Edinburgh Briefing – National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4)

Below is a Council briefing in the Draft NPF4 – it is a “is a long-term plan for Scotland that sets out where development and infrastructure is needed”. The briefing considers the impact on Edinburgh.

Summary
Once finally approved by the Scottish Parliament the NPF4 will be part of the statutory development plan. That approval is currently scheduled for Summer 2022.

The NPF draft has a very strong focus on the need for planning to address climate change impacts and many of the policy areas and considerations reflect what we have put forward in the proposed City Plan. If approved in this or a similar form, it will support many aspects of the plan at Examination.

In particular, West Edinburgh is no longer classified as a national development for office/business led development and the commentary on it supportive to the City Plan position. Granton is included as a national development and we will need to consider any procedural implications for this. There is support for brownfield development, higher densities, 20 minute neighbourhoods, public transport (including extending mass rapid transit/tram) and active travel, blue and green networks and on measures to reduce car use.

The following is not exhaustive, there will need to be further work including analysing the national policy measures. These are intended to be overarching so that future LDPs do not have to repeat those policies, so it is critical that we are sure those policies are strong enough and comprehensive enough to be effective in supporting LDPs and in making decisions on planning applications.

We also need to consider any content of the draft that City Plan does not address.

Once that work is complete we will bring a proposed response to the draft to Planning Committee in February.

Structure

The NPF has 4 main sections:

  1. Spatial Strategy
  2. National Developments
  3. National Planning Policy Handbook
  4. Delivering our Spatial Strategy

There is also a section containing annexes of Outcomes Statement, Housing Numbers and Glossary.

Spatial Strategy
This focuses on creating better places with 4 themes. The strategy sets out that to meet the national net zero target by 2045 significant progress must be made by 2030. It also emphasises the need to invest in nature based solutions to mitigate climate change and biodiversity loss.

Sustainable Places
The strategy is to transform the way we use our land and buildings so that every decision we make contributes to greater sustainability through encouraging low and zero carbon design and energy efficiency, reducing the need to travel unsustainably and diversifying and expanding renewable energy generation.

Liveable Places
The strategy is to create places with good-quality homes close to local facilities and services by applying the concept of 20 minute neighbourhoods.

Productive Places
The strategy is to build a wellbeing economy that benefits everyone and every place, with green investment as a key priority to tackle climate and nature crises. It also recognises the changing nature of the way we work and the need for flexibility to facilitate future business and employment that benefits communities and improves places.

Distinctive Places
The strategy is that nature recovery and connected blue and green infrastructure must be at the heart of all future places along with design quality.

Spatial Strategy Policy Principles

The policies to deliver this placemaking are based on 6 overarching principles.

Compact growth
Limiting urban expansion where brownfield, vacant and derelict land can be used more efficiently. This will safeguard land to provide the services and resources we will need in the future, including carbon storage, flood risk management, green infrastructure and biodiversity. By increasing the density of settlements we will reduce the need to travel unsustainably and strengthen local living.

Local living
We will create networks of 20 minute neighbourhoods to support local liveability, reduce the need to travel unsustainably, promote and facilitate walking and cycling, improve access to services, decentralise energy networks and build local circular economies. As an integral part of this, cleaner, safer and greener places and improved open spaces will build resilience and provide wider benefits for people, health and biodiversity, in a balanced way. Virtual connectivity and active travel links will also be important.

Balanced development
We want to support development across Scotland so people have more choice about where they live, learn and work. This will create opportunities for communities in areas of decline, and manage development more sustainably in areas of high demand. In particular, we wish to enable more people to live and remain in rural and island areas, and to actively transform areas of past decline so that we can make best use of our assets.

Conserving and recycling assets
Scotland has many strengths and each place should be planned in a way that works with its distinctive character and identity. We will protect and enhance the assets of each of our places, leaving a positive legacy for future generations. Our focus is on making productive use of existing buildings, places, infrastructure and services, locking in embedded carbon and minimising waste, and supporting Scotland’s transition to a circular economy. This includes nationally significant sites for investment which are well served by existing infrastructure and sustainable travel modes, and excellent propositions for redevelopment across urban and rural Scotland and the islands.

Urban and rural synergy
Scotland’s urban and rural and island areas, and all of the places in between, can work together and share learning and innovation to achieve better places. Our strategy is for Scotland as a whole, bringing together the contributions of our cities, towns, villages and countryside areas to achieve shared objectives. As part of this, we will improve green infrastructure to bring nature into our towns and cities, connecting people with nature, building resilience and helping our biodiversity to recover and flourish.

Just transition
Meeting our climate ambition will require a rapid transformation across all sectors of our economy and society. We must ensure that, as we reduce our emissions and respond to a changing climate, that journey is fair and creates a better future for everyone – regardless of where they live, what they do, and who they are. The pandemic has demonstrated the capacity of our communities to work together and find their own local solutions to shared challenges. Our strategy builds on this, to ensure local people are more able to shape their places and transition to net zero and environmentally sustainable ways of living.

Spatial Strategy Areas for Action
The strategy considers 5 areas for action, Edinburgh is within the Central Urban Transformation Area – Transforming and pioneering a new era of low carbon urban living. This area broadly covers central Scotland from the Glasgow city region and the Ayrshires in the west to Edinburgh city region in the east, including the Tay cities, the Forth Valley and Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.

The other areas are: North and West Coastal Innovation; Northern Revitalisation; North East Transition and Southern Sustainability.

Central Urban Transformation:
We will only meet our climate change commitments if we make significant changes to the densely populated central belt of Scotland. Our most urban communities hold the key to reducing emissions from the way we live our lives. We need to work together to decarbonise buildings and transport and tackle congestion, make more efficient use of existing land and buildings, connect to renewable electricity and heat networks and create more inclusive, greener and sustainable places that will stand the test of time.

For Edinburgh, household projections show there will be a continuing demand for more homes. There has been a strong market, high levels of housebuilding and pressure on infrastructure and there is strong economic performance.

For Edinburgh, the default minimum housing land figure has been set at 41,300 as submitted in the response to the relevant consultation, approved by Planning Committee on……….

In this area actions will be to:

  1. pioneer low-carbon, resilient urban living;
  2. reinvent and future-proof city centres;
  3. accelerate urban greening;
  4. rediscover urban coasts and waterfronts;
  5. reuse land and buildings;
  6. invest in net zero housing solutions;
  7. grow a wellbeing economy;
  8. reimagine development on the urban fringe; and
  9. improve urban accessibility

Action 13 Pioneer low-carbon, resilient urban living
This area will require concerted effort to develop a network of 20 minute neighbourhoods, and clusters of communities with fair access to a range of services that support sustainable living. Planning should focus on revitalising cities and towns at scale, supporting a finer grained approach to placemaking, and a more intricate mix of land uses and density. This should incorporate networks of natural spaces and blue and green infrastructure, to create health and wellbeing benefits, increase resilience to climate change and support the growth of green job opportunities. The car-based design of some of our places, including many suburban areas and new towns, mean that a significant shift to a more people centred approach will be required. Planning can help retrofit facilities and services into areas where they are scarce, such as predominantly residential areas, to enable better integrated mixed use areas.

City, town and neighbourhood centres can be at the heart of this if they are planned to strengthen self-sufficiency and bring services and jobs closer to homes. The recommendations of the recent town centre review can be delivered by supporting a wider range of uses and making the most of their assets. Accessibility will be a key part of the transition and will involve investment in infrastructure and services in line with the sustainable travel and investment hierarchies, to improve fair access and reduce carbon emissions. Active travel networks will need to expand to make walking, wheeling and cycling an attractive, convenient, safe, and sustainable choice for everyday travel. There are significant opportunities for investment in heat networks, energy storage and the circular economy to create more sustainable neighbourhoods.

