Thursday, June 28, 2007

Blackness area, Surgeries, Burst tyres, Polepark Playpark ....

A useful meeting with Blackness Area residents last night covering numerous issues including the road surface in Abbotsford Place (I'm arranging a site visit for the Residents' Association to discuss with Planning & Transportation staff), recycling bins, road lining in Blackness Avenue and refuse presentation issues. I've followed up various issues with Council staff today.
Today saw my last surgeries at Mitchell Street Centre, Harris Academy and Blackness Primary School until after the school holidays.
Between Mitchell Street and Harris, I had the joy of a puncture! I am awfully grateful to the community councillor who attended my surgery at Harris and gave me a lift to Blackness Primary! One RAC visit later and all is well again!
During the school holidays, I do not have weekly surgeries but can be contacted at home at any time on 459378.
The Police have contacted me about the state of the playpark in Polepark Road (rubbish strewn - mainly plastic bags, plastic bottles and cans) - I have raised this with the Leisure & Communities and Waste Management Departments.
Lastly there are recent updates worth a look at :
Friends of Magdalen Green : http://magdalengreen.blogspot.com/
and
Western Cemetery Association : http://westerncemetery.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Latest updates

Spent all of yesterday at the Tay Rope Works Public Inquiry as the City Council's witness in defending the decision to refuse planning approval. We will know the outcome in a few weeks but I would like to place on record my thanks to the Council's solicitor and to the local residents and Community Council representatives who contributed.
On Monday evening at Council committees, I was very pleased to see a report be approved which will give tenants, especially elderly and disabled residents, the possibility of obtaining a shower where (normally because they live upstairs or their house cannot be ramped) the occupational therapist has been unable to recommend installation. This is an issue that has affected a number of constituents and I am pleased the Council has grasped the nettle. I am anxious, too, that similar arrangements are discussed with the local Housing Associations.
I have raised the issue of the lack of a lollipop person in Hawkhill (due to the postholder's long-term absence through illness) and am pleased to learn from the Education Department that efforts are being made to try to have a solution in time for the start of the new term at Blackness Primary in August.
I've also raised the issue of youth facilities in the West End. The Leisure & Communities Department has told me that the Youth Team has been working with the Harris-based Pupil Support Workers and others from the Youth Work Providers Group to develop a programme for the first four weeks of the school holidays. This will focus on activities in The Shore, Dudhope Park and Ancrum. This group will continue to meet to develop further programme ideas.
I'm also told that staff are keen to encourage young people to use Dudhope Park and the MUGGA facility that now exists there. There's now access to the Pavilion and the department is looking to develop opportunities from there.

Other facilities in the area that are routinely used by young people from the West End include the weekly Youth Information drop-in at Harris Academy, The Shore and Hot Chocolate at the Steeple Church. In addition, a number of young people from that area are involved with Duke of Edinburgh through the Open Award Centre currently based at Menzieshill.

There are also two Children's Clubs (5-8s and 9-11s) operating on a Thursday in Blackness Library. I've raised with the department the possibility of other activities and would welcome views from residents (and thanks to those residents who have already contacted me about this following the article I had in the recent FOCUS newsletter).

Monday, June 25, 2007

Seabraes again - but some good news on graffiti

The Evening Telegraph has featured the graffiti vandalism at Seabraes in tonight's edition (click on headline above to view this).
Some good news, however, on the graffiti problem. Network Rail has called me to say that, following my request, they are to remove around 50 items of graffiti at the rail line in the West End (particularly near to the Riverside Drive/Riverside Avenue roundabout area); the work is being carried out tomorrow.
They have also confirmed they will be spraying the rather out of control hogweed near the rail line around 30th June.

Ninewells Avenue

A number of residents have contacted me about the change to the traffic restrictions here. I have now received the following feedback from the City Council :
"The double yellow lines were imposed on Ninewells Avenue in 2002 when the main emergency access to the hospital was taken from Ninewells Drive. At this time parking was solid on both sides of the road for its entire length. The main problem was at the approach to Ninewells Drive.

The emergency access is now taken from Tom Macdonald Avenue and consequently the need for the same level of restrictions is not so critical.

While promoting the recently introduced restrictions in Invergowrie Drive it was recognised that as with all restrictions there would be a knock-on effect into surrounding residential streets. We have been particularly concerned about Hillside Terrace and Hillside Drive which both have pedestrian links through to the hospital and nursing college. This concern was heightened with the knowledge that the Wimberley Housing complex was to be redeveloped. Up to 60 vehicles were parking here on a daily basis.

Taking these factors into account it was decided to relax some of the restrictions in Ninewells Avenue. There are no houses fronting the Avenue nor do any have vehicular access from the Avenue. The carriageway is 10 metres wide and in my opinion can cope with parking on both sides with two-way traffic.

The restrictions have only been removed on that length between Ninewells Drive and Glamis Road. That length between Ninewells Drive and Perth Road was not considered because of the bend in the road limiting advance visibility.

