Sunday, April 20, 2014

Harris Academy Perth Road site - issues addressed

Road at the Harris site
As residents will recall, I have recently raised road safety issues outside the Harris Academy site in Perth Road during the new school buildings construction period that the City Council and the contractor has been swift to tackle and resolve.

Residents have recently raised some other issues - mud and dirt on the roadway where contractors' vehicles enter and exit the site, the height of speed limit signs and the extent of contractors' staff vehicles parked on West Park Road.

The contractor's Site Manager has sent me the following helpful response:
... we constantly monitor the condition of the roads and footpaths adjacent to the site and organise suitable and appropriate cleaning measures accordingly.  We deploy resources depending on the conditions and operations that we are carrying out which will see road brushes being used several times a day if we are carrying out intensive earthworks operations and during periods of poorer weather conditions which can have an impact but we also deploy road brushes in a more general way when we feel that the road needs a general tidy up.  We also deploy operatives with road brushes and power washers to clean pavements around the site to keep them in good condition when required.  We will continue to monitor the conditions and endeavour to ensure that the adjacent roads and footpaths are kept up to an acceptable standard throughout the project.
The 20mph advisory speed limit signs have been installed in exactly the same location and in fact overlaid onto the existing 20mph signs which would have been installed in line with current signage legislation / guidance.
The issue of parking around a construction site is always a difficult one and we advise our contractors when they are appointed that they must show an appropriate level of consideration for the local residents and road users and to ensure that they avoid parking over driveways, on footpaths, to close to junctions, etc and in this particular case to avoid parking on the Perth Road because it is a main commuter route into Dundee and primary route for ambulances travelling to Ninewells Hospital.
In instances where employees do not adhere to these rules we take measures as necessary to remove vehicles, liaise with our contractors to police their employees parking and in some cases we have consulted with the local traffic wardens to target anyone who is not parking legally.  Unfortunately, like any other employer we are not in a position to prevent people from using the legally provided parking areas that are located around the site and I would ask that we bear in mind that these are simply people travelling to their place of work and parking in legitimate parking spaces as we all do.  We will of course do everything in our power to ensure that the workforce is being responsible in their attitude to parking around the site.

Unadopted pavements - Arnhall Drive

Having raised over a long period, on behalf of residents, the need to upgrade and adopt the very poor pavements in Arnhall Drive - see right - I was pleased to be advised last year that the pavements would be upgraded relatively soon.

I recently asked for an update from the City Engineer on timescale, who has advised:
The unadopted footway works at Arnhall Drive were included in the 2013/14 programme but carried over into 2014/15 programme. Works started on site on 14 April 2014 and are currently ongoing. Work should be completed by early May with the exception of the footways (outside two properties) which will be delayed due to structural issues with the boundary walls at these locations. 
With regard to the 2014/15 upgrade programme (which includes the footpaths at Seymour Street, Hazel Drive (east footway) and Farington Terrace), he also advises me:
The unadopted footway programme for 2014/15 programme is still to be programmed with the required statutory notification letters having just been issued very recently. The programme will be carried out on a phased basis over the approximate period September 2014 to March 2015. 

Happy Easter


Friday, April 18, 2014

Christians Against Poverty (CAP) Centre opened in Dundee


It is good to see a  new church initiative being launched earlier this month at St Peter's Free Church Offices, where a Christians Against Poverty (CAP) Centre has been opened to serve the whole of the city.

Initially, 4 Churches are combining together to make this happen - St Peter's Free Church; Grace Church (Menzieshill); Hermon Evangelical Church (Hilltown) and Broughty Ferry Baptist Church.

Acting in a voluntary capacity, the local CAP Team will be available to befriend and offer direct practical support to people with debt problems. The primary service is to assist them to manage and overcome their debt burden using the free expert resources of the CAP Financial Teams in Bradford. 

Full details of the work of CAP can be seen here and more information is available by calling 0800 328 0006.

The new service is a great addition to the other services in Dundee that are offering debt help and will complement and enhance the overall provision of assistance available to Dundee folk.   It will also be providing CAP Money Courses to help anybody with budgeting and personal money management.  

Dundee Festival of Volunteering 2014 @DunFestVol2014

I am pleased to say that the West End figures prominently in this year's Festival of Volunteering, including Community Spirit Action Group's litter pick, Time2Give's Coffee Afternoon at Blackness Library, Starter Pack's Open Week (Perth Road) and Bridge FM's Open Evenings at Ninewells Hospital.

You can download the full brochure with all the details here.

On Wave 102 News - Bin Collections

I was on Wave 102 News yesterday following my meeting with the City Council's Environment Director regarding bin collections in the city.