Action 14 Reinvent and future proof city centres
Scotland’s city centres are socially and culturally important, supporting our productivity and stimulating innovation and investment. The pandemic has generated severe impacts and longer-term challenges for our city centres. The City Centre Recovery Taskforce is developing a shared vision for their future and the City Centre Recovery Fund will support their recovery and repurposing. This is a nationally significant opportunity to contribute to Scotland’s economic recovery and to achieve a wellbeing economy.

Edinburgh has similar challenges [to Glasgow] and opportunities for positive change. High interest in investment and associated demand for new homes means that planning will need to help deliver sustainable development that supports the quality of life of existing and future residents. As a capital city with a World Heritage Site at its core, it will be crucial that future development takes into account the capacity of the city itself and its surrounding communities and makes the most of its exceptional heritage assets, places and cultural wealth. The City Centre Transformation Plan supports a move away from a car-based city centre to create a more liveable and attractive place to live, work and visit. The Forth Bridge is also an inscribed UNESCO World Heritage Site, and our rich industrial and cultural heritage remains apparent across the area.

Action 15 Accelerate urban greening
The greening of the built environment, including former industrial areas, is a long-held ambition that we now need to expedite to significantly reduce emissions, adapt to the future impacts of climate change and tackle biodiversity loss. Investment in green infrastructure will support urban sustainability, help to restore biodiversity, contribute to our overall targets for reducing emissions and improve health and wellbeing. By weaving blue and green infrastructure across our urban fabric we can ensure that nature and the outdoors are accessible to everyone, supporting lifelong health and wellbeing and creating places that are more resilient to flooding.

The Central Scotland Green Network will continue to bring together environmental enhancement projects. Initiatives such as the John Muir Pollinator Way demonstrate how nature networks can help restore and better connect biodiversity and enhance green infrastructure at a landscape scale.

Action 16 Rediscover urban coasts and waterfronts
The region’s coasts and firths define the area’s history and shapes its sense of place. There is potential to unlock the strategic importance of coasts, estuary and river corridors for climate mitigation, resilience and positive environmental change. Coastal change will need to be managed to build long term resilience and future-proof our waterfronts. Progress has been made to create long-distance walking and cycling routes and to open up access to waterfront spaces and reclaim them as a resource for people as well as industry. There will be a need to tackle coastal erosion, flood risk and storm surges, and to build in natural solutions which work with the unique biodiversity and landscape character of these important places. These coasts are rich in cultural and natural heritage. Along the Inner Forth various projects provide multiple benefits, including flood management, cultural landscape enhancement, habitat creation, access and tourism. Edinburgh’s waterfront regeneration is ongoing with Granton benefiting from an ambitious masterplan, the tram extension to Leith progressing and potential development at Seafield helping to redefine the city’s relationship with its coastline, reusing existing assets and helping Edinburgh to become a more liveable city. A masterplanned approach to regenerating the Edinburgh Waterfront can take into account opportunities for the Port of Leith to service the offshore energy sector.

Action 17 Reuse land and buildings
A more liveable Central Belt means that we will need to do more to reuse empty buildings and vacant and derelict land, particularly spaces which have not been used for decades and can be accessed by sustainable modes. This will reduce further urban sprawl and improve local environments. Around 40% of Scotland’s vacant and derelict land is concentrated in the Glasgow city region and its redevelopment is a key priority. Edinburgh has committed to building a significant share of future housing development on brownfield sites…

A combination of incentives, investment and policy support for productively reusing brownfield land and buildings at risk will be required to steer development away from greenfield locations. Public sector-led development can shape future markets and deliver development in places where change is needed the most and can deliver multiple benefits. Redevelopment should include, but not be limited to, housing development. By de-risking sites and taking an infrastructure-first approach, this land can help to achieve a better distribution of new homes to meet our future needs. This will also reduce pressure in places where growth is no longer sustainable.

Action 18 Invest in net zero housing solutions
As well as building new homes to net zero standards, more will need to be done to upgrade the existing housing stock to reduce emissions and adapt to future climate impacts. Energy efficiency, sustainable accessibility, zero emissions heating solutions and water management will be key challenges. Areas which are largely residential and car-based could be diversified by supporting local businesses to provide services including leisure, active living, hospitality and retail. There is a particular pressure for affordable housing solutions in the south east of Scotland and there is also an opportunity for future housing development to help reduce emissions. Edinburgh has committed to building affordable homes at scale and will need to work with the region to accommodate wider need and demand in a strategic way. Seven strategic sites, supported through the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal, could accommodate up to 45,000 homes and associated economic and employment benefits including: Blindwells, Calderwood, Dunfermline, Edinburgh Waterfront, Shawfair, Tweedbank and Winchburgh. The need for proposals to be supported by low carbon transport solutions, in line with the Infrastructure Investment Plan and National Transport Strategy investment hierarchies and infrastructure first approach, will be critical to their success. The Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Deal identifies infrastructure investment and includes a commitment from partners to put in place a regional developer contributions framework building on work undertaken to look at cross boundary transport challenges. These interventions and commitments, taken with the additional transport investment made through the Deal, will ensure the city region continues to grow and flourish. Regionally significant services including healthcare and social care facilities and investment in the learning estate is also planned to support future growth and sustain the wellbeing of existing, new and expanding communities. Emissions from our homes need to be very substantially reduced – by 2030, they must fall by 68% from 2020 levels.

Engineered solutions to adapt our water and drainage infrastructure will be required in some circumstances, but should support more natural benefits as far as possible. There is scope to continue, and extend, the lessons from the Metropolitan Glasgow Strategic Drainage Plan to future proof infrastructure in support of the long term growth and development of Edinburgh. The Lothian Drainage Partnership is taking this forward with projects emerging within Edinburgh and at the ClimatEvolution Zone in East Lothian.

Action 19 Grow a wellbeing economy
This area has a diverse business base and is a key engine of growth for Scotland as a whole. There are many clusters of sites and businesses which form the basis of regional propositions for investment. In line with our aspirations to build a wellbeing economy, opportunities for investment and development should be designed to maximise economic, social and environmental wellbeing, rather than focusing on growth alone. A planned approach can help to target future development in areas of significant economic disadvantage so that new and better jobs are more fairly distributed to help address national, regional and more localised inequality The pandemic has brought obvious challenges but has also unlocked opportunities to take forward new models of working that could better support our wellbeing and improve our places in the longer term. The continued growth of remote and local working and the creation of hubs within groups of settlements could significantly reduce the need to travel, whilst also helping to grow local businesses and communities. Existing offices have the potential to be repurposed to achieve higher density mixed use neighbourhoods with a lower carbon footprint and require careful planning to ensure future communities are properly supported by appropriate services.

The Edinburgh City region supports investment in significant clusters including the Bioquarter, Mid Fife, Dunfermline, Guardbridge St. Andrews, Galashiels, Cockenzie, Midlothian and the M8 corridor. A strategy for West Edinburgh is emerging which guides a wide range of uses to create a sustainable extension to the city, with added benefit from associated improvements to the quality of place of existing communities. Proposals focus on locating development on and around existing transport corridors and work is ongoing to improve accessibility including the Edinburgh tram extension. Further investment should take into account the impact of new development on potentially compounding existing capacity constraints and congestion, and prioritise sustainable choices.

Action 20 Reimagine development on the urban fringe
Whilst predominantly urban, this part of Scotland benefits from a rich and diverse rural area and there are many areas where town meets countryside. These green areas and natural spaces are key assets, sustaining communities that could become better places to live if we can achieve this in a way that is compatible with our wider aims for climate change, nature restoration and 20 minute neighbourhoods.

Action 21 Improve urban accessibility
A focus on community wealth building, together with growing opportunities for longer term remote working, could address the high levels of transport movement by private car and challenges of congestion and air pollution across the area. Local living, including 20 minute neighbourhoods, will help to minimise future commuting and ensure jobs and income can be spread more evenly across the area. Accessibility and transport affordability can support more resilience which benefits communities who are less connected. By putting in place mass transit systems for Edinburgh through plans to extend the tram network, and for Glasgow including the Glasgow Metro and multi-modal connectivity, we have an opportunity to substantially reduce levels of carbased commuting, congestion and emissions from transport at scale Connections to the rest of the UK will be strengthened in the longer term through high speed rail connectivity, with stations expected in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

National Developments
Eighteen national developments are proposed to support the delivery of our spatial strategy. These national developments range from single large scale projects or collections and networks of several smaller scale proposals. They are also intended to act as exemplars of the place principle and placemaking approaches.

