Sunday, January 27, 2008

Parking - Seafield Lane and Thomson Street

I have been in correspondence recently with the Home Scotland housing association following several of their tenants expressing concern to me about parking difficulties in both Seafield Lane and Thomson Street.
Back in the days when Home Scotland was still known as Cleghorn Housing Association, it created car parks in both Thomson Street and Seafield Lane for their tenants who live locally. Unfortunately the residents are finding that others - drivers who do not live locally - are parking in the tenants' car parks.
I am pleased to say that Home Scotland has agreed to my request for new "Residents' parking only" signage at the Seafield Lane car park. The housing association also tells me that it is currently seeking legal advice with regard to a pilot parking project which envisages issuing parking permits to its tenants and using a company to properly enforce its car parking areas to ensure that local residents get access to spaces.
The wider issue of residents' parking schemes across parts of the West End (and other areas of the City adjacent to the City Centre) will be subject to consultation exercise undertaken on behalf of the City Council with residents, businesses and others during the forthcoming Spring.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Good news on unadopted pavements - Perth Road (Riverside Drive to Ninewells Avenue - South Side)

Last year, the City Council agreed to a two and a half fold increase in funding for the unadopted footways capital programme, something I had argued strongly for. This will ensure that we make real, substantive progress towards getting the poor conditioned unadopted pavements across the City up to standard over the next few years.

The additional funding has already allowed for an increased programme in the current financial year (2007/8) including, in the West End, part of the pavements of Farington Street. I was pleased to learn that, one of the final projects in the 2007/8 year, will be upgrading part of Perth Road’s pavements, on the south side towards its western extremity. Householders living there (from Riverside Place westwards to 596 Perth Road and those between 610 and 630 Perth Road) have now been advised that, subject to their approval, works here on pavement improvement will start in the near future.

The Council will then undertake its 2008/9 programme (yet to be finalised but based on a priority scoring system) and this will benefit pavements in various parts of the City.

On another matter, the road surface (and associated cycle way and lighting) is to be improved on Riverside Avenue (from its junction with Riverside Drive and up to the junction with Wright Avenue near the Riverside Civic Amenity Site) is to be improved, with works starting on Saturday 9th February. The road will be closed during the works, lasting two weeks, with a diversion via Perth Road.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Pennycook Lane Sheltered Housing

Some time ago, following my request after speaking with residents here, the City Council installed a useful handrail on the southern end of the pavement here, near to Perth Road. Pennycook Lane runs downhill to Perth Road and the elderly residents in the sheltered housing found it a hazard to walk down in icy/snowy and wet conditions.
Although the handrail has proved a boon, it only covered the southern end of the pavement as the northern end (the sheltered houses nearest to Blackness Primary School) has a more gradual gradient and doesn't meet the usual criteria for a handrail. I did, however, made the case to the City Council that it left a concern on the part of the elderly folk who live up the top end of the sheltered housing complex about the lack of a rail at the northern part, which does nonetheless have a slop downwards towards the section that already has a handrail fitted.
I have now had feedback from the City Council as follows : "I can understand the situation where the adjacent complex has two accesses, serves the elderly, and some may feel disadvantaged that the handrail terminates at those lower premises. Under the circumstances I will arrange for the handrail to be extended for a short section to the north."
Naturally I am very pleased at this outcome which will be warmly welcomed by the residents.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Digital TV update

I have been in further correspondence with Ofcom and others regarding digital television. As residents will be aware, my original complaint on behalf of residents in the West End, was the lack of Freeview in much of the area until the analogue switch off in just over 2 years' time.
However, a further issue has emerged - the intention to provide a reduced "Freeview Lite" service from the Tay Bridge relay transmitter after 2010 - giving residents only 22 of the 58 TV and radio channels that others served by main transmitters (like the Angus transmitter which serves most of the north of the City) will get.
I have also been in discussion with the Institute of Local Television and Ofcom about the issue of Local TV. Given the popularity - in its time - of the former Channel 6 in Dundee, I want to see provision for a future local TV service included in Ofcom's transmitter spectrum proposals. Anyway here's my latest exchanges with Ofcom. I should add that I am most grateful to Lord Provost John Letford who has written about the "Freeview Lite" issue to the Chair of Ofcom. I have also raised the variable Freeview provision and the Local TV issue with the Scottish Broadcasting Commission.
Fraser's first e-mail to Ofcom:
Peter

You will recall that we corresponded earlier in 2007 regarding my concerns that my constituents served by the Tay Bridge relay transmitter will not receive digital terrestrial television until the analogue switch-off in 2010 in the STV North area.