You can listen to the Wave 102 interview by clicking 'play' below:

Thursday, April 17, 2014

West End - planned roads and pavements improvements for 2014/15

The City Engineer has advised me that the following pavement and roads surfacing programmes are planned for the West End in 2014/15 :
The part of Perth Road's pavements being improved is rather difficult to make out from the above map, so the one below clarifies :
It is good to see a number of long-standing poorly conditioned roads and pavements being tackled, although there is much still to be done and the requirement for enhanced capital budgetary provision for roads, as I recently highlighted.

Friends of Balgay Spring Meeting


The next meeting of the Friends of Balgay will be held on Saturday 26th April 2014 from 12.15pm – 2pm in the Mills Observatory. 

This is the Friends' ‘Sandwiches and a Blether’ meeting which is always popular and well attended. 

Please come and feel free to bring a friend.
  
Entrance is free for members and £1 for visitors.


Please note the timing is slightly different from previous years.

Calling Coleman! @dcoleman49

In his capacity as Chair of Dundee Youth Council, Daniel Coleman produces a regular newsletter - "Calling Coleman".  

In the latest edition that you can download here, Daniel kindly promotes the petition to Save the Perth Road Branch of Royal Bank of Scotland.   You can sign this here - nearly 80 local residents have already done so.

Also in this edition, Daniel also kindly wishes me a speedy recovery from my recent illness.   I am pleased to say that I am now sufficiently recovered that I will be able to return to council committee meetings and other activities after the Easter Recess, starting next Monday.   I am very grateful indeed to all who have expressed their good wishes - my many thanks.

On Scotland's Talk In - proposals to change Dundee's bin collections

Last Sunday, I spoke on Tay AM's "Scotland's Talk In" about the City Council's proposals to change Dundee's bin collections, that would see the end of the universal weekly residual waste collections.    You can hear the programme here (13th April edition;  my contribution starts just after 1 hour 18 minutes).   I have since also spoken on Radio Tay News about the issue.

Yesterday, I met with the council's Environment Director to discuss the report on this issue, going to council committee next Monday.

Whilst this was a useful and productive meeting and we both agree on the need to improve recycling opportunities, I made clear my view that this should not be done at the expense of the weekly general waste collection that constituents value.   The guidance to councils south of the border to authorities stresses that improving recycling need not and should not be at the expense of weekly bin collections of general waste - and highlights councils that are achieving recycling rates much better than Dundee's but who still have a weekly general waste collection.

What is disappointing about the report going to committee on Monday is that the three "options" before councillors are all essentially the same - all propose fortnightly general waste collections - and that is not a real choice at all.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Adult learning in the West End

The new Dundee City Council adult learning newsletter is now available and you can download it here.

The following courses are available in the West End :

Concern over bogus callers

The recent frightening experience of Logie resident Kathleen Killett from a bogus caller at her front door was helpfully highlighted in the local media, including the The Courier.    It is important to spread the message, particularly to elderly residents not to let cold callers into your home and that Kathleen did the right thing by requesting ID from the person who called at her door.

The concerns about bogus callers has been discussed at meetings of West End Community Council in the past.

Police Scotland, on its website, has useful advice to beat bogus callers.

Long lost penguin on display for Easter!

Rediscovered penguin
From the Curator of Museum Services at the University of Dundee :

The D’Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum at the University of Dundee will be re-opening for Easter, but instead of the Easter bunny we’ll be showing off our Easter penguin!

This special attraction is a newly discovered, long-lost specimen from D’Arcy Thompson’s original museum.    Photos of the museum taken around 1900 show a splendid emperor penguin on display.   The penguin (probably brought back from the pioneering Dundee Antarctic Expedition of 1892-3) is known to have survived the demolition of the old museum in the 1950s, and by the 1970s had been adopted by the student Biology Society as their unofficial mascot.    Stories have been told of the penguin propping up the bar at one of the biology students’ regular drinking dens! 

Inevitably this partying lifestyle took its toll on our once-regal bird and his condition deteriorated until at some point in the 1980s the penguin was sent to the old natural history museum at Barrack Street for treatment.    Somehow the penguin was then lost for some 30 years until his rediscovery in what is now the McManus Collections Unit earlier this year.    We have finally been able to have the planned conservation work carried out and our penguin is looking as good as new in his new home in the D’Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum.

The museum (in the Carnelley Building on Park Place) is open on Good Friday (2-4.30pm) and Easter Saturday (10am-12.30pm).   Admission is free.   We’ll be asking visitors to suggest a name for our penguin – with a prize for the best idea!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Easter Saturday at the Wighton!

From Sheena Wellington :

Friends of Wighton’s Cappuccino Concert on Saturday 19th April features Paul Livingston, on the violin/viola.