Some of the proposals are Scotland – wide and some area or site specific. Relevant to Edinburgh are:

  1. Central Scotland Green Network This national development is one of Europe’s largest and most ambitious green infrastructure projects. It will play a key role in tackling the challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss including by building and strengthening nature networks. A greener approach to development will improve placemaking, can contribute to the roll-out of 20 minute neighbourhoods and will benefit biodiversity connectivity. This has particular relevance in the more urban parts of Scotland where there is pressure for development as well as significant areas requiring regeneration to address past decline and disadvantage. Regeneration, repurposing and reuse of vacant and derelict land should be a priority.
  2. National Walking, Cycling and Wheeling Network This national development facilitates the shift from vehicles to walking, cycling and wheeling for everyday journeys contributing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transport and is highly beneficial for health and wellbeing. The upgrading and provision of additional active travel infrastructure will be fundamental to the development of a sustainable travel network providing access to settlements, key services and amenities, employment and multi-modal hubs. Infrastructure investment should be prioritised for locations where it will achieve our National Transport Strategy 2 priorities and outcomes, to reduce inequalities, take climate action, help deliver a wellbeing economy and to improve health and wellbeing. This will help to deliver great places to live and work.
  3. Urban Mass/Rapid Transit Networks This national development supports low-carbon mass/rapid transit projects for Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow. To reduce transport emissions at scale, we will require low-carbon transport solutions for these three major cities that can support transformational reduction in private car use. Phase 1 of the second Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2) recommended the development of the Glasgow ‘Metro’ and Edinburgh Mass Transit in these cities and their associated regions. In Aberdeen, the North East Bus Alliance has been awarded funding through Transport Scotland’s Bus Partnership to develop the Aberdeen Rapid Transit system identified in the Regional Transport Strategy and being considered in the STPR2. This will support placemaking and deliver improved transport equity across the most densely populated parts of Scotland, improving access to employment and supporting sustainable investment in the longer term.
  4. Urban Sustainable, Blue and Green Drainage Solutions This national development aims to build on the benefits of the Metropolitan Glasgow Strategic Drainage Partnership, to continue investment and extend the approach to the Edinburgh city region.
  5. Circular Economy Materials Management Facilities This national development supports the development of facilities required to achieve a circular economy. This sector will provide a range of business, skills and employment opportunities as part of a just transition to a net zero economy.
  6. Digital Fibre Network This national development supports the continued roll-out of world class broadband across Scotland
  7. High Speed Rail This national development supports the implementation of increased infrastructure to improve rail capacity and connectivity on the main cross-border routes, the east and west coast mainlines. Rail connectivity that can effectively compete with air and road based transport between the major towns and cities in Scotland, England and onward to Europe is an essential part of reducing transport emissions, making best use of the rail network and providing greater connectivity opportunities. There can be significant emissions savings of approximately 75% to be made when freight is transported by rail instead of road.
  8. Edinburgh Waterfront This national development supports the regeneration of strategic sites along the Forth Waterfront in Edinburgh. The waterfront is a strategic asset that contributes to the city’s character and sense of place and includes significant opportunities for a wide range of future developments. Development will include high quality mixeduse proposals that optimise the use of the strategic asset for residential, community, commercial and industrial purposes, including support for off-shore energy relating to port uses. Further cruise activity should take into account the need to manage impacts on transport infrastructure. This will help maintain and grow Edinburgh’s position as a capital city and commercial centre with a high quality and accessible living environment. Development locations and design will need to address future resilience to the risks from climate change, impact on health inequalities, and the potential to incorporate green and blue infrastructure.

National Planning Policy
The national policies set out in NPF4 draft follow the strategy approaches set out above. They are intended to replace Scottish Planning Policy and as part of the statutory development plan would not need to be repeated in future LDPs, though there is scope for further locally based policy which remain compliant.

The detailed policy provisions go further than the main principles set out in summary here and into provisions in line with those principles which can be applied to decision making on planning applications. Further details of and comment on those policy measures will be provided once there has been more time to consider them.

Sustainable Places
Policy 1: Plan-led approach to sustainable development
All local development plans should manage the use and development of land in the long term public interest. This means that new local development plans should seek to achieve Scotland’s national outcomes (within the meaning of Part 1 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015) and the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Policy 2: Climate emergency
When considering all development proposals significant weight should be given to the Global Climate Emergency

Policy 3: Nature crisis
Development plans and proposals should facilitate biodiversity enhancement, nature recovery and nature restoration across the development plan area

Policy 4: Human rights and equality
Planning should respect, protect and fulfil human rights, seek to eliminate discrimination and promote equality.

Policy 5: Community wealth building
Development plans and proposals should address community wealth building priorities by reflecting a people-centred approach to local economic development. Spatial strategies should support community wealth building; address economic disadvantage and inequality; and provide added social value.

Policy 6: Design, quality and place
Development proposals should be designed to a high quality so that the scale and nature of the development contributes positively to the character and sense of place of the area in which they are to be located.

Liveable Places

Policy 7: Local living
Decision makers can determine what facilities can reasonably be expected to be accessible from homes, taking into account local circumstances, as well as the role of digital connectivity in providing some services remotely.  Local development plans should support the principle of 20 minute neighbourhoods

Policy 8: Infrastructure First
Local Development Plans and delivery programmes should be based on an infrastructure-first approach.

Policy 9: Quality homes
Local development plans should identify a housing target for the area it covers, in the form of a Housing Land Requirement. Representing how much land is required, it should at least meet the 10 year Minimum AllTenure Housing Land Requirement (MATHLR) set out in Annex B. Land should be allocated to meet the Housing Land Requirement in sustainable locations that create quality places for people to live. The location of where new homes are allocated should be consistent with the principles of 20 minute neighbourhoods and an infrastructure-first approach. Development proposals for more than 50 dwellings should be accompanied by a statement of community benefit. Proposals for new homes that improve affordability and choice should be supported.

Proposals for market homes should generally only be supported where a contribution to the provision of affordable homes on a site is at least 25% of the total number of homes. A higher contribution than this benchmark may be sought where justified by evidence of need. The contribution should generally be for serviced land within a site to be made available for affordable housing.

New homes on land not identified for housebuilding in the local development plan should not be supported.

Policy 10: Sustainable transport
Local development plans and proposals should aim to reduce the need to travel unsustainably by prioritising locations for future development. The planning system should ensure that the National Transport Strategy 2 Sustainable Travel and Investment Hierarchies are integrated into the appraisal and assessment of development proposals and decisions in order to make best use of existing infrastructure, and reduce unsustainable travel and transport of goods.

Policy 11: Heat and cooling
Local development plans and proposals should take into account the area’s Local Heat & Energy Efficiency Strategy (LHEES) and areas of heat network potential and any designated heat network zones (HNZ) when allocating land.

Policy 12: Blue and green infrastructure, play and sport
Local development plans and proposals should identify and protect blue and green infrastructure.

Policy 13: Flooding
Local development plans and proposals should strengthen community resilience to the current and future impacts of climate change, including identifying opportunities to implement natural flood risk management and blue green infrastructure. Plans should take into account the probability of flooding from all sources. New development proposals in flood risk areas, or which can impact on flood risk areas, should be avoided. A cautious approach should be taken, regarding the calculated probability of flooding as a best estimate, not a precise forecast.

Policy 14: Health and wellbeing
Local development plans and proposals should aim to create vibrant, healthier and safe places and should seek to tackle health inequalities particularly in places which are experiencing the most disadvantage. The provision of health and social care facilities and infrastructure to meet the needs of the community should be a key consideration.

