. Where the property is sub-let from another owner, evidence must be provided that they have the owner’s permission, and that the owner understands that he could be jointly liable for any issues arising from the let.

Issue3: An issue that needs to be addressed emerges from para 6.69 which proposes a need to notify neighbours within a 20m distance including all residents on a tenement stair and neighbouring tenement stairs.  Whist we welcome and support this, there is no indication as to the purpose of this notification and what happens following this.  The Cockburn believes that neighbours must be given the right to influence the licensing process and be consulted, not merely notified of a license application.  This requires a process to be established to allow any contested applications to be heard.

Issue 4: A further issue arises in the assessment of applicants being “Fit and Proper”.  We have no doubt that the vast majority of STL owners and their agents are working to the best possible motives from their perspective.  However, many Licensees will be remote from their properties, and will be disassociated from the immediate impact of problem that arises.  Therefore, we believe that an additional criteria for assessment should be any complaints from neighbours and/or local constituents (including civic groups or community councils) should be taken into account for new or renewal applications.

In relation to the above and In view of the increase in fraudulent lettings, the Licence Number of the property should be placed on all advertisements (as is increasingly the case with full-time lets) to allow prospective renters to check the credentials of the property and its owner. The Register should be more accessible and provide more information than the currently cumbersome system which has no simple way of identifying other properties owned by the same landlord.  Continuing to operate premises without obtaining a licence for a property should be a criminal offence. If property monitoring finds that a premises is being used without a licence, then it should be immediately closed down and all rental income accrued should be seized under the Proceeds of Crime legislation.

Issue 5: Relating to the above is the commercial nature of some STL businesses, who own/manage large numbers of properties, locally and/or nationally.  Therefore, enforcement needs to target the licensee rather than the property.  Some platforms are known to camouflage multiple owners with fictitious or substitute hosts.  As recognised in para 6.119 (noting that a beach might lead to significantly more revenue), there can be motives to circumvent poor behaviour to the cost of locals and neighbours.  Consideration might therefore be given whereby a breach of condition by a licensee is applied to all their properties, or at least all their properties within a local authority area or Control Zone.

Issue 6: One of the most significant issues is enforcement.  Whilst we welcome the controls and sanctions proposed (paras 6.109 and 6.110), experience of the Enforcement Notice procedure suggests that it can take significant time and resources to implement.  Given the increased pressures of local authority budgets, concern is that a very liberal approach to enforcement might be taken, and too great a reliance on “non-compliance” or “improvement” notices to kick the ball into the long grass.  Clear and unambiguous guidance and performance standards for enforcement are therefore required.

Issue 7: Another issue is timescale.  There are a variety of timescales for licenses throughout the document.  Para 5.9 talks about planning consents for default period of 10 years (which is much too long).  A local development plan, which may contain very important policies for the regulation of STL and Control Areas, is a 5-year document.  Para 6.125 notes that the 1982 Act allows for a maximum of 3 year licenses. For all parties, it is important to have clarity.  At the very least, any planning consent for a change of use should be no longer than the license period available.

Issue 8: To prevent dangerous overcrowding the maximum occupancy should be determined in the same way as currently for HMOs (i.e. a maximum of 2 persons per bedroom, or single if under 2.25m wide), adequate kitchen and living space, full bathroom / wc facilities, and with noise insulation on floors to protect neighbouring residents. The allowed occupancy should be noted in the licence particulars.