Monday, August 31, 2009

Roadworks on Twitter!

Last week I updated residents about the impending roadworks on East Dock Street and Broughty Ferry Road and their potential impact on the West End as trunk traffic from the Tay Road Bridge going north of Dundee will be diverted via Riverside Drive and the Swallow Roundabout (click on headline to view earlier story).

At
the briefing meeting I attended last week, we were advised that Twitter would be used as one means of updating residents and the site is now up and running at http://twitter.com/A92_EastDock_St

Whilst this is an innovative approach by BEAR Scotland, I am pleased to say that, in a more conventional sense, they have also produced explanatory leaflets, have press advertising of the roadworks and are issuing regular news releases too.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Latest about Magdalen Green

We had an excellent meeting last Thursday evening of the Friends of Magdalen Green (FoMG) committee, with a good discussion of how the Friends can assist with further repairs to the bandstand - particularly a re-paint (a complex and expensive task on this listed structure) - and improved lighting on the Green.

I became chair of FoMG earlier this year - its a great group to be part of, with really committed committee members. Our webmaster (Liz Broumley) has recently updated the group's website (click on the headline above to view more) with updates on the winners of the photography competition for 2009, details of our forthcoming coffee morning and an update on the most recent repairs to the bandstand.

And ... talking of the Green ... last week saw the installation of 12 new litter bins. I rather felt I was becoming a serial complainer to the City Council about the lack of litter bins on the Green, and I am very grateful to the Director of Leisure & Communities for his willingness to provide additional bins. I'd still like to see a couple of really large ones with lids near the BBQ area, but getting another dozen bins is to be really welcomed. Liz has given me her permission to upload her photo from yesterday of a couple of locals inspecting a new bin ...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The X Factor 2009 - Jamie Archer - Auditions 2 (itv.com/xfactor)

And wasn't he very, very, very good! Also liked Rozelle from Trinidad and Tobago.

Tackling graffiti in the West End

Today's "Courier" has an article about the increasing graffiti problem and assurances I have received from the City Council’s Waste Management Department that further steps were being taken to tackle the issue. Click on the headline above to read the article.

Let’s be clear – graffiti is pure vandalism – it damages both public and private property and in the past few weeks it has been the subject of by far the most complaints I have received from constituents in the West End. There have been complaints about graffiti vandalism from right across the West End Ward – from Marketgait in the east to the city boundary in the west – but it’s a city wide issue.

Following a spate of graffiti complaints earlier this week in the West End, the Council’s Cleansing Services Manager advised me:

"At the Community Safety Partnership Operational group meeting on Tuesday I suggested we set up a short term group to look at the issues to determine if there are any further steps we can take to help combat this issue, and this will be taken forward over the coming weeks.

"Discussions have taken place with the Criminal Justice section, and agreement has been reached for community service people to be involved in painting the media cabinets. We anticipate this will start within a month or so. We are also providing graffiti removal packs to community groups to remove low level graffiti."

I welcome this - it will add to the good work in terms of graffiti removal by the Council’s Anti-Graffiti Squad. However, it is vital that all agencies including the Procurator Fiscal’s Service, Children’s Panel and the Courts take the issue very seriously. Following my raising the graffiti issue in the West End with the local Community Planning Partnership for the West End, a local working party to tackle graffiti in the West End, including local resident participation, has been established.

It is in my view – and the view of other councillors – that graffiti is a total menace and it must be proactively tackled and stamped out. I am pleased that agencies are prepared to work together to proactively tackle this vandalism.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Weeds on local roads

I complained bitterly last year about the extent of weeds on road edges and pavements in the West End, and all credit to the City Development Department - weed spraying in the West End was started earlier this year and I have had far fewer complaints from residents this year.

In response to an e-mail I sent the City Engineer recently, I received this from him today:

"I can confirm that a request for a second spraying of the weeds at the junction of Blackness Road and Norwood Crescent has been forwarded to Dundee Contract Services. I have also forwarded on your comments regarding the areas at the tree bases."

The tree bases are, of course, in Blackness Road, west of Balgay Road/Blackness Avenue.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Roadworks in East Dock Street and Broughty Ferry Road

Yesterday, along with a number of other councillors (from both Dundee City Council and Fife Council), I attended a briefing with BEAR Scotland about the road maintenance and junction improvement project in East Dock Street and Broughty Ferry Road.

Although to the east of the West End Ward, this major project will impact on the West End with an increase of traffic on Riverside Drive and possible congestion at the Swallow roundabout. This is because trunk traffic from the Tay Bridge going to the north of Dundee will be diverted via Riverside Drive and the Kingsway during the works.

I sought
assurances from BEAR Scotland that they have contingency arrangements in place should there be tailbacks at the Swallow roundabout back along Riverside Avenue.

Here's
part of a letter I received today from BEAR about the project (and see http://tinyurl.com/eastdock) :

A92 EAST DOCK STREET STRUCTURAL MAINTENANCE & Trades Lane Signalisation SCHEME
SCHEME NO. 07/NE/0101/025

Transport Scotland and Dundee City Council are working in partnership to deliver an essential road maintenance and junction improvement project within this financial year on the A92 trunk road between Gellatly Street and Greendykes Road.