Perth born Paul Livingston is one of Scotland's finest young musicians, a multiple prize-winner recently awarded the Bayreuth Scholarship 2014 (Richard-Wagner-Stipendienstiftung) by the Wagner Society Scotland.    He auditioned at the master classes of the Franz Liszt Hochschüle and was accepted in the class, and later as a private pupil, of Prof Ozim at the prestigious Mozarteum in Salzburg.

After four years at Aberdeen School of Music, Paul was awarded, in 2006, the Stevenson Scholarship to continue his studies at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, where his teacher was Angus Ramsay.     During his time at the Academy, Paul was awarded prizes in the Dunbar-Gerber and Ian D Watt Chamber Music Competitions, and also won several prizes for academic music.

Since February 2011, he has been a student of Mark Gothóni in Berlin.    He has studied and performed with some of Europe's finest violinists and chamber musicians, among them Ilya Gringolts, Paul Coletti, Paul Rivinius and Thomas Füri.

Paul has performed as a chamber musician in many prestigious venues and at festivals in the UK, mainland Europe and Scandinavia.    He has performed at the Usher Hall, Greyfriars Kirk and St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh, Music Hall, Cowdray Hall and Elphinstone Hall, Aberdeen, Stavanger Cathedral, American Cathedral in Paris, and in festivals such as the Aberdeen International Youth Festival, Edinburgh Festival, Savonlinna Opera Festival, Finland and the Konturen Festival, near Cologne, Germany.    He's recently toured with the European Union Chamber Orchestra.

He has performed for Her Majesty The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh and the assembled members of the Scottish Parliament and broadcast on BBC TV and Radio.  His studies have been generously supported by The Cross Trust and the EMI Foundation.

Taking place at the Wighton Heritage Centre in the Central Library, the concert starts at 11am (doors open, coffee available from 10.30am) – tickets are £5 at the door.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Getting things done ... Glamis Drive

I recently received residents' complaints about the condition of Glamis Drive - several potholes, sunken water drain covers and a damaged channel along the roadway at one section.    

Earlier in the month, I raised these matters with the Roads Maintenance Partnership and also asked that, given the general deterioration with the whole section of roadway in Glamis Drive, the road be considered for full resurfacing in the future.

I have received a response as follows:

"The defective water toby covers have been reported to Scottish Water.   A number of potholes have recently been repaired.   An order is to be raised for the filling of the grooved section of the carriageway and this will be done in the near future as soon as resources are available.

The 2014/2015 thin surfacing works have already been identified but Glamis Drive will be considered for inclusion in future programmes of work along with all other locations throughout the city and as funding allows."

Scottish Water has now progressed the water toby cover repair - see Public Notice from the City Council below:

THE ROAD TRAFFIC REGULATION ACT 1984   :  SECTION 14(1)

THE DUNDEE CITY COUNCIL AS TRAFFIC AUTHORITY being satisfied that traffic on the road should be prohibited by reason of Scottish Water repair works being carried out HEREBY PROHIBIT the driving of any vehicle in Glamis Drive (between Hazel Drive and Hillside Road), Dundee.

This notice comes into effect on Sunday 4 May 2014 for 1 day.

Pedestrian thoroughfare will be maintained.

Alternative routes for vehicles are available via Glamis Road/Perth Road/Invergowrie Drive.

For further information contact 433082.

Director of City Development
Dundee City Council

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Do You See What I See?

From the Curator of Museum Services at the University of Dundee :

The new exhibition in the Tower Foyer Gallery at the University of Dundee explores the workings of the eye. A variety of early ophthalmic instruments are featured alongside teaching materials, charts, models of the eye and the fascinating artificial eye created by Wilhelm Kühne used to demonstrate refraction phenomena. You might have a feeling of being watched, however - as you wander around the display be aware of the eyes following you! Artworks whose characters’ eyes stare at you have been chosen for this exhibition, along with other imaginative pieces.

The exhibition has been curated by Hope Roberts, who is who is halfway through a year-long internship with the University’s museum service funded by Museums Galleries Scotland through the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Skills for the Future programme.

Now open, the exhibition runs until 24th May (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 8.30pm;  Saturday 9.30am to 4.30pm).

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Getting things done ... Poundstretcher car park in Lochee Road

Back in January, I reported that I had approached the management of Poundstretcher about the poor state of their car park at their store in Lochee Road.   The company responded positively, stating that resurfacing would take place.

It is therefore good to see that the resurfacing work started recently: 
Car Park before the works
Resurfaced car park

Friday, April 11, 2014

Blackness Road replacement bus shelter - further update

Earlier today, I received an update from the City Council on the bus shelter reinstatement at Blackness Road near to the West End Schools' Campus :

"Work has started and the majority of the footway work will be complete today.   Unfortunately we were unable to get the lighting column removed this week, and until this is done, we cannot install the bus shelter.  I have been advised that the lighting column will be disconnected and removed on Tuesday next week and I hope that the installation of the shelter will take place a few days later. 

