Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Land west of Richmond Terrace

I received details late yesterday of the outcome of the appeal in respect of the planning application I successfully moved refusal of at the Development Quality Committee some months ago.
I am pleased that the Reporter has agreed with the decision to refuse planning permission, particularly as the planning application had been of concern to residents nearby; and note that, in upholding the decision to refuse permission, he writes:
"... as I consider that greatest weight requires to be attached to the adverse effect on the conservation area, contrary to Policy 61, I find that, overall, that the proposal would not be in accordance with the relevant provisions of the local plan."

Monday, July 30, 2007

West End Christmas Week 2007

Ok, I know it seems a little bit premature to be talking about Christmas, but the West End Christmas Week takes a fair bit of planning and therefore an initial meeting of the informal committee that organises the week has been planned for 13th August. If you would like to participate, call me on 459378 or e-mail christmas@frasermacpherson.org.uk.
Last year's West End Christmas Week was a great success (you can read a bit about it by clicking on the headline above) and we're working for a big success again this year, with a number of new initiatives too.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Review of polling districts and stations

The City Council is undertaking a review of Polling Districts, Places and Stations at present and is currently seeking comments on the current arrangements. You can see the list of current polling stations at http://www.dundeecity.gov.uk/elections07/stations.htm and if you click the headline above, you can download existing ward maps.
As there was a boundary review as recently as last year, I doubt there will be calls for dramatic changes. In the West End, the existing polling districts and 10 polling stations seem sensible. The only adverse comments I received during May's election was some confusion about the new polling station at the Al-Maktoum Centre (serving part of my former Tay Bridges Ward and part of the former Logie Ward) and certainly a few people due to vote at the new polling station turned up at St Peter Street Church Hall on 3rd May (where they used to vote). Hopefully this teething problem introducing the new station will not occur again in the future.
You can send comments on the City's Polling Districts, Places and Stations to the City Council by 10th August - by e-mailing stuart.galloway@dundeecity.gov.uk.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Back from holiday ...

We've been away on holiday the last couple of weeks (which explains lack of blog entries) and just back (seriously jet-lagged, having had two overnight flights on the way home!)
Anyway, great holiday - a couple of photos from both locations (Hawaii and Las Vegas) below. For friends and family I've put a few more on my Myspace pages - www.myspace.com/frasermacpherson - and if you click the headline above, you can see my rather sad attempt at posting a video from Hawaii on http://www.myspacetv.com/!
I have returned to find my e-mail server down so I don't have much of a clue about what's been happening whilst we've been away but I must take this opportunity to sincerely thank the resident who very kindly sent me a text when I was away to let me know the outcome of the Tay Rope Works Planning Appeal. I am delighted at the Reporter's Decision, dismissing the developer's appeal and upholding my motion to refuse planning permission. Am also most grateful to both the group of local residents who took a very active part in the Public Inquiry and also to West End Community Council for all it did too.
Photos! - Hawaii first; really liked Hawaii - not been before - nice climate (not over-hot) and plenty to do and see :

Above : View from hotel balcony


Above : Yours truly!

And a couple from Vegas :

Above : Obvious place to eat in Vegas, I suppose!

Above : Me outside the hotel in Vegas

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Magdalen Green ... and continuing exchanges with OFCOM on digital TV ...

Firstly, following requests I had raised with the City Council from representatives of the Friends of Magdalen Green about the need to replace the missing 'no parking' signs on the Green edge (given the damage to the Green caused by vehicles) and the need for a BBQ facility, pleased to receive the following response from the Leisure & Communities Department yesterday :
"I will have temporary signs placed on Monday with the view to erecting a more permanent sign in the coming weeks. I have also instructed a local blacksmith to supply and install 3 barbecues."
If you click the headline above, you can read the previous correspondence I had with OFCOM, the TV regulator, about the lack of digital terrestrial television in much of the West ENd and other parts of the City. Here's the latest exchanges:
OFCOM to me :
Dear Fraser,

I don't know the exact criteria used by the ITC to choose relays but they would have principally considered population coverage, achieving a reasonable distribution across the UK and availability of frequencies. The list was capped at 80 transmitters, but could conceivably have been another number. It would have been easier and cheaper to engineer just the main transmitters but population coverage would have less. Conversely the number could have been greater than 80, but the population gains for each additional transmitter is progressively more difficult to achieve. Shortage of frequencies means that some of the main transmitters could actually serve more people if relays in other regions were not on-air.

