Online Conference through Zoom Tuesday 25th August, 2020, at 7pm
Community Councillors: Dr Duncan MacLaren (Chair), Tam Coyle (V/C), David Cowan (Secretary), Peter Hayman, Niall McColl (Social Media Manager) Eileen Mills, Gerald Hirst (Treasurer) Daniel O’Malley and Chris Murphy.
Residents: EM, TD, DMH, CA
Elected Representatives: Councillor Eva Bolander and Councillor Angus Millar.
1. Welcome by the Chair
The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting. He informed us that Veronica Low of Greyfriars’ Gardens will not be joining us at this meeting to talk about the future of the Gardens, but she intends to do so in the future.
Sandra White MSP, Lord Provost Philip Braat, Megan Rooney (CC) & VL
3. Minutes of the last meeting** (28th July 2020)
- Peter Hayman identified that the word ‘no’ was missing in the Treasurers Report, such that it should read “There are no plans for future expenditure.”
- Eileen Mills confirmed in the MCP Update that the last sentence at the bottom of page 3 should be taken out.
- Tam Coyle proposed, and Niall McColl seconded the Minutes were a true representation of the previous meeting.
Action Points update from last meeting:
- Veronica Low has not had contact with GCC on the matter of Greyfriars Gardens but will endeavour in her attempts to do so.
- Tam will raise the matter of lack of regulations pertaining to Static Demonstrations with the Processions Committee and GCC but they are not reconvening until September
- The Chair is aware that Sandra White has contacted the resident directly who raised the building cladding fire safety issue.
- Tam has arranged to meet with Glasgow City Centre Manager, Denise Hamilton, next week regarding licensing issues and other matters.
- The Chair will make enquiries regarding the number of electric car charging points.
- David Cowan has emailed the resident and Sandra White MSP regarding the water leak in a tenement in Parnie Street.
- Social distancing for those queueing for the Kindness project in George Square: Chris Murphy will contact the charity.
4. Matters Arising not in the Minutes
- TD raised the issue of local publicans using the pavements more than usual to put extra seats and tables out. This is an obstacle to ordinary pedestrians, especially if they have a pram or a mobility issue. Cllr Angus Millar noted there had been more bars and restaurants with outdoor seating post-lockdown. This should not interfere with the statutory entitlements. Hutcheson St, Candleriggs, Garth St, Bell St and Ingram St appear to the worst streets affected. Tam will contact Denise Hamilton of GCC and will circulate the response.
- Peter Hayman enquired if there was any update on the Spacing for People programme which aims to improve social distancing, as it did not include any roads in the Merchant City. Cllr Bolander asked for suggestions on any particular areas that would benefit from this to be sent to her.
5. Report from the Treasurer
Gerald Hirst reported the balance of the MCTCC bank account was £1371.93 as of the 25th of August 2020. Tam suggested that the two MCTCC public noticeboards should be cleaned. The Chair will make follow this up with the company who cleaned them last time.
6. Update from CCRC: Covid Contingencies
- The Chair gave an update on new procedures issued by Steven Dowling’s CCRC department due to lockdown. If there are any Community Council vacancies, we are unable to go through the standard procedure and so a candidate would become an ‘associate member’. Every October there is an AGM and there can be elections, but both have been postponed to March 2021, or sooner depending on circumstances. We still have to send in the MCTCC accounts in October of this year to Steven Dowling’s office and the Treasurer is aware of this.
- The email explained that there may not be a requirement for the annual administration grant to be given to community councils this year due to the Covid related inactivity. MCTCC has continued to run all of its meetings by Zoom online. The Red Amber Green (RAG) analysis will be not be carried out this year, though it is expected to resume in September next year.
- A new Discretionary Grant Fund for community councils in Glasgow has been launched up to a maximum of £400; however, there can be multiple applications, but they must not exceed £400 for all of the applications in a single year. A stipulation for this grant is that a community council cannot apply for items when there are enough reserve funds to purchase any given item. This means reserve funds would have to be depleted first.
- The Chair (with Gerald as substitute), attends the Area Partnership of Anderston/City/Yorkhill community councils where small-scale projects are funded. The only funds ever received for the MCTCC area have been for Greyfriars Gardens. Cllr Eva Bolander, as the new Chair of the Area Partnership, provides grants for groups for the whole of Ward 10 during the pandemic. There are very few community groups in our area and so this is an opportunity to start necessary support groups or similar. DMH is involved in a charity operating all over Glasgow for food parcels for anyone needing help during the pandemic.