The £2.8 Million project will involve resurfacing 2.3Km of the carriageway and the installation of a new signalised junction at Trades Lane and City Quay, which forms part of the Dundee Waterfront development plan. In order to resolve the long term flooding problem in the area we will also be installing a pumped drainage system at the south of Trades Lane. A leaflet is enclosed which provides details about the project and proposed Traffic Management arrangements.

The works are set to commence on the 8th September lasting for an estimated 10 weeks. It is inevitable that there will be some disruption and delays to road users. However, this is a Lane Rental type project where the contractor is awarded a bonus for early completion and penalised if the works take longer than the agreed timescales, such that any inconvenience to road users, residents and businesses is minimised.

I trust this helps to explain the nature of the project and the efforts being made to minimise delay during the works. It is hoped that the long term benefits will outweigh the inconvenience during construction.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Vince Cable in Dundee

As reported in tonight's "Evening Telegraph", Dr Vince Cable MP, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats and Shadow Chancellor, was in Dundee today to attend the adoption of John Barnett as Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Dundee West for the forthcoming Westminster parliamentary election.

Here's Vince and John (right) - and me and Vince (below) - at what I can honestly say is the wettest and windiest photocall I have attended in a very long time!

At his adoption John said, “I am delighted to have been chosen by the Liberal Democrats to contest the Dundee West and to Dr Vince Cable MP for attending my adoption meeting. I will be working hard for the people of Dundee West alongside the constituency’s two Liberal Democrat councillors, Helen Dick and Fraser Macpherson.”

We have a very able candidate in John Barnett and he will be working hard for Dundee West in the months ahead.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Brandon Muir : Significant Case Review and Independent Review

With City Council committees last night lasting around 5 hours and finishing around 11pm, doing an update on the events there was not possible yesterday, but I feel it appropriate to discuss today the debate over the Significant Case Review and Independent Review into the circumstances into the tragic and terrible death of Brandon Muir - without doubt the major - and most serious - matter to be discussed by city councillors in a very long time. You can read the report to the City Council's Policy & Resources Committee by clicking on the headline above. During the debate, I made the following points :

"Over the last few days, I can only say, I have been dismayed at the speed with which some have rushed to accept the findings of the Serious Case Review into the circumstances surrounding the death of Brandon Muir.

“Gaps and inaccuracies” made by all the agencies charged with the protection of children throughout Dundee are indeed acknowledged in the body of the Serious Case Review, but in reading the recommendations, I was struck that these read more like a basic course in social work rather than some innovative working practices not heard of before.

May I make clear, this is not a criticism of the reports authors, who have clearly conducted a very searching and detailed inquiry but they must surely have been frustrated with their findings that even basic office procedures, such as minute taking at important meetings, were not observed.

For instance, I refer to recommendations on Case Conferences, item 11.1.1 (on page 46). ‘All agencies must ensure the most up to date information is available to the case conference’

Does it really take reports such as these to advise anyone attending such an important meeting that they should be in possession of up to date information?

I think that I will not be the only person who, having read the reports, was deeply concerned at the apparent lack of preparedness in relation to the Initial Referral Discussion on 28th February 2008, some 17 days before the death of Brandon Muir.

If these recommendations regarding recording of case notes and minute taking at meetings were not already being carried out by the agencies involved, questions must asked, if not - why not?

The Serious Case Review painted a picture of an inadequate system where proper recording of case notes was something of an exception rather than a rule and “little or no managerial oversight of work” existed (to quote Para 3.3.9 on Page 8). Why such a system – or perhaps I should say “non system” – would have been allowed to develop must now be subject to our scrutiny.

Much comment has also been made over the last few days about whether the shocking, violent, death of Brandon Muir could have been ‘predicted’.

The author of the Serious Case Review came to the conclusion that it could not have been. Only in as much as none of us can see into the future – I agree that, indeed, it could not have been predicted.

The more pertinent question is whether it could have been prevented. The Serious Case Review states there was ‘little opportunity to prevent the fatal assault’ on Brandon. The key to this would seem to have been that with the information available at the Initial Referral Discussion meeting, whilst there were ‘serious concerns’, there ‘were no red lights’ and immediate removal of Brandon to a place of safety was not considered necessary. This of course was the missed window of opportunity that would have changed the turn of events.

The author also raised the benefit of hindsight. It is my belief the decision to remove a child to a place of safety must be based on whether the decision makers charged with the responsibility of that decision, with certain information before them, would consider the child to be at risk. Yet the report does not actually tell us what information was brought to the table at the meeting on 28th February 2008, so we are unable to question what information caused ‘serious concern’ but not a ‘red light’. In light of the disastrous consequences that ensued, surely we must be asking if the threshold for a ‘red light’ should be lower than whatever information was presented at that meeting on 28th February.

