MCTCC Meeting Minutes – 30 June 2020

30 June 2020 at 7pm via Zoom

Attending

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), Chris Murphy, Daniel O’Malley and Megan Rooney.

Residents:

TD; EM;IG;NM;DM;ST;HM;SC;AR

Elected Representatives:

Lord Provost Philip Braat, Cllr Eva Bolander, Cllr Angus Millar and Sandra White MSP

Ex-Officio:

Ian Elder, Graham Ross and Rowan Carmichael: Austin Smith: Lord; Peter McCaughey: Artist based in The Briggait, and Veronica Low: Chair of Townhead and Ladywell Community Council

1. Welcome by the Chair

The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting, in particular: Sandra White MSP, GCC’s Ian Elder who will introduce a presentation by associates, Graham Ross of Austin Smith:Lord consultancy and Peter McCaughey, and Veronica Low who is Chair of Townhead and Ladywell CC and Chair of Greyfriars’ Gardens.

2. Apologies:

Robin Jones, Alison Thewliss MP, DH and Baillie Christy Mearns.

3. Minutes of the last meeting (26th May 2020)

The Minutes were passed without any changes.

Action Points update from last meeting:
Eileen Mills informed us that an email from 28th of May from Cllr Bolander with the information of new notifications were re-sent for both Jocelyn Square planning applications. Baillie Christy Mearns sent information about Glasgow Mutual Aid.

4. Matters Arising not in the Minutes

NM a resident of Ingram Street, reported on an incident where sectarian graffiti was sprayed in their building by people renting a flat for a weekend through a letting agency. Short term lets have been a problem in the building for several years. Sandra White MSP referred to legislation going through the Scottish Parliament about licensing for short-term lets. NM noted that the agency gives the impression that their customers have the use of the whole building and services. Sandra White offered to contact the agency in question regarding this matter. Councillor Eva Bolander noted that there was an issue with an apartment in Candleriggs previously when an enforcement officer from GCC was involved. She asked to be copied into the emails. Sandra White asked for NM’s email.

EM recommended, from experience, reporting the agency for a breach of planning law. In the case of AirBnB, often the keys are held in a small box at the entry, which could be broken into by burglars as they are not of a sturdy design.

5. Report from the Treasurer

Gerald Hirst reported that he was unable to check this month’s balance due to the bank’s website being under maintenance. However, he does not expect the balance to have changed from last month as there has been no expenditure since the last meeting. Hence it is expected that MCTCC funds remain with a balance of £1,549.72.

6. District Regeneration Framework (DRF) for the City Centre.

Ian Elder, a Project Manager from DRS, appreciates this opportunity to give this follow-up presentation to the consultation stage of the DRF, a 10-year project, for Glasgow’s city centre. It will be a listening process to engage with the community to lead into the next stage. This consultation refers to the following districts:
Cowcaddens, Townhead and Ladywell and Merchant City

The objective of the DRF is to put in place the necessary infrastructure to prepare for increased levels of investment and improved vibrancy in the city centre

Graham Ross is an architect and urban planner from Austin Smith Lord, and Urban Planner and Architect.
His company were pleased to be awarded the tender on the 5th of March and continued working during lockdown from home. This time was taken to build up a baseline to present a draft proposal to present to GCC for approval towards the end of 2021. His team includes people with many specialisations such as sustainable advisors, transport specialists and landscape architects. There are nine districts in the Glasgow’s DRF project, but this will focus on the four mentioned above. The DRF is the culmination of the City Development Plan (CDP) and the Strategic Development Plan (SDP)

The focus is on the quality of life, how to get around the centre to jobs and housing, and the challenges of a day and night time economy. Their brief from GCC has asked for evidence-based comments and so they are engaging with the communities. They are asking how people imagine the future of their city through a consultation website to give their opinions at:-
https://yourcitycentre2020.commonplace.is/

Peter McCaughey is a local artist based in the Briggait. He wants to incorporate culture, art and anecdotal history into the consultation process.

Currently, the Merchant City is an exemplar of how artwork can improve the experience with its many brass plaques and stone work on the paving stones. This can be continued throughout the city if people can engage and ask to see it implemented. This is how a cultured European city should be, working alongside the technical data from Graham Ross consultation.

Niall McColl has also posted this on the MCTCC website, Sandra White MSP will do so on her social media also. Daniel O’Malley enquired what the city centre might look like after the end of the 10-year project. Graham said there were no preconceived ideas; it will depend on the response to the current consultation which will mean looking at the macro and micro issues it raises.

