Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Proposed Developments for Water of Leith at Slateford

I 've blogged before about the proposals to replace the Blue Goose pub (along with the best beer garden in Edinburgh) with a large development of student flats

After Edinburgh Council refused the proposals as they stood, the developers put forward a slightly amended proposal, which you can read about here (there are over 240 documents on this page so there's a lot to read through!).  You can register your objection on the website (if the system is working and will give you a password, which is actually not guaranteed!) or you can email planning@edinburgh.gov.uk or write to your Edinburgh City councillor. The closing date for comments is now 8 August 2016. The reference number for this application is  15/05401/FUL and this number must be quoted in all correspondence. 

I 've copied and pasted my letter of objection below. If you choose to object to the proposals please feel free to use some of my ideas, but please do not copy any part of my letter word for word! I thik you need to live or work in Edinburgh to be able to respond to this planning application. (And sorry for the small font size, blogger isn't letting me post this in a larger font).


I wish to object strongly to the amended proposed development 15/05401/ful. Although the site would be not inappropriate for a small scale housing development, I consider the proposals even as amended to be a gross over-development of the site and have listed my concerns below:

Ecology and Wildlife While accepting that the land currently occupied by the Blue Goose itself consists mostly of buildings and tarmac and therefore is of little ecological value in and of itself, the site sits at the entrance to the Dells, a local nature reserve of wildife and amenity value. The site therefore needs to be developed in a way that is sensitive to the wider landscape including the nature reserve. The Dells is a beautiful area of ancient woodland, full of wildlife and historic interest. It has recently been made into a Local Nature Reserve, a status that it well deserves, given its importance for wildlife. We need green spaces like the Dells in the city and we need these spaces to be sensitively managed to sustain the wildlife as well as to be areas of recreation. Even as amended, the proposed development is inapppropriately large in scale to sit at the entrance to the Dells, both in the scale of the buildings and in terms of the influx of population it would bring into the area.

The proposed development would extend right up to the site boundary and into the root protection area and canopy spread of existing trees. This may lead to damage to these trees which may be worsened by the construction process. In the future, the trees may be threatened through complaints due to blocked light and fear of damage to property. The trees on the slopes to the south of the river will overshadow the proposed accommodation, blocking sunlight for much of the day. This may lead to future pressure on the Council to carry out tree works or removal due to the inappropriate siting of the new development, a practice not supported by the Council's Tree and Woodland Strategy.

The Dells are home to over 60 species of bird and mammal including roe deer, otters, bats, badgers and kingfishers. Over 130 species of wildflower grow in the Dells as well as many ancient trees. It is also home to an interesting range of fungi, lower plants, insects and other invertebrates. The area is frequently used by otters, which are protected by European law. The site is also very important for bats, also protected by European law, which roost in the viaduct near the Visitor Centre and in the Dells. The increased light and noise emanating from the proposed development would disturb the foraging behaviour of the bats and impact on their survival. Kingfishers are regularly seen along this section of the river. Kingfishers are amber listed in the UK (which means they are of conservation concern) and feature on the City of Edinburgh Council's Biodiversity Action Plan of species of particular conservation concern in and around the city. Kingfishers are “vulnerable to ….habitat degradation through pollution or unsympathetic management of watercourses” (see the RSPB website https://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/discoverandlearn/birdguide/name/k/kingfisher/index.aspx). Grey wagtails are also frequently seen along this stretch of river, a species which has just been added to the red list in the UK, which means it is of particular conservation concern. Song thrushes (red listed in the UK), bullfinches (amber listed) and swifts (amber listed) are often seen in the area, all of which are included in the Edinburgh Biodiversity Action Plan. Spotted flycatchers,(red listed), have been seen in the Dells over the past two years after at least a ten year absence. Sparrowhawks (which are listed in the Edinburgh City Biodiversity Action plan, though they are currently green listed in the UK) nest in the area. Great spotted woodpeckers (again green listed but included in the Edinburgh Biodiversity Action Plan) are regularly heard and seen in the area in springtime. (The red, amber and green listing is explained on the RSPB website here https://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/discoverandlearn/birdguide/status_explained.aspx The Edinburgh Local Biodiversity Action Plan can be accessed from this page of the council's website http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/biodiversity.)