So - perhaps scrutiny should now be made of the criteria or guidelines for the categorisation of cases as a result of Initial Referral Discussion meetings. When does a case become a “red light”; when not, and are the criteria that lie behind this adequate and robust.

Mindful of the restriction of time for me to speak, I can only say that the reports have left me with many more questions than answers.

Suggestions that elected members should scrutinise these reports in detail at an all party committee have been met with some resistance and I would make the point that any unwillingness to allow proper, detailed scrutiny will be viewed by a concerned public as being a wholly inadequate handling of, and response to, this report, - by Dundee City Council.

At this committee, members have – in terms of Standing Orders of the Council – the ability to ask a couple of questions and limit contributions to 4 minutes. Further, there is no opportunity to call witnesses to this meeting. It goes without saying that all will agree with accepting the recommendations from Professor Wilson and Mr Hawthorn but in terms of a proper response by Dundee City Council to these reports, failure to bring these reports to an adequate and public scrutiny process would be unsatisfactory, inadequate and not acceptable in terms of properly scrutinising a catastrophic failure of service delivery.

I would further suggest that councillors should be afforded a further meeting with the authors of the reports in order that they may ask further questions thrown up by the reports. I am in agreement with Bailie Borthwick that only 90 minutes to read such an in-depth and complex document prior to meeting with the reports’ authors was woefully inadequate. It is only now that having read and digested the information in the reports that serious questions can be raised with the reports’ authors.

The answers to these questions are nothing more and nothing less than Brandon’s family and, indeed, all citizens of Dundee deserve."

My call for a further meeting with the reports' authors was agreed to but, overall, the response of the council administration - in failing to agree to further and proper scrutiny of the reports - has been extremely disappointing and concerning. It is vital that the City Council responds properly and adequately to the very serious issues raised by these reports.

Tonight's report in the 'Evening Telegraph' can be read by going to http://tinyurl.com/brandonmuir.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Proposed Riverside Nature Park - an update

I recently asked for a progress report from the City Council's City Development Department on the proposed Riverside Nature Park and use of the use of Vacant and Derelict Land fund monies to improve the site and hopefully lead to its public opening. I have received the following update :

"I can confirm that the nature park project is progressing well and we are still on track to achieve full spend by March 2011.

At present,
we are in the process of finalising the ecological design, which will inform the final land uses and the Leisure and Communities Department are currently preparing a management and maintenance plan, which will help clarify requirements and responsibilities for the different parts of the site.

Technical issues and agreements have still to be reached in relation to the former use as a landfill, although we are working with all stakeholders to ensure that the progress of the Nature Park will not be hindered.

As the project design advances there will be consultations with elected members, 'special interest groups' and the wider community and these initial consultations are in development."

I am pleased to see progress taking place. Many West End residents have long wished to see the site opened to the public, particularly given its stunning views across Invergowrie Bay and the River Tay. I will continue to keep a close eye on progress in this matter.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

X Factor 2009 - Danyl Johnson

Err ... or him!

X Factor back!

... and despite all the usual dreadful auditions in Week 1, in Joe McElderry we may have already heard the 2009 winner.

Summer Saturday in the Cultural Quarter

Today is the turn of West Port, South Tay Street and Nethergate to be the featured area for "Summer Saturday" - see http://tinyurl.com/summersaturday (or click on the headline above) to read more.

Great to see local businesses participating in "Summer Saturday" in this vibrant shopping area in the West End.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Shirley Bassey - Finale!

Goldfinger (Live at Royal Albert Hall)

Surgeries return!

With the start of the new school term this week, my weekly surgeries started again last night at Blackness Primary School. If you click on the headline above, you can see the weekly surgery list.

In addition to my weekly surgeries, this afternoon, Alison McInnes MSP, John Barnett & I held a joint surgery for the West End - at Blackness Library.

Next week, during a visit to Dundee by Vince Cable MP, John Barnett will be adopted by the Liberal Democrats as our Westminster Parliamentary Candidate for Dundee West. John is without doubt the most experienced politician the LibDems have adopted as a parliamentary candidate for the constituency in many years. An able and effective communicator, he will give Labour and the Nationalists a real run for their money in Dundee West at the General Election.

Originally from Angus, John studied law at the University of Dundee and spent 20 years in international business. Recently involved locally in management consultancy and the heritage sector, he is undertaking postgraduate studies in economics. John is married with two children at school. Here's a photo (above right) of John Barnett and Alison McInnes MSP at Blackness Library this afternoon.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Shirley Bassey - the week continues ...

Diamonds Are Forever

Homebase site latest

Further to my last update on the good news that the administrators of the Riverside Drive former Homebase site had agreed to my request to restore the original pavement and remove the claustrophobic pathway to the north of the site, I have now been informed by an officer in the City Council’s City Development Department that :

“The works will commence on Monday 24th August and will be completed within 5 days. I will instruct the contractor to reinstate the footpath and kerbing etc. back to its original condition and alignment, which will allow the original means of access for all pedestrians along Riverside Drive. I will also insist on the temporary footpath (formed adjacent to the railway line) to be blocked off to negate any further vandalism.”

