Progress with the herb border, 23 May 2010.

Herb plants with new slate labels

Apple mint, bay, chervil, chives, fennel, french tarragon, lemon thyme, lovage, marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme are all now growing successfully in the area set aside for herbs.

Today we have added labels made of slate from Snowdonia National Park. The hope is that now it is so easy to tell which herb is which, more residents will feel encouraged to help themselves. The bay has had a setback with the harsh winter and needs this season to recover, but most other things will be all the better for being harvested on a regular basis.

At the same time as enjoying really fresh herbs, we can all feel virtuous about helping the environment: reducing our food miles, and saving on packaging!

OTDT Forum Newsletter, 14 March 2010.

From the Old Town Development Trust Spring 2010 newsletter:

The next open forum for The Trust will be on Monday 22nd March at Riddles Court off the Lawn Market from 7 pm to 9 pm. It's called Food for Thought. The meeting will discuss “food” – food is a big issue in the Old Town because it's difficult to buy food from shops – over the years the butchers, the bakers, the greengrocers, fishmongers have all disappeared, food shopping is really difficult and it is hard to access food on a large scale e.g. Tesconation, buying your messages, we do have small shops who support local communities and they are life savers for many people but wouldn't it be nice to be able to buy locally produced food.

The Farmers Market is a great place to shop but is only open on a Saturday morning. But there are lots of issues like where does our food come from, why does it matter, being able to grow your own food, ideas about a market etc. Come along if you are interested in the discussion. The Trust will also report back on all the other things it is getting involved in. All are welcome.

Portsburgh Church, 12 March 2010.

The developers of ArtRoch Backpackers' Hostel have been refused permission to open up a door into the Geddes Garden. The work, which had been done before permission was sought, has now been reversed and the gap filled in. Elspeth had put in an objection on behalf of BPRA, and several of us had also sent complaints independently.

Patrick Geddes Gardening Club, 22 February 2010.

This is a new subgroup of the OTDT Greenspace Group open to anyone interested in food, fauna and gardening in all parts of the Old Town. It met at Blackfriars Community Rooms, and heard from several people running successful gardening projects in the area. The new name was also settled on (a very fitting one — when we remember Patrick Geddes' contribution to town planning and ecology in the Old Town!).

Anyone interested in further details please ask either Elspeth or Jennifer for a copy of the minutes.

Salvation Army/Portsburgh Church Building, 27th January 2010.

The Planning Development sub-commitee met and Elspeth attended on our behalf. Last-minute changes to the plans meant that the developers did not have to apply for planning permission, as the building had been a hostel in the past.There are, however, some conditions regarding neighbour disturbance from inside the building, which may turn out to be helpful.

The developers have now had to apply retrospectively for planning permission and listed building consent for a door in the wall into the garden which, it is alleged, the hostel plans to use as a barbecue area — although the land is not theirs.

Silent Protest at ArtRoch Hostel, 14 January 2010.

This was called out at extremely short notice by G.R.ASS — it was timed to coincide with the councillors' site visit and the details of that were only made public hours beforehand.

Numbers were small, but made up for it in (quiet) fervour. Jane and Elspeth both broke their silence to talk to the media, and the event and local feelings were well reported in the local press. G.R.ASS have mounted their campaign under the slogan "Edinburgh, Get a Grip! enough hostels, enough stags and hens" which sums it up, really.

Old Town Development Trust, 26 November 2009.

After a succession of meetings to discuss the setting up of the OTDT, it held its first public meeting at Augustine United Church. This new organisation has grown out of the Canongate Project Report (2008), which concluded that “More support and facilities are needed for the residential population if a ‘living city’ is to be maintained in the Old Town.”

The trust is being guided by the Development Trusts Association Scotland who have pointed to successful projects in other areas of Scotland: there is the prospect of similar projects working well here.

G.R.ASS Summer Picnic, 26th July 2009.

This was held in Thomson's Court Courtyard. There are some photos on the G.R.ASS website — look out for Christina!