The problem of further expansion was that it was ITV digital (previously ONdigital) that was the main driving force paying for engineering half of the six multiplexes and also developing receivers and marketing the platform. ITV digital's financial difficulties and eventual failure put a halt to further development of the terrestrial platform for quite some time. When their multiplexes were re-licensed in 2002, Digital Terrestrial Television was a shaky proposition: operators in other countries that had launched services were also failing.

Since 2002, things have of course improved immensely with the Freeview proposition. Since that time, the broadcasters have increased the powers of many of the transmitters to improve coverage, but no further digital transmitters have been built. Although this does leave some areas unserved, there are sizeable chunks of population in a similar situation across the UK. It just wouldn't be possible to serve all of those until analogue signals are switched off to free up frequencies for digital services to use. Although it's no consolation to many viewers in Dundee, it is intersting to note that of the four nations, Scotland actually has the highest digital television coverage as a percentage of its population: 82% compared with 73% in England, 58% in Northern Ireland and 56% in Wales.

I hope that helps

Peter
Peter Madry
Senior Associate Technical Advisor - Broadcast Technical Policy - Ofcom - www.ofcom.org.uk
And my response to this back to OFCOM :

Peter

Thanks for this & I do appreciate the efforts you have made to answer my questions.

I suppose my fundamental question cannot be fully answered as it appears somewhat lost in the midst of time - ie why 80 transmitters (and not more) were chosen and why a relay transmitter with a population of over 35 000 was missed out.

My specific issue really concerns the fact that had the 80 been 100, having been given previously the population coverage for the "top 20 non-digital relays" it would have very significantly reduced the numbers failing to get digital by simply increasing the number of relays covered by that relatively small amount of transmitters.

I do accept that expanding digital to ALL relays in advance of the analogue switch-off was never a practical proposition but by arbitrarily stopping at 80 transmitters at this stage has left my constituents, served by one of the largest "non-digital relays", feeling, rightly, aggrieved.

I am, however, grateful for your response.

Best regards

Fraser

Cllr Fraser Macpherson
Councillor for the West End
Convener of Planning and Transport - Dundee City Council

Friday, July 13, 2007

Park and Ride facilities for Dundee

Marlyn Glen, MSP for North East Scotland, has been in touch with me in my capacity as Chair of the Tayside and Central Scotland Transport Partnership (TACTRAN) asking what proposals exist to provide for future Park and Ride facilities for Dundee.
Having discussed the matter with the Director of TACTRAN, here's the response to Marlyn's question :
The TACTRAN Regional Transport Strategy (RTS) contains a specific proposal to develop bus-based Park & Ride/Park & Choose networks in Dundee, Perth and Stirling, with the aim of improving sustainable access and reducing congestion in all three main regional centres.

During the development and appraisal of the RTS an outline Park & Ride strategy, building on existing experience and facilities at Perth and Stirling, and extending this to include Dundee, was subjected to initial "high level" assessment. This identified a positive case for developing regional Park & Ride and assumed the introduction of an additional 8 or 9 bus/coach-based sites, 4 of which would potentially be around Dundee.
These would be aimed at improving access on the eastern (A92), northern (A90) and western (A90) approaches to Dundee, and on the southern approach via the A92/Tay Bridge. In the case of the first three corridors it is likely that sites would be located in Angus and Perth & Kinross, with the southern corridor served by a site at the south end of the Tay Bridge in Fife.
As you will be aware, we are currently awaiting Ministerial approval of the RTS. In the meantime we are developing various aspects of the Strategy, including commissioning more detailed work on defining the regional Park & Ride strategy. This will involve identifying more specific site options and a prioritised implementation programme.
The intention is to complete this work over the next 6 months, with a view to having a more defined set of proposals for inclusion in our RTS Delivery Plan, and for funding consideration through the Comprehensive Spending Review and the ongoing Strategic Transport Projects Review.
We are also in discussion with neighbouring Partnership SESTRAN, who will lead on taking forward the scheme on the southern approach to Dundee, which will be located in their area.
The work we will undertaking over the next few months will enable us to develop more specific proposals, including identification of proposed sites on each of the corridors. This will be followed by more detailed scheme design and appraisal on each corridor, in accordance with Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG).
This stage of project development will include consideration of detailed matters such as city centre traffic management and bus priority measures, in conjunction with Dundee City Council.
We hope that the above illustrates that TACTRAN views development of Park & Ride at Dundee, and our other regional centres, as a key element of the RTS. We anticipate that we will be in a position to progress developement of specific corridor-based proposals in the latter part of this year.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

