Sunday, August 31, 2008

Tavish Scott - a great start as the new Scottish LibDem leader

... and an excellent reshuffle of parliamentary party already.

Another Top of the Blogs semi-triumph ...

After coming 22nd in the Top 40 Scottish Blogs, my head size has continued to soar (not really) on hearing that I'm also 28th in the Top 50 LibDem blogs! Click on headline to view.

OK, still way behind Scottish LibDem blogging ace, Stephen Glenn of Linlithgow fame, but a rather good result from a lowly councillor from Bonnie Dundee!

Another aside ... thoroughly enjoying Martin Clunes' "A Man and His Dogs" - great telly!

Photos of events this weekend

Above : Yesterday I was delighted to attend the opening of the new tennis courts at the West End Tennis Club. A really good turnout of local people - here's some of the crowd at the opening!

Above : Judy Murray cut the ribbon!

Above : Today, the Friends Of Magdalen Green launched their super 2009 Calendar - here's us all at the launch at the bandstand, together with some of the competition winners. You can read more at : www.magdalengreen.btik.com Above : Later this afternoon, as the City Council's Planning & Transport Convener, I was pleased to give a welcome speech to delegates from this year's UK Planning Summer School at the University of St Andrews. Delegates - councillors and planning officers from all parts of the UK - were on a tour of Ardler to see the success of the regeneration. Here's part of the group having a welcome cup of tea and shelter from the rain at the Ardler Complex.

Top 40 Scottish Blogs ...

Pleased - and surprised! - to see this blog named as 22nd in Iain Dale's Top 40 Scottish blogs - see more by clicking on the headline above.

I appear to be second in the Scottish LibDem list - congratulations Stephen Glenn of Linlithgow who topped this 'poll within the poll'.

Great amusement reading some of the comments on Iain Dale's list - e.g.


"At August 27, 2008 5:06 PM , Anonymous said...


SNP blogs should be coloured yellow!


I, personally, am outraged!"


Err ... the SNP ones are coloured either purple or blue. But given Alex Salmond's recent comments about Lady Thatcher :


"We didn't mind the economic side so much."

... blue is obviously thoroughly appropriate!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Seymour Street Update

As I previously indicated (click on headline above to view), the pathway beside Seymour Lodge will soon be upgraded, with thanks to Tayside Police, who own this popular walkway. The City Council has updated me on the improvement works as follows:

Dundee City Council propose to make an Order under Section 14(1) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 for the purpose of facilitating footpath improvement works. The Order is expected to be in force for three weeks from 8 September 2008. Its maximum duration in terms of the Act is eighteen months.

The effect of the Order is to prohibit temporarily all pedestrian traffic in Seymour Street from Shaftesbury Road to Perth Road.

This section of Seymour Street is only used by pedestrians therefore vehicular traffic is unaffected.

An alternative route will be available via Shaftesbury Road, Hyndford Street and Perth Road.

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 City Council on 433168.

Angus & Dundee Roots Festival

The Angus & Dundee Roots Festival takes place from 6th to 13th September and gives a great opportunity for people whose ancestors came from Dundee and Angus to visit the area to find out more about their ancestral homeland giving them a flavour of what life was like for ancestors in days gone by.

You can read more about the week by clicking on the headline above.

I'm delighted that Ann Prescott, leading member of the Western Cemetery Association and Minutes Secretary of West End Community Council, is - as part of the week - giving a talk about the Western Cemetery. It takes place on Thursday 4th September at 1.00pm in the Glasite Hall (by St Andrew's Parish Church at the bottom of King Street).

Ann tells me, "The talk is on the development of the Western as a private cemetery company from the point of view of the people and the place. Time permitting I'll try to put it into the context of today's Eco-graveyard movement."

Friday, August 29, 2008

Post Offices - latest news

As you'll know from previous blog entries, I have raised with Dundee City Council the possibility of taking legal action to stop the Dundee Post Office closures. If you click on the headline above, you can read the latest update in today's "Courier."

The City Council’s legal officers have been making thorough investigations on the legal position and the likelihood of a viable case being made. The legal position is complex and the Greater London Authority’s recent attempt to stop London Post Office closures was not successful at the High Court.

The Council’s legal officers have concluded that the most likely way of forcing a re-think by Post Office Limited to their closure plans affecting Dundee Post Offices is to ask Postwatch, the Post Office Watchdog, if it would be prepared to request a suspension of the Nethergate Post Office closure pending a review of the consultation exercise and a fuller statement by Post Office Limited on the consultation process and why it appears it dismissed evidence brought forward by both myself and Dundee City Council about the potential for customer growth at this Post Office in the future.

I hope that a suspension of one closure pending a review of the consultation exercise can then open the wider issue of all Post Office closures in Dundee and across the wider region. Post Office Limited has not undertaken a transparent and open consultation and decision making process, and has ignored Cabinet Office guidance on the length of consultation exercises (the Cabinet Office says they must be a minimum of 12 weeks and the Post Office process took just six).

Following my letter to the Prime Minister criticising the Labour Westminster Government's failure to protect our Post Offices, the Prime Minister’s Communications Unit has replied - the usual dire, bland, non-reply that is New Labour (or is that now Old New Labour ... err ... or New Old Labour ... whatever - it will lose the next election).

I think it is dreadfully disappointing that the Prime Minister’s Office completely ignored the points raised by me about the sham of a consultation process and the need of the Labour Westminster Government to think again about its Post Office closure programme. I know from councillor colleagues on other local authorities that the anger and upset in Dundee at the closure of four local Post Offices is mirrored right across the country and it is a sad state of affairs that the Prime Minister and his government seem so out of touch with public concern about Post Office closures.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Carpenters - Close to You

A shed load of e-mails today following my uploading the Carpenters 'Yesterday once more' - so here's another classic - 'Close to you'

Harry for Glenrothes!

I am really pleased that the Fife Liberal Democrats have selected Harry Wills to be the party's candidate for the forthcoming Glenrothes by-election.