Contractors will be asked to start their work after 0900 and have their work complete by 1500 when the school comes out.   Both tasks (lighting column removal and shelter installation) should take just a few hours."

Call for 20 mph zones in residential streets

Earlier this week, I reiterated my view that there is significant support from residents for 20mph speed limits in highly residential areas.

This morning's "Courier" covers my comments on this issue and my view that the City Council is dragging its feet on the matter.  This is very starkly different to the proactive approach of other councils – Edinburgh, Fife and Angus for example – have been proactive.    Just look at the Angus/Dundee boundary at Monifieth – Navarre/East Navarre Street – both highly residential – 20 on the Angus side;  30 on the Dundee side.   

20s Plenty need not be expensive – advisory signage and some road marking.  I am wholly against expensive engineering measures like speed bumps.

I also spoke with Wave 102 News about the matter this morning and you can hear the interview by clicking 'play' below:

Proposal for Dundee weekly bin collections to be scrapped is a real concern

The proposal for Dundee weekly bin collections to be scrapped is a real concern.   

Opposition councillors are only now being issued with the SNP administration’s proposals and although I will await to see the full detail, my initial reaction is that there would be significant detrimental issues that would arise from getting rid of weekly general refuse collections.   

Dundee has a very high proportion of flatted and tenemental properties – about half the housing stock – and there will be real refuse storage difficulties if people are being expected to store a fortnight’s general refuse.

I am meeting the Environment Director next Wednesday to discuss these concerns.

Consultation on extent of licensed premises provision in Dundee

There has been concern from residents about the extent of licensed premises provision in the city and the matter has been discussed locally at the West End Local Community Planning Partnership.   

The council's Licensing Board is now consulting on the matter and wants to hear the views of local people.  

The Licensing Board's consultation paper on this gives an assessment of potential over-provision of licensed premises in the city.   The closing date for this is 23rd May 2014.

You can download the consultation paper and response form here.   Any responses can be e-mailed to licensing.board@dundeecity.gov.uk or you can complete the on-line survey response on the Board's webpage here.

On Radio Tay News - need to tackle Dundee's potholes

Further to my article about the need to tackle the city's potholes problem, I spoke on Radio Tay News about the matter yesterday.

You can hear the interview by clicking 'play' below:

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dundee’s potholes – urgent action needed

As reported in last night's "Evening Telegraph", I am calling on Scottish Government to properly address roads condition across Scotland with a view to giving additional funding to local authorities to tackle the worst-conditioned non-trunk roads.  Trunk roads are a central government responsibility but the same issue with regard to inadequate funding applies to trunk roads too.   

In the recent budget, the Chancellor announced a £200 million new budget to allow local authorities in England but, as the national roads budget in Scotland rests with Scottish Government, the announcement for England merely served to highlight the need for Scottish Government to be doing more to help local councils tackle potholes across residential streets in Scotland.

Locally, like I am sure other Dundee councillors, I get many requests from constituents for the council to tackle potholes on local roads – a recent example being the poor roads surface in parts of Blackness Road – but there are many other examples.  The council’s Roads Maintenance Partnership does a good job with the funding available to it, but not enough priority is being given to this important issue in terms of budgetary provision.

In the 2013-14 council capital budget discussion, I proposed not spending capital monies on a new council HQ for the Environment Department and instead spending it on school building improvements and roads resurfacing.    The council’s administration has since seen sense on the Environment HQ expenditure and has abandoned that project but the roads resurfacing budget has not benefited from that as it needs the sort of £2.95 million budget boost in future years my proposals would have achieved.

There is a related issue here that could slow down the deterioration in the condition of residential roads in Dundee.   City of Edinburgh Council has rightly decided that, in highly residential areas, 20 mph zones is the way forward.   This is largely on road safety grounds and I had long supported lower speed limits in highly residential streets – particularly where there are elderly residents or children resident and in particularly narrow streets in the West End, like the Perth Road lanes and in the Logie Estate.     Dundee City Council’s administration has been very slow to embrace the strong public support for the 20s Plenty in Dundee – unlike other councils such as Edinburgh’s.

The other advantage of 20s zones is that they will reduce wear on the roads and save money in the long term – another good reason for adopting this approach.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Blackness Road replacement bus shelter - work started

Further to my article last month giving an update about the need for a replacement bus shelter on the north side of Blackness Road, just east of the Glenagnes Road junction and near to the West End Schools' Campus, I am now pleased to be able to report the commencement of work on the replacement shelter.   

This has been something of a saga as some sixteen months ago, a vehicle badly damaged the previous shelter and I have been raising the need for a replacement shelter with the City Council ever since.   