7. Report on those issues forwarded to the police
- Tam gave an update on the carpark behind the Corinthian, on Virginia Street, which has been used for drug taking. A second instance has been photographed by a resident and forwarded to our community police officers. They replied this evening saying they are aware of the issue. It is hoped that the whole site can be cleaned up and made less accessible other than for its intended use. Cllr Eva Bolander and Cllr Angus Millar asked to be kept informed of developments as they have raised this issue.
- EM reported the same issue in the carpark at Bell Street (junction with Albion St). He noted that the maintenance bill included around £2,000 costs to clear up rough sleepers’ debris left behind. Cllr Millar understood this had been an ongoing issue and other people have also reported this nuisance.
- A resident reported that many cars have been damaged in the Q Park during the lockdown. As with other carparks, measures have been taken to mitigate this but they have had a limited effect. It was related by a resident that, recently, four police officers had a shoplifter in the back of the police van and restrained, whereupon two people reported to them separate instances of being offered drugs for sale by someone nearby. The four police dismissed them because, apparently, they were duty bound to stay with arrested man – who was restrained and handcuffed in the back of the police van.
- The poor state of the City Centre is due to being frequented by a sizeable number of people who were engaging in anti-social activities during the period of the pandemic. Disappointment was expressed with the lack of support by the police, and other social services and wondered if it might be because Argyle Street and Trongate have low residency rates and is not classed as an ‘area of deprivation’.
8. Merchant City Park (MCP) update
- Eileen Mills reported that the closing date for bids for the sale or lease of the 69-97 Ingram Street Site is this Friday, the 28th August. To highlight this, she has been raising awareness of MCP’s interest in the Site by contacting the Glasgow based press. This has successfully led to two articles being published, with a third expected before the end of the week.
- The second article challenged the GCC claim in the first article to have been “scrupulously fair” with MCP. The third article shall, very briefly, assert how MCP have been failed by officialdom, by evasion of engagement by GCC and the Scottish Government, and by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) rejecting MCP complaint against GCC based “on the information we had provided” when in fact SPSO had requested very little information from us. MCP are still awaiting a response from SPSO to a review request, having now submitted much supportive documentation.
- Two letters have been written to the First Minister. The first letter requested indefinite postponement of the closing date, in the first instance, and subsequently, assistance in being able to meaningfully make use of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015. The non-representative default reply offered to set up a FOI request (which had not been asked for). The second letter which was sent on 19th August has not yet been answered.
- Peter Hayman understood there is going to be a meeting tomorrow (Wednesday 26th August), on the future of the site involving GCC, City Property and other officials. He is in the process of drafting a plea for the relevant elected representatives to consider the benefits of MCP’s plans.
- Cllr Eva Bolander made reference to the large cost of the site which would be valuable revenue for the city at this uncertain time when the city finances are under strain due to the equal pay settlement mortgage issue last year and the decline in commerce due to lockdown. As such, there are competing priorities to reckon with. Neither she, not Cllr Millar, will be attending the aforementioned meeting.
- Eileen Mills believes that MCP has been given no opportunity to raise the money for the park, given the determined opposition to the idea, as exemplified by the evasion of engagement, from such powerful bodies as GCC and CPGI. Without ownership and with such powerful opposition how could we realistically approach fundraisers? We hadn’t been given the chance e.g. of one year to raise the funds. Peter Hayman noted that the land had lain undeveloped for 45 years, so this is an opportunity which should not be missed, especially as all the GCC corporate reports repeatedly state a wish to see more green space within the City Centre.
9. Councillors’ Reports
Councillor Eva Bolander has requested more information regarding an AirBnB complaint raised at the last MCTCC meeting she attended, Daniel O’Malley will email these. New powers will come into force next year from the Scottish Parliament for local authorities such as Glasgow. The legislation will introduce new powers to license short term rentals. She is working to set up meetings to consider how these new powers, can be best implemented. See the URL below for details, https://www.gov.scot/publications/short-term-lets/
The Area Partnership will restart this week. On the ongoing drug issue, there is pressure to install a safe space for drug users to take drugs within an environment that has access to legal, health and social service teams for help to change their lifestyles. However, as this is not a devolved matter and Westminster has so far not agreed to giving the Scottish Parliament the necessary powers. The large homeless population which has been housed within the City Centre is due to be rehoused in appropriate areas. The social landlords have not been leasing out new properties during the lockdown and this has slowed down this process. The Begging Strategyreport is due to be read by a GCC Committee in the next week or two. There has been much concern regarding this.