I should emphasise that the consequence of not removing these lines would probably have meant that the parking would have moved directly into the residential streets causing even more upset to the residents."

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Graffiti Menace again ...

I have received further complaints about the graffiti mess at Seabraes (see photos below).

Many residents have commented positively about the viewing platforms that were opened in the fairly recent past. It is a real pity that they have been subject to this sort of mindless vandalism and I think it is important that, not only do the Police take a proactive approach in tackling this, but that SET and the City Council quickly arrange removal of any graffiti. Otherwise it becomes a permanent eyesore and local residents have called me complaining about the mess.

I firstly e-mailed SET about the latest graffiti on 26th May and have yet to receive feedback. To be fair to SET, the organisation has in the meantime given me a positive response about another West End issue – the overgrown grounds at the Technology Park – but I have now asked the Waste Management Department of the City Council to contact SET to see if agreement can be reached to get the mess removed.

With regard to other graffiti problems, I recently asked Waste Management to contact the Whitehall Theatre regarding the graffiti on the north of their building. Waste Management has now advised me that the theatre is taking steps to remove the mess.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

FOCUS, Thank you party ...

Janet and I invited everyone who was kind enough to help with the recent election round to ours last night for a "thank you" party. We had a fair bit of hilarity over the games of Jenga (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jenga - and the photos!)

Anyway, good time had by all and despite the 2am finish, a few of us were still up to delivering the West End FOCUS (Edition 61 - June 2007) to more West End households today. You can download a copy of this by clicking on the headline above.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Bellfield Nursery School

As I indicated in a previous blog entry, I have spoken with many parents of children at Bellfield Nursery School recently regarding the Education Department's consultation over a proposed merger with Park Place Nursery School. I have urged all parents to make their views known to the Education Department.
I was very concerned that, with the report on the consultation going before the Education Committee on 13th August, the day before the start of the 2007-8 academic year, parents are given reassurances about the continuing educational provision at the start of term. Neither I do not think changes (should the Education Committee agree to any) be implemented during a school year.
After discussion with the Council Leader, he has issued the following news release, which means that, although the consultation period continues, parents are given the reassurance that, for continuing pupils, the Bellfield site is guaranteed to remain open until August 2008.
I promised parents that I would raise with the Director of Education any issues they have raised with me - car parking at Park Place Nursery School, for example, has been raised by many parents. I am continuing to raise all such matters with the Education Department.
Here is the news release issued by the City Council earlier today :
BELLFIELD AND PARK PLACE NURSERY SCHOOLS

After listening closely to concerns being expressed by parents over the proposed merger of Bellfield and Park Place nursery schools, the Administration of Dundee City Council is putting forward an amended plan for the nursery schools.

The Administration will be proposing that the two nursery schools would come together in a merged nursery school to be known as Park Place Nursery School from August 2007. The nursery school would be based across the two current Park Place and Bellfield buildings with one head teacher in charge.

Children entering their second year of nursery education would remain in the current Bellfield building off Blackness Road and would complete their nursery education there. The Bellfield building would then close at the end of June 2008.

Children aged 3 entering nursery school for the first time in August 2007 would be based in the building in Park Place.

The Education Department has also been asked to investigate and implement improved "drop off" arrangements at Park Place.

The proposed consultation meetings will continue but the Administration wished the parents of the children at Bellfield to be aware of the new proposal.

Leader of the Administration Councillor Kevin Keenan said, “This is a sensible solution that would mean that children already at Bellfield would enjoy a continuity of nursery education with the same staff that they have grown up with over their first year.

“I am aware of the concerns that are being expressed by parents and I can understand that they were worried about any disruption to their young children’s education.

“The Administration of Dundee City Council is dedicated to providing the best educational start in life for young children. This new proposal shows our commitment to be a listening Administration that is working in the best interests of the people of Dundee.”

Convener of the Education Committee Councillor Laurie Bidwell said, “We entered into the consultation phase following a vote by all parties at the Education Committee on the 11th of June.

“In a very short time we have listened to and taken on board the views of parents and carers about the effect any change would have on their children.

“We are proposing a solution that will mean that children who have been at Bellfield for a year will remain in the same building with the same staff to finish their nursery education.

“This new proposal represents a new way forward which will, I hope, address the concerns that have been voiced. We are dedicated to a partnership approach with parents over all aspects of education.”

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Palaver Scots Song concert in Marryat Hall this Saturday!

With thanks to Sheena Wellington for the following information :
On Saturday 23rd June 2007, there will be a Cappuccino Concert in Dundee's Marryat Hall, organised by the Friends of Wighton. The event starts at 10.30am when coffee and newspapers will be available, with music from 11am till 12 noon.

The performers will be Palaver, three of the most exciting singers in Scotland. Aileen Carr, Barbara Dymock and Chris Miles are all highly regarded solo singers of a wide range of songs. Their collective repertoire is enormous and varied. Still strongly rooted in traditional song, they will also sing anything else that takes their fancy. Their stage presence is powerful, and their enjoyment in singing together is infectious. They will sing a lively programme of Acappela Songs, Traditional and Contemporary.