Whilst accepting that this replacement shelter proved to a more complex issue than a standard shelter replacement given the site layout and significant pedestrian footfall being so close to the schools campus, it is with rather a sense of relief that work on the new shelter has finally started.   

Many thanks to Donald Suttie for the photo below of the works taking place this morning:

Dundee City Waterfront Works Update

With thanks to the Tay Road Bridge Manager, here is the monthly update on the Dundee City Waterfront Development works and how this has impacted on traffic on the bridge:

Contract 3 – Sir Robert McAlpine (SRM)

Progress March 2014

There have been no major issues affecting traffic accessing and exiting the bridge despite Customs House on ramp being reduced to one lane for the month of March

Road surfacing and white lines to ramps
Installation of parapets
Installation of expansion joints
Preparation for relocation of traffic control barriers, lights and warning wig-wags on plaza area

Planned Works – April 2014

Completion of all outstanding surfacing, white lines, crash cushions, traffic control measures on plaza, relocation of Police Automatic Number Plate recognition cameras and ancillary works to allow the works to completely open on Friday 18th April.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Road safety outside Harris Academy site, Perth Road - a further update

Repositioned "middle" white lining at the site
Further to my update in February about my suggestions to the City Council about improving road safety outside the Perth Road Harris Academy site, I am pleased to report that the road lining improvements I asked for were put in place a few weeks ago.    

On the need for a 20mph speed limit request during the construction period, I received this today from the City Council's Head of Transportation:

"I can now confirm the advisory 'Max speed 20' traffic signs are now in place in both directions of the Perth Road near Harris Academy as well as on the West Park Road approach to Perth Road.

Unfortunately the placement of these traffic signs took longer than was anticipated.

We will arrange to continue to monitor this location for traffic movement."

Energy monitoring project from Solar Cities Scotland @SolarCitiesScot

Solar Cities Scotland is currently recruiting householders to undertake an energy monitoring project. 

The project would work as follows:

The monitor would be installed by our trained staff  in the home for four weeks

Energy advice would be provided based on your actual usage, downloaded from the monitor

The monitor would remain in the home for a further four weeks

This is to help us monitor if our advice has managed to reduce actual electricity consumption. 

If this is something any West End resident would be interested in, please phone Solar Cities Scotland on 501730 or e-mail Shona Bain at sharon@solarcitiesscotland.org.uk

Monday, April 07, 2014

On Wave 102 News - Save Perth Road Branch of Royal Bank of Scotland

I was on Wave 102 News yesterday about the need to persuade Royal Bank of Scotland to review its decision to close their Perth Road Branch.    You can listen to the interview by clicking 'play' below.    

You can sign the petition to keep the branch open here or by going to www.tiny.cc/perthroad.

Crafts Coffee Afternoon at Balgay Parish Church

Balgay Parish Church is hosting a Crafts Coffee Afternoon this Wednesday afternoon, 9th April.  

Taking place between 2pm and 4pm,  tickets are £1.50 - but only 50p for children. 

Stalls include craft, cake and candy, tombola and raffle.

It takes place in the church hall - enter by Tullideph Road.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Save the Royal Bank's Perth Road Branch - sign the petition!

Further to my update last Thursday about the Royal Bank of Scotland's proposal to close well-used the Perth Road Branch of the bank, I have now set up a petition calling on the bank to reconsider its decision and keep the branch open.

Please sign the petition here.    Many thanks.

There is also a short link to the petition at www.tiny.cc/perthroad.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Litter pick on Magdalen Green

The Bonnie Dundee Group and Dundee City Council are working in partnership to promote Keep Scotland Beautiful’s Clean Up Scotland Campaign and the city’s Have a Pride In Your Park initiative. 

To promote this work the group and the city council are organising a litter pick on Magdalen Green and the surrounding area (mainly along the railway areas) next Wednesday 9th April at 2pm meeting at the bandstand.

Would you like to be involved?    Litter picks, gloves and bags will be provided.    The event will last no longer than 2 hours and you are not required to stay that length of time, whatever time suits the individual.

If you are interested in attending please let the Environment Department know (direct phone number 436882) for organising litter picking equipment.   Many thanks!

Friday, April 04, 2014

Dundee Museum of Transport's Opening Weekend @DMofT

Dundee Museum of Transport is counting down the days until it opens its doors to the public at its premises in Market Mews on the weekend of 26th and 27th April.

The museum will display and preserve the transport heritage of our local area and will have an impressive collection of vintage vehicles, memorabilia and transport-related items on display.

The weekend celebrations will include National Drive It Day, organised by the Scottish Vintage Vehicle Federation, on Sunday 27th between 11am and 4pm.  There will be more than 160 vehicles present for this event throughout the day.

You can read more about Dundee Museum of Transport and the opening events here.