Harry is a former Chief Executive of several Fife and Tayside companies and is a former Chamber of Commerce 'Business Man of the Year'. He had a key role in resurrecting the Chamber of Commerce in Dundee and Angus.


In Fife, the Scottish Liberal Democrats have two of the four MPs, Sir Menzies Campbell and Willie Rennie. Willie Rennie won his seat in the last Fife parliamentary
by-election.


So off to Glenrothes then!


A good week for the Scottish Liberal Democrats - with Tavish Scott as our new leader and Harry Wills selected for Glenrothes.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Carpenters - Yesterday Once More

Another classic (and totally irrelevant to everything else on this blog!!) - more at http://www.richardandkarencarpenter.com/memorial.htm

Weeds in West End tackled

In recent weeks, I have received numerous (and I mean numerous!) complaints from residents across the West End about the extent of weeds at road edges and footpaths - I know this is a complaint not just in the West End but in other parts of Dundee too. The photo (right) from Blackness Road is typical ...

I have had various discussions with the Director of Planning & Transportation and Dundee Contract Services about these concerns.
There is little doubt that the weather has been unhelpful in ensuring the annual weeds spraying programme progresses on schedule, but I am pleased to advise that the Head of Dundee Contract Services has advised me that all West End streets have now been fully sprayed. It takes 10-14 days to see the full effects of this, but I will be keeping a close eye to ensure that the weeds problem in the West End is fully resolved.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

News release on the Local TV campaign ...

A News Release this afternoon on local television :

TAYSIDE & FIFE LOCAL TV GROUP CALLS ON OFCOM TO BACK LOCAL TV IN SCOTLAND

Fife and Tayside Local TV Working Group – a consortium developing local TV in Angus, Dundee, Fife and Perth and Kinross has responded to a recent Ofcom consultation to allocate spectrum for local TV across Fife and Tayside as well as throughout Scotland.

Responding to Ofcom's consultation on the spectrum suitable for local television Cllr Fraser Macpherson, Planning & Transport Convener on Dundee City Council and supporter of the local TV initiative, said. "We are fortunate here in Scotland to have airwaves to spare and it is vital the UK regulator responds to public demands for local TV in Scotland to be made available for all.

"Digital switchover offers a once in a life-time opportunity for Scotland to have local television coverage. We expect Ofcom to ensure the allocation of these airwaves in the most efficient way and for local television to deliver local public purpose by involving local people in broadcasting in ways that bigger media has proved unable to do."

Cllr Macpherson continued “The Fife and Tayside Local TV Working Group is one of many representing all areas of Scotland and calls upon Ofcom to allocate Scotland’s spectrum to allow for a seventh multiplex of channels. This 'seventh mux' would be able to carry five additional channels suitable for local TV as well as support a new Scottish channel if this were required."

The spectrum identified by the UK regulator Ofcom is unique to Scotland and would allow local TV to reach 98% of the population.

Ofcom has been consulting on geographic interleaved spectrum as well as seventh multiplex spectrum, while the former would provide much lesser coverage of around 25-50%.

Digital UK's early response to Ofcom's consultation strongly suggests that spectrum planning for Digital Television Switchover in Scotland actually ended on 12th August – nine days before the consultation deadline invited local TV's response on 21st August.

Dave Rushton, Director on the Edinburgh based Institute of Local Television, added: "There are serious concerns the regulator has made commitment ahead of the consultation closing, decisions that would remove from Scotland five separate digital TV channels – channels that offer tremendous capacity for a variety of new services that can be made more relevant to Scottish audiences and local areas than many of the channels emanating from London."

Triumph for Tavish!

I'm delighted at the election of Tavish Scott as our new Scottish Liberal Democrat leader - and at the wide margin of his victory - with nearly 60% of the vote. Click on the headline above for the BBC news on this.

Tavish will be an excellent and forthright leader of the Liberal Democrats in Scotland. He will provide the sort of dynamic leadership the party members want to see and will be a robust opposition leader in the Scottish Parliament. A good decision by the party membership.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Local television for Dundee, Tayside & Fife - submission to Ofcom

The Fife and Tayside Local TV working group has now made its submission in terms of the Digital Dividend Review Consultation to Ofcom, the media regulator. It is great to see the momentum behind the campaign for local television in Tayside and Fife, summed up, I think, by a brief quote from the submission to Ofcom :

“The Fife and Tayside Local TV Working Group (FT-TV) welcomes this further opportunity to comment on the proposed allocation of digital spectrum and reiterates previous requests that the Angus and Craigkelly transmitters are included in this process.

“We note that following previous lobbying all main transmitters in the UK are now offered with a frequency plan suitable for local TV use and the existence in Scotland of further transmission capacity through a 7th MUX.

“As you will see from our website information, also at
www.tayscreen.com, the Fife and Tayside Local TV Working Group is an initiative being lead by Cllr Fraser Macpherson of Dundee City Council and consists of representatives from the production, business, media access, cultural and college/university sectors in the region. The group benefits from the advice of the Institute of Local TV. The activities of the group are being coordinated by FifeScreen & TayScreen Scotland, the screen agency for, and a partnership of, the Councils of Angus, Dundee, Fife and Perth & Kinross, reporting to Economic Development in each case.

“ … we believe the local TV represents a significant opportunity to:

* get people involved in their communities

* support business opportunities and development (such as the production and tourism sectors) facilitate media access and political and social engagement

* promote and raise awareness of projects (regional, European, international)

* network content at regional, national and international levels

* for audience access via broadcast and broadband provision

* develop audience and market demand for content, culture, heritage and regional goods and services”

In my view FT-TV is making a great case for digital spectrum to be allocated for local TV across our region. I’ll wait for further developments with a keen interest.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Ninewells Avenue again ...

Back on 12th August, I mentioned that I had asked the City Council to ensure the bushes it is responsible for maintaining beside the footpath on the east side of Ninewells Avenue are trimmed as they were overgrown - click on headline above to view the earlier story.