London ... and Wimberley

I have been away with the "day job" to London for the past few days - photo (left) is of part of my employers' Annual Reception at the very impressive Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand.

Whilst I was away, the Evening Telegraph phoned me about residents' concerns at the state of the former Wimberley Student Halls of Residence - click on headline to view the story. I have been in touch with the Secretary to the University of Dundee about the situation and have been assured that the University is actively marketing the site. Clearly, residents rightly want to see progress in terms of having the boarded up buildings eyesore removed as soon as possible.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Playparks, Street signs ...

As readers of the West End FOCUS will be aware, I have recently raised the issue of playpark enhancements. I have now been advised that a cyclical inspection/maintenance/safety check was carried out at the Roseangle playpark on 2nd July and is about to be carried out at Victoria Park's playground. I have asked for detail of any work undertaken or enhancements considered as a result of these.
Pleased to note that the street signs for McGonagall Square and Abbotsford Street I had asked be replaced some time ago (click on headline to view original story) have now been promised for mid-August. This has taken some time to resolve but, having been given the list of streets where replacement or new signs are being provided, these are just two locations out of many across the City. I would add that I have, following residents' requests, asked Abertay Housing Association if it can make arangements to clean the "Baltic Gardens" sign within the sheltered housing quad area.

Friday, July 06, 2007

BARA and BBC

Since my last blog post, on Wednesday evening, I met with over 30 residents of Abbotsford Place and Street and Corso Street, together with a member of the Waste Management staff to discuss the proposed 'mini' recycling centres for each of the three streets.
The meeting, organised by Blackness Area Residents' Association (BARA), arose out of residents' concerns about the siting of these. It was clear the residents welcomed the opportunity to have these facilities, but did not want them at the locations proposed for a variety of reasons including too close to lounge windows and gardens.
I'm pleased to say that an acceptable compromise has been reached whereby the Waste Management representative is to undertake a site visit next Tuesday with two of BARA's office-bearers to look at the viability of three alternative off-pavement sites the residents would prefer the recycling units were located at. It was agreed that they would be sited there, but only if viable in terms of lack of slope, acceptable surface, etc, but whatever the outcome of this, the unacceptable sites are 'off the agenda' and it was clear speaking with residents after the meeting, that they are happy with this.
You'll recall that, just after the election, I mentioned I'd put in a complaint to the BBC about their handling of an eve-of-poll election broadcast (click on headline above to view original story). Anyway, I received their decision yesterday (pasted below). Given the assurances now given to ensure no repeat of the problem, I now consider the matter closed!
Dear Councillor Macpherson

Scotland Live, Radio Scotland, May 2 2007

I have been asked to look into your complaint about the eve of poll election feature on Scotland Live on 2 May. I’m sorry that you have been unhappy with the earlier response that you have received from the BBC, and I hope I can deal with your concerns here.

We have now had an opportunity to listen to the item in question and we have been in contact with the programme makers in Scotland. We have also reviewed the previous correspondence between you and the BBC.

You may be aware that it is the role of the ECU to investigate complaints to determine if there has been a serious breach of the standards set out in the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines. You can find these at
www.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/editorialguidelines.