Another increase in the personal tax allowance

Back in 2010 at the general election, the Liberal Democrats gave a commitment that, if part of government after the election, we would deliver income tax cuts of £700 for working people.  

It was on the front page of the Liberal Democrat manifesto, it was on all those leaflets that came through your door and it was a top priority in the negotiations that lead to the formation of the coalition government.   This week, this commitment is delivered into people’s pockets.  

From this week the personal allowance, the amount you can earn before you pay income tax, will be £10 000, up from £6 475 in 2010.    That is the £700 tax cut delivered.

Right from the formation of the coalition in 2010, the Liberal Democrats have insisted that raising the personal tax allowance to £10 000 is our first tax priority. Lifting the personal tax allowance helps the people of Dundee and it rewards work.

Here in Scotland, it means £700 tax cuts for more than 2 million people with 263 000 lifted out of income tax altogether.  Across the UK as a whole this tax cut will benefit over 25 million taxpayers.   Between the two Dundee Westminster constituencies, some 71 990 taxpayers benefit.

The party will continue to fight for further tax cuts for the working people of Dundee.  The Budget saw more progress, raising the allowance to £10 500 in April next year.  It’s the Liberal Democrat aim to raise it even further in the next Parliament to £12 500.  

That would mean a two term Liberal Democrat government would deliver a total tax cut of £1 200.  Tax cuts for working people are a vital part of building the stronger economy and fairer society that Dundee deserves.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Criticism of disingenuous claims by bank in proposing Dundee branch closure

I have today slammed Royal Bank of Scotland management for deploying disingenuous and fictitious arguments when trying to justify its proposed closure of the Perth Road Branch.

When I initially contacted the bank to express concern about the proposed closure, the bank’s response indicated that a key factor in its decision was drop in customer usage of the branch and it cited a 30% reduction in branch transactions since 2010 across its bank network.

Being aware of the fact that the branch continues to be very well used by customers in the local community, I replied asking for details of the actual customer usage at the branch in the past five years.   The bank has now had to admit that customer use at the Perth Road Branch has not fallen in way usage has fallen in other branches.    You can read their latest letter received by me today here.

As I have now said to the Royal Bank, it was therefore inappropriate for the bank to promote the branch usage decline argument in the earlier response to me, given that it simply does not apply in the case of this branch, as I had suspected all along.     

The bank now puts forward another argument – that customers are “prepared to travel short distances” -  and this would have some resonance were it not for the fact that the bank has already closed all the branches that were in or a short distance of the West End – Ninewells Hospital, Balfour Street and Lochee High Street.    It is somewhat ironic that at the time these former branches were closed, the bank justified the closure by pointing out that there was a continuing branch within distance at Perth Road.

I am rather concerned that the banks should marshal arguments for closure that stand up to no scrutiny whatsoever.   I have therefore now formally written to RBS to request that the bank rescinds the decision to close the branch, recognising that continuing high customer usage at it justifies it continuing to serve the West End community.

On Wave 102 News - West End pavement improvements

I was on Wave 102 News earlier this week about unadopted pavements upgrades and adoption in the West End planned for 2014/15.   You can listen to the interview by clicking 'play' below:

Skill Share Dundee - April activities @skillsharednd


Wednesday, April 02, 2014

On Wave 102 News - Service 5 bus route improvement

I am on Wave 102 News today about the welcome alteration to the Bus Service 5 route from next month to include the far west of Perth Road.   You can hear the interview by clicking 'play' below:

Edinburgh Airport Chief Executive's comments motivated by self-interest

Today's Courier covers more comments from Edinburgh Airport Chief Executive, Gordon Dewar, about flights from Dundee Airport, indicating that he believes the new Dundee to Stansted service is a waste of public money.    I do think its clear that his comments are clearly motivated by nothing more than self-interest.

I had to smile when I read that Mr Dewar wants public funding moved to improve linkages to his airport, no doubt to improve his own profits.

It is quite right that there is public support to ensure that the people of Scotland get a good choice of airports and air travel.   We should not be left with just a central belt Glasgow/Edinburgh choice and the new Dundee flights to Stansted give a very accessible, local option for people in Tayside, Fife and the wider region to have an alternative air travel choice.

Perhaps Mr Dewar should be instead putting his efforts into reducing the dreadfully high car parking charges at his own Edinburgh Airport, which would be a better use of his energies.

New Bus Service 5 (and X5) bus timetable and route clarification

Further to my article yesterday about the proposed bus service changes from Sunday 4th May, I have since had confirmation that the Service 5 route will indeed be altered at its western end back to the pre-2012 route, ensuring that the far west of Perth Road in areas around Clovis Duveau Drive and Millbay Gardens/Terrace will again get access to this service.

Along with local residents, back in 2012, I campaigned against the loss of the Service 5 in this area and over 230 residents signed my petition to attempt to stop this area being cut out of the route.   It is therefore great for local residents that the service will restored.