I have now been advised by the Council that Tayside Contracts are to cut back the foliage that Roads Maintenance is responsible for to ensure the footpath is not obstructed.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Seagulls problem : Task Force to be welcomed but more needs done

If you click on the headline above, you can read the blog story I wrote back in May about residents' concerns regarding seagulls - particularly in the areas of tall tenements south of the Perth Road shopping area. Seagulls appear to thrive on litter/rubbish and their aggressive behaviour towards other birds, pets and even people is a real and increasing problem in our cities.

Over the spring and summer months, numerous West End residents have contacted me about the seagulls problem and I know that there are other parts of the City - and indeed across Scotland - where the "urban seagull" is becoming a more and more frequent sight. The breeding season is now coming to an end, but, as one resident put it in an e-mail to me last month:

"Now that the Seagull breeding season is nearly over, the residents in this area will have the chance to recover from the truly dreadful experience of constant noise, dirt and threat from these urban gulls. Maybe even get to sleep at night."

It is an increasing problem, and I met with residents and an officer from the City Council's Environmental Health and Trading Standards Department on 6th August to discuss measures to discourage seagull colonies from nesting on the top of local tenements. I am pleased that Dundee City Council has taken a proactive approach in assisting residents with tackling the seagull menace.

I was advised by the City Council officer that, on 24th June, a nationwide meeting was held in Dumfries to discuss seagull problems in urban areas. This was a positive move, giving residents, business operators, environmentalists and the Environment Minister a chance to meet and exchange views on how to tackle the problem of seagulls in Scotland’s coastal towns and cities.

I was anxious to learn what actual action the Environment Minister Mike Russell was going to take following the June Seagull Summit. Therefore, earlier this month, I asked Alison McInnes, MSP for North East Scotland, to question the Environment Minister on the matter, and she submitted the following written questions :

To ask the Scottish Executive what action it is taking to address the growing problems caused by seagulls in urban areas.

To ask the Scottish Executive whether it is planning changes to legislation in order to assist local authorities in tackling the problems caused by seagulls.

To ask the Scottish Executive what additional funding it will give to local authorities in order to assist them in tackling the problems caused by seagulls.


Yesterday, Mike Russell, revisiting Dumfries, announced a task force to start making plans to tackle the seagull problem at the start of the next breeding season in Spring 2009. He said he would be "tough on seagulls and tough on the causes of seagulls."

For more information, see the Reuters report yesterday on this matter at : http://uk.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUKLM66869920080822

The bottom line, in my view, is that Scottish Government has to tackle the inadequate legislative situation and, fundamentally, has to properly fund efforts by local authorities to assist residents with the problems seagulls cause. The Environment Secretary's "Task Force" announcement is to be welcomed but, fundamentally, residents in the West End and in other urban centres in Scotland need real assistance and this requires a review of legislation and proper targeted funding from Scottish Government to local authorities to help them properly tackle the issue.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Blast from the past ...

Another rather irrelevant post! Greatest American Hero from the 1980s!

Flooding issues ...


Since getting back from the West End local community planning partnership meeting at Balgay Church Hall last night, I have been inundated with calls and e-mails from constituents on flooding concerns - Roseangle, Riverside Drive, Richmond Terrace and Osborne Place in particular.


Apart from the issues in the West End, as City Council Planning & Transport Convener, I spoke with the "Evening Telegraph" and Radio Tay on the general flooding issue and the situation in the City Centre. The City Council issued a news release on the matter this afternoon and I reproduce this below :


CITY CENTRE FLOODING

A city council spokesman said: "The flooding experienced in Dundee city centre yesterday was the result of an extreme rainstorm coinciding with a high tide. This meant that the existing old Victorian sewer system was totally unable to cope with the sheer volume of rainwater caused by this flash flood.

"The worst affected part of the city was in the Dock Street area, but many other locations around Dundee experienced unusual flooding events due to the drains and sewers backing up.

"Responsibility for the sewage system in Dundee lies with Scottish Water, but Dundee City Council is very concerned about the impact of these ever more frequent flooding incidents on property and the road network.

"Dundee City Council is planning to install a completely new sewer system in Dundee Waterfront as part of the area's redevelopment. The project is seeking to design this system in a way which has enough capacity to resolve the flooding problems being experienced in Dock Street.

"In order to achieve this, the Council needs the cooperation of Scottish Water to design and implement a drainage system in the Waterfront which not only provides for its redevelopment, but also assists the flood affected areas in the city centre to the north. We have had dialogue with Scottish Water on this matter, but we need greater commitment from them if we are to grasp this opportunity to tackle the flooding problems in the centre of Dundee."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thursday updates …

A few updates from today …

* This morning the West End Councillors took part in a Logie walkabout with the Logie Residents’ Association and Housing Officers to document local issues (both Housing and other – footpaths, street signs, grounds maintenance,etc) – we got round the sheltered housing area (north side of Logie) and will do the “other half” (the south side of Logie) in the near future.

* This evening, the West End Local Community Planning Partnership met at Balgay Church – an extremely useful airing of West End issues.

* A number of calls and e-mails tonight about flooding – particularly in Riverside Drive and Roseangle. Very heavy rainfall today but it is clear that the road drain at the bottom of Roseangle doesn’t cope with even moderate rainfall. I have e-mailed the City Engineer about this.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Today and more about Dusty Springfield!

Just in from a great meeting with Friends of Magdalen Green - they are a super group of people and their enthusiasm about the Green makes their meetings thoroughly enjoyable. It has been a busy day - I am burning the "day job" midnight oil at the moment with the Institute's Scottish Conference taking place in the first week in September, but today I also :
  • Met the new Chief Constable. A useful and productive meeting. The Chief Constable emphasised his commitment to community policing and more police visible on the beat.
  • Chaired the Dundee City Region Strategic Plan Interim Joint Committee. Dundee was hosting this meeting (with representatives from Angus, Fife and Perth & Kinross Councils) - hence my turn to chair - and there were major decisions taken regarding the organisational structure of the Strategic Development Planning Authority and the formation of the long-term joint committee.
  • Attended the Balgay Stakeholders meeting, together with Leisure & Communities Department staff, Friends of Balgay and the Community Council.