I had assumed that, at least, the issue would be resolved by 2010, but am very concerned to learn recently that the service provided after the switch-over will be so-called “Freeview Lite” containing only 22 of the 58 channels our main transmitter (Angus – which fails to serve most of my ward area) already carries. I understand that OFCOM has sanctioned a reduced number of relays carrying the full Freeview services and that only 90% of the population will receive the full package. This will be particularly sorely felt in much of Scotland with its more dispersed population and proportionally larger number of relay transmitters.

I would wish to see a reconsideration of the position regarding the services to be carried by Tay Bridge. I am unhappy that the level of service provision outside of the main transmitters appears to have been left to the market-place and therefore the likelihood of the balance of the spectrum being allocated for other purposes such as mobile telephony, rather than the provision of the full digital service for all.

I was also like to see OFCOM at least investigating the possibility of the viability of a local feed to the transmitter. For some time, we had the local Channel 6 station transmitting from the Tay Bridge Transmitter. I understand that if the digital service does not include a local feed, there will be no further possibility of local television production via the transmitter. This would be a great shame, especially given the interest locally on resurrecting a local TV service.

I am raising the matter with colleagues in the Dundee City Council administration but would meantime be grateful for your comments. Many thanks.

Best regards
Fraser
Cllr Fraser Macpherson
Councillor for the West End
Convener of Planning and Transport - Dundee City Council
Ofcom's response :
Dear Fraser,

Thanks for your email. You raise two distinct issues which I will deal with in turn.

Unlike analogue TV, digital terrestrial (Freeview) TV channels are broadcast by combining a number of different TV channels into discrete ‘streams’ of digital data. Each of these streams is known as a ‘multiplex’, and can carry between four and nine individual TV channels. As we have explored previously, only 80 of largest transmitters in the UK currently broadcast digital TV, and each transmitter broadcasts a total of six multiplexes.

Three of the multiplexes (known as the ‘public service’ multiplexes) carry digital equivalents of the four main analogue channels, and will soon include Channel Five, as well as digital TV channels including BBC Three and Four, and ITV 2 and 3. These three multiplexes will be broadcast from all transmitters, including Tay Bridge, after switchover, and this will mean that near-universal coverage of over 20 channels will be available (compared to the current near- universal coverage of just the four main analogue channels).

The other three multiplexes (known as commercial multiplexes) carry commercial services such as Sky News, UKTV Gold, and QVC. Ofcom estimates that approximately 90% of UK households will receive these three commercial multiplexes, as well as the three public service multiplexes, after switchover.

There are a number of reasons why coverage of the three public service multiplexes will be greater than coverage for the three commercial multiplexes. The most significant is that the Communications Act requires only that the coverage of the multiplexes carrying the public service channels substantially match the coverage of their analogue services (this we estimate to be 98.5% of the population). We have therefore required that the public service multiplexes be broadcast from at least all the existing 1,154 analogue transmitter sites where this is necessary to match analogue coverage. The same duty is not placed on the commercial multiplex operators upon which the Communications Act places no specific coverage requirements, and these operators have decided to continue to use the existing 80 larger transmitter sites. Ofcom has however required the multiplex operators concerned to increase the transmission powers at these sites in order to increase coverage to approx 90%.

Moving on to provisions for Local TV, I believe that you have already been in contact with Carmel about a local frequency for Tay Bridge and Dundee. The list of 25 locations we published is an initial proposal - we are very much in listening mode at present and are seeking views from interested parties on potential additional locations. As Carmel explained, assessment of additional sites is quite an involved business, so we are asking for some kind of evidence of demand and support for local services from potential operators in those additional areas. Based on the feedback we receive, we will be consulting in the spring on detailed proposals - at that stage it will still not be too late to provide feedback to the process.

I would be happy to discuss any of the above in more detail if you would like to call me on the number below

Best regards,

Peter

:: Peter Madry, Senior Associate Technical Advisor, Broadcast Technical Policy, Ofcom
And ... Fraser's further response:
Peter

Many thanks for your response, which is appreciated.

With regard to the roll-out of Freeview, whilst noting what you write, it remains in my view highly disappointing that the full Freeview services will not be broadcast from all transmitters. Whilst I note what you write about increasing the power of the main sites, although this theoretically could mean that some of my constituents in the West End of Dundee, presently served by the Tay Bridge transmitter, might be able (after the analogue switch off) to receive the full Freeview facilities from the Angus transmitter, this will, I assume, in no way be guaranteed and some/many will be disappointed (I assume especially those where topography will make picking up a signal from the Angus transmitter problematic). Furthermore, it would involve a change of aerial direction (and aerial?) and in a ward with a very high concentration of tenemental properties and communal aerials, I have doubts as to how many will easily gain from any increase in the transmission coverage from Angus in 2010 onwards.