The item in question was a programme made up of series of reports about the campaigning activities of the various parties contesting the Dundee West constituency in the elections to the Scottish Parliament. You complained that the BBC failed to include the Liberal Democrats in the piece and that this was clear bias, whether intentional or not.

As you know, the intention was to carry pieces from each of the main parties which would feature activists on the ground in the final run-up to polling day. The BBC had told the parties that parliamentary election candidates would not be interviewed for the piece. The parties were not told, however, that council candidates would not be interviewed either. In the event, the Liberal Democrat interviewees, including yourself, were both council candidates and the BBC decided at a very late stage that these could not be used. You are quite right, and Phil Wells has already conceded, that this led to serious imbalance in the item. This was compounded by the fact that a Conservative interviewee who was included turned out to have been a council candidate as well, though this was not realised by anyone at the BBC until the item had been broadcast.

There is no dispute that to broadcast the item in this form was a serious mistake and a serious breach of the standards set out in the BBC guidelines on broadcasting during elections. These say:

We should make, and be able to defend, our editorial decisions on the basis that they are reasonable and carefully and impartially reached. To achieve this we must ensure that:
…news judgements at election time are made within a framework of democratic debate which ensures that due weight is given to hearing the views and examining and challenging the policies of all parties.

Phil Wells, the editor of Scotland Live, has already written to you to apologise. He said that “It is our responsibility to check and in this we failed”. Had this apology not been made prior to you complaint being looked into by the ECU, this part of your complaint would certainly have been upheld. However, in the light of Phil Wells’s admission, I have to say that I consider that it has now been resolved.

You have also complained, however, that you have been given “absolutely no reassurances as to how this sort of error will be avoided in future”. We put this to the programme team, and this is the reply we received:

The programme editor spoke to everyone involved in the piece - radio reporters, the producer and the senior broadcast journalist with responsibility for planning. He reiterated the absolute importance of checking the credentials of people appearing on the programme, both when setting people up ahead of time and when meeting them on the day. This is particularly true during election time. He also spoke to the whole programme team at its weekly team meeting to drive the message home. In the future, as editor of the programme, he will monitor any e-mail or interview request which goes to a political party. This should prevent something like this happening again.

This, it seems to me, is the proper response to the errors which were made and should be sufficient to ensure that this or similar errors are not repeated. In the circumstances, I feel that the actions already taken mean that this aspect of your complaint has also been resolved. It would, plainly, have been better to have notified you at the time of what had been done, and I’m sorry that this did not happen, but I’m afraid that a procedural lapse such as this does not fall within the remit of the ECU to address as a complaint.
As your complaints would have been upheld had an apology not already been made and the actions taken not satisfied me that it was resolved, a summary of my decision will be posted on the BBC Complaints website. I will notify you when this has happened. Meanwhile, I hope you will accept my further apologies on behalf of the BBC, and my thanks for giving us the opportunity to look into it.

Yours sincerely
Fraser Steel
Head of Editorial Complaints

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Community Organisation for Cleghorn/Pentland/Ancrum and other matters ...

I have been speaking with a number of residents in the Cleghorn Street/Benvie Road (and surrounding streets), Pentland and Ancrum Drive areas about hopefully setting up a Community Council or community group for the area. The area is to the north of the West End Community Council area and seeing the good work that Community Council does, there's no doubt that a community group for Cleghorn/Ancrum/Pentland would be good for the area.
We have now got enough interest for the Communities Officer to arrange an initial informal meeting to get the ball rolling. If you live in the area and are interested in attending, please contact me at community@frasermacpherson.org.uk or call me on 459378.
Yesterday, apart from attending a Board Meeting of Dundee Contemporary Arts (of which I am now a member), I met residents in one street in the West End where a utilities company has left the roadway in a mess, following recent "repairs" - I am on the case! I have also spoken with a number of residents about the extension of the refuse wheelie bins being undertaken as a number of residents have genuine issues arising out of this.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Stagecoach Strathtay bus changes from August

Stagecoach Strathtay is to introduce major changes to its local bus service network with effect from Monday 13 August 2007.