And lastly, for tonight ... the power of Dusty ... I have had e-mails today from the US and Australia following the Dusty Springfield video going on the blog at the weekend. From Kathy in Australia today :

Dear Fraser,

Many thanks for giving our website a mention on your site. Just thought you might like to know that Will, who wrote to you before is our Forum Admin and lives in Glasgow, but we have members all around the world. Dusty is truly loved and cherished in so many countries.

Our members are in Australia, Sweden, Finland, Germany, England, Scotland, Wales, Canada, The US, The Netherlands, and many more countries besides. If you ever need a "Dusty" fix, feel free to browse the site (Will gave details) for the many photos of Dusty etc.

We also supported Katie Setterfield on the One and Only as she did her tribute to Dusty Springfield. Katie is now in Las Vegas fulfilling her prize of playing there. But she will be back on tour from next month in the UK and Will tells me she will be playing in Glasgow. I would say it would be a show not to be missed.

Thanks once again for helping promote our site. We raise a fair bit of money for the Charities that Dusty was close to and exist to perpetrate the memory of Britain's best singer.

With best wishes (from Oz)

Kathy Banks

Development Quality Committee and proposed phone mast at Balgay Bowling Club

A marathon Development Quality Committee at the City Council last night, lasting some four hours and finishing around 10pm. However, I successfully moved refusal of an application for a mobile phone mast at Balgay Bowling Club in Melville Terrace, a proposal local residents had objected to (including a resident who addressed the committee to express his concerns about this proposal, close to residential housing).

The committee convener attempted to move approval of the mast but failed to find a seconder, so my motion to refuse planning approval was therefore agreed. The full motion read :

Reasons for Refusal


1. The proposed development is contrary to Policy 1 - "Vibrant and Sustainable Communities" of the Dundee Local Plan Review 2005 as the development is likely to impact adversely on the environmental quality enjoyed by local residents. There are no material considerations of sufficient strength to justify the granting of planning permission contrary to the policy.

2. The proposed development is contrary to Policy 61 - "Development in Conservation Areas" of the Dundee Local Plan Review 2005 as it fails to preserve or enhance the Conservation Area. There are no material considerations of sufficient strength to justify the granting of planning permission contrary to the policy.

3. The proposed development is contrary to Policy 78 - "Location of Telecommunications Equipment" of the Dundee Local Plan Review 2005 as there is a failure to mast share or demonstrate that there may be other viable options. There are no material considerations of sufficient strength to justify the granting of planning permission contrary to the policy.

4. The proposed development is contrary to Policy 2 "Residential Areas" of Dundee City Council's adopted Non-Statutory Planning Policies in Relation to Telecommunications Masts and Other Apparatus as there is a general presumption against the siting of free standing masts in residential areas.


5. The proposed development is contrary to Policy 11 "Conservation Areas" of Dundee City Council's adopted Non-Statutory Planning Policies in Relation to Telecommunications Masts and Other Apparatus as there is a general presumption against the location of ground based masts in Conservation Areas where by virtue of their location and design they are considered likely to impact adversely on the setting of the Conservation Area.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Dusty Update - e-mail received tonight ...

Nice to see a Councillor with excellent taste in music ;)

Will


Forum Admin, "Let's Talk Dusty!"

Local TV - Letter to the First Minister

The Tayside & Fife Local TV working group has now written to the First Minister on the subject of local television across Scotland.

This is in support of a request from the Scottish Local TV Federation, arguing for an additional digital TV spectrum allocation for Scotland - the "seventh mux" - to ensure delivery of local TV across the country.

You can read the letter by clicking on the headline above.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Parking - Park Place Nursery and Primary Schools

With the new school year about to commence this coming week and following concerns raised with me by parents, I met with the Head of Primary Education of Dundee City Council on Friday past regarding parking and dropping off arrangements at Park Place Primary School and the adjacent Nursery School.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education recently highlighted concerns about traffic and parking in the vicinity of the school and I am concerned to ensure that the City Council looks at all potential options for improving the situation, given the concerns from parents of children at both the nursery and primary schools.

I was pleased to learn that the Education Department is proactively looking at the issues and has indeed established a working group of cross-department senior officers to look at the issues affecting parking/drop off of pupils at schools across the city, as there are clearly issues at many schools in Dundee. In addition to specific measures at Park Place and at other school locations, the working group is insisting that each school sets up its own Travel Plan to encourage safe and active routes to and from school.

Park Place is a particularly difficult site, given its congested location and very limited drop-off facilities. A pilot drop-off facility to the rear of the school attempted last year was not well-used and resulted in the loss of play area, so I was anxious to learn what additional steps the Education Department will consider to ensure safe drop-off and collection of children from both the nursery and primary school.

Parents have been concerned about the speed of some vehicles in the vicinity of the school and that any badly parked vehicles made it difficult for parents and children to see to safely cross the road. I was given an assurance that I'll be kept updated on any further measures the Council’s Working Group arrives at and will be meeting with the new Head Teacher of Park Place Primary on appointment to discuss how any measures can be specifically applied at Park Place for the benefit of pupils and parents.

Pupil safety at schools is of paramount importance, as highlighted in the recent HMIE report, and I will be keeping a close eye of the situation with the onset of the new term this week.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

FOCUS on Saturday

Many thanks to all of the LibDem team who helped me largely complete delivery today (only 200 to go now!) of FOCUS Edition 65.

Issues covered in this edition of FOCUS include :

* Bus service 72 - route saved
* Airport - noise issues
* Speed limit on western part of Perth Road to be reviewed
* Pathway at Seymour Lodge - resurfacing imminent
* Logie - grounds/garden maintenance
* Pathway on Perth Road at Riverside Place/River Crescent

You can download page 1 of FOCUS by clicking on the headline above and page 2 by clicking on the headline of the blog entry below.

