Monday 30 June 2008

Smell problem hopefully resolved

I have today received assurances from the City Council’s Head of Waste Management that concerns raised by many residents of the West End about a bad smell apparently coming from the Riverside Civic Amenity site over the past few days should hopefully soon be resolved.

Over the past few days I have had lots of complaints from people in the River Crescent, Newhall Gardens and Riverside Place areas about a really bad smell, apparently coming from the Riverside Civic Amenity site. Indeed, when I attended the River Crescent Residents’ Association AGM on yesterday at the Botanic Garden, many residents at the well-attended meeting were complaining about the smell – so bad that they couldn’t sit out in their gardens and had to shut windows.

I immediately contacted both Environmental Health and Waste Management and the City Council’s Head of Waste Management, having obtained feedback from staff at Riverside Civic Amenity site, called me this afternoon to say that the source of the problem appears to have been traced.

Over the period Thursday to Saturday a windrow (row of cut hay) was moved and this disturbed old compost. The work had been planned for this period as the wind direction was likely to ensure any smell would be away from the residential housing to the north, but clearly it did cause a problem in the area over the past few days.

I hope given what I have been advised by the City Council that the matter is now resolved and there will be no further smell nuisance, but I will be keeping a close eye on the situation. I should add that there were a number of other complaints from residents in other parts of the West End – for example Hillside Road and Menzieshill Road – but it looks likely that these emanated from fields to the west of the City.

Lastly, a burst large waste waster system cover near the junction of Riverside Drive and Riverside Avenue which had resulted in a mess round the cover had also been reported to me by residents. Having spoken with Scottish Water today about this, I have been assured that the cover will be replaced and the debris tidied as a matter of urgency.

Sunday 29 June 2008

West End Under 10s football team ... and River Crescent Residents' Association ...

At lunchtime, the new West End Under 10s boys' football team played its first "official match" and the photo (right) is of the team at Riverside Playing Fields today with Paul Johnston (Team Manager), Stuart Ferguson of Barnetts Motor Group and myself.

It is great to see an under 10s football team established in the West End – a totally new initiative – and I am very grateful to Paul Johnston of West End Community Council, whose drive and initiative has made this possible.

We also owe a debt of gratitude to Barnetts Motors Group, who have sponsored the team football strips and to the local primary schools – Blackness, Ancrum Road, St Joseph’s and Park Place – for their involvement.

After getting a wee bit wet standing in the rain at Riverside Playing Fields, I was guest speaker at the River Crescent Residents' Association AGM (held at the Botanic Garden) - a great turnout of residents and useful discussion on local issues.

Saturday 28 June 2008

Another joint surgery with MSP ...

Having recently done a joint surgery with Joe FitzPatrick, MSP for Dundee West, I am now doing another joint West End Ward surgery with an MSP - this time with North East Scotland LibDem member Alison McInnes MSP (pictured right).

It takes place in the Activity Room of Blackness Library between 12.45pm and 1.30pm this coming Tuesday (1st July) - all West End residents welcome!

Friday 27 June 2008

Old Labour, New Joke

Great hilarity reading the "thank you" comments from the Labour candidate at the Henley by-election on his website :

"Not a great night for Labour, but no worse than the by-elections in Romsey and Winchester when Labour was 20 points in front in the polls. Another truly awful night, however, for the Liberal Democrats, who threw their full by-election machine at this one and didn't even come close. The mutterings against LibDem Leader Nick Clegg at Westminster will be a little louder today."

Reality check needed, I think.

The LibDem vote (9680) was UP on the general election by 1.3%.

The Labour vote (1066) was DOWN on the last general election by 11.6% and apart from being beaten by the LibDems and the Tories, Labour was humiliatingly beaten by the Greens and the BNP.

Labour now reminds me of the Callaghan government in 1979, limping to impending defeat. I doubt anyone will mourne the departure of Gordon Brown.