Admission is £4 which includes coffee & newspapers.

Friends of Wighton: www.friendsofwighton.com

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

TACTRAN appointment

Spent much of today in Perth (between day-job activities!) at the Tayside and Central Scotland Transport Partnership meeting at which I was appointed TACTRAN's Chair for the following four years.
I was delighted to be the unopposed choice for Chair and will work hard to promote sustainable transport initiatives across our region, covering Angus, Perth & Kinross, Stirling and the City of Dundee. I'm also pleased that Cllr Alan Jack (Conservative, Perth & Kinross Council) will be Depute Chair and have no doubt that Alan & I will work well together over the next four years.
Anyway, here's the TACTRAN news release :

TRANSPORT PARTNERSHIP APPOINTS NEW CHAIR

The Tayside and Central Scotland Transport Partnership (TACTRAN) today appointed Councillor Fraser Macpherson of Dundee City Council as its new Chair.

The Partnership also appointed Councillor Alan Jack of Perth & Kinross Council as Deputy Chair. Both appointments are for four years until the next Council elections in 2011

Following the Council elections in May, TACTRAN’s four constituent Councils Angus, Dundee City, Perth & Kinross and Stirling, have appointed representatives on the Partnership Board, which consists of 10 Councillors, and 5 non-Councillors. The Councillor members are :-

Councillors Iain Gaul and John Whyte (Angus)
Councillors Brian Gordon, Fraser Macpherson and Rod Wallace (Dundee City)
Councillors Ann Gaunt, John Kellas and Alan Jack (Perth & Kinross)
Councillors Andrew Simpson and Jim Thomson (Stirling)

The partnership’s 5 non-Councillor members, appointed by the Transport Minister during 2006 and early 2007, continue on the Partnership Board. They are -

Robert Andrew, Regional Director, Stagecoach Scotland
Margaret Duffy, Chief Operating Officer, Forth Valley Health Board
Professor Malcolm Horner, Chair of Scottish Enterprise Tayside
Gavin Roser, Pantrak Transportation Ltd.
Bill Wright, a Director of Cycling Scotland.


More information on TACTRAN can be found on the Partnership’s website at
www.tactran.gov.uk

Monday, June 18, 2007

Riverside Drive cycle route

At last week's West End Community Council meeting, it was pointed out that on the Riverside Drive cycle route, there's a lack of markings on the pathway to differentiate pedestrians from cyclists. I took up the matter with the Director of Planning & Transportation and here's his response :
Riverside Drive cycle route is part of Dundee's 26 mile long Green Circular and is also part of the National Cycle Network which has hundreds of routes running throughout the UK. Many parts of these routes are shared with pedestrians.

The main reasons to why there is no such segregation of pedestrians and cyclists at Riverside Drive are as follows:

Volume of bicycle/pedestrian traffic is just not high enough for segregation.

The average width of the Riverside Drive section is 2.5m with some sections less than 2.5m in width. No known problems have occurred. When you combine this width with the volume of pedestrian/cycle traffic then there is adequate space for give and take between pedestrian/cycle movements.

If a white line were to be incorporated to form segregation then how is this to be enforced? Police resources are already stretched and this would fall into very low priority for them.

The current widths of the cycleway would not permit segregation as design width could not be achieved for the appropriate lanes on the narrower sections.

Links throughout the city joining onto this route have no segregation facilities in place. No such pedestrian/conflict has occurred there.

There has to be some level of respect for both users of the path. The Tay Road Bridge walkway for example is 2.5m wide and edged with a 1.5m high barrier. It is promoted as a shared use, is part of the National Cycling Network and no segregation line is used. This has worked well for many years and pedestrian/cycle traffic is high on this route compared to Riverside Drive.

Our accident records show no reported collisions between pedestrian/cyclists on this section of cycle route or any other part of the route itself.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Derelict building, dangerous drain and River Crescent Residents ...

Firstly, I have had a number of residents raise with me the state of the derelict building on the north side of Brook Street (see right); it has certainly seen better days. I have raised this with the City Council's Legal Manager, who leads the Council's Derelict Land Working Group, which works to try to bring derelict buildings and land back into a useful existence.

When delivering West End FOCUS with me today, my colleague came across a dangerous drain in Larch Street (again, see right) - cover missing - so I have reported the matter.
Lastly, was guest speaker at River Crescent Residents' Association's AGM at the Botanic Gardens this afternoon. The Association gets good support from the residents in the street, which is excellent. I spoke about a few local issues including the speed limit at the west end of Perth Road (currently under review), aircraft noise and the Riverside Amenity Site.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Busy Saturday ...