Policy 15: Safety
Development proposals in the vicinity of majoraccident hazard sites should take into account the potential impacts on the proposal and the major-accident hazard site of being located in proximity to one another.

Productive Places
Policy 16: Business and Employment
Local development plans and proposals should set out proposals to meet requirements for employment land, infrastructure and investment in a way which supports a greener, fairer and more inclusive wellbeing economy.

Policy 17: Tourism
Local development plans and proposals should support the resilience of the tourism sector, including by identifying proposals for tourism development which reflect sector driven tourism strategies.

Policy 18: Culture and creativity
Local development plans and proposals should recognise and support opportunities for jobs and investment in the creative sector, culture, heritage and the arts.

Policy 19: Green Energy
Local development plans and proposals should seek to ensure that an area’s full potential for electricity and heat from renewable sources is achieved. Opportunities for new development, extensions and repowering of existing renewable energy developments should be supported.

Policy 20: Zero Waste
Local development plans should identify appropriate locations for new infrastructure to support the circular economy and meet identified needs in a way that moves waste as high up the waste hierarchy as possible.

Policy 21: Aquaculture
Local development plans should guide new aquaculture development to locations that reflect industry needs and take account of environmental impact, including cumulative impacts that arise from other existing and planned aquaculture developments in the area, and wider marine planning.

Policy 22: Minerals
Local development plans should support the 10-year landbank at all times in the relevant market areas, whilst promoting sustainable resource management, safeguarding important workable mineral resources, which are of economic or conservation value, and take steps to ensure these are not sterilised by other types of development.

Policy 23: Digital Infrastructure
Local development plans should support the delivery of digital infrastructure, particularly in areas with gaps in connectivity and barriers to digital access.

Distinctive Places
Policy 24: Centres
Local development plans should support sustainable futures for city, town and local centres and identify a network of centres. This should reflect the principles of 20 minute neighbourhoods and the town centre vision, and take into account how they are connected by public transport and walking, wheeling and cycling.

Policy 25: Retail
Development proposals for retail development which will generate significant footfall in town centre sites should be supported; edge-of-town centre or commercial centres, should not be supported unless they are explicitly supported by the development plan; out-of-town locations should not be supported.

Policy 26: Town centre first assessment
Development proposals for other uses which will generate significant footfall (or in the case of drive-throughs, a significant number of visitors) including commercial leisure uses, offices, community and cultural facilities and, where appropriate, other public buildings such as libraries, education and healthcare facilities and public spaces where people can gather, should only be considered acceptable in out-of-centre locations if a town-centre first assessment demonstrates that it is appropriate.

Policy 27: Town Centre Living
Town centre living should be encouraged and supported. Planning authorities should seek to provide a proportion of their housing land requirements in city and town centres and be proactive in identifying opportunities.

Policy 28: Historic Assets and Places

Local development plans and their spatial strategies should identify, protect and enhance locally, regionally, nationally and internationally valued historic assets and places.

Policy 29: Urban edges
Local development plans should consider using green belts where appropriate in some of the most accessible or pressured rural or peri-urban areas.

Policy 30: Vacant and Derelict Land
Local development plans should seek to reuse vacant and derelict land and redundant buildings as a priority including in proposals to creatively and sustainably repurpose buildings and structures.

Policy 31: Rural places
Local development plans should set out proposals to support the sustainability and prosperity of rural communities and economies.

Policy 32: Natural Places
Local development plans should identify and protect locally, regionally, nationally and internationally valued natural assets, landscapes, species and habitats.

Policy 33: Soils
Local development plans should protect locally, regionally, nationally and internationally valued soils.

Policy 34: Trees, Woodland and Forestry
Local development plans should identify and protect existing woodland and potential for its enhancement or expansion to avoid habitat fragmentation and improve ecological connectivity, helping to support nature networks. The spatial strategy should identify and set out proposals for the development of forestry and woodlands in their area, in associated Forestry and Woodland Strategies, including their development, protection and enhancement, resilience to climate change, and the expansion of woodlands of a range of types to provide multiple benefits to the physical, cultural, economic, social and environmental characteristics of the area, in accordance with The Right Tree in the Right Place guidance.

Policy 35: Coasts
Local development plan spatial strategies should consider how to adapt coastlines to the impacts of climate change. Plans should recognise that rising sea levels and more extreme weather events resulting from climate change will potentially have a significant impact on coastal and islands areas, and that a precautionary approach to flood risk including by inundation should be taken. An appropriate strategy for development should be set out that reflects the diversity of coastal areas and communities. This should take account of opportunities to use nature-based solutions to improve the resilience of coastal communities and assets

Delivering Our Strategy
Delivering our strategy and realising our collective ambitions requires collaborative action from the public and private sectors and wider communities. Actions will range across different scales and include a mix of strategic and project investments. It will be important to focus implementation and monitoring on delivering strategic actions and key developments.

We expect that our approach to delivery will draw on the following key delivery mechanisms:

  1. Aligning Resources
  2. Infrastructure First
  3. Delivery of National Developments
  4. Development Plan Policy and Regional Spatial Strategies
  5. Local Place Plans
  6. Planning obligations
  7. Land assembly
  8. Masterplan Consent Areas
  9. Investing in the planning service

EIS School Briefing – “The pressures are not just unrelenting, but building”

Below is an email from the EIS Local Association Secretary, Alison Murphy. It details some of the pressures school staff are feeling right now after an impossible year or two.

EIS Email
Over the last few weeks, I have become increasingly concerned about what I am hearing from EIS members, and others working to support education in Edinburgh.  The pressures are not just unrelenting, but building – and the more worrying thing is that, whilst some are due to the ongoing realities of dealing with the pandemic, too many others could be avoided.  I would hope that you also have been talking to teachers, and particularly headteachers, in your ward, and that this is giving you an idea of the scale of the crisis, and a desire to work with schools to ensure the core work of education can be maintained.  However, I am afraid to say that many school leaders tell me that they feel there is little insight from politicians, parents or the public about the day to day reality in schools, and that this is leading to totally unrealistic demands being placed on them, and to them feeling isolated and unsupported.  The following are just some of the things with which schools are having to contend.

I assume councillors are informed of the numbers of staff and pupils who are testing positive in schools?  I hope you are giving thought to what that means. 

  • Dozens of staff members becoming infected is leading to increased anxiety amongst colleagues who worry about the same happening to them.
  • More pressure on schools to provide absence cover.  Demand far outstrips the availability of supply teachers.  There are few schools where SLT are not providing in-class cover (thereby further reducing the time available to undertake their strategic leadership roles) and even where teachers are not having to go over their statutory maximum contact time, they are having to put in time to prepare work for classes other than their own.
  • In addition to staff who are absent because they are testing positive, huge numbers of staff are having to self-isolate whilst awaiting results of tests. Even if those tests end up being negative, the time out of school is having a huge impact. 
  • On top of this, we have all the usual illnesses that develop over the winter months.  Further, many staff who kept going during the initial stages of the pandemic are now succumbing to the stress, musculoskeletal and other problems that they fended off last year.
  • The large number of pupil absences (positive cases are in the 1000s) leads to yet more work – staff will often be trying to prepare work for pupils who are self-isolating and, even if those requirements are not excessive (which they often are – some parents seem to think it reasonable for teachers to provide a full suite of online learning for their child, even though that teacher is still having to teach all the rest of the children who are still in class), staff will be very conscious of the need to support those children when they return.  This concern is further exacerbated when the pupils are ones sitting national qualifications this year (I will not, here, elucidate all the issues related to National Qualifications and SQA, but would be happy to have further discussions with any councillor who wants to be better informed about this).

CEC has prioritised keeping schools open, and pupils in class.  This is something that most would agree with – no one wants a return to blended learning, still less full-blown school closures.  However, I wonder if you are fully aware of the reality of what this means?