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bassey Week continues ...

with 'History Repeating Itself'

BBC digital switchover help scheme

Later today, I met with two senior representatives of the BBC digital switchover help scheme to discuss ways in which elderly and disabled people in the West End can be assisted with the digital TV switchover, taking place in Dundee and Tayside next summer.

I met with Alan Moore, the Switchover Help Scheme Manager for Scotland and Colin Scott, the Scheme's regional project co-ordinator for Tayside, to be briefed on the details of the help scheme for elderly and disabled people to ensure that no residents are left with blank TV screens after analogue TV signals are ended across Tayside in mid 2010.

The help scheme allows those aged over 75 and those on certain disability benefits a low-cost way of converting to digital TV including the equipment and full installation - to remove any worries about losing TV reception. For many on low incomes, the service is entirely free of charge and today's meeting was useful to get the full details of the scheme from its senior managers. I am anxious that all elderly and disabled constituents get full advantage of the scheme which has been set up and is being run by the BBC.

I am advised that all people who qualify for this useful help scheme to convert to digital television will be automatically sent information about it, probably starting next January - in plenty time before the old analogue TV signals are switched off in the summer of next year. However, there will be other publicity to ensure people are made aware of the scheme and I have specifically invited BBC digital switchover help scheme representatives to come to the community fayre being run as part of the West End Christmas Week later this year as it will be an ideal opportunity to discuss the benefits of the scheme with local people in Dundee's West End.

The digital Switchover Help Scheme is being run by the BBC, under an agreement with government. More information is available at http://www.helpscheme.co.uk/ or by phoning 0800 40 85 900.

Brandon Muir - today's reports

This morning, along with a number of other city councillors, I attended a briefing meeting shortly after receiving copies of the reports by former Fife Chief Constable Peter Wilson and independent social work consultant Jimmy Hawthorn into the circumstances surrounding the tragedy of Brandon Muir's death.

It is absolutely
vital that the recommendations from today's reports are acted upon swiftly and in full. At this morning's briefing meeting, I sought assurances that there is adequate risk assessment to prevent harm to children. What happened to Brandon Muir was a tragedy and it is vital that all agencies promptly address the issues highlighted by Jimmy Hawthorn and Professor Wilson in their reports.

Child protection concerns are a Scotland wide issue. The Scottish Government must look again at all existing child protection cases across the country in light of this report.

Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Tavish Scott said, after receiving the reports today :

" ... this case isn’t just about Dundee. The Scottish Government needs to improve the way it looks after vulnerable children right across the country.

"Thousands of children live with drug addicted parents and could be at risk. Back in March I asked the First Minister if he would review this.

"Alex Salmond refused to say if any of these cases were under review. But we need to know that the Government has identified all these vulnerable youngsters. We now need a categorical assurance from the First Minister that his Government is looking again at existing child protection cases in light of this report."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Shirley Bassey Week!

Don't Cry Out Loud

BARA tonight

I attended the committee meeting of BARA (Blackness Area Residents' Association) tonight. The Association, already a recognised tenants' association with Dundee City Council, has now received similar recognition from Home Scotland.

Given the number of Home Scotland tenancies in BARA's area - particularly in Peddie Street - this is good news.

At tonight's meeting, the group discussed an action plan for the next few months, including newsletters to residents and a general meeting in the autumn.

Many thanks Andrew!

Most grateful to my LibDem colleague Andrew Reeves, who is the Scottish LibDem Director of Campaigns, for his kind words about www.dundeewestend.com following the recent "Total Politics" best councillor awards.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Shirley Bassey - If you go away

There is no-one quite like Dame Shirley!

Former Homebase site - good news

As reported in tonight's "Evening Telegraph", I am very pleased indeed at the positive response from PricewaterhouseCoopers, administrators of the developers who owned the former Homebase site - and the Royal Bank of Scotland, principal lenders, who have now agreed to my request to remove a temporary pathway around the site in Riverside Drive and restore the more open and safe original pathway around it.

I had raised the matter with PricewaterhouseCoopers following many residents' concerns about the safety on the temporary pathway that is claustrophobic and where a local resident was assaulted and robbed.

Bruce Cartwright, the joint administrator from PricewaterhouseCoopers wrote to me today in the following terms :

"We spoke again last Friday but I thought it also appropriate to confirm in writing the outcome of our discussions with regard to the site at Riverside Drive owned by Duncarse, a company over which I have been appointed Administrator.

"As you know, the path alongside the site was moved to accommodate the proposed building works prior to our involvement. We have encountered difficulties due to vandalism and while we have taken steps in the past to repair the lighting I was also distressed to hear that one of your constituents had been the subject of a robbery on the path due to its enclosed nature.

"I indicated to you previously that as the building work was no longer imminent I was in agreement that it would be in the interests of the local community to restore the path to its original position by moving the hoarding.