Postwatch response

I sent my recent objection to the Post Office closures to Postwatch as well as Post Office Ltd as I believe it is vitally important that the independent postal services watchdog is made aware of the facts that support the campaign to keep these post offices open.

I have now had a response from Postwatch as follows :

Dear Councillor Macpherson

Network Change Programme

Thank you for copying Postwatch Scotland into your correspondence regarding the proposed closures of Nethergate and Lochee Road Post Offices.

Regarding Nethergate Post Office you outline your concerns about the reasons for the proposal as it is an area which is going to grow significantly in the future.

Your correspondence with respect to Lochee Road outlines your particular concerns regarding the accessibility to alternative branches especially for vulnerable members of the community.

You also mention that you feel that both communities would receive a lower quality of service at other branches and that they would both be losing a vital service should these closures go ahead.

Postwatch Scotland's focus will be on whether Post Office Ltd's proposals meet the newly introduced minimum access criteria for post offices which aim to ensure communities are within a reasonable distance from a post office.

We will also check that local factors – such as public transport arrangements, pertinent topographical features, demographics and the impact on the local economy – have been properly considered.

However, I should make you aware that Postwatch Scotland does not have the power to overturn Post Office Ltd's final decision on any closure.

The concerns you raise are of great value to Postwatch Scotland and will help to influence our response to Post Office Ltd at the end of the consultation period.

The information has also been passed to our network team responsible for assessing Post Office Ltd's plans. I would like to thank you for taking the time to raise your concerns with us.

If you would like to discuss this, or we can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Yours sincerely

Emma Swithenbank
Postwatch Scotland Administrator

Thursday 26 June 2008

12 months of drift, dither and failure

Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of Gordon Brown as Prime Minister, and what a pretty hopeless year it has been – in 7 key areas, all we have seen is failure:

* Brown has failed to bring an end to Labour’s assault on civil liberties
* Brown has failed to grasp the nettle on climate change
* Brown has failed to break open the poverty trap
* Brown has failed to give power back to the people
* Brown has failed to restore Britain's international reputation
* Brown has failed to deliver economic stability
* Brown has failed to deliver competent government

I think the summary of the past year (below) produced by the Liberal Democrats sort of sums up a year of the Labour Prime Minister’s drift, dither and failure:

How did it all go so horribly wrong for Gordon Brown?

It seemed to start so well. On June 27th 2007, Brown swept into office as Prime Minister in charge of a party that had crowned him unopposed as leader. Labour was comfortably ahead in the polls, the new PM’s personal ratings were high, and his promise to govern more inclusively, more humbly, and with a focus on substance rather than spin won him widespread praise. After 10 years of planning (and being Deputy PM in all but name) it was widely believed that no Prime Minister could ever have been better prepared for the office.

Reviews in the early months were generally good. In particular his immediate response to the terrorist attacks, severe flooding and foot and mouth outbreaks which hit Britain during the summer of 2007 was seen as statesmanlike and showing his experience, and compared favourably to the inexperience of the Conservative leader and those who might have challenged him for the Labour leadership.

Yet very soon things began to fall apart. The election-that-never-was marked the end of Brown’s honeymoon. The man who had previously cultivated a reputation as strong and decisive was spectacularly exposed as a ditherer. And a man unwilling, or unable, to admit what everybody could see, that it was a turn for the worse in the opinion polls which had led to his decision to cancel the planned election.

“The House has noticed the Prime Minister's remarkable transformation in the past few weeks from Stalin to Mr. Bean, creating chaos out of order, rather than order out of chaos.”
Vince Cable to Gordon Brown, at PMQs (28th November 2007)

Worse was to follow, and it came rapidly. The headline of the Comprehensive Spending Review was a smash and grab raid on recently announced Conservative inheritance tax policies. It came across as the action of a party that had lost its way and which would do anything to stay in power. It was a victory for political opportunism over principle.