There is significant local support for local TV here in the Dundee area, particularly given the popularity of the former Channel 6 service from the Tay Bridge transmitter. The City Council Administration group has given its unanimous support for a letter of submission to Ofcom to demonstrate the interest, and this is presently being prepared by the City Council’s Economic Development Department. I have also raised the matter with Angus Council and Fife Council, whose adjacent populations are served by the Angus transmitter and Tay Bridge transmitter too.

Best regards
Fraser

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Trees vandalism west of Magdalen Green

Many residents have been in touch over the past couple of days expressing concern about the unauthorised removal of six mature sycamore trees south of Richmond Terrace. Below is the news release I have issued on the matter:



News Release : Councillor slams "wanton vandalism" of trees in conservation area



West End City Councillor Fraser Macpherson has today hit out at vandalism that has occurred on land near to Richmond Terrace, west of Magdalen Green, which saw the destruction of six mature sycamore trees.

The trees, situated in part of the local conservation area, were felled over last weekend and the councillor hit out at the damage done, which has aroused strong criticism from numerous West End residents.

Cllr Macpherson said, “Following concerns residents have raised with me about this dreadful act of vandalism, I have spoken with the City Council’s Forestry and Planning Enforcement Officers. I have been assured by council officers that Tayside Police are investigating the matter. I further understand that one of the owners of the two parcels of land here has expressed her concern about this vandalism and has raised the matter with her legal adviser and with the Wildlife Liaison Officer at Tayside Police.

“I have spoken with a number of residents who have expressed great concern at this wanton vandalism of mature trees in a conservation area. I would urge anyone who saw anything in connection with the felling of the trees to contact the Police,” concluded Cllr Macpherson.

Monday, January 21, 2008

UK Political Blog Feeds

There's a very useful site UK Poli Blogs at http://www.voidstar.com/ukpoliblog/ and my blog is now featured (click on headline to link to this).

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Pitlochry

Along with a Dundee colleague, spent this morning in Pitlochry, helping my LibDem colleagues in the Perth & Kinross Council Highland Ward by-election.


As you can see, the scenery is brilliant - lovely warm, sunny morning too!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Perth Road/Mid Wynd junction - water drainage problem resolved

I recently received a complaint from residents that the water drainage grid on the pavement was dislodged and rainwater was not draining away. I asked the City Council to make repairs to this and have now received the following feedback :

"The area inspector confirmed that on his most recent inspection (15/01/08) at Perth Road/ Mid Wynd, the drainage channel covers were complete and the area free of standing water."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Temporary Traffic Order - A85 Riverside Avenue

Dundee City Council proposes to make an Order under Section 14(1) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 for the purpose of facilitating carriageway overlay and cycleway works. The Order is expected to be in force for eleven days from 9 February 2008. Its maximum duration in terms of the Act is eighteen months.

The effect of the Order is to prohibit temporarily all vehicular traffic in A85 Riverside Avenue from Riverside Drive to a point 100 metres or thereby west of Wright Avenue. Access to Dundee Airport and retail parks will be maintained from the East.

Access to Wright Avenue will be maintained from the west.

An alternative route will be available via Perth Road, Hawkhill, West Marketgait and South Marketgait.

Please forward any comments you may have regarding this proposal to the 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 the team on on 433168.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Potholes!

I am pleased to say that, following my recently contacting the City Council (following constituent complaint) about a pothole at the junction of Pentland Avenue and City Road, I am advised it was filled this morning. The photo (right) is illustrative, not from Pentland Avenue/City Road!

As Planning & Transport Convener since last May, I get a considerable mailbag about road condition and have been anxious to see progress towards improvements. Towards the end of 2007, the City Council introduced (in partnership with Tayside Contracts) a new, longer-lasting pothole repair solution called "Rapid Rhino".

We are also currently looking at how best to resource and prioritise road resurfacing in the new financial year (2008/9, starting April).

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Nick Clegg's first four weeks - a brilliant start!