"I am pleased to confirm that after discussion with the Royal Bank of Scotland who were the primary lender to the company, the Bank has agreed to provide me with funds to allow the necessary work to be carried out. We are treating this as a matter of urgency and we will be instructing contractors this week.

"On a less positive note you may not be aware but we discovered late on Friday that the site had been subjected to considerable vandalism last Thursday/Friday and as a result we took immediate steps to disconnect the electricity due as a matter of public safety. This confirms our shared view that the restoration of the path makes sense both in terms of open access and avoidance of further damage to electric cables."

This move by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Royal Bank of Scotland is very positive and I am pleased that the companies have responded in a positive manner to the public concerns.

I think that local people will be pleased to see the original pathway restored and this will remove the many safety concerns that have been raised about the temporary pathway.

PricewaterhouseCoopers has also said it will assist with any initiative to have graffiti cleaned up once the hoardings are moved and I am hopeful that a community initiative to tackle the extensive graffiti mess may be possible.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Best Blogs 2009

Yesterday, "Total Politics" announced the UK's Best 30 councillors' blogs and I am rather flattered that www.dundeewestend.com is the top LibDem councillor blog and 16th overall.

For the record, here's the result :

1(1) Luke Akehurst LA
2 Bickerstaffe Record LA
3 Richard Willis CO
4 (3) Paul Scully CO
5 Steve Tierney CO
6 (5) Bob Piper LA
7 (4) James Cleverly MLA CO
8 (29) Gwilym Euros Roberts NA
9 Stuart Syvret NA
10 (26) Dave Luckett CO
11 Cllr Tim Blog LA
12 (15) Fair Deal Phil LA
13 Kerron Cross LA
14 (9) Iain Lindley CO
15 Lightwater CO
16 (16) Fraser Macpherson LD
17 (22) City Hall (Roger Evans) CO
18 Emma Warman CO
19 Andrew Burns Really Bad Blog LA
20 Rene Kinzett CO
21 (25) Aitken's Edinburgh LA
22 (14) Blog Dogfael PC
23 (30) Spin Blog CO
24 Whittlesey North CO
25 Chris Whiteside CO
26 Anthony McKeown (Cllr) LA
27 (8) Bristow Blog CO
28 (18) Brian Robson LD
29 Lanson Boy LD
30 Mary Reid LD

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Shirley Bassey - This is my life

Bassey for Saturday.

Both before and after the football photocall today, been delivering parts of the West End with FOCUS; most grateful to all who helped today. Sore feet, so chilling out watching 'Hairspray' tonight on one of the Sky movie channels - we saw Hairspray in New York last year and the film is just about as good.

Riverside Boys - Under 11s - and now Under 9s!

This morning I had the pleasure of attending a photocall at the Riverside playing fields for the Riverside Boys junior football team.

This was to mark the presentation of new strips sponsored by Hamish Robbie Lettings. The team has gone from strength to strength in recent months - in fact there's now two Riverside Boys' teams -Under 9s and Under 11s and the teams are now quality marked by the SFA. The new under 9s also reached the final in a local competition - a great start.

All credit to Paul Johnston, West End Community Vice Chair, who has put so much effort into getting the teams established - and many thanks to John "blether with" Brown of the 'Evening Telegraph' (cartoon right!) for covering the presentation today.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bassey Week on the blog ...

I've decided to do a few themed weeks on favourite artists. And the Dame Shirley Bassey to start, so let's get this party started. Superb.

High Hedges

Overgrown hedges in the West End have been an on-going issue in the past few years and, being aware of my interest in this issue - on behalf of constituents - the Scottish Liberal Democrats' Head of Policy and Research in the Scottish Parliament kindly advised me today of the following news release from Scottish Government. It has taken a long time for Scottish Government to get to this consultation stage and I am hoping there will now be prompt action to tackle the issue :

Combating 'hedge rage' : 14/08/2009

Views are being sought on how neighbourly disputes over high hedges can be resolved more effectively.

This could include encouraging the inclusion of hedge height limits in property title deeds, better mediation options, or examining the case for a new law on the issue.

Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing said:

"High hedge disputes should be a relatively trivial matter, with those involved resolving things with a simple neighbourly chat.

"But for those involved, the issue can sometimes be far from trivial and we have seen from recent cases that such disputes can, in a relatively small number of instances, get out of hand.

"What starts off as an amicable discussion can often spiral out of control leading to confrontation and antisocial behaviour in our communities.

"Thankfully, it appears there are only a relatively small number of people affected by this, but with a marked rise in correspondence from the public on this we want to examine the issue and see if anything more can be done.

"Of course, there is existing legislation in place to deal with any dispute which does get out of hand, but is there anything we could do to stop hedge disputes getting to that stage?

"The answer may be that existing powers need to be strengthened to deal with the various issues at hand, or that there are options other than legislation, but it is almost a decade since this was last looked at by a Government in Scotland, and we want to ask the question.
"I am keen to hear the views of as many people as possible on this and I would encourage anyone with an interest to respond."