Firstly, thanks to everyone who helped today with West End FOCUS deliveries; many thousands delivered in a rather windy and slightly soggy environment!
I have complained to the City Council's Economic Development Department about the state of the walls of their industrial units in Peddie Street (see above right) and have asked for the graffiti to be removed.
I have also received complaints that there are absolutely no signs in Perth Road itself to indicate that Riverside Approach is closed as a result of repair work. They are at the south entrance to Riverside Approach but nothing to stop drivers going down, say, Roseangle or Thomson Street, only to find Riverside Approach closed.
On 30th May, I mentioned the trip hazard at the bus stop in Tullideph Road - click on headline above to view story. I have now had feedback from the City Council as follows:

"This hole in the footway was left when the previous variable message system at the bus stop was dismantled and the new bus stop pole installed. The footway should have been reinstated at the time but this was overlooked. Street Lighting coordinated the works and they have arranged with Tayside Contracts to have a temporary repair carried out to make safe, followed by a permanent reinstatement at a later date."
I have now had feedback on my request for detail of speed/safety surveys in Scott Street, following issues raised by residents. Here is the feedback from the Planning & Transportation Department :

"A speed survey was carried out at Scott Street as well as Blackness Road and City Road. The survey was carried out in the first week in February.

Results did not show a problem with speeding at Scott Street in relation to other similar streets in the City, (with average speed of 27 mph for both directions and an 85th percentile speed of 34 mph which demonstrates that a relatively small number of cars are travelling over 30 mph).

As a result, the police did give attention to both Blackness Road and City Road.

In view of the results there was no case to give similar attention to Scott Street, however, if residents are finding that there is a problem associated with certain vehicles at known times, perhaps these details could be forwarded to the road policing unit for their attention."

Friday, June 15, 2007

The BAE scandal

I doubt any British citizen can be anything other than concerned at a week of revelations over BAE, the MoD, secret payments and the al-Yamamah arms deal.
To recap the last week:

June 7 – Revealed that a BBC probe has found that the arms company BAE has been secretly paying £1bn to Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia in connection with Britain's biggest ever weapons contract. Sir Menzies Campbell demands Tony Blair make a full statement to the House of Commons.

June 8 – Attorney General denies that he ordered information to be concealed from the OECD, the world’s anti-corruption watchdog, after the Serious Fraud Office said that it made the decisions about what to reveal ‘having regard to the need to protect national security’. It emerges the OECD is set to resume its enquiry into the affair.

June 11 – BBC Panorama alleges that BAE continued to make payments in return for arms contracts after the law changed in 2002, when the UK made bribery of foreign officials an offence, and also that the Ministry of Defence directly administered payments of more than £1bn to Prince Bandar.

June 13 – Campbell challenges Blair on the affair at PMQs – PM says responsibility for the arms deal and any secret payments rests with him.

June 14 – Attorney general admits in a letter to Sir Menzies Campbell that the SFO withheld some information from the OECD because of a fear of leaks. Also revealed that the US department of justice is preparing to open a corruption investigation into BAE.

June 15 – Guardian reveals that BAE bought a £75m Airbus plane for Prince Bandar as part of the arms deal.

There are a few points to emphasise :

· If, as Panorama alleges, BAE continued to make payments in return for arms contracts after the law changed in 2002 we need a full investigation to establish whether this amounted to criminal behaviour. If there has been any apparent breach of the anti-corruption legislation that would be a matter for the police.

· The Prime Minister must tell us what payments have been made since 2002, what he knew about these payments and when he knew? And what legal advice he took after these payments after the law changed here in 2002?

· I am pleased that the Liberal Democrats have said they will not rest until there is proper ministerial accountability for what appears to be totally unacceptable conduct which completely undermines anti-corruption legislation.

On Wednesday, Lord Chidgey’s Corruption Bill completed its passage through the Lords. The Bill aims to tighten the laws on British companies operating abroad, following criticism of current rules by the OECD. The Liberal Democrats are calling on the government to support the Bill.
You can read more about this at the Guardian website : http://www.guardian.co.uk/baefiles or click on the headline above to view the 'Corruption is a Crime' site.

Magdalen Green Band Concerts, HMOs, Post Offices

Firstly, pleased to note band concerts on Magdalen Green starting again on Sunday - please click on headline above for more details.
The Licensing Committee of the City Council yesterday adopted a new policy of restricting HMO licence numbers in any area to 12.5% of housing; a sensible move and similar to the policy adopted for planning purposes last year. I am not a Licensing Committee member but had responded to their recent consultation on the matter, suggesting adoption of a parallel policy to that of Planning's.
The only exception to the new 12.5% licensing rule will be in the "City Centre"; yesterday I queried the boundaries of this as in planning terms, the Central Dundee Housing Investment Focus Area is wider than the City Centre and includes parts of the West End. However, I have received a map from the City Council showing the exempt area does not include any of the area west of the campus area, so the streets in the West End where residents have raised concerns will be covered by the new policy.
In my latest FOCUS newsletter, I raised residents' concerns about the future of the Post Office Network. We have a number of vital Post Offices in the West End. I therefore wrote expressing concern to the Trade and Industry Secretary, Alistair Darling MP. For the record, here's the DTI's response :
Dear Mr Macpherson

Thank you for your e-mail to Alistair Darling about the future of the post office network.