Councillor Angus Millar reported his interest regarding the increased provision of electric charging points and asked to be copied into the correspondence with Cllr Richardson. He is aware that bars have been over-utilising pavements to the restriction of pedestrians. He asks for people noticing acute problems of this nature to report them to him. This also includes breaches of ‘track-and-trace’ measures not being adhered to when sitting in at bars or restaurants. It is important because the newly acquired freedoms could be taken away, such as happened in Aberdeen where a spike in infections occurred because the rules were not adhered to. Cllr Bolander noted this is now a Scottish Government Statute, compared to the previous Guidelines, from the 24th August. https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-tourism-and-hospitality sector-guidance/pages/collecting-customer-contact-details/
Strathclyde University have been hard to contact regarding Ramshorn Graveyard; however, it is hoped that a meeting can be convened in the next week or two between GCC and Strathclyde University. He commended MCTCC for being organised about the continued lack of access to this site, and believed the intention to set up a ‘Friends of the Ramshorn Graveyard’ would be a positive initiative.
There has been much discussion in the past about a ‘Customs House Quay’ development on the Broomielaw even though it is just at the concept stage. Cllr Angus Millar will meet with GCC officials to discuss the matter in the near future. He shall emphasise how community engagement should be a key priority at each stage should this be taken forward.
DMH is interested in what measures will be put forward in the forthcoming Begging Strategy. She has tried to help, and understand, the plight of the less fortunate. She found that often they are already registered with the various support organisations; however, ‘the system’ does not work for them. Cllr Bolander mentioned the new cashless payment system whereby a £2 donation can be given by bank card. This is used by The Simon Community to provide items to improve the quality of life. It would appear this has not reduced the number of beggars in the street.
David Cowan would like to see the pavements cleaned up and disinfected, discussed previously with Sandra White MSP. Cllr Eva Bolander recommended that Tam should raise this proposal at his meeting with Denise Hamilton.
10. Planning Applications
There were no Planning Applications of note and we await the fuller King St application
11. Licensing Applications
Tam reported that soon pub licenses will be extended from Midnight to 3am. MCTCC intended to object against a 3am license being granted to Grace’s Bar. It recently came to light this had already been granted some years ago.
12. MCTCC Website Progress Report
Niall McColl has published MCTCC Minutes from January to June 2020 on the new website in HTML format, so they are searchable and will have ‘tags’. Residents names are initialised. The website will be under maintenance in September, around this time our distribution list will be uploaded on to Mailchimp for improved organisation. Facebook has received some new followers. A small group of Community Councils have been asked to participate in a GCC pilot project looking to improve data management. Niall will represent MCTCC in this project.
13. Addressing Local Issues
- Some of these issues had been covered already such as AirBnB and the Ramshorn Graveyard. Peter Hayman discussed the importance of the “20 is Plenty” speed restriction, which was not being adhered to, particularly along Ingram St, with danger to pedestrians of fast cars and the associated loud bursts from engines and exhausts which has become a real nuisance. Cllr Bolander noted the focus of the police to stem this problem, as written on the front page of the local newspaper The Glasgow Evening Times that day.
- Niall McColl observed, especially during Monday to Wednesdays, the number of cars parked at any available space legally, and illegally, in the City and felt this should be raised with the police
There was no AOCB.
The Chair thanked everyone for attending and closed the meeting.
Date of next meeting: Tuesday 29th September, 2020 at 7pm. A Zoom link will be circulated for registration.
- Veronica Low of Greyfriars’ Gardens to be invited to present on the future of the Gardens to MCTCC at a later meeting (Duncan)
- Report on the meeting with Denise Hamilton of GCC (items: drug taking in Q Park and Virginia Street car park; disinfecting and cleaning the streets of the City Centre); anti-social behaviour in Argyle Street and elsewhere in the City Centre (Tam)
- Contact the Kindness Homeless Street Team re social distancing of their customers in George Square (Chris)
- Details of ‘Spacing for People’ to be passed to Cllr Bolander (Peter)
- Keep Councillors informed about the events in the Virginia Street car park (Tam)
- Report on actions by the police to stem the anti-social behaviour prevalent in the City Centre but especially Argyle Street (Tam)
- Email more complaints of the AirBnB incident to Cllr Bolander (Daniel)
- Pass information on car-charging points to Councillors Bolander and Millar (Duncan)
- Report back on meeting between GCC and Strathclyde University re the Ramshorn Graveyard (Cllr Millar)
- Objection to be lodged to Grace’s continuing 3 am license (Tam)
- Raise question about illegal parking with Councillors and police (Tam)
- Report back on the rumours of a development in Broomielaw (Cllr Millar).