Cllr Harry McGuigan, COSLA Community Wellbeing and Safety Spokesperson said:

"I recognise the misery that some people feel as a result of disputes with their neighbours about high hedges and welcome this consultation paper, which takes a sensible look at a wide range of possible options.

"Further I encourage local authorities to respond in order to help provide better clarity about the scale and nature of the problem and inform decisions about the most appropriate way forward.

"Clearly helping neighbours in our communities to avoid such disputes in the first place would be the best solution and we are working in partnership with the Scottish Government to help prevent all forms of antisocial behaviour in Scotland".

Dr Colin Watson, from the organisation Scothedge, said:

"We are campaigning on behalf of over 250 people affected by uncontrolled and poorly maintained trees and hedges. In our experience the problem arises because under current law there is simply no requirement for a hedge grower to consider the impact his actions are having on his neighbour.

We welcome the news that the Scottish Government is seeking a solution to this problem. Our members cover the length and breadth of Scotland from Skye to Dumfries and Arran to Fife."
The consultation period will last for three months, concluding on November 13. The responses will be analysed and a full report of the analysis will be published in early 2010.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thursday Updates

* 'V and A at Dundee' - hopeful of progress : I understand that, next Monday, Mark Jones, Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum and Mike Russell MSP, Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution, will make an announcement relating to the ‘V and A at Dundee’ project.

A feasibility study conducted for the project steering group by Whetstone Group and Conran & Partners, launched in February 2009 at the"V and A at Dundee: Making it Happen" conference, concluded that 'V and A at Dundee' would have significant economic and cultural benefits for Dundee, Tayside and Scotland.

For the many of us in the city that can see the enormous advantages to Dundee - and its waterfront project in particular - of the "V and A at Dundee" proposal, I am hoping we will hear next Monday a specific commitment to proceed with the project and that Scottish Government is going to make all necessary funding available.

* In response to a letter about the former Homebase site, published in the Evening Telegraph earlier this week, I have a letter in tonight's edition - see http://tinyurl.com/homebaselttr.
* At lunchtime today, three of my fellow councillors and I had a briefing on progress being made by the Dundee Travel Active project, aiming to encourage residents of, or visitors to, Dundee to walk or cycle a little more to improve people's health and the environment. Its core target area includes much of the West End. You can read more about Dundee Travel Active by clicking on the headline above.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Update on the Homebase site safety concerns

Blogger back in business, so - as reported in today's 'Courier' - I have had useful discussions with the administrators of the former Duncarse Riverside Ltd in respect of the former Homebase site. Here's my News Release from yesterday on the subject :

"Dundee City Councillor for the West End, Cllr Fraser Macpherson, said today that he had had constructive discussions with the administrators of the former Homebase site on Riverside Drive, following concerns about public safety around the site. There have been a number of incidents of concern on the temporary pathway around the site including an assault and robbery on it, and residents have described the pathway as unsafe, claustrophobic and a public danger.

Cllr Macpherson revealed that he had been in talks with PricewaterhouseCoopers, the administrators of the former owners of the site – Duncarse Riverside Ltd – about the possibility of the perimeter hoardings being moved to allow for the restoration of the original far more ‘open’ and safer pathway to the south of the site to be restored, pending the site being sold and construction work commencing at some point in the future.

Cllr Macpherson said, “Although there are issues about how any works would be funded and this is yet to be resolved, I do have to say that the administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers do appear anxious to find a solution to this and view, in principle, restoration of the original pathway as a sensible thing to do.

“Discussions will continue later this week and I am pleased that we are at last making some progress on this problem.”

Cllr Macpherson said that the possibility of graffiti removal at the site had also been discussed. He added, “The graffiti is pretty awful and no advertisement for the city for those arriving by train or along Riverside Drive by car – it would be good to see this mess cleaned away as soon as possible.”

Dundee - One City, Many Discoveries

It had been my intention to update the site today with an article about useful discussions with PricewaterhouseCoopers, administrators of the former Duncarse Riverside Limited - with regard to public safety at the former Homebase site on Riverside Drive.

Err ... but "Blogger" has technical problems tonight so that update will have to wait until tomorrow. Meantime, here's the video of the new Dundee branding ...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ce Ce Peniston - Finally (Remix)

And a quality remix at that!

Vandalism concern - Tullideph Road

Today's 'Courier' covered residents' concerns about vandalism in Tullideph Road and my actions in seeking to get the mess left behind removed.

Click on the headline to view the story.

I am pleased to advise that the mess was cleared this morning and that I have been promised fencing repairs.

I am most grateful to the Courier for highlighting concerns of residents. The issue of vandalism will be discussed at the next meeting of "Community Spirit", the community group for the area.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Nick Clegg on ...