  • I have already said that HTs and others are having to do increasing amounts of class cover.  This is in addition to other things they are taking on to help with covid mitigations (many schools, in an effort to reduce infections, are maintaining staggered breaks and lunches etc – all of which require supervision, and it is often only SLT who are available to do this).  Yet, despite all the extra hours they are having to put in to keep their school open, they are not seeing a comparable diminution in other demands being placed on them.  School recovery plans, data requests, parental requests, HMIE planning, audit and quality improvement work – all these and more are continuing, and are resulting in SLT doing enormous, and utterly unsustainable, numbers of extra hours.  I have never spoken to as many HTs who are considering early retirement, or resigning, or who are on the verge of signing off sick, as I have done this term.  I ask you to seriously contemplate the impact on Edinburgh’s children if even a fraction of them do end up leaving.
  • Not only are school leadership teams spending more time in class, many of the central team (QIOs, SEOs etc) are going into schools to help alleviate the most acute pressures. Fairly obviously, this means that the amount of support they can give school leadership teams is reduced – yet those leadership teams are fielding huge demands around the attainment agenda, pupil wellbeing, results etc.  Without sufficient access to support, how can they manage these demands?
  • As I hope you know, CEC decided that, in an effort to keep special schools open, Educational Psychologists (EPs) and members of the Additional Support for Learning Service (ASLS) would be deployed into those special schools on a rota basis.  Again, I emphasise that we all understand the reasoning behind this decision – the pupils in our special schools are very vulnerable and we all want them to be properly supported.  However, I again ask if you have properly understood the reality of what this decision means:
    • Pupils in some special schools are seeing different staff on a daily basis.  Many of these children need stability and continuity, and they are not getting this.
    • The staff who are being asked to go into the schools have, in many cases, absolutely no expertise or training in this area.   Many of the EPs have never been teachers and are not GTCS-registered.  Thus, in most cases, the best that they can do is act as a support to the class team – they cannot lead learning, let alone give the specialist teaching support these pupils need.  Not only are pupils getting less expert support than they need, the staff in the special schools are having to do extra work to try to support these colleagues. 
    • In addition to thinking about the workload implications for the special school staff, perhaps it might be worth considering what it feels like to be a PSA, effectively being asked to lead an EP or ASLS teacher in how to carry out tasks that would normally be done by another PSA?  Yet we all know that the PSAs are paid a fraction of the salary of their teaching and EP colleagues, and that, despite the unions raising this for years, little to nothing has been done to ensure more security of employment, career progression and appropriate salary structures for our PSAs. 
    • Pupils who are not receiving appropriate support are far more likely to exhibit dysregulated behaviours.  In many cases, this manifests as violent outbursts.  With large numbers of staff in special schools who do not know the pupils, and are not trained in how to work with them, the risks of such behaviours escalating are greatly increased.  I hope I do not need to spell out the possible consequences of this?
    • This “repurposing” is having a very big impact on the EPs and ASLS themselves.  Many do not feel confident to undertake the work they are being asked to do.  They worry about their ability to function in the special schools, the consequences should they not be able to properly support the pupils with whom they are working, and about their own health, safety and wellbeing. They also worry about the impact on the pupils they cannot support, and on the mainstream schools who are not receiving the usual level of input.  And, naturally, they worry that they will be expected to pick up tasks and just, somehow, manage to deliver a normal service, despite spending time working in other settings.
    • The pupils and staff in the mainstream schools are also feeling the impact of this decision.  By definition, EPs and ASLS teachers work with pupils who are vulnerable, yet the capacity of the services to support these children is being reduced – and it was already struggling to meet demand.  Schools are endeavouring to make up for this lack, but they have neither the resources nor the expertise.   Some pupils will, because of the lack of support to meet their individual needs, withdraw, or struggle on in silence.  Others will lash out.  Whatever the case, the pupils, their families, and the schools will be left trying to cope.

Schools are receiving constant criticism over the impact of mitigations.  Often, these criticisms seem to be coming from the same people who complained most vociferously about schools being closed – and who will be most vocal if current mitigations don’t work, and pupils do have to be sent home.  Yet, to many in schools, it feels like those are the only voices being heard by the media and politicians.  Please consider the following:

  • Face coverings –  I haven’t spoken to anyone who wants to wear a mask.  And for teachers, who rely so heavily on clear communication, they are even more draining.  Yet, when schools are in the midst of a full-blown staffing crisis, and when there is much peer-reviewed evidence to show that face coverings can reduce transmission, surely it behoves us all to encourage compliance with this mitigation?
  • Trips and visits – again, none of us want to stop these. They can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of education, as well as being of huge benefit to pupils.  I take on board the argument many make that parents can choose to take their own children to the theatre, museums etc, so that to deny schools the ability to do this disadvantages those pupils who do not have families that can do this – and, in normal times I would be making that same case.  But we are not in normal times.  Suppose a school sanctions a trip that involves 4 teachers (this would be a reasonable number for a fairly small trip) and, as is not improbable, all 4 of those teachers are named as contacts as a result of that trip and have to self-isolate.  As things stand, if those 4 absences are added to the other absences most schools are enduring, the likely consequence will be classes being sent home.  What would be the public reaction then?  What criticisms would school and CEC management be facing?
  • A similar argument applies when considering the risks around having parents come into schools.  If we are serious about saying that the most important thing is keeping schools open, then surely something that risks a large number of staff and pupils simultaneously being declared contacts has to be avoided? 
  • The sudden change in arrangements around school staff being given flu jags (from in-school provision to staff having to make their own arrangements) whilst probably unavoidable (and certainly outwith CEC’s control) added to many staff feeling that the talk about prioritising education is entirely rhetorical.  The fall off in pupil vaccination rates is adding to these concerns.

The above are just some of the issues with which schools are contending.  I haven’t even touched on problems with ICT, nor the increasing levels of distressed and dysregulated behaviours being exhibited by pupils in mainstream classes, nor the work schools continue to do to support families in poverty, nor the way many parents do not seem to recognise that schools are under huge amounts of pressure, and are making utterly unreasonable demands of staff, nor the massive pressures on school budgets, nor… 

Given all the above, I would ask several things of you.

  • Please be aware of these pressures.  Where you can do so without adding further to their workload, reach out to school staff, and particularly school leaders, to find out what things are like on the ground, and to ask what you can do to help.
  • Bear all this in mind when talking to parents, the press etc.  Of course parents want the best for their children, and of course you want education in Edinburgh to be the best – so do we, and so does everyone working in Edinburgh’s schools.  Surely it is clear that unless the educational workforce feels valued and supported, then it cannot deliver the best outcomes?  If what we feel is undermined, undervalued, overworked and overstretched, then the system will be less and less resilient and crises will be magnified.  As councillors, you are leaders in the city, and also have a duty of care to employees – what you say and do matters.  The tone of your statements make a huge difference – please use your voice to show your value for the work being done in schools and please be realistic when talking to parents about what schools can deliver under current circumstances.
  • The same realism is needed when you are undertaking your work of support and challenge around the work of schools, officers, council reports etc.  We are very much in a recovery phase – indeed, many would say that calling it recovery is too early, and we are still in the midst of the pandemic, with some pressures being worse now than they were last year.  Expecting schools to be able to deliver all the improvements that were highlighted as needed before covid hit is impossible.  We need a phased approach that is responsive to current burdens.  Further, we need to make efforts to dramatically reduce the burden on staff, and particularly, HTs, and CEC must do all in its power to make sure that its decisions
  • This will be particularly true when you are making decisions around budgets.  Speak to HTs in your wards about the many costs they are having to bear – supply, ICT etc, and the funds they have to meet those costs, and use that information when thinking about further cuts to schools.  Remember, too, the cuts that have been made to all the supports to schools, and the fact that they are having to compensate for the loss of those services.
  • Whilst much around teacher pay, terms and conditions are outwith CEC’s control, the same is not true for PSAs.  Many teachers have said that having stability in PSA staffing; PSAs who have time to undertake appropriate training; and PSAs who are properly paid and valued, so that they stay in role, doing hugely valuable work supporting pupils, would make a massive difference.  CEC has long spoken about addressing recruitment, pay and career structures for PSAs and other support staff (Business Managers and other administrative support staff are similarly overburdened).  Seeing serious commitments around this, including the proper funding, would go a long way towards starting to relieve pressures in schools, and Edinburgh EIS would welcome this being made a priority. 
  • I assume you are aware that Education Scotland has announced that school inspections are restarting?  There are many reasons why many of us feel this is an appalling decision (I recommend you read this article, for a very thoughtful take on the situation by a HT https://www.tes.com/news/why-school-inspections-dont-make-sense-right-now).  On Friday, in response to motions brought by the Edinburgh Local Association, the EIS has agreed to a national campaign in opposition to this decision.  Given the staffing pressures in Edinburgh schools, we would welcome a strong commitment from CEC to back such a campaign, and to do all in its power to prevent inspection activity in Edinburgh schools.  The idea that, at the same time as EPs, ASLS and others are rolling their sleeves up and going into schools to simply keep the doors open, someone else is going to stand in the back of a classroom with a clipboard is insanity.  If Education Scotland has the capacity to scrutinise, surely it also has the capacity to send staff in to work directly with children and help in core pandemic mitigations?  Again, I would be more than happy to talk to any councillor about the impact the announcement of the resumption of inspections has had on staff morale and wellbeing.