In terms of the challenges facing the four districts, Peter McCaughey noted that MCTCC was well organised to be involved. There is a spreadsheet of how well-focused each area is; the more individuals and communities engage, the more the DRF can strive to meet their needs towards a common vision. Tam noted that 12 districts in Glasgow, out of a total of 79, do not have an active community council established.

Peter Hayman asked about a ‘quick win’ that there is a vacant plot in Ingram St, the current NCP carpark which the Merchant City Park want to see turned into a public park. Ian Elder responded it is part of the DRF to develop more greenspaces; however, the site is currently being marketed by City Property for sale or lease. The current deadline for bids is the 28th of August, and this process is ongoing.

MCP has experienced difficulties in trying to engage with GCC which has been hindered, to some extent, due to lockdown. Hence this meeting was the first interaction with GCC in which they were able to make a case for transforming a carpark into a greenspace. This would appear to match the objectives of this DRF project and those of MCP. Ian Elder would remember the MCP project for future consideration as a possible fit for the DRF objectives.

Eileen Mills believed a landscape architect and artists could make good use of this space at Ingram St. At a previous webinar there was a list of greenspaces for potential regeneration but this location was not listed. Ian Elder said the list in question was not exhaustive but an example of major places identified for regeneration. His team are now aware of the existence of 20 mature trees there. The Chair mentioned that there is a mid-monthly meeting of the Community Councillors where they will look at the presentation again and provide comment.

Veronica Low, Chair of Townhead and Ladywell Community Council, was pleased to be present and able to contribute. The Ladywell area has been titled The Learning Quarter.She expressed her support towards any maintenance, or development of greenspace where communities can be involved with creating ‘living spaces‘. We should take the chance to express how we want to see our historical streets protected and not allow them to lose their character in the future. It would not have escaped notice that, it would appear, the planning department sees fit to have every spare piece of land built upon.

Ingram street is a fine example of a Georgian Street, so is not typical of Glasgow which is more Victorian in architectural nature. This needs to be protected and needs to look much better than it looks at the moment. Drygate, for example, was the first main street in Glasgow, though this is often forgotten. If we are going to build, we have to pay attention to the surrounding areas and look at the potential for developing nature. Only this way can we make people feel part of something bigger than just themselves.

In the DRF consultation we should try to anticipate what might be some of the problems that will be faced in the future, for example thinking of any space that we can have food grown locally, within, or near to the city. The majority of the buildings we have now should be the same ones in the future, can these be retro-fitted to maintain the facades. Are short term lets damaging the fabric of these buildings?

If we are going to build, then the new buildings have to be sympathetic to the surrounding area and look at the potential for vertical and roof gardens. This conversation can be developed in future as we hope to be collaborating between MCTCC and Townhead and Ladywell Community Councils.

HM would like to see an audit of the greenspace so as to preserve what greenspace we have already. Ian Elder responded with thanks for this contribution and will gather together all the issues and the opportunities for each community. At the first stage, it can be difficult to just point to quick solutions rather than look at the strategic options overall. They looked forward to being kept up to date through Tam who is our representative on the group.

7. Report on those issues forwarded to the police

Anti-Social Behaviour on Argyle StreetTam Coyle raised the issue of the large number of homeless people in the City Centre. The Chair reported on an email regarding the carpark at the top Virginia Street, behind the Corinthian. CCTV footage has shown the area being used for drug use and anti-social behaviour. It was noted that the Alexander Thompson Hotel on Argyle Street, which was housing the homeless in the pandemic, was a primary reason of the increase in anti-social behaviour.

Sandra White MSP had met with the Police earlier that day at Partick Police Station. The homeless numbers have dwindled down to single figures due to the Covid19 prevention measures. She has reported issues many times which involved people staying at the Alexander Thompson Hotel in Argyle St, near to Hope St. Once the lockdown is over, they will be not be allowed to stay there, but where will they go is unknown. There has been an increase in the number, and severity of the violent attacks including numerous fights and robberies.

The highest level of crime is in the City Centre which includes housebreaking and shoplifting. The Police have said they will put in more patrols, but they are over-stretched. They received 270 calls for anti-social behaviour in one day. It was felt by some that the chemist shop in Trongate, which is used by the drug-using community, should not have been located there. The two bus stops in Argyle Street at Stockwell Street is known for people being accosted through requests for money. Many residents and other visitors are, as a result of this, now avoiding the area. It could be that soon the area will be perceived by ordinary shoppers as being too dangerous and become a ‘no-go’ area, even though it has much to offer. There are no easy answers here as the homeless have now become a community themselves.