The Government recognises the important social and economic role of post offices, particularly in rural and deprived urban communities. That is why the Government is determined to maintain a national post office network allowing people to have reasonable access across the whole country and has put in place a new policy and financial framework to achieve this.

There is wide acceptance – including from the National Federation of Subpostmasters – that the current size of the network is unsustainable. New technology, changing lifestyles and a wider choice of accessing services mean that people are not visiting post offices as often as they used to. The network’s losses are now running at almost £4 million a week – double what it was two years ago and that will increase further unless action is taken.

The Government’s public consultation on proposals aimed at securing a sustainable future for the network ran from 14 December 2006 to 8 March 2007. The consultation attracted over 2,500 responses and the Government announced on 17 May its decisions in light of the responses received.

The Government has been investing substantial sums in the post office network, totalling £2 billion since 1999. That has, for example, paid for a computer link-up for every post office as well as support for non-commercial branches since 2003. The Government has decided (subject to European State Aid clearance) to extend that support to 2011 with the provision of up to another £1.7 billion additional funding.

This funding will support a new strategic framework for the Post Office. There will be clearly defined minimum access criteria to safeguard rural, deprived urban and remote coverage. This will ensure that the vulnerable communities most in need of post office services will be protected. The network will be supplemented by 500 new and innovative Outreach locations, operated in partnership with other local services such as in pubs, village halls, churches or in mobile post offices, which will mitigate closures, primarily in smaller and more remote communities. Nevertheless, to ensure sustainability, there will need to be up to 2,500 compensated post office closures within the defined access criteria.

Post Office Limited is responsible for implementing the programme at a local level. They plan a rolling programme of 50 to 60 local consultations on detailed area plans, based on groups of Parliamentary constituencies. It will take around 18 months to complete, starting from Summer 2007. The Government does not have a role in proposals or decisions for individual post offices.
As well as the numeric access criteria, it is recognised that, in drawing-up implementation plans, Post Office Ltd will need to take into account local factors affecting ease of access, such as local geography: rivers, mountains etc. Post Office Ltd will also be required to consider the availability of public transport and alternative access to key post office services, local demographics and the impact on local communities. No areas will be subject to more than one round of closures and area proposals will be developed with the participation of sub-postmasters, local authorities and Postwatch before Post Office Ltd carry out local consultations, which will provide everyone with the opportunity to raise any specific concerns over particular proposals.
The Government has supported Post Office Ltd in its efforts to develop its range of financial service products, with Government’s investment having included £500 million for the Horizon project to bring computer systems into every post office throughout the UK.

The Post Office recognises the need to increase its range of services and products and that it needs to adapt to changing shopping habits and give subpostmasters high quality products to sell which appeal to the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s customers. Post Office Ltd is now the largest provider of foreign currency in the UK and the third largest provider of travel insurance. The Post Office is also the UK’s 5th largest fixed-line telephone service provider and has opened 175,000 Instant Saver Accounts in the product’s first year. New products have been introduced and more are in the pipeline. The Post Office will be launching a broadband service later this year in partnership with BT. That will enable it to become a key player in the broadband-based services market, offering Post Office broadband services to the public. That will give people another reason to go into post offices. BT recognises the value of having a shop-front up and down the country.

The value of having a national network is that there can be national agreements to provide travel insurance, broadband services and so on, which individual subpostmasters could never negotiate on their own. That is something that the National Federation of Subpostmasters supports.

The Government introduced the Post Office card account in 2003 and the current contract ends in March 2010. The Government has decided that it will continue with a new account after 2010. The new account will be available nationally and customers will be eligible for the account on the same basis as they are now. EU procurement rules mean that we need to competitively tender for this product. Given the size of the network and the access criteria that we are now introducing, the Post Office is well placed to put in a strong bid.
In addition, cash will be available at the Post Office through some 4,000 free-to-use cashpoint machines now being introduced across the network as well as a range of interest-paying accounts. These will be attractive to the general public as well as those Post Office card account users who choose to build up balances on their Card Account.

The Government’s policy framework, now in place, will enable Post Office Ltd to evolve to meet changing customer expectations and rise to the on-going challenges of doing business in today’s marketplace – whilst ensuring the provision of a truly national network.

If you have any specific concerns about the provision of post office services in your area, they are advised to take the matter up direct with Post Office Ltd for clarification. This can be done via the company’s website
www.postoffice.co.uk or by phoning 08457 22 33 44 or by writing to POL Customer Care, FREEPOST NAT 18105, Sunderland SR3 3BR.

I hope the above is helpful.

Yours sincerely

Rosemary Buck
DTI/Shareholder Executive
Royal Mail and Postal Services Team

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Las Vegas, Safer Travel Textline Launch, Balgay Park/Hill

Janet's just back from Las Vegas (along with Helen, my sister in law and council colleague, and my mother in law) - she's more than a bit jet lagged!