In between deliveries this morning, I managed to take a few minutes out to pay a visit to the Paton's Lane Sheltered Housing Complex's Sale and Raffle Day - a super turnout of residents!

Latest FOCUS - page 2

Click on headline to view page 2

Dusty Springfield - All I see is you

Totally irrelevant distraction ... haven't heard this for ages. Came on the radio a few days ago ... on the strength of it, bought a Dusty Springfield Greatest Hits CD. Superb.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Today's Perth Road/Nethergate "official re-opening"

The Perth Road/Nethergate "official re-opening" with the Lord Provost this morning went extremely well, with good media interest including the Evening Telegraph, local radio stations and STV. You can read tonight's article in the Tele by clicking on the headline above.

Many thanks to the Lord Provost, other city councillors, local businesses and residents, Scotland Gas Networks, Turriff and Stagecoach Strathtay for their assistance and participation - here's a few photos!

Above : At the vintage bus!

Above : The Lord Provost at the vintage bus.
Above : Conductor, driver and me at Seabraes
Above : Me with representatives from Dundee City Council Planning & Transportation, Scotland Gas Networks and Turriff.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thursday's West End News

Dundee's success in terms of gaining funding from the "Smarter Choices Smarter Places" initiative has been well reported today in the media. Two leading examples :


On another matter, delighted to see the buses returning to Perth Road east of Sinderins and Nethergate from this morning. I've been in touch with Stagecoach Strathtay (following calls from residents) about a hiccup with the 72 service, and the company has responded positively straight away.

The bus company to its credit ran an information day in the City Centre on Tuesday about the service/timetable changes from next Monday (see picture - right) - an excellent initiative, and well received by the public.

Tomorrow sees the "official reopening" of the Perth Road/Nethergate - see news release below. You can read the report in tonight's "Evening Telegraph" by clicking on the headline above.


NEWS RELEASE : PERTH ROAD / NETHERGATE OFFICIAL RE-OPENING BY LORD PROVOST OF DUNDEE

The Lord Provost of Dundee, Cllr John Letford, along with West End City Councillors, Community Council representatives, local businesses, residents and representatives from Scotland Gas Networks, Turriff and Stagecoach, will tomorrow (Friday 15th August at 11.30am at Seabraes Perth Road – just east of Roseangle) mark the official re-opening of Perth Road/Nethergate, which has, since April of this year, suffered a series of road closures, due to gas main replacement works.

Dundee City Council Planning & Transport Convener and West End City Councillor, Fraser Macpherson, said he was delighted that the significant disruption to the Perth Road/Nethergate shopping area caused by Scotland Gas Networks’ replacement of the gas main has come to an end, some six weeks ahead of schedule.

Cllr Macpherson said, “This has been a very difficult period particularly for local businesses but also with inconvenience to residents, with no or limited through traffic and the bus services having to be diverted. I think everyone appreciates that the gas main work was absolutely necessary but I am pleased it has been finished ahead of schedule and that the Perth Road east of Sinderins and Nethergate west of South Tay Street can return to normal.

To mark the re-opening, the Lord Provost will journey on a Stagecoach vintage routemaster bus up Nethergate and Perth Road. Cllr Macpherson said he hoped that, with a diverse range of shops, the district shopping area in Perth Road and Nethergate would remain a highly attractive place to shop.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Latest update on bus services


Martin Hall of Stagecoach Strathtay and I had an excellent meeting with over 40 residents at the Paton's Lane Sheltered Lounge this afternoon about the future of the 72 bus service. The news release below expands upon the situation - but the key points are :


* There will be three full journey routes each day Monday to Friday on the "old" 72 route - now badged as the 69 and including the "old" 69 Broughty Ferry route.


* There will be an additional four reduced routes (City Centre to Windsor Street and return) badged as the 72.


* The main service buses will return to the Perth Road (Nethergate to Sinderins) from 6am tomorrow following the end of the gas mains replacement works.


Here's the news release :

NEWS RELEASE : Councillor and Stagecoach meet West End residents about bus worries

Dundee City Council Planning and Transport Convener and West End Councillor, Fraser Macpherson, together with the Operations Manager of Stagecoach Strathtay, today met a packed meeting of over 40 West End residents to discuss their issues about local bus services, following concerns about the future of the 72 bus service in the West End area.

Cllr Macpherson said this evening that the meeting was an opportunity to explain the new bus arrangements, which start next Monday (18th August) following agreement between the City Council and Stagecoach Strathtay to retain the route, albeit on a different timetable.

“The agreement between the City Council and Stagecoach ensures that three full route return journeys per day Monday to Friday will be retained, now badged as the 69 service and now also covering Broughty Ferry. This will ensure that Royal Victoria Hospital, Ninewells Hospital and the Newhall Gardens & Invergowrie Drive areas continue to be covered by the service. Additionally there will be four journeys each day on a reduced West End route as far west as Windsor Street, badged as the 72 service,” said Cllr Macpherson.

”The new arrangements will ensure the continuation of local services at least until the end of the current financial year in March 2009, by which the City Council aims to have progressed a demand responsive transport solution to ensure that those who are not served by the main bus services or have mobility difficulties using the service buses, get a service that is useful to them.”

Cllr Macpherson said that he was also able to advise the meeting that he had been informed that normal bus services on Perth Road between Nethergate and Sinderins would be resumed from Thursday at 6am, ending the diversion of buses onto Hawkhill, because of Scotland Gas Networks’ mains replacement project. He concluded, “Residents will be very pleased to see the buses running along the east part of Perth Road after a gap in service for many weeks.”

Dundee success on sustainable transport

Delighted at the City's success today - being chosen as a lead authority to develop the "Smarter Choices Smarter Places" initiative - I spoke about the matter on Radio Tay this afternoon. Here's the City Council's news release :


DUNDEE LEADING WAY AGAIN

Dundee looks set to become one of the first local authorities in the country to run a self-service cycle hire scheme following a successful bid for Scottish Government backing.

The city has been awarded £2.1 million from the government's Smarter Choices Smarter Places initiative to encourage and develop sustainable and active travel throughout communities.