I have personally seen all the above mentioned species in the Dells, many of them close to the proposed development site. The Water of Leith Conservation Trust holds detailed records of sightings of these species (and others) along this stretch of river. The Wildlife Information Centre for Lothians and Borders (http://www.wildlifeinformation.co.uk/) probably holds further records for the area as may also Scottish Ornithologists Club (http://www.the-soc.org.uk/) Edinburgh Natural History Society (http://www.edinburghnaturalhistorysociety.org.uk/) and other organisations. It is strongly to be hoped that such organisations will be fully consulted about the ecology and natural history of the area, before any decisions are made relating to any development of this site

Streetscape and amenity

The character of this part of Slateford would change entirely if this development goes ahead, as it would be to a much larger scale than the surrounding buildings. The development would make the area more urban in character, obscuring the views of the river and and breaking the visual continuity of the river valley. The Blue Goose has the best beer garden in Edinburgh and as such enables people to enjoy a beer in the surroundings of a beautiful piece of green space. It is also one of the few places to eat and drink in the local area. Would it not be more appropriate to look at a possible community buy out of the Blue Goose Pub? It is considered to be unviable at the moment, but with several housing developments planned in the local area (excluding those for the Blue Goose site itself) then surely once completed these would bring in a large enough influx of people to create a clientele to support the pub?

It is not clear what is meant in the developers' report by 'recreational improvements at the entrance to the Water of Leith Walkway'. Is it proposed that there will be two entrances to the Dells? What will be the relationship between the buildings and the entrance to the walkway? The planned walkway between the buildings and the river doesn't look as though it would be wide enough to both offer pedestrian and cyclist safety and resident security (through passers-by overlooking the lower storey windows). 

Scale The Blue Goose pub is moderate in height and small in scale and the site as it currently stands maintains the open aspect of the area. The proposed development would have a larger footprint and stand much higher than the existing building. The proposed development would overshadow the river and the walkway, making the walkway very dark and enclosed, reducing its amenity value. The many windows of the development would also cast noise and light, disturbing the tranquillity of the riverside setting and walkway and having a negative effect on the bats in the area. 

Parking The lack of on-site parking spaces included in the proposed development would present problems to local residents. There is not much ‘on street’ parking in the area and many students have cars and will need to park them somewhere, restricting the on-street parking for current residents. 

Traffic The lack of parking and manoeuvering space within the developments will cause problems when students are moving in and out or when deliveries are being made. This will cause obstructions and delays on an already very congested road. It would also lead to increased levels of pollution in the area, potentially causing increased rates of respiratory illnesses. 

Anti social behaviour Bringing extra residents into the area, would increase the potential for littering and vandalism (already problems in the area) and noise pollution caused by loud music. There would be increased pressure on the sidepath through the Dells, which students would naturally use as a short cut to Napier University, either on foot or by bike. This is not a specific objection to students, it would apply to any influx of people who would use the Dells as a natural short cut between their housing and their place of work or study. An advantage of having students moving into the area could be that they could be recruited as volunteers by the Water of Leith Conservation Trust. 

In principle I would be happy for a small scale housing development on the site, if it took account of the surrounding natural environment and included for example bat boxes and swift nest boxes. However, the proposal, even as amended, is inapppropriate and too large in scale. I would also push for investigation into the possibility of a community buy out of the Blue Goose pub.


Simon Douglas Thompson said...

Trouble is that city authorities want to close down virtually every pub they can, by whichever means

Gingi Freeman said...

Its good to see you involved in the community. Sometimes ruling bodies can be a bitch... - http://www.domesticgeekgirl.com