Window-box Workshop, 28th May 2009.

Grassmarket (west cobbled area). From 6pm to 8. Organised by G.R.ASS and led by the CEC Parks Dept, there was a demonstration of how to get the most from a window-box, what the best plants are, and how to maintain them. Compost and plants were available at cost price, and this proved a good opportunity to get to know better some of our Grassmarket neighbours.

G.R.ASS, 17th March 2009.

A meeting was held last night to elect a committee, and get the ball rolling. Elspeth and Jennifer attended. The Grassmarket Residents' Association (G.R.ASS) has hit the ground running! This group is for everyone resident in the area, and intends to complement the Grassmarket Area Group (GAG). The meeting was buzzing with positive ideas.

Obstacle Course on the Vennel, 25th July 2008.

Work on the vennel steps

Work is progressing on the Vennel steps, we are now quite used to the landscape changing daily. It will be such an improvement when it is all finished!

Not forgotten, after all!, 20th June 2008.

Good News - Scottish Enterprise has submitted an application for listed building consent to replace and reposition the wall mounted light outside No. 4. It is to be of the same type as proposed for the wall lights further down the Vennel - that is, a "heritage" light, similar to the old gas lamps. It is great to able to say goodbye to the ugly lunch-box style sodium light!

Vennel graffiti, 30th January 2008.

Jennifer and Michael had a positive meeting with the Council official who deals with graffiti in central Edinburgh. He promised to take the matter in hand - he stressed that the earlier he learnt of problems, the better - and the response from his team would be rapid. It was far more difficult to remove paint, especially on stonework, if it was allowed to dry in. Because of parking, etc. the team would probably work at weekends.

Visitor snapped by Jennifer in back garden!, 22nd October 2007.

Fox in back garden

Salvation Army/Portsburgh Church Building, 23rd October 2007.

The Council is now 'Minded to grant' planning permission for an apartment hotel, letting a number of one bedroom flatlets, plus one 5 bedroom flat on the balcony level of the old church, which would have its own entrance through the arches off the Vennel. This is somewhat different from the original application, the flatlets being a bit fewer and larger. The outside of the building is unchanged except for a couple of skylights. Meanwhile squatters have been in the building and the graffiti gets worse. Hopefully something will happen soon.

Refuse collection and recycling, 23rd October 2007.

In response to our email to our councillors about our refuse collection and recycling arrangements Michael and Jennifer had a meeting with David Beckett, the SNP councillor. He appeared friendly and efficient, and arranged for a meeting with Margaret Williamson, the official in charge of arranging collection facilities in the World Heritage Site and Sarah Crowley.

The upshot is that our wheelie bin, and collection bins for most sorts of recycling, but not bottles, will be just round the corner on this side of Keir Street. They had tried for a site by the Flodden Wall, but that had been objected to by Historic Scotland. The other side of the Vennel had been objected to on the grounds that there was a risk of bins being pushed down the steps. We pointed out that this was rather a long way away, and suggested that we might also have the option of using bins in Porteus Pend, as we do at present, though it is not clear whether we are, strictly speaking allowed to, and Margaret Williamson thought that could be arranged.

Recycling for bottles remains unresolved, and may have to await the completion of the proposed underground bins in the Grassmarket, though Margaret Williamson reported that there had been objections to a bottle bank there on grounds of noise. She was however arguing the case.

Usefully she also noted the graffiti and broken glass in the Vennel and undertook to take it up: certainly men with brooms appeared very shortly afterwards.

Salvation Army/Portsburgh Church Building, 25th July 2007.

The owners have now applied for planning permission for short let apartments. Judging by the plans, they are mostly 2 person apartments, with double or twin beds ( a few probably single, and one three bed) with shower room and small kitchen, of various sizes. There is also an office and laundry rooms etc, but no sign of a bar or any social rooms, so apart from, unfortunately, being a rapidly changing population, they should be all right as neighbours. The only change to the outside of the building is some skylights in the roof of the Salvation Army Building. The application is on the Council Planning Website Council Planning Website

Grassmarket Public Works. 25th July 2007.