My apologies for such a lengthy email, but I hope you can appreciate why I felt it is necessary to email you all individually.  The unions have been raising many of these concerns in JCG and other forums for some time now, but I wanted to be sure all councillors understand that it is not back to normal in schools and that, to the contrary, many schools and many staff are close to breaking.  I would welcome the opportunity to talk further about all this to all councillors, either individually or on a party basis. 

In the early stages of the pandemic there was much talk of valuing key workers, and of showing kindness.  Right now your staff are not feeling valued, nor experiencing much kindness from others, and anything that can be done to shift that narrative would be welcomed. 

Tipping Point – It is time to act.

Fly-tipping is the illegal dumping of waste, and can vary in scale significantly from a single bin bag of waste to large volumes of waste dumped from trucks. Fly-tipping differs from littering in that it involves the removal of waste from premises where it was produced with the deliberate aim of disposing of it unlawfully, or as a result of legitimate outlets not being available.

Fly-tipping poses a threat to humans and wildlife, damages our environment, and spoils our enjoyment of our towns and countryside. Furthermore, I know from my professional work in flood risk management that it can cause real problems when it gets stuck in culverts. In my Ward I often report tipping – with Oxgangs House and Oxgangs Street being regular problem areas.

Tomorrow Edinburgh’s Transport & Environment Committee will consider the 2021 “Waste and Cleansing Services Performance Update“. This report updates the Committee on the Waste and Cleansing Services performance for the first two quarters of 2021/22 On tipping, it says this:

“4.12 Dumping of items seems to reflect a national pattern of illegal behaviour which has been highlighted both by Keep Scotland Beautiful and neighbouring Councils. It’s possible that during the lockdowns people may have been enjoying their local green spaces more, and so are more aware of and more likely to report existing issues, but it is also possible that there is simply a growing national problem with fly-tipping and dumping.”

This implies there has been a rise in tipping reports (not quantified in the report), and this is Covid related. The pre-summer “Coalition Commitment” report, however, notes that there have been year-on-year rises since 2017:

When I raised this with the Council, I received this response:

Certainly recent increases can be attributed to the impact of COVID and I think this has been quite widely reported in national publications. However, as your data shows, we have seen also a big jump from 2017 to 2018. There are a few contributing factors to this I would suggest:

  1. Improvements in online reporting which makes it easier for residents to tell us about issues
  2. A bit of an increase in proactive reporting. This is particularly relevant in the SW locality where Street Enforcement (formerly Env Wardens) were actively logging items to be lifted.
  3. The categorisation of what we capture as being dumped or fly tipped. For us this will include black bags left next to a communal bin for example. Given the number of communal bins we have throughout the City this will form a large proportion.

In terms of where the current hotspots are and how things may improve in the future, I received this response:

The Communal bin project proposes an increase in the frequency of collection from, in many cases, a twice per week collection to an every other day collection. This should relieve some of the pressure on colleagues in street cleansing who, outside of collection days, will assist in collecting any excess. Alongside the increase in frequency it will also be important to get the comms right. Looking at a recent heat map for dumping and fly tipping enquiries there is quite a high level of correlation to areas served by communal bins. That’s one issue we’ve highlighted through the communal bin project that this is an opportunity to properly engage with people about the responsible way to manage their waste. It’s not something that’s been done recently in my memory.

I welcome the fact that there is potential for progress to be made with Edinburgh’s tipping problem in the near future. I’m still disappointed, however, that the original report did not contain a fuller assessment of the problem or outline the potential solutions. I’m grateful, therefore, that the Transport & Environment Vice-Convener/Convener agreed to amend the report as follows to ensure the issue is dealt with seriously:

  1. Notes that tipping and dumping in Edinburgh has increased year on-year since 2017, and that this selfish and anti-social behaviour blights many communities, as it does in local authority areas across Scotland.
  2. Notes that dealing with tipping and dumping consumes significant council resources, and that this money could be better invested elsewhere.
  3. Requests a report within three cycles which details the extent of the problem, identifies hotspots and makes clear what options are available to deal with it, including the bulky household uplift service.

I’m disappointed that this follow-up report is going to take several months to be published, and that it will not explicitly offer free uplift of bulky items (a manifesto commitment of mine), but I think this is a useful starting point.

Briefing – Fireworks for Personal use in Edinburgh

Bonfire night is fast approaching – below is a briefing on fireworks in Edinburgh, and the Council’s approach to dealing with any issues which arise.

Fireworks and community safety
The City of Edinburgh Council (the Council) takes the misuse of fireworks extremely seriously and continues to work in partnership with the Scottish Government and other agencies to minimise the risk of harm to communities including animals.  Your email has also been passed to our Communications Team to review the RSPCA toolkit to which you refer, and a summary of the fireworks landscape in Scotland and the Council’s community safety activity ongoing relating to fireworks and bonfires is provided below:

Legislation
Legislation on the sale and storage of fireworks is reserved to the UK government while legislation covering the use of fireworks in Scotland is devolved to the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Government has been looking at the impact of fireworks and bonfires in relation to its ambition for safer communities and in 2019, carried out a public consultation to gather views on the use and regulation of fireworks in Scotland. The Council’s response to that consultation is attached at Appendix 1.

Scottish Government’s Fireworks Review Group
Following the 2019 public consultation, the Scottish Government established a Fireworks Review Group bringing together key organisations with a direct interest in fireworks, including representatives from the fireworks industry, NHS, animal welfare, the emergency services and local government (including the Council), as well as community representatives. In November 2020, the Group produced a report with recommendations to Scottish Ministers on tightening devolved legislation on fireworks in Scotland.

The Group had concluded no single tightening of regulation would bring about the desired benefits and that any approach to changes in regulation should be set alongside other actions. These include, but are not limited to, awareness raising campaigns and the facilitation of organised public events so that the desired cultural change and the prevention of unwanted unintended consequences are achieved.

Taking forward the recommendations
A number of the recommendations from the Review Group have been taken forward in secondary legislation and changes implemented by these regulations, which came into force on 30 June 2021, included three new measures in relation to the way the general public can use and access fireworks as follows:

  • restrict the times of day fireworks can be used by the general public to between 6pm and 11pm, with the exception of 5 November (when they can be used from 6pm until midnight), New Year’s Eve, the night of Chinese New Year and the night of Diwali (when they can be used from 6pm until 1am)
  • restrict the times of day fireworks can be supplied to the general public to during the daytime hours of 7am and 6pm, alongside existing requirements on retailers around sale and storage licences
  • limit the quantity of fireworks that can be supplied to the general public to 5kg at any one time

 Further action on the sale and use of fireworks

The Scottish Government is looking to make additional changes to improve community safety relating to fireworks and between June 2021 and August 2021, conducted a follow up public consultation on the use and sale of fireworks in Scotland. The Council’s elected members submitted a response which is attached at Appendix 2.