First appearance at Prime Minister’s Questions (Wednesday 9th January 2008)

Clegg... made a confident first appearance at the weekly question time as leader. (ePolitix 9/1/08)

He was solid and serious and chose a topic - fuel poverty - that will reinforce his credentials as a progressive politician. (Andrew Sparrow, Guardian 9/1/08)

Commentators later described his manner as brisk and businesslike, as he made his mark at the weekly ritual (Times, 9/1/08)

confident performance (ITN 9/1/08)

Nick Clegg did pretty well at prime minister’s questions yesterday, making a solid start as Lib Dem leader. (Guardian 10/1/08)

MPs of all shades seemed impressed by Nick Clegg’s first performance at Prime Minister’s Questions. No stumbling, clear delivery, strong choice of subject. (Sam Coates, The Times, 9/1/08)

Confident, assured, he… will see today as an auspicious start. (Sky News 9/1/08)

Speech to one day manifesto conference (Saturday 12th January 2008)

Plans to liberate schools from excessive state interference and guarantee hospital treatment to patients within a set time will be set out today by Nick Clegg. (Guardian, 12/01/08)

The lowest GCSE grades should be abolished to drive up school standards, according to Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg. (Sun Online, 12/01/08)

this was Clegg back to his formidable best … I think he is spot on in trying to make his party the authentic voice of public service reform, committed to the real priorities of the 21st Century electorate and the challenge of linking our expectations as consumers with our role as citizens. … this was an impressive and robust beginning. (Matthew d’Ancona, Spectator, 12/01/08)

General


Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has said MPs' pay rises should be linked to the state pension. … [He] called for an end to the "unseemly spectacle" of MPs voting for their own rises. (BBC News Online, 14/01/08)

Mr Clegg has announced a flurry of initiatives since his narrow victory over Chris Huhne last month. … He has established a Commission on Social Mobility, which will be chaired by Martin Narey, the chief executive of Barnardo’s. Its remit is to come up with policy plans to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds to fulfil their potential. (Guardian, 12/01/08)

[A] poll, undertaken over the weekend [of 5-6 January], shows that the election of Nick Clegg as Liberal Democrat leader has given his party a three-point boost to 19 per cent, all at the expense of the Tories, down to 37 per cent. (The Times, 8/1/08)

The poll shows Nick Clegg, the new Liberal Democrat leader, retaining the extra support his election gave his party (Telegraph, 12/01/08)

Nick Clegg this week seemed to me to be responding to [an] anxiety for honest clarity. (Matthew Parris, The Times 22/12/07)

Mr Cameron's closest colleagues admitted … that he [Clegg] was the result they most feared. George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, told one MP … that Mr Clegg would be very effective in challenging for Tory votes. … They did not want to admit, and do not now, that their real bĂȘte noire was the youthful, normal-sounding, guy-next-door-looking Mr Clegg (Telegraph 26/12/07)

It seems the only person speaking up with a broad sense of [the dangers of ID cards] … is Nick Clegg … I have to say I cheered when I heard this, not only because I agree, but because it is entirely salutary, in these sheepish times, to see a British politician express his personal feelings so strongly. (Andrew O’Hagan, Telegraph 1/1/08)

Mr Clegg's relative youth and ability to communicate with ordinary voters will cement him in the job. His party will pose a major threat to the Tories. (Sun 19/12/07)

A senior Conservative MP has admitted that Nick Clegg … could hurt David Cameron's leadership by appealing to traditional Tory voters. Patrick Mercer, a former Tory frontbencher, has warned colleagues that Mr Clegg is able to make an "extremely favourable impression" on Conservative supporters. (Telegraph 17/11/07)

But if [Labour] despondency continues … it might actually be Labour votes that Nick Clegg takes, that he's the sort of nice guy the Labour voting public might actually decide to back. (Senior Labour MP Frank Field, BBC, 4/11/07)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Demand Responsive Transport and Riverside Drive - graffiti problem

On Friday, I attended the AGM of the Dundee Accessible Transport Action Group (DATAG) and was able to update the group on moves to improve public transport both in Dundee and across Tayside/Stirling for those with accessibility problems in terms of existing provision. TACTRAN, the Regional Transport Partnership, recently approved a consultation exercise for its buses strategy and, within this, specifically, community transport and demand responsive transport.
Last week, I was pleased to receive confirmation from the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth (following a meeting I and the other RTP Chairs in Scotland had with him before Christmas) that he sees the RTPs as playing a valuable part in improving Scotland's transport infrastructure and services. This is good news, removing any concerns about the future role of the regional transport partnerships.
Clearly, the ability to provide improved and demand-responsive community transport right across the Tayside and Stirling areas will greatly depend on future funding levels, but the TACTRAN Buses Strategy and Community Transport/Demand Responsive Transport Action Plan is a good step forward. You can read more about TACTRAN by clicking on the headline above.
I have received complaints about the extent of graffiti on the walkway on the north side of Riverside Drive immediately west of the railway station (see photo above right).
I have reported this to the City Council asking for it to be tidied.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Quote of the week

SNP regrets election outcome!