As I indicated yesterday, there will be a revised Service 5 timetable and changes to the route, with the western end of the route now becoming a one-way loop so that from Ninewells Hospital (getting there by the current route – eg Tom McDonald Avenue) it goes to the Technology Park then Riverside Avenue and Perth Road and then the current route to the city centre.     

I have now had confirmation that this definitely means that the part of the route along the very furthest west part of Perth Road west of Tom McDonald Avenue will again have access to Service 5 buses – albeit in one direction – towards the city centre – only.

With thanks to dundeebuses.info again, the route/timetable is now available here.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Launch of the Thistle Assistance Card

TACTRAN, the Regional Transport Partnership, has just launched a Thistle Assistance Card throughout the TACTRAN area, including Dundee, Angus, Perth and Kinross and Stirling Council areas.

The aim of the Thistle Card is to help anyone who has difficulty in using public transport because of their age, disability or illness.   The card will quickly and easily tell the bus driver about any extra help needed during the journey.

Further details will be available from local libraries, the Coach Shop in Commercial Street and on National Express buses within the next few days.    You can also find out more by contacting TACTRAN on 01738 475775 or info@tactran.gov.uk 

More about West End bus changes from 4th May

Further to my article last week about alterations to National Express bus services planned for 4th May, and with thanks to Suzy Scott at dundeebuses.info and outline detail published yesterday by the Traffic Commissioners, here's some further information about the services I referred to that affect the West End :

Service 5 and a new X5   :   There will be a revised Service 5 timetable and changes to the route, with the western end of the route now becoming a one-way loop so that from Ninewells Hospital (getting there by the current route – eg Tom McDonald Avenue) it goes to the Technology Park then Riverside Avenue and Perth Road and then the current route to the city centre.     I await to see the detail, but it looks very promising that the part of the route along the very furthest west part of Perth Road west of Tom McDonald Avenue will again have access to Service 5 buses – albeit in one direction – towards the city centre – only.    Along with local residents, back in 2012, I campaigned against the loss of the Service 5 in this area, so it will be great for local residents if the service is restored.

The new X5 Service is only “express” in the part east of the city centre (Seagate to Dalgleish Road) but it will mean faster journeys for West End residents travelling to Craigiebank, Broughty Ferry, etc.   I await the detailed timetables but suspect the main benefit in terms of improved frequency of Service 5 overall (ie including X5) will lie east rather than west of the city centre.

Service 14 :   Only covers a very small part of the West End Ward (Technology Park and Ninewells Hospital) and alterations are fairly minor – although the 1435 service from the hospital is cancelled.

Service 15/17 :   There is to be a revised timetable “to improve reliability.”    The 17 (which serves parts of the West End – Lochee Road, Tullideph Road, Ancrum Road) will have a new one-way loop at the western end.   From Ninewells Hospital, it will operate via Kirsty Semple Way, Tom McDonald Avenue and the Medi-Park Link Road to the Technology Park, then Gowrie Park (Mallaig Avenue), Spey Drive and Charleston Drive to the hospital.

Service 22 :   Again, there is to be a revised timetable “to improve reliability” and there will be a new 2348 Whitehall Street to Ninewells Hospital journey operating all week.

More details as they are published will appear on National Express Dundee's website and on Suzy's dundee.info site.   Meantime, Suzy has a resume of the main changes affecting all Dundee services here.

High Hedges (Scotland) Act 2013

On a number of occasions in the past, I have raised the issue of high hedges following concerns from West End residents about the lack of adequate legislation to help tackle the problem of overly high hedges, over-shadowing, etc.   

It is therefore good to see the High Hedges (Scotland) Act 2013 coming into force today.   The City Council has provided councillors with a useful guide that should answer questions they and residents may have about applying for a High Hedge Notice and how the legislation operates.   With the permission of the Head of Planning, I reproduce this below and there is further useful information available on the council's website here:

1 Are all Trees and Shrubs Covered by the Act?
No. The Act only relates to high hedges.  To constitute a “high hedge” the trees and/or shrubs must firstly constitute a hedge. 
The Act does not define a “hedge” but the Oxford English Dictionary defines a “hedge” as “a row of bushes or low trees (e.g. a hawthorn, or privet) planted closely to form a boundary between pieces of land or at the sides of a road”. 
If the trees or shrubs that are causing you a problem are not a hedge then you cannot make an application under the Act.  It will be for the investigating case officer to decide whether trees planted closely together form a hedge, or not.  If they are not a hedge then you cannot apply for a High Hedge Notice.
The Act specifically states that a single tree or shrub cannot constitute a high hedge.