Lost data discs, containing information on every child in the country, were just the largest of a succession of record keeping and processing blunders which stripped away public confidence in Labour’s administrative competence. And then came months of dither and delay over the future of Northern Rock. Three months of resistance to nationalisation of the bank ending with the announcement that Northern Rock would, after all, be taken into public ownership.

Brown’s, and Labour’s, reputation for economic competence, painstakingly built up over the previous 15 years, was wrecked in a few short months as the regulation of the financial system, which Brown had put into place as one of his first acts as Chancellor, was shown to be utterly inadequate. While at the same time it became increasingly clear that the wider economic stability which was Brown’s proudest boast was turning into a slowdown, and maybe even a recession, with unemployment rising, house prices falling and overall economic growth stagnating.

However it was probably the decision to scrap the 10p income tax starting rate which did most to shatter public confidence in Brown. This self-inflicted wound led to angry party rows and showed Labour to be divided and fractious. Brown’s initial refusal to budge on the issue and his claims that no one would be worse off under the measure flew in the face of the evidence. His handling of it showed him to be a Prime Minister out of touch with the people and who did not feel the pain ordinary people did at a time of a rapidly rising cost of living. Worst of all, as an assault on the pockets of people on low incomes, it destroyed completely Brown’s claim that he stood for social justice.

"How many more Northern Rocks can there be? Look at the situation with fuel prices, the non-doms and the 10p tax band. Gordon has committed spectacular own-goals and the public is punishing him for it."
Labour MP Derek Wyatt, quoted in Daily Mail, 3 May 2008. Wyatt also described the local election results as Brown’s “John Major moment”.

The panic that followed the dire local election results for Labour infected Brown as much as it did the rest of the Labour Party. The emergency budget was a humiliating u-turn for the Prime Minister whose claims of prudence and running a tight economic ship have been completely blown apart. For a decade, Labour attempted to paint their opponents as irresponsible with public finances. But now it is Gordon Brown who has the record of reopening budgets he said could not be reopened, and of borrowing vast sums of money to pay for panic measures.

Decisiveness. Principle. Administrative competence. Economic competence. Fairness. Social justice. Prudence. All qualities Gordon Brown worked hard to associate himself with during his 10 years as Chancellor. But for which 12 months of his premiership has comprehensively flattened any reputation that he might have had.

In the course of a year, Brown has gone from being the Iron Chancellor to the Great Ditherer. He has squandered his poll leads and performed disastrously at the ballot box. He promised to be the saviour of the Labour Party after the disillusionment of the late Blair years, but he has witnessed the fastest meltdown ever in a PM’s approval ratings – a steeper decline even than Neville Chamberlain in 1940.

Gordon Brown promised much when he came into office as Prime Minister. But he has failed to deliver. He has not ended spin. He has not restored trust. Britain is not getting fairer. And Britain is definitely not being better governed.

This is a Government without any clear sense of direction. 12 months into his administration, people are wondering more than ever: What does Gordon Brown stand for?

On the key issues for Britain today, Gordon Brown is not just failing to deliver, he is actually moving backwards.

Wednesday 25 June 2008

Latest updates ...

  • Tonight I attended two of the stakeholder meetings on parking issues in the West End. A very useful presentation from the consultants and productive discussion thereafter.
  • I recently successfully moved refusal of the Tay Rope Works latest planning application (16th June - click on headline above to view). I learned today that the developer has made an appeal against refusal to the Scottish Government's Reporter. I will be strongly arguing at the appeal that the planning application is inappropriate for the site and does not have the support of the community.
  • I had another series of phone calls from residents today to express support for my campaign to save the 72 bus service. The support from the West End community has been excellent.

Tuesday 24 June 2008

Busy Tuesday ...

This morning, I chaired (most of the) TACTRAN Board meeting in Stirling and I am most grateful to Councillor Alan Jack (the Vice Chair, a member of Perth & Kinross Council) who kindly chaired the final item so I could get back to Dundee ...