Bruce Crawford, SNP Minister for Parliamentary Affairs:

"It is clear that the events of the election night in May should not have happened and must never happen again."

(Debate on the Gould Report, 10 January 2008)

For once I actually agree with an SNP Minister! And at the rate the SNP is ditching its election promises the outcome of the 2011 parliamentary election will be very different.

Recycling your Christmas Tree

The City Council is again offering its Christmas Tree recycling service - click on the headline above for details.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Community Council Meeting

An interesting West End Community Council meeting last night, with useful presentations by Tayside Fire & Rescue and Tayside Police.

Amongst the other issues discussed, I raised the proposal a few of us are keen to progress (with assistance from the University of Dundee) of a youth football group for the West End and the concerns about Freeview provision I raised in my Community Council update (click on headline to view).
The Digital UK Scotland Manager, with whom I have recently been in contact, is to be asked to address a future West End Community Council meeting about the issues. Apart from the general issues about converting all to digital TV and ensuring that all citizens including vulnerable and elderly households receive proper advice and assistance to covert their TVs, there are clear local issues about the proposed restricted service provision from the Tay Bridge transmitter.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Magdalen Green Notice Board

Many thanks to the City Council who today erected a splendid new notice board on Magdalen Green following discussions with the Friends of Magdalen Green. Another success for the Friends in enhancing the Green!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Dundee's political history ...

You'll need RealPlayer to view but the clip from BBC Scotland on Dundee politics is well worth a listen.
The politics of Dundee, including what Dundonians thought of local MP Winston Churchill.

Click on the headline above.

Friday, January 04, 2008

West End Community Council : January 2008 update

I have today launched my January 2008 update to West End Community Council. To read it simply follow the link by clicking on the headline above.

Issues covered include Freeview "lite" concerns in the West End, footpaths in Hawkhill, "No Through Road" signage required for Lytton Street and Gowrie Street, and parking issues in Taylor's Lane.

The Community Council meets next Tuesday (8th January) at 7pm in Logie St John's (Cross) Church Hall.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Benvie Road and Fyffe Street

Good progress towards improvements in the road surface of Fyffe Street and Benvie Road (see photo of the current poor condition - right) - here's a news release I issued earlier today :

West End Dundee City Councillor Fraser Macpherson has today welcomed feedback he has received from Dundee City Council regarding his request for improvements to the road surfaces in parts of Benvie Road and Fyffe Street.

“The road surfaces here were originally cobbled surfaces and some years ago a layer of tar was added. Although this initially provided a smoother road surface, over the past few years, the tarred surface has badly worn, resulting in a really poor and very unsightly road condition. I have had dozens of complaints about it from local residents,” commented Cllr Macpherson.

Cllr Macpherson approached the City Council during 2007 to see if improvements to the road could be undertaken.

“I was advised that, given the setted surface beneath, a technical solution had to be found that would provide for a quality result. The Council had therefore approached a company that carries out proprietary works to see if their system is suitable,” continued Cllr Macpherson.

“I have recently received further feedback from the Council advising that the technical solution here is indeed a viable and cost-effective way forward. Although the roads capital programme for 2008/9 has yet to be finalised, it is hoped that the improvement works will be carried out early in the new financial year.

“The extent of the work on Benvie Road will be between Cleghorn Street and Fyffe Street and in Fyffe Street it will be from Eassons Angle to Polepark Road. The works will involve the repair of the existing potholes and the laying of a proprietary overlay over the existing surfacing. I am very pleased that a solution to the poor road surfaces in Benvie Road and Fyffe Street are in sight,” concluded Cllr Macpherson.

Escape from politics ...

So, you go to Las Vegas to escape politics for a week or so, you finally make it to your hotel room on the 27th Floor, you look out the window and ...
But at least it was heartening to learn of the new potential career for the Prime Minister when Labour inevitably loses the next General Election ...

Home and jet-lagged ...

A bit jet-lagged, we are just back from Christmas and the New Year in Las Vegas. A pretty unusual experience having the festive season in Vegas. Thoroughly enjoyable time though! Our younger son got married there on 27th December (hence the visit) - here's a couple of photos :
Janet and me at wedding - do not expect to see the kilt outfit again anytime soon!
New Year celebrations on the Strip!