... voting for the LibDems, what makes them different and on cuts

Hillside Road area - update

An update on my recent item about the poor road condition in Hillside Road and adjacent roads (click on headline to view this) - today's "Courier" has an item about this - see http://tinyurl.com/hillsiderd.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Pavement condition complaints

I recently raised residents' complaints about the condition of the south side footpath on Perth Road - between Thomson Street & Step Row. I have had the following feedback from the City Council :

"The area inspector checked this section of footway on the south side of Perth Road between Thomson Street and Step Row and noted a small number of areas where the footway surface was in less than perfect condition however these areas are too shallow to fill with temporary material. In the short term he will continue to inspect this footway on a regular basis and monitor its condition. It has been provisionally included in a future (not this financial year) programme of improvement works although this is subject to change dependant on funding and its ranking in terms of deterioration compared with all other footways included in the annual inspection to assess condition."

I have written back saying "I am concerned that the pavement is being left and only being monitored at this time, particularly the usage by elderly people from the Paton’s Lane and Seafield Lane sheltered housing complexes" and pressing for assurances about resurfacing.

I have also received assurances about pavement repairs on Perth Road east of the Invercarse Hotel (north side) and have raised residents' complaints about pavement condition on parts of Seafield Road and on Blackness Road (north side around Rosefield Street and Rosefield Place).

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Overgrown shrubbery - Hawkhill to St Peter Street

Following residents' complaints about the state of the shrubbery to the south and west side of the pathway that runs from the top of St Peter Street to Hawkhill (adjacent to Ryehill Health Centre), I contacted Dundee Contract Services about it.

The shrubbery is greatly overgrown and protruding onto the pathway (the ground to the east and north side of the pathway is owned by NHS Tayside).

Here's the response from DCS :

"The shrub bed directly to the north of the church building is owned by (the City Council), which we maintain on their behalf. I have had a look at the site and shrubs do require some pruning back from the path line which I shall arrange to have carried out."

'A Fresh Start for Britain'

We must create a sustainable economy, build a fairer society and clean up politics for good.
Dear friend,

Ever since I became leader of the Liberal Democrats I have been travelling the country, holding public meetings, listening and talking to the people I meet. The economy is in a mess, people are losing jobs and everywhere I go, people are angry at the way politicians have let them down.

The two old parties don’t really want to change a political system that keeps them in power or challenge the bankers who got the economy into such a terrible mess. The next election will be your chance to tell them they're wrong – your chance to vote for something different.

Many people believed they would get change for the better in 1997. Instead, under Labour, the gap between rich and poor has got bigger, our politics has got even dirtier, our civil liberties have been eroded, the environment around us is in danger and our international reputation is at a new low. Labour let us all down.

The Conservatives say they want change but all they really want is to keep things the way they are. They say they want fairness but demand tax cuts for millionaires. They say they want to protect the environment, but have linked up in Europe with people who deny climate change is a problem at all. They will promise everything and change nothing.

Britain is in the teeth of three crises: a huge banking crisis and recession, a rotten Westminster system abused by too many MPs for personal gain, and the threat of climate change. We need big changes to fix our economy, our discredited politics and our environment, yet both Labour and the Conservatives are letting the City, the House of Commons and polluters off the hook. No action against bankers’ bonuses. No action to give people the right to sack MPs guilty of breaking the rules. No action to slash emissions. They say just enough to get in the headlines, but when the spotlight moves on it's back to business as usual.

I believe there’s a better way. This country can be fairer, it can be safer, greener, and stronger in the world. Only the Liberal Democrats have the ideas, the energy, and the ambition to provide the new hope the country needs. If that’s what you want too, after twelve years of Labour disappointment, turn to us. We carry the torch of progress now.


Despite all the gloomy news, there's still real hope for the future – but only if we make a fresh start. We need strong leadership and a different kind of politics to make it happen. The way things have always been done has got us into this mess, and it will never get us out.


Above all, we must do everything to protect the next generation from the mistakes made today. For me, how we treat young children is the most important measure of what kind of society we want, what kind of values we hold dear.

Even in these difficult times, giving all children from all backgrounds the life chances they deserve will always be my personal priority.

So if you want things to be different, choose a party that is different. Choose the Liberal Democrats.

Best wishes,

Nick Clegg
Leader of the Liberal Democrats

(You can click on the headline above to read "A Fresh Start for Britain")

Friday, August 07, 2009

WestFest 2010 latest!

The Dundee WestFest 2010 website has recently been updated with details of the Festival committee members and updating residents about the themes the Festival will cover. You can read more by going to clicking on the headline above.

If you would
like to get involved, please email the committee at westendfestival@rocketmail.com.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Busy Wednesday ...

As well as a large number of constituent issues and problems to deal with yesterday I also :

* Attended a very interesting briefing by the City Council on the proposed "Winter Light Night" in Dundee - taking place on Friday 27th November. The evening will offer exciting entertainment, both visual and aural mixing light and music against a backdrop of street markets, performance and entertainment, street art, illuminations, torchlight processions, heritage walks, story telling, late opening shopping and cultural venues.

Winter Light
Night will take place during this year's West End Christmas Week and as the activities will take place in Tay Square and around DCA/Sensation as well as across the City Centre, its hoped that many West End residents will attend and participate. More on this in the coming weeks ...

