Planning is always a hot topic of discussion. Baileyfield South is a brownfield site and, given the number of houses required to meet the need in Edinburgh, it's right that it should be used for residential development. But the application seeks to squeeze too many houses into the available space, which would be bad for both the existing neighbours and the future residents. Developers know that people want to live in a vibrant, lively community like Portobello but unchecked development pressure could harm Portobello’s character. I've put in my objections - the developer should withdraw it, rethink it and resubmit it.
If you’re not already aware, a process of revaluation of business rates has been undertaken. I have been liaising with a range of business owners, particularly in Portobello, who are seeing rates increasing beyond all reason (nearing 500% in one case). I will be fighting their corner in the weeks ahead – there is no way these increases can be justified and we cannot see some of our most popular pubs, restaurants and cafes go under because of this.
If you are a business owner and haven’t already checked your proposed rates change – please do so at https://www.saa.gov.uk/ and do let me know if you have any issues.
Sadly bank closures seem to be coming thick and fast as more and more young people turn to internet banking and stop visiting their high street branches. There are many people who, for a variety of reasons, are unable to use internet banking. The closure of branches will have a huge impact on them and their ability to access banking services. Around six months ago RBS closed the branch at Craigentinny but reassured me that the Portobello branch was nearby. Now they are closing the Portobello branch and the one at Edinburgh University. I have written to the boss of RBS and will have a meeting to discuss these specific closures and the long term impact of closures on our communities and high streets.
I had a very interesting visit to the Greyfriars Charteris Centre today. Dan Rous, the Development Manager and the Rev. Richard Frazer showed me round the amazing building and talked me through the outreach work they are doing 'connecting communities'. The building is now run for the community, for those of all faiths and none. So if you are looking for a space to use definitely think about one of their lovely halls or meeting rooms.
A key visit I undertook this month was to the Salvation Army hostel at the Pleasance where Service Manager Iain Wilson and Regional Manager Andrew McCall showed me round. During my visit I heard about the important work the hostel does supporting homeless people to find and sustain a home of their own.
The Boundary Commission has proposed new boundaries for the Edinburgh East constituency which would come into effect from 2020. I disagree with the Tories’ aim of reducing the number of Scottish MPs from 59 to 53 and the overall UK number from 650 to 600 but the Boundary Commission must stick to the brief they’ve been given by the UK Government.
I've submitted an alternative proposal to their consultation that would involve keeping to Scottish Parliament boundaries as much as possible and would keep closer to the shape of the current constituency. It would mean losing Prestonfield and the parts of Leith currently in Edinburgh East and gaining Liberton and Gilmerton (ward 16).