Was at the launch of the Safer Travel Textline with Travel Dundee earlier today. The photo shows Jim Lee, the Managing Director of Travel Dundee, and myself at the launch. The Textline is an excellent innovation, allowing bus passengers to text specific details of an incident on a bus to Travel Dundee's Safer Travel Team. This will be helpful to both Travel Dundee and Tayside Police is tackling any incidents of bus crime. (Click on headline above to view story in tonight's Evening Telegraph).




I have been in correspondence with the Director of Leisure & Communities about various issues concerning Balgay Park and Hill. He has given a very useful response to the matters I have raised on behalf of residents :




"Hird Bridge - the investigations in respect of the Hird Bridge that were required as part of the funding agreement with Historic Scotland has been carried out and the City Engineer is poised in relation to progressing tender documentation ready for the tendering process for the Bridge. The key difficulty at the moment is the specialist nature of the work and the fact that a specialist engineering organisation was a specific requirement of Historic Scotland and there was an estimated shortfall of around £56,000 in the budget.



This can be funded through Quality of Life money and the Engineers have advised that the work can be tendered for and progressed for completion this financial year.



In terms of seating at the ground to the west and south of the Mills Observatory we will endeavour to get some seats in this location.



In respect of the paths and steps requiring repair - substantial funding is required to renovate all the paths and steps to their former glory. At the present moment there have been some repairs undertaken and we are encouraging voluntary groups to get involved through the Prince's Trust etc in order to take this forward. However we recognise that there is a major restoration job required and the long term solution is to provide concrete steps rather than the wooden steps at the moment. It may be that as part of the Friends of Balgay that a bid can be put in for monies to renovate the whole area although this process may take years rather than months.



In respect of the fence around the rose garden we will inspect this as a matter of urgency as our understanding was that the fence had been repaired.



I trust this satisfies your enquiry. However please note that there has been a regular meeting of the Friends of Balgay over the past few years where there is dialogue with park users in respect of improvements."

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

More on Digital TV ...

You'll recall I have again raised the issue of the lack of digital terrestrial TV signals for many in the West End - click on headline above to view my letter to the Minister sent recently.
I have now had a reply as follows :

Dear Cllr Macpherson,

Thank you for your email of 27 May to Shaun Woodward, concerning digital television in Dundee. I have been asked to reply.

Current UK Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) coverage is not indicative of how things will be after switchover. Transmissions are currently broadcast in both analogue and digital. The digital signal is being broadcast at low power, in order to prevent interference with the analogue transmission. At present DTT is available to around 73% of UK households and it is not possible to extend it significantly beyond present levels without first switching off the analogue transmissions. The Government has committed to ensuring that terrestrial analogue broadcasting signals are maintained until everyone who can currently get the main PSB channels in analogue can receive them on digital systems.

After switchover, all transmitters will broadcast digital signals and digital terrestrial coverage will be extended to reach the same level as current analogue coverage. If you can receive analogue terrestrial broadcasts through an aerial now, you should be able to receive the digital signals through an aerial then.

The order in which the regions switch was determined by Ofcom, the broadcast regulator, working with spectrum planners. This order was partly dictated by the need to coordinate frequency use with neighbouring countries (this is the reason why the east coast and Northern Ireland will switch later). Ofcom also considered the need to avoid interference with maintained analogue services in one region whilst converting another (the same frequencies are used for different services in different parts of the countries). Other factors that had to be considered by Ofcom include the timescale, allowing four years to complete the process, and the conversion of over 1150 transmitters by highly specialised engineers with a great deal of equipment.

I hope you will understand that the process of developing the digital terrestrial network is a massive undertaking, both physically and logistically, which involves replacing equipment on many transmitters in the UK, and that it is not possible to alter the timetable or order.

Yours sincerely,

Nicholas Slide
Central Information and Briefing Unit Department for Culture, Media & Sport
2-4 Cockspur Street London SW1Y 5DH www.culture.gov.uk
And my further response :
Dear Mr Slide
Many thanks for your e-mail.
Whilst appreciating the complexity of the task, I feel your response has not fully addressed the specific issue as to why none of the relay transmitters were given consideration for early transmission of digital.
I do appreciate the point that doing this for all relay transmitters in advance of the analogue switch off was not technically possible, but the 20 relay transmitters serving the largest populations (including Tay Bridge, for Dundee and North East Fife) could surely have been considered without interference problems. This would have helped reduce the number of people who feel aggrieved that they cannot receive digital terrestrial TV.
I would be grateful if you could advise specifically why this did not happen, with specific reference to the Tay Bridge transmitter.
Many thanks.
Best regards
Cllr Fraser Macpherson
It has now been suggested by the Department for Culture, Media & Sport that I raise this aspect with the regulator, OFCOM, and I'll do this.

Boats up the Tay, Community Council, Grass Verges

Yesterday, at the invitation of Fife Council, I attended a boat trip up the Tay from Newburgh to Perth and back to look at and discuss the Tay Regeneration Project. The picture (right) is of Newburgh as the boat left and the one (below right) is of the group of LibDem councillors who attended - from the right Cllr Andrew Arbuckle (Fife Council), me, Cllr Maggie Taylor (Fife Council), Cllr George Hayton (Perth & Kinross Council) and Cllr Willie Wilson (Perth and Kinross Council).