City council planning and transport convener Councillor Fraser Macpherson said: "The fact that we have been successful with this bid is a very firm indication of the high regard that the government has for Dundee as far as travel issues are concerned.

"We have been leading the way with initiatives to encourage less use of cars by, for example, bringing in millions of pounds to improve public transport, and this latest funding means we will be able, with our partners, to continue to make improvements that will have a very real effect on people's lives.

"The council's bid for Dundee to become a Smarter Choices Smarter Places city will be delivered through a project called Dundee Health Central.

"The project will be delivered over a three-year period and the cycle-hire scheme - similar to those run in cities such as London, Paris and Barcelona - is one of a number of initiatives designed to encourage healthy living by cycling and walking within our communities and using the facilities within them, rather than using the car - which obviously has worthwhile environmental benefits."

The partners supporting Dundee Health Central include NHS Tayside, University of Dundee, bus companies, Sustrans and Tactran, of which Councillor Macpherson is the chair.

The hire scheme is among a package put forward for the project to encourage active travel to promote healthy lifestyles for residents of and visitors to the study area of central Dundee. The area will be used to test a variety of Smarter Choices measures, to find out which would be best to eventually roll out across the city.

The project aims to promote change for everyone living in or visiting the study area and will reach people in a number of ways, including NHS patients through GPs' surgeries, children and their parents through schools, city-centre workers through employers and students and staff through universities.

As well as the cycle hire scheme, initiatives include:

· Cycle training for all the family to encourage more use of bikes;

· Complimentary trial journeys to encourage people to use buses;

· Providing information and resources to encourage more use of local facilities that avoids the need for car journeys;

· Identifying physical barriers such as poor surfacing and drainage, narrow pathways or poor lighting that would put people off walking.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Case for Channel 6

With all the recent interest in local television, Peter Williams of United for Local Television and an adviser to Scottish Local TV Federation, has written an excellent piece, published today on the "Broadcast" site.

You can read it by clicking on the headline above.

Overgrown bushes - Ninewells Avenue

I have had a number of residents' complaints that the bushes along the pavement on the east side of Ninewells Avenue (see right) are badly overgrown.

These are maintained by the local authority so I have contacted Dundee City Council about this, asking for the bushes to be trimmed.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Busy Monday!

A busy day Monday and apart from an awful lot of day job work starting very early morning – I have a large conference to organise coming up fast! - it included the following :

* Interview with Wave 102 about moves towards local television in Dundee and Tayside/Fife as a whole. You can hear this by clicking play on the video below.

*Meetings with the Council Leader and the Director of Planning & Transportation about a number of issues. I also spoke at the City Council’s Recess Sub-Committee, backing the report to allow the continuation of a bus service for users of the 72 in the West End and 69 in Broughty Ferry. I am pleased to say the report was unanimously agreed.

* I am to be on STV news at 6pm tonight to speak about the latest situation on Post Office closures and my request that City Council legal officers investigate the viability of a legal challenge to the four Dundee Post Office closures.

video

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Local television update

In the past few months, I have become greatly involved in an initiative to campaign for and promote the concept of digital local TV for Dundee, Fife, Angus and Perth & Kinross.

With the support of TayScreen and the Institute of Local TV (ILT), an initial working group has been formed, consisting of representatives from the production, business, business development and college/university sectors in Angus, Dundee, Fife and Perth & Kinross. I was pleased to welcome representatives to an initial meeting some weeks ago to obtain views on developing regional TV stations and broadcast transmission capacity and potential demand for local services.

The local authorities covering Angus, Dundee, Fife and Perth and Kinross have already been involved in lobbying Ofcom (the UK regulator for TV and communications) based on the view that there is a strong case for Fife and Tayside being involved in the opportunities that local TV may bring. Other areas such as Edinburgh and Glasgow will have local TV. Fife and Tayside can provide evidence both of consumer demand and of the technical and business capacity to support the operation of local TV transmission and content production for broadcast.

We are lucky that across the Tayside and Fife regions, we have vibrant print and radio media and there is no doubt from the popularity of the former Channel 6 local TV service in Dundee that a local television service for the region would an asset for our area. The analogue switch-off and move to digital presents a unique opportunity to provide local/community television across the UK.

You can read more about the working group and the issue of local television in our region by looking at the TayScreen website - simply click on the headline above to view. If you are interested in getting involved or have any questions, please send them to tv@tayscreenscotland.com - many thanks.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Public transport in Dundee

The Courier interviewed Neil Gellatly of the City Council's Planning & Transportation Department and me last week about public transport initiatives in Dundee. The interview appears in today's edition and you can read it by clicking on the headline above.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Good news on the roadworks - Perth Road & Nethergate

I am delighted that the significant disruption to the Perth Road/Nethergate shopping area caused by Scotland Gas Networks’ replacement of the gas main, looks set to come to an end during the next week, some six weeks ahead of schedule.

This has been a very difficult period particularly for local businesses but also the inconvenience to residents, with no or limited through traffic and the bus services having to be diverted. I think everyone appreciates that the gas main work was absolutely necessary but I am pleased it has been finished ahead of schedule and that the Perth Road east of Sinderins and Nethergate west of South Tay Street can return to normal.

I have arranged a photocall/reopening next Friday (15th August) to officially re-open the road back to normal traffic activity and buses, and to mark the occasion, the Lord Provost will journey on a vintage routemaster bus from Stagecoach up Nethergate and Perth Road.



Local businesses have been invited, as well as community groups, Scotland Gas Networks, Turriff (the contractors), Stagecoach and the City Council's Planning & Transportation staff.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Changes to my weekly surgeries

With the impending start of the new school term on 19th August, my weekly surgeries are starting again.

Over the past year or so, these have taken place on a Thursday at three locations - Mitchell Street Centre (covering the north of the ward), Harris Academy (covering the western part) and Blackness Primary School (the eastern part). However, many residents have said it would be useful if there was a choice of days, so I have altered my surgeries (starting on 21st August).