* Following on from the continuiung concerns about the unsafe pathway at the former Homebase site I raised again earlier this week (click on headline to view more), I had a very useful meeting with one of the City Council's solicitors about the issue. He is looking into all aspects of the situation and will in the near future be in a position to provide a full legal opinion. I am anxious that the temporary pathway is replaced with a safer, less claustrophobic, path, I hope before the darker winter nights arrive.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Paola McClure

With her permission, I'm doing this entry about the rather superb website of West End resident and artist Paola McClure - click on the headline above to view.

Earlier this week, Paola advised me, "I am Concrete Wardrobe's (groovy shop in Edinburgh) maker of the month during the festival. I am showing large soft sculpture figures as well as my growing family of anti-dolls."

And ... from Paola's profile :

"Although Paola's work is brash, bright and humourous the work can have a darker edge to it and distortions of proportions can lead to a sense of unease. This unease can be exaggerated, as with any figurative sculpture, by the very physical presence of the work. The eyes, however, do not follow you round the room ..."

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Concerns about the former Homebase site

For many months, I have highlighted the safety concerns about the dreadful pathway around the former Homebase site on Riverside Drive. Click on the headline above to view an earlier blog entry on this concern.

Last night's "Evening Telegraph" covered the assault and robbery of one of my constituents on the pathway. I spoke with her on Sunday; it was a terrible experience for this lady and it reinforces my view (and hers) that the temporary pathway is unsafe and must be replaced with a safer, less claustrophobic, path.

I am meeting with a representative of the City Council's Legal Section tomorrow to discuss what legal steps may be taken over this matter.

Monday, August 03, 2009

St Peter's Free Church redevelopment

Today I had the pleasure of seeing progress on the extensive redevelopment of the church building at St Peter's Free Church in St Peter's Street.

I am grateful to Rev David Robertson for showing me round - and giving reassurance regarding the impact of the works on adjacent residents.

This is an exciting project that will not only provide the church with excellent and modern facilities; it will be a real community asset for the West End, and will doubtless be used for community events in the future.

Click on the headline above to see photos of the redevelopment (on Flickr).

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Harris Academy : Education Cabinet Secretary clarifies priorities on school building programme

Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Fiona Hyslop MSP, has clarified how Scottish Government intends to prioritise schools to be included in the first tranche of announcement for new schools buildings, to be made, in the case of secondary schools, next month.

In a letter I received yesterday, responding to my request for clarification as to the criteria Scottish Government intends using in prioritising further capital funding, the Cabinet Secretary said,

"Decisions will be taken on the basis of the best data information and intelligence available about the scale, nature and distribution of needs across Scotland. This includes the school estate Core Facts data, already submitted by authorities three times since 2004; a similar succession of school estate management plans; and information from bilateral discussions with, visits to, and representations from authorities, all of which have helped build up a national picture of where the scale and urgency of the need for replacement schools are greatest."

I wrote to Scottish Government to seek assurances that local authorities will have genuine input into the selection process so that we in Dundee can make the case for investment in our city's schools.
Given that the identification of the schools to get capital funding is going to rest with Scottish Government, unlike PPP schemes where individual local authorities made decisions as to which projects to take forward given their local knowledge about the state of their school estate, I think it is vitally important that the views of local authorities are sought and have clear influence over the schools chosen for improvement.

I am pleased that the Cabinet Secretary has given the assurance of bilateral discussions, with visits to and representations from, local councils. I am anxious that the case for capital funding for improvements of the Harris Academy building is made with Scottish Government and I made the point to Scottish Government that I want to see Harris Academy benefiting.

Within Dundee's secondary school sector, Harris Academy's building is recognised as being in considerable need of improvement and must be a key priority for the City Council. Local councils must have input into this process of determining where any new capital funding is allocated to provide the local dimension on any decisions.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Tackling the litter problem

I was pleased to be advised by the City Council's Waste Management Department this week of progress towards implementing a litter protocol for schoolchildren in the city.

Having received complaints from residents over past months about litter left at lunchtimes in the Perth Road area, I have been in touch with both Harris Academy and the Waste Management Department about this. The school has been very proactive in following up complaints and has put staff resource in to tackle it. Being aware that this is not just an issue in the West End, I had asked the Waste Management Department what was being done from a strategic point of view, across the city.

The idea of the litter protocol will mean littering will be treated as anti-social behaviour. Anti-social advice letters issued to those littering, these being copied to the school and parent/guardian, with further action through the anti-social behaviour route where repeat offending takes place.

I am advised that the protocol will be launched as a pilot in the Morgan Academy area once the schools return later this month. As part of the pilot, Waste Management staff will meet Eco schools groups and teachers and also giving a presentation to all pupils. There will also be visits to all food outlets in the area to encourage them to :

1. Reduce the amount of packaging they give out
2. Take a more active role in cleaning up outside their shops
3. Report offenders

A procative approach on the litter issue is to be welcomed and I have requested that the department keeps me updated as to the success and impact of the pilot of the protocol on littering.