Why ? There was a packed meeting took place at the Paton’s Lane sheltered housing complex this afternoon where local residents voiced their concerns at the proposal by Stagecoach Strathtay to remove the Number 72 bus service.

I arranged the meeting so that the bus company could hear the specific concerns from residents about the effect of the bus service being lost. The Operations Manager from the bus company also attended to hear residents’ views. The fact that over 40 residents attended the meeting arranged at short notice shows the strength of feeling in the local community about the need to keep the 72 bus service.

I have no doubt that this point was not lost on the representative from Stagecoach Strathtay and he did promise to take back to the company the issues residents raised and thereafter feed back to me the company’s response. He has also agreed to attend a further meeting to discuss the company’s response after the company has had the opportunity to discuss all the issues raised. At this stage, Stagecoach Strathtay has proposed that, rather than their original decision to completely remove the 72 bus, they had reconsidered to an extent and would provide a more limited service, with only four buses each day and only travelling as far west as Windsor Street.

Whilst it is better than the original decision to simply take the service away completely, residents pointed out at today’s meeting that it fails to provide anything like the service of the current 72 in terms of the western part of the route, the links to Royal Victoria and Ninewells Hospitals and shopping facilities at Tesco Riverside. The company representative did say he would take back these concerns to the company. I think it should be stressed that the 72 provides a lifeline service for many residents, particularly elderly people, and its removal would be a real blow to the whole community. I really sincerely hope that Stagecoach Strathtay can come back with a better proposal than that currently on offer to help ensure that this lifeline service is not lost.

Tonight, I attended two meetings - firstly a public meeting on the Post Office closures (click on the headline to view the article in tonight's "Evening Telegraph" covering my formal objection to the proposed closures of Lochee Road and Nethergate Post Offices) and thereafter a meeting of the Friends of Magdalen Green committee. The Friends are organising a petition against the proposal to withdraw the 72 bus service - good for them!

Monday 23 June 2008

Post Office Closures : my letter of objection

I have today submitted a formal objection to Post Office Ltd's proposals to close Lochee Road and Nethergate Post Offices. This is part of the growing campaign to keep these two Post Offices open.

In my letter, I point out that, given its significant customer base, I am extremely surprised that Post Office Ltd is giving any consideration to closing Nethergate Post Office.

There is considerable evidence to show that the customer base of this Post Office will increase in the future rather than decrease. The Post Office is located in the City's vibrant cultural quarter, an area which will see considerable further enhancement in future years. Within the cultural quarter and close to this Post Office are situated Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee Repertory Theatre, the Sensation Science Centre and an increasing number of restaurants, galleries, craft shops and bars.

The Nethergate Post Office is also extremely close to the new Alliance Trust headquarters due to be opened in the near future, where some 160 additional employees will be brought into the area and also in close proximity to the University of Dundee campus area with nearly 18,000 students and more than 3000 staff.

Major investment in new student accommodation and teaching and research facilities are ongoing, and this adds to the clear evidence that the customer base of Nethergate Post Office will increase in future years making it extremely difficult to understand the proposal to close the Nethergate Post Office.

With regard to Lochee Road Post Office, I point out that it serves a large local community including many elderly customers who live in sheltered housing, for example in the Tullideph area.

I have great concern that the alternative Post Offices listed by Post Office Ltd in relation to Lochee Road Post Office are not close by or accessible. The nearest alternative it quotes (Blackness Road) is not really an alternative at all given the topography of the area. Not only is the terrain extremely steep, there is also no direct bus service between the communities currently served by Lochee Road Post Office and Blackness Road.

The other alternative Post Office mentioned is Meadowside, which is almost a mile away.

I would add that Meadowside (which is quoted by Post Office Limited as an alternative Post Office for both the communities served by Nethergate and Lochee Road) already has queuing difficulties, and the queuing times will increase still further if either or both Lochee Road Post Office or Nethergate Post Office were to close.

It will cause significant difficulties for the local population paying rent and Council Tax payments, especially the large elderly population in the Lochee Road Post Office area.