I list the major changes below (but only insofar as they affect services that serve parts of the West End), provided by the Stagecoach East Scotland Network Manager.
Stagecoach will commence marketing iniatives over the coming weeks, and Dundee City Council will ensure that www.dundeetravelinfo.com will be updated by mid July and that all at stop timetable displays will be updated also.
REVISED BUS SERVICES in the Arbroath & Dundee area
Commencing 13th August 2007

New service 5: Dundee city centre – Tullideph Road
This new service will operate from Dundee city centre to Tullideph Road via Brook Street, Scott Street, Pentland Avenue and City Road serving areas not currently served. It will run every 30 minutes during the day on Monday to Saturday.

Service 13: Monifieth (Broomhill Drive) – Ninewells Hospital
This service will be extended from Ethiebeaton Park to Monifieth (Broomhill Drive) via Grange Road and Monifieth High Street. The current frequency of every 30 minutes will continue, although timings will be adjusted slightly to improve reliability. Broomhill Drive will benefit from an improved level of service.

Service 16: Dundee – Perth
On Mondays to Saturdays the 0613 journey from Dundee to Errol will run 5 minutes earlier, and the 1455 journey from Perth will run to Dundee bus station (arr.1610) every day.

Service 39: Montrose - Invergowrie
This service will be extended from Dundee city centre to Invergowrie via Perth Road and Dundee Medipark/Technology Park. The frequency of the service between Arbroath and Invergowrie will be increased to every 30 minutes, with the section between Montrose and Arbroath continuing to run hourly. During the evenings and all day Sunday, buses will operate as service 39A (see below).

New service 39A: Montrose - Invergowrie
This new service will run hourly during the evenings and all day Sunday from Montrose to Invergowrie via Arbroath, Carnoustie, Monifieth, Broughty Ferry, Dundee city centre, Blackness Road, Dickson Avenue, Ninewells Hospital and Dundee Medipark/Technology Park. This will provide a much improved level of service west of Dundee city centre at these times.

Services 40/40A/40B/40E
These services will be withdrawn and replaced by new services 39/39A and 73/73A.

Service 73/73A: Arbroath or Carnoustie – Ninewells Hospital
This service will be improved to run every 10 minutes during the day Monday to Saturday between Carnoustie and Ninewells Hospital via Monifieth, Broughty Ferry, Strathern Road, Dundee city centre, Blackness Road, and Dickson Avenue. Service 73 will run every 20 minutes with one journey per hour running to/from Arbroath via Muirdrum. The other 2 journeys per hour will provide a new service to the Queen Street and Newton Avenue area of Carnoustie. Service 73A serving the Westhaven Park and Ravensby Road areas will run every 20 minutes.

New Service 74: Barnhill/Broughty Ferry – Dundee University
This new service will run via the Barnhill loop previously served by the 69C, and then continue to the city centre and University. Buses will run every 30 minutes during the day Monday to Saturday.

Services 75/75A/76/76A: Carnoustie - Invergowrie
These services will be withdrawn and replaced by improved services 13, 39/39A, 73/73A, 74, and 77.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Err ... and yet more on digital TV ...

Following up on the last entry about digital terrestrial television in the West End (or lack of it for many residents), there's no doubt about the strength of feeling people have about the unfairness of the way in which it has been rolled out, if my postbag has been anything to go by recently!
I paste below the latest exchange with OFCOM, following my earlier exchange with the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (click on headline above to read the last exchange on this from last month). The bottom line I feel on this is if OFCOM's predecessor (the ITC) decided to upgrade only 30 of the larger relay transmitters to digital in advance of the analogue "switch off" (for us, three years away), why was the Tay Bridge transmitter not one of the relays chosen, as it serves over 35 000 people?
Anyway, here's the latest. Firstly OFCOM replying to my earlier e-mail to them:
Dear Fraser,

I apologise for the delay in replying to you.

It is certainly true that there are a number of relay transmitters serving relatively large numbers of households that do not yet broadcast digital services. The ITC (one of Ofcom's predecessor bodies) decided which transmitters would be used to broadcast digital television in the mid 1990s. The problem they faced was that there was no new portion of spectrum available for digital television, so digital services would have to be squeezed in any gaps between the frequencies used by analogue TV services. This meant that digital services couldn't be installed everywhere and even where they were, powers would have to be limited to avoid causing interference to analogue viewers.