Council community safety activity
Since 2018, the Council has led a citywide Community Improvement Partnership (CIP) to co-ordinate a consistent partnership response to resource planning for Bonfire Night with a focus on keeping people and animals safe. Membership of the CIP includes Police Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS), and representatives from the Council’s waste and street cleansing services, public safety, and the four local areas including housing.

Examples of the CIP’s planning and prevention work conducted annually are below:

  • Staff conducting street patrols and inspection of fly-tipping hotspots for hazardous and other material so that where necessary, uplifts are arranged to maintain safety in public areas
  • Community safety and housing staff visiting communal stairs and gardens to ensure areas are free from combustible material
  • Liaison with housing associations to agree joint working protocols in areas of mixed tenure
  • Engaging with young people and their parents through targeted joint partner visits to provide advice in relation to safety and antisocial behaviour during the bonfire/fireworks period
  • Organising diversionary activities for young people during the fireworks/bonfire period to discourage antisocial behaviour
  • Licensing and trading standards staff visiting licensed premises selling fireworks to check and advise on fireworks storage and sales
  • SFRS delivering fireworks and bonfire educational awareness sessions in primary and secondary schools to advise young people on keeping safe
  • Partner communications highlighting the importance of safety around fireworks and bonfires through social media and display posters, as well as delivering letters to residents in hotspot areas.   

Appendices
Appendix 1 – the Council’s response to the Scottish Government Consultation on Fireworks in Scotland (2019); consultation response representing trading standards, community safety, and public safety sectors, incorporating issues raised in motions and amendments from elected members.
Appendix 2 – elected members response to the Scottish Government Consultation on the Use and Sale of Fireworks in Scotland and tackling the misuse of pyrotechnics (2021).

Briefing – Consultation on Edinburgh’s links to slavery and colonialism.

Below is a briefing from the Council on the work of The Edinburgh Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review Group, chaired by Professor Sir Geoff Palmer OBE. As Black History Month draws to a close, the Group has launched a survey to allow people in Edinburgh to inform its work.

We have a duty to be open and honest about Edinburgh links with slavery and colonialism, and to understand what the perception is now and what could make it better. This need not be about destroying our heritage, but we have to reflect on how it is funded and ensure everyone feels valued, welcomed and safe in our city.


Briefing
Citizens are being encouraged to have their say on the Capital’s historical links to slavery and colonialism and how they should be remembered and addressed in today’s Edinburgh.

In 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement brought international attention to important issues relating to ongoing racism in society.  As part of a wider response to the movement, the City of Edinburgh Council committed to ensuring that commemorations of Edinburgh’s history are appropriate for society today – and future generations. The Council therefore commissioned an independent review of the City’s historic links with Slavery and Colonialism in the public realm.

As part of its work, the Edinburgh Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review Group is seeking the views of Edinburgh residents and stakeholders about a selection of prominent features which it considers representative of the many aspects of Edinburgh life and society shaped by this legacy. It wants to hear thoughts about the most constructive ways that the City could address this history for the benefit of all in the future.

Whilst there are a significant number of monuments, buildings, street names and other features in the public spaces of the Capital today which could be considered, this consultation does not try to reference every one of these. Instead, it provides a representative selection of 41, separated into different themes or relating to a particular aspect of this history. For example, international trade and the profits from slavery and colonialism, the role of the military in sustaining slavery and colonialism and inspiring individual stories.

The Group hopes that this approach will help to illustrate the many different elements of Edinburgh life which have been touched by the legacy of slavery or colonialism.

The online consultation is hosted on the Council’s website here. It is open for 12 weeks from 27 October 2021 to 19 January 2022.

In praise of Edinburgh’s Car Club.

Data published by the Scottish Government at the start of the year shows that car ownership is increasing in Scotland, with three million cars now registered here. Although Edinburgh is bucking the trend, we have also seen public transport usage fall as costs have risen.

This is a concern as transport accounts for about a third of Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions – much of it from cars. Although some people are going electric, this is slow in Edinburgh as there are fewer charging points per head of population than any other local authority.

For many people car ownership is essential. For others it is a luxury. For most of us, however, it falls somewhere between the two. The convenience cars offer means that people can choose to live far from work or family, but we know this has a downside.

A phenomenon we have all observed over the past 20 years is the rise in 2 and 3 car households. I live in Buckstone where the roads are slightly narrower as virtually every house has a drive. This is no longer enough – drives are full, and too many 2nd and 3rd cars end up parked on the pavement.

Buying a car is a big step if you are concerned about climate change. Every kilometre we drive emits 180g of CO2. This is overshadowed, however, by the carbon footprint of constructing a car – a medium-sized new car needs the equivalent of 17 tonnes of CO2 (same as driving 60,000 miles). 

There is an alternative to purchasing a car that’s not buying a bike or a bus pass. That alternative is joining a “Car Club”. For just £2 per month you get access to a brand-new car. You have to pre-book via an App and pay just over £5 per hour (plus 15p per mile), but you don’t have to worry about MOTs, servicing, insurance, depreciation or even petrol.  It’s not for everyone, but it’s great for people who perhaps want to transition out of car ownership or want to avoid buying a second car.

I’ve joined, and found the system simple and easy if you are organised enough to plan your trips a day or two ahead. You can apply here.

Putting communities at the heart of the Covid recovery and Edinburgh’s response to the Climate Emergency

We hear much from the Scottish Government about its “ambitious” climate change targets, but the extreme weather we have seen recently, COP26 and the declaration of a Climate Emergency by the UN mean that many of us now want to see that rhetoric backed up by action.

It’s important, however, that we fully integrate our response to  the Climate Emergency with the Covid recovery and tackling poverty in Edinburgh. Currently 23% of children in Edinburgh live in poverty, and a decade of constitutional bickering in Holyrood and Westminster means that their plight is side-lined too often. We cannot afford to repeat this mistake in the coming decade.

This will mean that our response to these challenges must focus on people and communities. Small businesses in Edinburgh are the powerhouse of our jobs economy, but adaption will be difficult for some. That’s why the Scottish Government need  to fund the Council to better support small and medium sized businesses in the transition to more sustainable practices. 

We need to move the climate change debate on from changing one car fuel to another, and think about real change at a city scale. We need to think about how we improve the thermal efficiency of our homes. We also need public sector bodies to work together at a city scale to reduce their carbon footprint. 

If we are to tackle poverty whilst doing this, we need to adopt community wealth building (aka “The Preston Model“) as our approach – this is about creating a resilient and inclusive economy for the benefit of all in the local area. This means that we have to look at the “social value” of every contract – with benefits for the local people such as employment, skills, real living wage, environmental impact, and greater wellbeing.

We should not need a Climate Emergency and a Global Pandemic to make us realise that Edinburgh needs to be a fairer, happier and healthier place to live, but it feels like now is the time to act.

“Complaining about Sean Bell’s conduct was futile as he was protected by ‘the old boys’ network” inside the Council.

Linked below is a summary of a report which investigated the conduct of a Senior Social Worker named Sean Bell. He worked for City of Edinburgh Council for over 30 years until his death in 2020.

When he died it became public knowledge that he had been suspended from the Council and was facing serious criminal charges. The independent investigation triggered by the Council sought to understand how it had dealt with any allegations made against Sean Bell, and whether or not they related to his position as a Social Worker.

On Wednesday I spoke to the independent legal team leading the investigation, and read the full 145 page unredacted report (reportedly based on 15,000 pages of evidence). I read this report in the knowledge that Sean Bell has died, so can’t respond to the charges made against him.

Nonetheless, the full report (and the summary is linked below) makes clear that Sean Bell had been accused of bullying, abusive behaviour and misuse of public funds in the workplace, and was not considered by his colleagues to have a positive attitude towards women.