My letter concludes by making clear that I would strongly argue that both Lochee Road Post Office and Nethergate Post Office should be retained.

Sunday 22 June 2008

SNP drinking age plans are absurd

The SNP government's proposals on alcohol issues were outlined last week in its publication “Changing Scotland’s relationship with alcohol: a discussion paper on our strategic approach”

The report highlighted a number of measures for tackling Scotland’s drinking culture including raising the legal age for buying from off-sales to 21, a minimum price for alcoholic drinks and the introduction of separate checkouts for alcohol sales.

The headline in the "Press and Journal" (click on headline to view) called the off-sales age ban "absurd"; I totally agree. It will contribute the square root of nothing to solving the alcohol problem. Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, Ross Finnie MSP, has condemned the SNP’s plans to raise the drinking age for off-sales to 21.

Ross said, “This is a totally misguided move by the SNP. Introducing a presumption of guilt for an entire generation of 18 to 20 year-olds that they are irresponsible drinkers will do nothing to improve relations between government and young people. Indeed, it could do quite the reverse.

“If Scotland is to tackle its drink problem we need the overwhelming majority of young people who drink responsibly on-side and campaigning and setting an example to their generation.

“Liberal Democrats exposed the shockingly low number of prosecutions handed down to retailers selling alcohol to minors. The SNP should be cracking down on these rogue retailers before stigmatising all those aged between 18 and 21.

“I am ... writing to youth organisations and student unions across Scotland asking them not only to join our campaign, but also to campaign themselves for more responsible drinking by young people.

“I am pleased that Ministers have signalled their intent to take action on the sale of cheap drink. It’s a scandal that supermarkets can cite competition as an excuse for selling cut-price alcohol. The sensible sale of alcohol must be a key corporate social responsibility for supermarkets. The Government’s proposed ‘social responsibility’ fee is an interesting proposal.

“Government alone will not solve Scotland’s alcohol problem. We all have a personal responsibility to bring about the long-term culture change necessary to tackle irresponsible drinking. Our young people are part of the solution not just part of the problem.”

Saturday 21 June 2008

FOCUS Special Edition - Lochee Road Post Office

Following the FOCUS Special Edition for the area served by the Nethergate Post Office, delivered last weekend, today the West End LibDem team was out delivering a similar special edition of FOCUS (Edition 64) covering the area served by the Lochee Road Post Office.

Speaking with residents in the area, it is clear that they strongly oppose moves by Post Office Ltd to close the Post Office in Lochee Road. Closure would particularly hit the elderly people in the area and there is no easily accessible alternative Post Office.

It is good to see the strong support of residents for the campaign to save the Post Office and the FOCUS newsletter gives residents details of how to object to Post Office Ltd over their closure proposals.

You can download a copy of the FOCUS Special Edition for the area served by Lochee Road Post Office by clicking on the headline above.

Friday 20 June 2008

Number 72 Bus Service

Following today’s news from Stagecoach Strathtay that they intend to withdraw the Number 72 bus service from 18th July, I have spoken with numerous residents who are very surprised and dismayed by the bus company’s decision to remove this local bus service.

I understand that Stagecoach Strathtay’s proposal to remove the 72 service is part of a bus service restructuring operation which will see a number of bus service changes. I understand it is not the only service being cut back or removed, but I am deeply concerned at the proposal in relation to the 72 service as it provides a vital service for local people, especially the elderly, linking streets that would otherwise not have a bus service with the City Centre, Ninewells Hospital and Tesco at Riverside.

The loss of the service would be a real blow to the communities it serves and that is why I have written to the operations manager at Stagecoach Strathtay asking that the decision is reviewed and that this vital service continues for the area. You can read my letter below and the article in tonight's "Evening Telegraph" by clicking on the headline above.

Speaking with residents today, it is clear that they are united in their opposition to the axing of the 72 bus service. Residents of one sheltered housing complex have told me that they are extremely dismayed at the news and we hope there will be a rethink on the part of Stagecoach Strathtay.