Cllr Eva Bolander has also reported issues relating to anti-social behaviour and has done research into the scale of this problem. There are the similar type crimes being reported from the six hotels in the City Centre that house homeless people. Around two thousand have been given temporary accommodation, with around thirty-five people presenting themselves each week for accommodation, sometimes coming from other areas. They have chaotic lifestyles and drug or alcohol dependency issues.

Private landlords, it is expected, will have to house many of the homeless when lockdown eases. There is one small positive factor that some homeless people are, for the first time, accessing health and social services they have never used before. Within their own group there is little adherence to social distancing, but in the wider population, including shopkeepers, this does appear to being adhered to.

Cllr Angus Millar noted it is important the support services will step in when lockdown eases to help find more temporary housing for the homeless. He is attending a meeting with a council officer later in the week so if anyone wants to bring a particular issue to his attention, he will raise the matter at the meeting.

Tam would send information to the police regarding complaints from a resident in Canada Court (Millar Street) about drug-taking and rats in the car park in Virginia Street which his flat overlooks.
Bars Selling Alcoholic Drinks for ‘Take Away’

There is a problem with bars serving alcoholic drinks, often in plastic containers, but are consumed in the street next to bars themselves. Niall McColl was displeased to see the large amount of litter strewn in the street, which was not helped by the street bins over-filled. Due to the public toilets being closed, the drinkers are urinating in the street, or areas within or near to private residences, sometimes on the advice of the bar staff.

Lord Provost Philip Braat has been made aware of these issues due to complaints he has received from residents around the John Street area. It is perceived that the bar owners and staff are not taking responsibility for the subsequent litter or lack of sanitary facilities. This problem is also prevalent around Kelvingrove Park and the West End. He has been raising this with the police and the GCC Licence Officers who have been visiting the bars to remind them of their responsibilities.

A resident reported that the Brewdog bar in Hutcheson Street was advising people whom they had sold alcohol to, to stand away from the front of the bar, but only by a few feet. Initially they only sold cans, then later said they were only selling drink in plastic containers. Cllr Angus Matter pointed-out how this a Licensing Department issue, but a ‘loophole’ whereby the bar can say they are selling for people to take the drinks home but are powerless to stop it being drunk near to their bar. Some bars have put up notices saying “please don’t drink in the street” but these are ignored. It is clear that if premises do not have an Off Sales Licence then they are not allowed to sell alcohol for take away. This problem should stop when lockdown restrictions are reduced and customers return to drinking inside, whilst remaining socially distant.

An opinion was expressed that if there were no toilet services, then the public houses should be closed.
Sandra White MSP confirmed that Licensing Officers are going around and speaking to the public houses and saw them out today. The police should be given a list of those bars with the most complaints for more efficient monitoring. Bars are claiming that because there is a lid on containers, they are for home consumption but this is hard to justify.

Megan Rooney could understand if bars felt they were receiving mixed messages from GCC as they have been encouraged to do whatever they can to survive economically, but now that they have improvised to the new conditions, they are being criticised for adapting to the new economic environment they face.
Tam Coyle will pass these points on the police by email.

8. Merchant City Park (MCP) update

Peter Hayman said that the main messages from MCP were covered during the earlier DRF presentation. They have sent out the briefing notes to GCC and Councillors, making the case for a park in Ingram Street. He hoped that a case can be made to GCC and City Property.

Cllr Eva Bolander reminded us that Cllr Angus Millar cannot get involved as he is the chairman of City Property. The process of how tenders are being handled in City Property is a complicated process. Unfortunately, there are several pressing financial constraints on the city at present and so it could be understood if increasing revenue is the priority, rather than a park. Mr Hayman said greater revenue is gained from greenspace long term than from the land being sold in a one-off deal to a developer.

Eileen Mills said that had been no engagement with MCP since the project began in 2018 (when GCC owned the site) by the Ward Councillors present at the meeting tonight. This in contrast to the Jocelyn Square planning applications which saw a significant response, both from MCTCC and with the participation by two Ward Councillors which led to complaints being submitted. Cllr Bolander is of a different view on this; there were other plans for the site which she has pointed out in the past. Eileen Mills commented that MCP were not advised of these plans in 2018.

Eileen Mills has submitted two complaints to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, one against GCC and one against City Property. An acknowledgement was received saying the two complaints have been combined into one, and asking for more information. The information has been provided; also acknowledged. SPSO will report back further in due course. The Chair pointed out that due to time restraints we must move on, and perhaps a meeting could be arranged. Peter Hayman would welcome some meetings with GCC at any level.