On Mondays, there will be surgeries at both Mitchell Street Centre and at Harris Academy, and the Blackness Primary School surgery will remain unchanged on a Thursday. You can read the full details, rooms and times by clicking on the headline above.

Alternatively, I am always available at home on 459378 or e-mail me at esurgery@frasermacpherson.org.uk. Working for the West End - all year round.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Latest exchanges with Post Offices Limited

Here's my latest exchanges with Post Office Limited on the closures issue. I am speaking further with City Council legal officers tomorrow.
My e-mail to Post Office Limited :

FAO Sally Buchanan

Dear Ms Buchanan

I am taken aback by Post Office Limited's "Area Plan Decision Booklet - North East, Tayside & Fife" in respect of Nethergate Post Office, Dundee.

Clear, specific, evidence was given to you about customer growth in the future. This is dismissed in one sentence - "Information was also received on several new developments being planned in the area."

There is absolutely no explanation as to how you dealt with this evidence and why you dismissed it. Please advise why.

I am taking further advice on this failure of Post Office Limited to properly deal with evidence presented to it.

I look forward to your response.

Best regards

Cllr Fraser Macpherson

Councillor for the West End

Post Office Limited’s reply :

Dear Councillor MacPherson

Thank you for your further email, also copied to Sally Buchanan, Network Development Manager. I have been asked to reply on behalf of Sally Buchanan, as Agency Correspondence Team Leader with responsibilities for network change.

It should be noted that there is a strict Code of Practice for network change consultations, which has been agreed with Postwatch, the independent consumer watchdog for postal services. Each local consultation is conducted precisely in accordance with the detailed terms of the Memorandum of Understanding agreed between Post Office Limited and Postwatch. This document can be viewed on our website under network change.

As I am sure you will appreciate, Post Office Limited has received a substantial response to the local public consultation in respect of the Network Change Programme and, unfortunately, it is not possible to set out in full all of the responses to local public consultation in the decision documents. Each decision document, therefore, contains a summary of the key aspects of the responses to local public consultation received by Post Office Limited in relation to each of the branches originally proposed for closure under the respective Area Plan. I can only apologise if this is perceived to be dismissing the detailed information provided by the City Council and would like to assure you this is not the case.

All responses received to local consultation, including your own representations and the points raised during the meetings attended by Post Office Ltd, are reviewed, considered and taken into account by the respective Network Development Manager, in this case Sally Buchanan, when making our decisions.

More specifically, I can confirm that as part of the final decision process, Sally Buchanan has included the following points:

That the Alliance Trust are due to open an extensive office near
Nethergate Post Office® branch employing 400 staff and that this may
potentially increase the customer footfall at. The branch
The new business units to be built locally
The new premises near the University in the Hawkhill area that have
recently been built that might put pressure on Ward Road Post Office®
branch.
Dundee’s growing games and media sector including companies such as
Tag games, Cohort Studios, Proper Games etc is located in The Digital
Media Park

In reaching her decision, many other factors are also considered, such as customer usage, proximity, relative size and fit to the Government’s national accessibility criteria as well as the other factors Post Office Limited has to take into account. We remain confident that Dundee Crown Office and Perth Road Post Office branch has sufficient capacity to cope with additional customers from the closure of Nethergate and also the new developments planned for the area.

Yours sincerely

Valerie Stanley
Agency Correspondence Team Leader
National Consultation Team

Post Office Ltd

And my response to that :

Dear Ms Stanley

Thank you for your e-mail.

I note what you write but would make clear that I remain extremely concerned that Post Office Limited has in no way explained what it did with the evidence of future increased Post Office usage at Nethergate and why it was insufficient to justify keeping Nethergate Post Office open.

You say that :

"I can confirm that as part of the final decision process, Sally Buchanan has included the following points:

That the Alliance Trust are due to open an extensive office near
Nethergate Post Office® branch employing 400 staff and that this may
potentially increase the customer footfall at. The branch
The new business units to be built locally
The new premises near the University in the Hawkhill area that have
recently been built that might put pressure on Ward Road Post Office®
branch.
Dundee’s growing games and media sector including companies such as
Tag games, Cohort Studios, Proper Games etc is located in The Digital
Media Park"

You do not indicate in any way what was done with the specific evidence I and other objectors gave you about customer growth. In my view, the future for customer growth at Nethergate Post Office made the case for keeping Nethergate Post Office open.

Please explain, in detail, why Post Office Limited considers this is not the case.

Best regards

Fraser

Cllr Fraser Macpherson

Councillor for the West End

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Postwatch response

I have received the following response from Postwatch, the Post Office watchdog, following my complaint about Post Office Limited's handling of the Post Office closures - see below. It is extremely interesting to note that "Postwatch Scotland did advocate for a longer consultation period however the Government decided to proceed with a 6 week consultation."

Cllr Fraser Macpherson
Dundee City Council




4 August 2008


Dear Cllr Macpherson


Network Change Programme


Thank you for your email of 1 August 2008 to Professor Alexander. He has asked me to reply on his behalf.



I note your deep disappointment with Post Office Ltd's decision to go ahead with the closure of the four post offices in Dundee and also the length of the consultation period.



Postwatch Scotland did advocate for a longer consultation period however the Government decided to proceed with a 6 week consultation.



I understand your concerns about Post Office Ltd's decision to proceed with these closures.



I would like to assure you that, in line with our Government-prescribed role, Postwatch Scotland made every effort to ensure Post Office Ltd took into account local factors and communities' needs, and that the consultation process as stipulated by Government was followed.



Postwatch Scotland arrived at our final position through our own field work, scrutiny of relevant local factors such as demographics and transport arrangements, responses sent directly to us and those in the response summary produced for us by Post Office Ltd. You will note the concerns raised by Postwatch Scotland in our response to Post Office Ltd at the end of the consultation period which can be accessed on our website (www.postwatch.co.uk/regions/Scotland).



I should stress that the final decision to proceed with the closures is made by Post Office Ltd and Postwatch Scotland cannot veto this decision.