The broad aims for the ITC were to maximise coverage whilst also providing equitable coverage in each programming region and nation. This was set against quite considerable engineering challenges and expense in adding transmitters and antennas to the existing transmitter sites while continuing to broadcast analogue TV. There were also a number of consequential works for the broadcasters as some analogue services had to change frequency, which often meant buying new equipment.

The ITC came up with a list of 80 transmitters for which licenses were advertised, including all 50 analogue transmitters that were classed as 'main' transmitters together with 30 of the larger relays. Although the list details just 80 transmitters (so that the applicants for the licence to broadcast digital services could gauge their financial commitments) it was always expected that once these transmitters were established that further transmitters would get digital services where frequencies could be found. Each additional transmitter would have knock-on effects elsewhere in the UK that would need dealing with. However, things went wrong when ITV digital got into financial difficulties in 2001. Their licences were eventiually re-awarded in 2002 which lead to the setting up of Freeview.

What has happened now is that digital switchover has caught up. The problem with adding digital services to transmitters like Tay Bridge now is that with analogue television still operating, its powers would have to be limited and temporary frequencies used, if indeed frequencies could be found. When switchover then occurs in Scotland in 2010, Tay Bridge's temporary digital services would need to be re-engineered, as will happen for the digital services at all 80 existing sites. It is worth noting that the broadcasters are already investing in upgrading broadcasting antennas and masts in the first few regions: Border and Westcountry.
Works will commence in both STV regions next year as there is a lot of preparatory work required to be done before switchover actually happens. However, until the analogue television services are switched off, the availability of digital services will remain limited.

I hope that's useful, please feel free to get in touch if you'd like to discuss any points in more detail.

Best regards,

Peter

Peter Madry
Senior Associate Technical Advisor - Broadcast Technical Policy - Ofcom -
www.ofcom.org.uk
And my e-mail back :

Peter

Thanks for your e-mail.

Can you advise the rationale the ITC used when drawing up its list of "30 of the larger relays" and why Tay Bridge, serving over 35 000 people was omitted?

Also you indicate "once these transmitters were established that further transmitters would get digital services where frequencies could be found. Each additional transmitter would have knock-on effects elsewhere in the UK that would need dealing with. However, things went wrong when ITV digital got into financial difficulties in 2001."

Can you advise why the demise of ITV digital resulted in the decision not to further extend digital services to relay transmitters prior to the analogue switch-off?

You will appreciate that the main point of my queries surround why so few relay transmitters were chosen, leaving large centres of population, like that of the Tay Bridge transmitter area unserved by digital until 2010.

Many thanks.

Best regards

Fraser

Cllr Fraser Macpherson - Councillor for the West End
Convener of Planning and Transport - Dundee City Council
I'll keep residents updated on this issue as always.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

West Loan, Polepark Playpark (again), Perth Road area, Seabraes good news ...

With thanks to colleagues, we finished the last of the latest West End FOCUS deliveries yesterday & whilst delivering the West Loan area (north side of Perth Road just west of Clouvis Duveau Drive) I was pleased to note the Leisure & Communities Department busy tidying the overgrown grass here (see photo, above right).
Following residents' complaints recently, I raised concerns about the grounds maintenance both here and at the nearby Technology Park. The latter is the responsibility of Scottish Enterprise and SET locally has promised me they will raise it with their national organisation to get the overgrown grass tidied there too.
I've already had a positive response to my recent raising of the state of the Polepark Road playpark (click on headline above to view) with the Waste Management Department promising a tidy-up.
Also pleased that the Department and SET have agreed to meet tomorrow to look at how to tackle the graffiti at Seabraes that I have raised recently and featured in the local press.
Lastly, thanks to the Waste Management Department for swiftly responding to a number of complaints about dumped rubbish in the Perth Road area that I had raised following residents' complaints - e.g. near Springfield and near the former Valentine's site.