While the Inquiry Team heard from two female CEC employees who spoke positively about SB’s manner, most of the women interviewed by the Inquiry Team were disparaging about him. He was described as a ‘bully’ and, in respect of his general conduct around women in the workplace, he was labelled as a ‘sleaze’ and a ‘dirty creep.’… ….Words such as ‘lecherous’ and ‘predatory’ were used by witnesses when asked to describe SB’s behaviour around women in the workplace.

Official Inquiry Report

In addition to this he has been accused of assault, domestic abuse, sexual assault and rape. The alleged events took place over a number of years outside the workplace, but did involve Council staff.

Survivors of these alleged attacks made repeated credible formal and informal complaints against Sean Bell over a number of years, often with the direct support of friends and colleagues. It’s suggested that Sean Bell used his status within the Council to systematically undermine and discredit those women making allegations against him.

He put a lot of energy into his public and professional persona while the reality was very different. The emotional and psychological abuse continued for many years after. It’s been difficult to watch him reach such a senior position in the Social Work Department and hard to believe that none of his colleagues ever saw glimpses of who he really was.

Survivor (quote from media report)

Let me be clear, even where events take place outside the Council people should still take seriously criminal allegations made against staff. The investigation found occasions where Sean Bell’s line manger should have taken a more formal approach, or perhaps even referred the matter to the Police. Keep in mind that all of these people are well versed in how abusers are able to hide their tracks, and evade being held to account. They also know that abusers should not be working with vulnerable people.

It appears that, despite the fact that Sean Bell was trusted to support vulnerable people, an “old boys’ network” within the Council (which he was a member of) sought to deal with the matter informally.

One witness told the Inquiry Team that complaining about SB’s conduct was futile as he was protected by ‘the old boys’ network.’

Official Inquiry Report

My mum also went to them and asked if they knew what he’d done to me. The response was just that Sean was sorry.

Survivor (quote from media report)

After many years of being side-lined and discredited, one of the survivors  of Sean Bell’s alleged abuse made a credible allegation again. This time she was listened to and supported, and the Police were called. The case against  Sean Bell was so strong that criminal charges were brought forward after just a few days.

When I read the full report I found it unbelievable because it appeared to be a textbook example of abuse – A man charged with protecting vulnerable people using his power and influence to harm the lives of others, and take away their dignity, credibility and self-respect. He appears to have been protected by is own arrogance, and people who appear to have put personal loyalty before helping vulnerable people.

I’m angry that  his death means that Sean Bell won’t face charges in court, but I am glad that the survivors of his alleged abuse will not have to face him again.  My anger is balanced, however, by my respect for the brave women who where unwilling to stay quiet, and for the social worker who acted quickly to get the police involved.

The report is linked below and will be debated in Full Council next week. It contains quite sickening allegations which may upset some, particularly those with of experience violent or sex based abuse. Please remember that Rape Crisis and Edinburgh Women’s Aid are there to help.

Update – 29-10-21
Yesterday in Full Council we debated the investigation into Sean Bell, a Council Social Worker accused of verbal abuse, violent abuse, sexual abuse, and rape. We had a chance to question Susanne Tanner QC FCIArb who led the investigation and Andrew Kerr (the Council’s Chief Executive). My questions focussed on the “old boys’ network” in the Council, and why the Council’s policies are so deficient. The mood was dark, and a further report on the culture in the Council is due in December. We also learned that only 34 of Edinburgh’s 63 Councillors attended the many sessions to read the full report, and one of those that did attend acted unprofessionally and shouted at the legal team – ironic given that Bell was accused of verbal abuse. Full debate here:

Assisted uplift service under review in Edinburgh

Below are details of the Council’s plans to review the assisted uplift service in Edinburgh. They plan to write to some of the most vulnerable people in Edinburgh to ask if they still need the service. I am really concerned about this, and have asked if the process has been approved by the Transport & Environment Committee.

This does not feel like the best time to be worrying some of Edinburgh’s most vulnerable people about potentially removing this valuable service. Indeed, I hope equal effort is invested in raising awareness of the service so more people can make use of it.  

Briefing
I am contacting you to inform you that the Waste and Cleansing Service is undertaking a review of our residents who are registered as having an assisted collection.

As you may be aware the service is designed to help where members of a household are physically unable to move wheeled bins or boxes to the kerbside for us to collect. Our crews collect, empty and return a residents bin(s) to a storage position at an agreed location within the boundaries of their property. We can arrange for an assisted collection on a temporary basis (6 months), or on a long-term basis depending on their specific circumstances.

There are currently around 7500 existing assisted collections and there has not been a review of these for a number of years. We believe there may some which are no longer required but we have not been informed of the change. Therefore we are checking whether resident still requires the service and gathering information which help us contact them in the future. A DPIA has been completed and all personal information gathered in this exercise will be handled carefully and in accordance with the relevant legislation.

A letter will be sent out to each address that currently receives an assisted collection this week, a copy of the letter is attached. The letter asks if the assisted collection is still required and requests that the resident (or resident’s carer) fills in the form and returns it to us in a prepaid envelope.

We allow 15 working days for a response, for those who do not respond we will send out a reminder letter in November. If we have had no response we will assume they no longer the service and they will be removed but this will not be done until after the New Year.

If you require any further information please let me know.

Survey Results – Improving Buckstone Play Park

Introduction
Many thanks to everyone who has responded to my survey regarding Buckstone Play Park and the potential to improve it. I’d hoped to get 100 responses, but after just one week I had 201. The survey is still open and 258 people have now completed it.

My wife and I have lived in Buckstone since 2000, and both our kids (now 18 & 23) grew up loving the play park here (and the one in Fairmilehead Park). Since then, the park has been expanded and should last a few more years. There is a feeling, however, that it is now a little dated. Lockdown has highlighted to us all how important parks are, and over the past year many local parents and grandparents have contacted me asking if Buckstone’s play park can be improved. It is within than context that I drafted the survey.

It is important to note that I only want to use the survey to understand what people want. It is not a referendum, and I am hopeful that if we can improve the park we can reach an outcome that everyone is happy with!

Interim Survey Results
In this section of the blog I hope to run through some of the key outcomes from the survey so far.

Most people responding came from within Buckstone and the surrounding area. (Note – The marks don’t point to the homes of individual homes of respondents, but highlight the general postcode area)
Although some people thought the play park is fine, most people felt there was a need to improve it. Most felt more provision was needed for children aged 5-10.
Where suggestions for improvements for younger children were concerned, there was no shortage of ideas. Many people drew inspiration from parks elsewhere. By far, improved climbing equipment was see as the greatest need. Others saw the need to improve the swings and slides, and perhaps introduce a seesaw and sunken trampoline. A picnic table, flying fox, sand pit and playhouse was also popular. Many people preferred wooden equipment to reflect the semi-woodland setting.
In terms of provision for older kids, people were most supportive of a MUGA and a skatepark. “Other” options included everything from a climbing frame to golf nets and BMX/MTB course.
Although some people raised concerns, most people were open to expanding the park by using the area to the west. A few were clear that the “edible corridor” had to be protected, and others raised concerns that a poorly designed upgrade may lead to an increase in anti-social behaviour. A few people suggested that the playpark area should focus on play, whilst the nearby “Waterboard Field” (aka Brough Park) should focus on sport.

In terms of making the park more accessible for everyone, many thought that the access path could be improved and that equipment added to support kids with disabilities. Specifically, swings and sensory elements were mentioned.

Overall, I think that it is clear that that people feel the park has been overlooked and there is an appetite for change. Many people noted that an improved park may acts as a better focal point for the community.

I spoke to Council Officers a few weeks ago, and they agreed to cost the preferred options. Based on the survey, I shall ask for request costs for:

  1. A skate park;
  2. A flying fox;
  3. A timber climbing fort / slide / play house; and,
  4. An improved access path.

I shall also seek advice on how kids with disabilities can enjoy the park more.

Once we have costs and plans for this, we can discuss the plans within the local community and consider the next steps.