Further detail on their rational for going ahead with the closures is contained in their decision document, available on the 'current public consultations' webpage at www.postoffice.co.uk/networkchange.



I would like to thank you for taking the time to contact us and wish you success should you choose to proceed with a legal challenge.



If we can be of any assistance in the future please contact us again.



Yours sincerely,


Irene Mitchell
Postwatch Scotland Executive

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Courier : Talks on legal challenge to post office closures


You can read the latest update on this from today's Courier by clicking on the headline above.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Tackling fuel poverty

It is estimated that 4.5 million households are now in fuel poverty, according to Ofgem. As wholesale prices of both oil and gas continue to soar, it is almost inevitable that more price hikes for consumers are on the way. In 2001, the Labour Government pledged to eradicate fuel poverty by 2010, yet it has in fact increased, leaving the Government’s target in tatters and millions facing a fuel price crisis.

The Liberal Democrats have launched a fuel poverty package to tackle this crisis. The key points are :

* Making energy companies invest £500m a year into a rolling programme to make sure homes are properly insulated



* Requiring energy companies to roll out social tariffs to over two million vulnerable customers




* Installing smart meters, which display consumption costs, rather than conventional meters



Vince Cable had an excellent article on tackling fuel poverty, published in the Independent last Thursday - you can read more by clicking on the headline above.

Post Office Closures : Latest

The issue of Post Office closures and my discussions with City Council officials about the issue featured on both the Radio Tay news and the "Tay Talk In" today. Click below to hear further ...
video

Post Office Card Account


News yesterday in the press that the long-awaited decision on the Post Office Card Account (click on headline above to view story in yesterday's 'Press and Journal') has been put off until later in the year fuels the uncertainty over the future of the Post Office network.


The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had been due to reveal last month which organisation would get the contract for what is now the Post Office Card Account but has now put off the decision until later in the year.


DWP has given no reason as to why it is delaying the announcement but as yesterday's Press and Journal points out, "...the department would have risked a political furore if it had announced the decision while MPs were on holiday. "


It is vital that Post Office Limited retains this business. The fact that the announcement of the decision on the contract has been postponed to avoid a political furore does not bode well in terms of what that decision may be.


The Labour Government has lost the trust of the people. Properly securing the future of the Post Office network, overturning post office closure decisions and helping to secure Post Office Limited's future by removing uncertainty over the Post Office Card Account contract would go some way towards showing the public that the government is listening. Don't hold your breath.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

New mirror site for www.dundeewestend.com!

A number of residents have commented to me that recently www.dundeewestend.com has been taking quite a long time to load up. It is hosted by Blogger and it now has a rather huge amount of content.


I have made a few changes to the widgets and front page content to speed things up, but I have now also set up a very fast to load mirror site hosted by WordPress at www.westendblog.org.uk with identical content. The only drawback with this new mirror site is that some of the imported video clips, etc, won’t work on it, but the bulk of the content will be easily readable …

Friday, August 01, 2008

Post Office closures - an update

Following discussions today regarding the Dundee Post Office closures announcement with the City Council's Depute Chief Executive (Support Services) in her role as the City Council's chief legal officer, I have sent out the following news release :

NEWS RELEASE : Possible legal challenge to Post Office closures

Dundee City Councillor for the West End, Councillor Fraser Macpherson, tonight revealed that he has been in talks with a senior City Council legal officer about the potential viability of mounting a legal challenge to the decision by Post Office Limited to close four Dundee Post Offices, including two in his own West End ward at Nethergate and Lochee Road.

Cllr Macpherson said that he had today had discussions with a senior City Council officer who was now investigating the viability of a challenge to Post Office Limited’s closure decision.

Cllr Macpherson said, “I believe the so called “consultation process” over the closure proposals was little more than a sham and having now Post Office Limited’s “Area Plan Decision Booklet – North East, Tayside & Fife” which supposedly justifies the decision to close particular Post Offices, I am increasingly convinced that we should not take their decision lying down and at least investigate all avenues in terms of the potential viability of mounting a legal challenge.

“I think the consultation process was fatally flawed, partly in relation to the inappropriately short consultation period of just six weeks. Although the Greater London Authority’s recent attempt to force judicial review in relation to London Post Office closures was rejected by the High Court, what has become clear is that the Cabinet Office’s own guidance states that 12 weeks minimum is good practice for public consultations and therefore Post Office Limited’s six week consultation falls far short of such good practice.

“Furthermore, as another example of the flawed consultation process, in respect of one Post Office (Nethergate in Dundee) - I and others objecting to the closure, including the City Council’s own objection, gave Post Office Limited clear, specific, evidence about customer growth in the future. In its decision booklet, Post Office Limited dismisses this evidence in just one sentence – “Information was also received on several new developments being planned in the area.”

“There is absolutely no explanation as to how Post Office Limited dealt with this evidence and why it dismissed it. In attempting to justify the closure in its decision booklet, Post Office Limited confines its comments to the accessibility issues of the nearest alternative Post Offices. It appears scant – if any – regard has been taken to the evidence presented to it, calling into question the appropriateness of the consultation process,” he continued.

Cllr Macpherson said that, on receipt of the Post Office Limited decision booklet, he immediately wrote to Sally Buchanan, Post Office Limited’s Network Development Manager, asking why the evidence of potential customer growth at Nethergate Post Office was given such scant mention in the decision booklet and why Post Office Limited appears to have ignored or overlooked that evidence. He has also contacted Professor Alan Alexander, Chair of Postwatch Scotland, the independent watchdog for postal services, about the issue.

Cllr Macpherson concluded, “At this stage it is difficult to say whether or not a legal challenge to Post Office Limited would be viable or succeed, but it is important to seek clear legal advice on this matter. I am aware from past cases that several local authorities have successfully worked together on other matters of concern to their citizens and what is abundantly clear from the Post Office Limited decision earlier this week is that people right across the North East, Tayside and Fife are extremely concerned about the large number of Post Office closures right across the whole region.”