There was a public meeting on the above on 18th July, at which it was announced that work would be starting on 9th September, beginning in the middle of the Grassmarket and is expected to take about a year. All the right noises were made about the contractors being approachable and keen to work with the community on any problems that might arise, so we shall see.

Grassmarket Project. 14th June, 2007.

The revised plans for the public realm works in the Grassmarket (above) were given planning permission on 5th June, and, all being well work is planned to start in the autumn after the Festival. More details, as well as all the comments and objections made to the plans, can be seen on the Council planning portal

Former Salvation Army Women's Hostel. 14th June, 2007.

The Hostel is now owned by Dunalastair Estates Ltd, Blair Street, who intend to submit a planning application in the next couple of weeks and to start building works shortly. We should get a neighbour notice when the planning application is submitted and will then be able to see what is planned.

Grassmarket Nursery. 14th June, 2007.

The Grassmarket Nursery is again under threat of closure. The Education Department is reviewing their properties, and the site is one that they are rumoured to be intending to sell, with the Art College a possible buyer. Users of the Nursery are mounting a campaign against closure and a petition is going around.

Grassmarket Project. 11th April, 2007.

Further details have been submitted to the Planning website on the 12th and 26th of March. These include the latest version of the plans, shown above as well as further details on the Vennel. The plans will be going to the Development Quality Sub Committee on Wednesday 18th April.

Streetscape Improvements. 30th June 2006.

There was a meeting on 29th June at which the latest plans for streetscape improvements in the Grassmarket, shown above, were discussed. A larger version can be seen on the notice board in Gerry’s. Plans will be going for planning permission on 17th July, and any comments were requested by that date.

Since members differed in their opinions, it was agreed that BPRA should confine itself in its comments to matters directly concerning Brown's Place, and in particular the Vennel. Individual members are encouraged to make their own comments direct to

Our draft submission is given below. Comments to the Secretary by 10th July please.

Following the meeting of the Grassmarket Project on Thursday 29th June, which three of our members attended, as Brown's Place Residents' Association we should like to make the following comments on the latest plans as they relate to the Vennel.

We are delighted that the Vennel was finally included in the design stage and would be very concerned if this work was not taken forward into detailed design and implementation.

Even at this early stage, we should like to stress that our overriding concern relates to safety. Whatever surfacing is chosen must be even, easy to maintain, of a colour that means that steps are clearly visible and of a material that does not become slippery in wet or icy weather.Lighting must ensure that the Vennel is well lit without light slippage into residents’ bedrooms. At least one continuous handrail is essential.

The alcove at the side of the former Salvation Army building should be railed in or blocked off for any use other than as a fire exit to reduce the nuisance of people using it as a urinal, drinking den or drug-taking/trading location.A permanent solution should be found to blocking up the door on the wall below the nursery.

We note that the present proposals envisage nothing more than repaving the Vennel and although we agree that this must be the top priority we should also welcome some more creative proposals from the landscape architects as to how this outstanding pedestrian thoroughfare might be enhanced for the benefit of residents, local people and visitors to the city.

We should like to object to the loss of the bus stop at the west end of the Grassmarket both on the grounds of convenience for residents of Brown's Place and others, and as a retrograde step in encouraging the use of public transport. We should welcome consideration of moving the pedestrian crossing from the bottom of the West Port to the west end of the Grassmarket so that residents and visitors can easily cross over into the enhanced public space rather than have to negotiate the clutter of café tables, A boards and litter bins at the corner of West Port/Grassmarket and then over a busy road.

We should very much welcome confirmation that there will be budget secured to implement the plan for the Vennel as soon as possible. As a group we should also welcome continued consultation on the Vennel.

We have circulated the plan to all residents of Browns Place to encourage them to forward their individual views of the wider proposals for the Grassmarket.

Yours sincerely,

Elspeth Wills, Secretary, Browns Place Residents Association