West End Community Council met last night and the dominant issue came from a large group of parents concerned about the situation affecting Bellfield Nursery. I made clear that it is vitally important that parents and anyone else with a concern about the proposal to merge the nursery with Park Place Nursery takes part in the consultation process and raises their concerns directly with the Director of Education. I have already myself raised issues with her following speaking with parents.
There were a number of other issues raised at the meeting, including litter - on this I have been in touch with Waste Management about litter enforcement in the Perth Road area.

A constituent has contacted to say that, in the past, the grass verges on Perth Road at Clovis Duveau Drive and within the technology park have been well kept. However, this year, the grass verges haven't as yet been cut and are looking very wild. I have today taken up the matter with Scottish Enterprise Tayside who own the ground here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Temporary Traffic Order - Logie Avenue

Dundee City Council propose to make an Order under Section 14(1) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 for the purpose of facilitating carriageway resurfacing works. The Order is expected to be in force for two weeks from 2 July 2007. Its maximum duration in terms of the Act is eighteen months.

The effect of the Order is to prohibit temporarily all vehicular traffic in Logie Avenue on the North carriageway from Glenagnes Road to Sycamore Place.

Pedestrian thoroughfare and vehicular access to premises will be maintained.

An alternative route will be available via Logie Avenue - South carriageway.

Please forward any comments you may have regarding this proposal to Mark Cobb, Network Management Team, Planning and Transportation Department, Tayside House, Crichton Street, Dundee, no later than five working days prior to the commencement date.

If you have any queries please contact Mr Cobb on 433168.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Blackness Road, Richmond Terrace, Lollipop Patrol

A busy day today, with a site visit in Richmond Terrace relative to a planning appeal (I moved refusal of an application here back in January - click on headline above to read original story).
A busy night at the City Council tonight, with no less than 21 agenda items on the Planning & Transport Committee that I now chair. At Policy and Resources Committee, agreement was reached regarding the issue of properly tackling the unadopted pavements across the City, despite the opposition of the Council's one independent member. Firstly he criticised me for (sic) "pie crust promises" (promises made to be broken) only to find the promises were not to be broken. Tonight, he queried the affordability in relation to the capital programme, then suggested spending it all anyway, but not all on unadopted pavements! Anyway, after the independent failed to find a seconder to propose not fully funding unadopted pavements, the good news is that the increased priority for unadopted pavements being properly made up is going to happen.
Feedback from the City Council about the speed/safety survey I asked for in Blackness Road near to the Kelso steps. I have said "yes" to the helpful suggestion of the traffic safety island:
"The survey has been carried out.

The period covered the times of school activity i.e. 8.ooam to 9.ooam and 3.30pm to 4.30 pm.

There is little pedestrian activity other than a short period when Harris School pupils cross the road. The survey showed about 50 pupils crossing within a 15 minute period. There is no recorded injury accident history at this location. It is near a footway link via the Kelso steps. I have arranged for a pedestrian refuge island to be designed, shown between No 331 (north side) and No 380 (south side) Blackness Road. The scheme will be added to the list of works to be implemented subject to finance, but I would hope to provide the island this financial year.

Although there is presently no confirmed timescale to implement the works I can arrange for the island to be set out at an early date and marked on the carriageway to increase awareness, if you wish."
Lastly, I have been back in touch with the Education Department about the continuing lack of a school crossing patroller in Hawkhill near to Blackness Primary School. I have asked that all steps be taken to resolve the issue in time for the start of the new term.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

West End Community Council Update

I have just produced my update for this Tuesday's Community Council meeting - you can read it by clicking on the headline above.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

FOCUS, Unadopted Footpaths

Spent much of today (almost!) delivering my latest FOCUS newsletter ... I say 'almost' because I must have bumped into at least 15 people on the way and as a result of long chats with residents, the number delivered was not exactly huge! That said, grateful to all colleagues for their help today. Will upload a link to FOCUS soon.

I am pleased to say the City Council's Policy and Resources Committee will on Monday be deciding on my proposal to increase capital funding for unadopted pavement upgrades from £200 000 to £500 000 each year. This will make a huge difference to the problem.
The photograph (above right) is from Arnhall Drive. The fact that a cover sits above the pavement level (and the poor pavement surface itself) highlights the problem and this street was not even on the waiting list. It hopefully soon will be. I contacted the Acting City Engineer about it (following complaints from residents) and paste his response below:
"I confirm that Arnhall Drive is an Unadopted Footway. It will be added to the list and assessed and scored/ranked at the next review."