9. Councillors Reports

Lord Provost Philip Braat reported on The Glasgow Open Space Strategy programme. The Council is looking for input from residents and communities as to what they would like to see in their area.

There have some static demonstrations taking place over the last few weeks, and at weekends, which have caused concern for the local community. These are not the same as a Procession which require a Delegated Organiser and an application made to the GCC Procession Team. They work and liaise with Police Scotland to decide if permission is to be granted or not.

This is not the case for ‘Demonstration’ where this is no standard application required. However, permission should be asked to use public space, advise the Police and the City Centre Manager. There would appear to be a gap in the Law, as he has found in the past. There is no legislation saying a demonstration cannot take place. So, it would seem if an unannounced demonstration did ‘get out of hand’, then the police have no prior warning of the situation, nor knowing the level of crowd control needed. He understands there may be another demonstration this weekend to raise awareness of the living conditions of refugees in the city and hopes this will go smoothly. The MCTCC will pursue this lacuna in the law.

Safety Certification for Building Cladding
Resident, AR wanted to know if there was any news of how to obtain a safety certificate for the cladding of buildings. This is now required of banks providing mortgages or when trying to sell property following the fire at Grenfell Tower in London. HM and Daniel O’Malley were aware of this problem.

Home-owners have raised this issue with Lord Provost Braat recently and he has forwarded the matter over to the GCC Development and Regeneration Services department. Hence, he is awaiting their guidance along with his fellow Councillors.

Sandra White MSP reported how this affects so many Scottish home-owners in flatted dwellings. The insurance companies refuse to issue safety certificates. It is a Westminster matter and she has been working Alison Thewliss MP. There are only two people in Scotland who can issue these certificates. She has attended meetings and understands that Westminster is going to issue a budget and it is unclear if Scotland will receive a ‘Consequential’ amount of this fund to resolve this matter north of the border. She continues to raise it at the Scottish Parliament.

Cllr Eva Bolander is working with Sandra White MSP. It is a complex matter as it covers all three levels of Government: City, National and UK authorities. She is sympathetic to those constituents who are caught up in this.

10. Planning Applications

Peter Hayman reported that there were no controversial planning applications. In terms of the King Street development, Tam is arranging for the developer to give a Zoom presentation and show architectural plans. The consultation opens on Monday the 13th of July.

11. Licensing Applications

There were no licensing applications.

12. Website Progress Report

The website, Facebook and twitter accounts are working well. Content is added every day. Tam Coyle asked that the email addresses of the elected representatives be posted on the website, which was agreed by all.

13. AOCB

Tam reminded everyone that there is an online version of the Merchant City Festival that can be accessed this weekend. Duncan MacLaren thanked all the contributors to this full meeting and closed the meeting.

Date of next meeting:

Tuesday 28th July, 2020 at 7pm
A Zoom link will be circulated for registration.

Action Points

  1. Send NM’s email to Sandra White MSP regarding short-term lets (Duncan MacLaren)
  2. To contact the agency of the short-term lets in NM’s building regarding their behaviour (Sandra White)
  3. Cllr Eva Bolander to be copied into the emails concerning short-term lets (David Cowan)
  4. MCTCC community councillors to discuss their contribution to the DRF consultation at their next mid-monthly meeting on 15th July (All)
  5. Sandra White to advertise the DRF consultation on her website and other social media (Sandra White MSP)
  6. Collaboration between MCTCC and Townhead and Ladywell CC to be pursued (Duncan MacLaren)
  7. Veronica Low, Chair of Greyfriars’ Gardens, to be invited to give a presentation on the Gardens to MCTCC (Duncan MacLaren)
  8. To pass on to police information about the complaint from a resident in Canada Court regarding rats and drug-taking in the Virginia Street car park (Tam Coyle)
  9. Give list to police of drunken behaviour and flouting of the rules of takeaway drinks which were being consumed in the street (David Cowan)
  10. To follow up the lacuna in the law concerning ‘static’ demonstrations with GCC, the police and elected Councillors (Tam Coyle, our representative on the GCC Processions’ Committee)
  11. Sandra White to be in touch with resident Audrey Rossi regarding the cladding on her building (Sandra White MSP)
  12. King Street carpark developer to be invited to give a presentation to MCTCC (Tam Coyle)
  13. Emails of elected officials to be posted on the MCTCC website (Niall McColl)