LEITH COMMUNITY COUNCILS UNITED AGAINST DRUM APPEAL

Drum Property Group has appealed to the Scottish Government against Edinburgh Council’s refusal of planning consent to develop student housing, hotel and retail at 106–162 Leith Walk (Refs 18/04332/FUL, 18/04349/CON). 

As part of that appeal process (PPA-230-2274, CAC-230-2004), in the last few days a joint submission opposing the proposal has been made by Leith Central, Leith Harbour, Leith Links, and Leith Harbour & Newhaven Community Councils. 

For the convenience of readers, we summarise the 20-page document below. However, as a seriously impressive piece of work and model of its kind, we also recommend readers peruse it in full HERE (6 June) at their leisure.

Background

All three CCs made written objections to Drum’s plans last year, and combined as a joint deputation to the Planning Authority on 30 January 2019.

Their current submission reaffirms all the points made previously, but provides additional detail and new grounds for objection which we outline below.

Unlucky for some

The Joint Leith Community Councils assert:

  1. Prior to Drum’s intervention, Stead’s Place supported commercial uses (including social enterprises) reflecting the vibrant multitude and variety of small businesses elsewhere on Leith Walk. There was an occupancy rate of 86%. It made a vital socio-economic contribution.
  2. From Stead’s Place, student campuses across Edinburgh are inconvenient and time-consuming to reach by public transport.
  3. Drum’s business case is seriously harmed by the withdrawal of Edinburgh University as a partner. There is little prospect of finding an alternative and equivalent partner to support the proposed mixed uses. Drum’s proposal is therefore likely to transform into a much larger student housing scheme.
  4. Plans lodged for the appeal are out of date, inconsistent, or otherwise inaccurate.
  5. Drum cites precedents where cases were approved against Planning guidance. Its own plans were rejected in compliance with such guidance.
  6. Drum plans do not match Policy minimum requirements for daylight and overshadowing.
  7. Drum’s proposal does not fulfil Student Housing Guidance in that the accompanying proportion of non-student accommodation is not met.
  8. Inadequate cycle provision.
  9. Misleading or mistaken wording used in Drum’s appeal.
  10. Drum’s questionable methodology in acquiring and presenting third-party support for its proposals.
  11. Proposals would provide fewer and less-well-paid jobs than those formerly available.
  12. Proposals do not adequately address climate change.
  13. Detrimental effect on character of the Conservation Area, and no ‘exceptional circumstances’ that might justify this.

The bigger picture

The summary presented above is useful as far as it goes.

But it comes nowhere near conveying the densely reasoned detail of the original, its fastidious attention to relevant policy contexts, its clarity of expression and calmness of tone, its frequent and nicely understated bombshells.

This is a document produced by unpaid volunteers who have expended God knows how many hours researching and crafting it and will probably never receive the level of recognition or thanks they deserve.

It’s a great example of what community councils can do at their best. It’s a very good argument for why busy and effective community councils should receive larger grants.

With community council elections across the city coming up this autumn, it would be good if this joint submission inspired a fresh crop of locals to find out more, step up, and take an active role on the first rung of local democracy.

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Dear Spurtle

I write to correct the 86% percentage cited in your article. In our submission, we used three ratios:
  • Shops Occupancy 91%
  • Offices Occupancy 77%
  • Workshops Occupancy 86%
Arguably, the first (highest number) is the most important one when discussing vibrancy. Offices and Workshops are relevant to employment numbers, while the workshops' timber warehouse and joiner usages provided the area with vital support services.
Harald Tobermann
Vice Chair
Leith Central Community Council

106–162 Leith Walk
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