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Website again, Nursery Schools, TV Licences, Wimberley

Firstly, further to the blog entry yesterday about the Council website, attended the launch of the revamped website this morning along with Council Leader Kevin Keenan (click on headline to view story in Evening Telegraph).
I have now spoken with numerous parents with children at Bellfield Nursery about the Director of Education's report to next Monday's Education Committee proposing consultation on a proposed merger with Park Place Nursery School. I have urged all parents to make their views known in writing to the Director.
Had my first Thursday surgeries tonight & first ones at Harris Academy (5.30pm) and the Mitchell Street Centre (5pm). Blackness Primary School (6.15pm) is my original surgery and I no longer have a City Centre surgery thanks to the boundary commission (say no more ...)
Later on this evening I attended a very well-attended meeting of residents in the Hillside area regarding the draft Site Planning Brief consultation about the former Wimberley Student Flats.
Recently, the Blackness Area Residents' Association raised with me the issue of concessionary TV licences. I paste below part of the response I have received from the Housing Department on this matter :
Background

I have investigated the history of Concessionary Licence at Corso Street Complex. Our own internal TV licensing documentation related to Corso Street Complex dates back to 1992. There is no indication that the complex held the concessionary Licence during this period to the present day.

Contact With TV Licensing (UK)

I spoke directly to a representative of TV Licensing Board, who is responsible for regulating the concessionary scheme national, on 5 June 2007 regarding the design of the sheltered housing complex at Corso Street. He informed me that where designated sheltered housing complexes have a mix of sheltered and mainstream units pepper potted throughout a development ( *i.e. similar to Corso Street where the ground and 1st floor accommodation of a tenement building has a mix of sheltered and non-sheltered tenants) would not qualify under the Sheltered Housing Concessionary TV Licensing regulations. It is my understanding that Wedderburn Sheltered Complex does not have this type of pepper-potting of sheltered and non sheltered housing; as a result qualifies for the Sheltered Housing Concessionary TV Licence.

In situations where sheltered complexes have lost their concessionary status as result of the type of *pepper potting described in the previous paragraph, existing tenants under the age 75 affected by this decision would retain the concessionary status but new tenants under the age of 75 moving into the sheltered complex would not (i.e. they would pay the full cost of the licence)

NB All individuals over the age of 75 are entitled to a free TV licence.

The Next Step

To obtain official clarification on Corso Street entitlement to the concessionary licence, TV Licensing representative agreed to forward a Sheltered Housing Concessionary Licensing Application Form to us. Once we receive the form Dundee City Council's Sheltered Housing Officer for Corso Street, will complete and submit it to TV Licensing on the Council`s behalf. Upon receiving TV Licensing decision on the application, I will contact you directly with the relevant information.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Dundee City Council Website

The Council's website (http://www.dundeecity.gov.uk/) has been revamped and 'modernised'; I'll be attending the launch tomorrow morning.
The new version is actually now live and well worth a look. If you click on the headline above you can read my surgery details page on it.

Northern Ireland, Shelter, Parking Issues, Windsor Street

Apologies, no blog entries since the middle of last week, partly because I was in Northern Ireland for a few days with the day job and partly because of the backlog on return! My colleagues and I had the pleasure of meeting the Lord Mayor of Belfast while across in Northern Ireland (see right) and during a tour of City Hall yours truly was invited to model the councillors' robes! See below, right.

On return, Shelter and I issued a joint statement about availability of housing/tenancy advice from Shelter and other organisations, following the recent issues about termination of tenancies in parts of the Perth Road/Step Row area. The story was featured by the BBC (click on the headline above to view) and the Evening Telegraph. I also spoke on Wave 102 about the issue.

I organised a site visit yesterday with residents/community council representatives and a member of Planning & Transportation staff about the difficulties exiting Windsor Street at its north end. Two of my West End councillor colleagues were also able to attend. I have been promised feedback following this on the parking issue adjacent to the junction.

The City Council issued a news release today about moving forward the parking strategy - this will allow for the consultation I have been pressing for on residents' priority parking in parts of the West End. Here's the news release:
Dundee is set to have a comprehensive car parking strategy that will help contribute to the economy of the city.

Councillors at the city council's planning and transport committee on Monday (June 11) will be asked to approve a central Dundee parking strategy. A report to the committee also focuses on the needs of residents living in and around the city centre.

Planning and transport convener Councillor Fraser Macpherson said: "The strategy aims to ensure that there is a balance between the economic prosperity of the city and safe, sustainable transport.

"Dundee is now a very successful regional shopping centre and a car parking strategy has a key role to play in supporting its vitality by encouraging a high level of turnover of shopper and visitors through suitable quality parking provision.

"It is reckoned that the current level of parking supply in the city achieves the right balance between supporting the economic vibrancy of Dundee while encouraging the use of public transport."

Councillor Macpherson said the focus on the requirements of parking for residents in and around the city centre was a very positive move.

"The council has been encouraging people to live in the city centre areas so we need to look at the best way of accommodating residents' parking in a way that does not adversely affect the overall balanced parking strategy. This is something that will require further consultation and investigation.

"It is also very important that we look at ways of helping people living in areas surrounding the city centre who can, for example, be affected by commuters parking on roads near their properties."