2 What is a “High Hedge”?
The Act only relates to high hedges which are defined as a hedge which:
a is formed wholly or mainly by a row of 2 or more trees or shrubs
b rises to a height of more than 2 metres above ground level, and
c forms a barrier to light.
A hedge is not to be regarded as forming a barrier to light if it has gaps which significantly reduce its overall effect as a barrier at heights of more than 2 metres.
In applying the Act in relation to a high hedge, no account is to be taken of the roots of a high hedge.

3 I’ve heard that only hedges made up of certain types of trees will be covered, is this true?
No.  All types of hedge – whether they be made up of evergreen, semi-evergreen or deciduous are covered by the Act.  However, the hedge must be over 2 metres tall before it can begin to be considered a high hedge – but not all hedges over 2 metres will automatically be termed a ‘high hedge’.

4 What if the trees/shrubs are covered by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO)?
The existence of a TPO does not prevent action being taken but it will be taken into account by the Council is determining the application.

5 Who Can Make an Application?
To make an application you must be the owner or occupier of a domestic property and you must consider that the high hedge, on land owned by another person, adversely affects the reasonable enjoyment of your property.
6 Do I need to do anything before I make an application to the Council?
Yes.  An application to the Council is seen as a last resort.  Before making an application, you must be able to provide evidence to demonstrate to the Council that you have tried to reach a solution with the hedge owner.  The Council will expect this evidence to include a recent attempt at negotiation in the light of the coming into force of the Act (the coming into force of the Act may encourage hedge owners to take a more accommodating stance).  It is difficult to state what evidence will be sufficient but exchanges of letters/emails and/or attempts at mediation would constitute such evidence. It is not sufficient to simply state that your neighbour is unapproachable and provide no evidence of attempts to resolve the situation.

7 What if I do not know who owns the land on which the hedge is situated?
You must take all reasonable steps to identify the owner of the land and record these in any application you make.  These steps could include contacting Registers of Scotland and/or Companies House. 

8 I have tried to reach an agreement with my neighbour, but haven’t been able to. What do I do next?
If you’ve been unable to reach an agreement over the hedge, at that point you will be able to submit an application to the Council.  You will need to submit a completed application form, details of the hedge and how it affects you and evidence of attempts to resolve the situation along with a fee of £400.  If you cannot demonstrate that you have taken all reasonable steps to resolve the dispute or the Council considers that the application is frivolous or vexatious then the Act obliges the Council to dismiss the application.

9 What happens after I’ve paid the fee and the application is lodged?
The Council will notify the hedge owner that an application has been made, invite them to make representations (which will be copied to you) and then someone from the Council will go out to the property to assess the hedge, and its impact on the reasonable enjoyment of your property. 
Once they have made a decision, they will notify both parties of their decision.

10 Are there any circumstances where the fee might be partially refunded?
Yes, if an application is dismissed because you cannot demonstrate that you have taken all reasonable steps to resolve the dispute or the Council considers that the application is frivolous or vexatious or if the application is withdrawn within 28 days of submission the Council will refund half the fee (£200).

11 Who decides the application?
Under its Scheme of Delegation the Council has decided that the Director of City Development will determine all applications under this Act.

12 The Council has decided to take no action either because it considers that there is no adverse impact or that there is an adverse impact but no action should be taken but I disagree. What can I do next?
If you disagree with the decision of the Council, you will have the right of appeal to the Directorate of Planning and Environmental Appeals within 28 days of being notified of the decision.

13 The Council has determined that action should be taken. What happens next?
The Council will communicate their decision to both parties, and the hedge owner will be given a deadline by which to meet the terms of the high hedge notice.  If they fail to take the remedial action on the hedge in that time, the Council can arrange for the work to be carried out.  The Council will have the power to recover the cost of any work carried out from the hedge owner.

14 I am the hedge owner. The Council has said my hedge needs to be cut back but I disagree. Can I appeal?
Yes. Both sides have the same right of appeal to the Directorate of Planning and Environmental Appeals within 28 days of being notified of the decision.  Both parties can only appeal once.

15 I live in a property which suffers from lack of light due to a high hedge, but the hedge is not on land immediately adjoining my property. Can I still make an application?
Yes. The hedge does not have to be on land immediately neighbouring the property of the person making the application. It just needs to be a significant barrier to light affecting the reasonable enjoyment of the property.

16 Does the Act cover issues such as problems caused by pine needles blocking drains, leaf fall and root damage?
No. Where plant life is causing damage to a property, there are existing civil methods which exist to address these issues. This Act is designed to deal with the problems resulting specifically from hedges creating a significant barrier to light.

17 Will the Act be reviewed?
Yes.  The Act contains specific measures to ensure that it will be reviewed within five years.  This includes a review of the definition of a high hedge, so that changes can be made if required.

18 Further Information
Please contact 433105 or development.management@dundeecity.gov.uk if you have any further questions.