My letter to Stagecoach Strathtay:

Martin Hall
Operations Manager
Stagecoach Strathtay
Seagate Bus Station

20 June 2008

Dear Martin

72 Bus Service

I write to express great concern at the proposal by Stagecoach Strathtay to withdrawn the No 72 bus service with effect from 18 August 2008.

The 72 service serves a number of communities who otherwise would not have a nearby bus service. Particular examples include the sheltered housing area to the north of Magdalen Yard Road and also a number of elderly residents in the Newhall Gardens area.

I am very concerned about the effect on particularly the elderly population in these parts of the West End. For example, the residents of the sheltered housing in the Paton's Lane area would be faced with an uphill walk to Perth Road to catch a bus into town (and this will be particularly difficult during the remainder of the Perth Road gas mains replacement works as buses are currently running along Hawkhill).

Given the real concerns about the effect of the withdrawal of the 72 service upon vulnerable elderly members of the community, I would be grateful if Stagecoach Strathtay would give the matter some further consideration, with a view to either continuing the service in its current form or introducing some form of alternative provision, rather than simply withdrawing the service.

I would be very grateful if you would give this your consideration, and I look forward to hearing further from you.

Yours sincerely

Cllr Fraser Macpherson
Councillor for the West End

Thursday 19 June 2008

Bus Shelters

Dundee City Council News Release

Almost £200,000 could be spent in the next few months on expanding the number of SmartBus passenger waiting shelters in Dundee.

Councillors on Dundee City Council's policy and resources committee, which meets on Monday (June 23) will be asked to approve funding for 16 new shelters across the city.

Convener of the planning and transport committee, Fraser Macpherson, said, "The demand for these shelters to be installed at more locations has been very high as passengers who have used them experience their advantages.

"The plan is for two locations in each of the council's eight wards to have a new shelter provided during this financial year."

The SmartBus shelters feature a covered passenger waiting area, seating, real time bus information, a timetable poster, lighting and CCTV capability. The total installation cost is expected to be around £192,000.

Installation will be carried out by a combination of contractors through an existing partnership agreement with Tayside Contracts and by specialist suppliers.

Note : West End new shelters are :

· Perth Road at Seafield Lane
· Magdalen Yard Road at Step Row

Wednesday 18 June 2008

Botanic Garden

Tonight's "Evening Telegraph" carries confirmation that the University of Dundee today confirmed it is considering a proposal from a local developer in relation to the Botanic Garden.

Speaking with the Tele earlier, I reiterated that I will continue to strongly oppose any suggestion of selling off parts of the Botanic Garden to a developer, which I know would also be strongly opposed by the local community.

It should be stressed that, in terms of the Local Plan Review 2005, the whole Botanic Garden is Protected Open Space, and I strongly support its protected status.

I am continuing to liaise closely with the Friends of the Botanic Garden on this matter to ensure that a sustainable future for the Garden is achieved without loss of any of the garden.

You can read the article in tonight's Tele by clicking on the headline above.

Tuesday 17 June 2008

Tay Rope Works : Development Quality Committee

Last night, at the City Council's Development Quality Committee, I successfully moved refusal of the latest application to develop the former Tay Rope Works site. I was pleased that the majority against the proposal (the main application was defeated 14-8) was greater than last time, showing committee's understanding of the community's concern about the proposal - there were no fewer than 50 letters of objection to it.

Here's the motions I moved at committee :

DQ Committee 16 June 2008 : Reasons for Refusal

08/00292/FUL Land at former Tay Rope Works, Magdalen Yard Road, Dundee

1. The proposed development is contrary to Policy 1 - "Vibrant and Sustainable Communities" of the Dundee Local Plan Review 2005 as it fails to minimise the effect on the environmental quality enjoyed by adjacent residents by virtue of design, layout and parking and traffic movement issues. 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 4 - "Design of New Housing" of the Dundee Local Plan Review 2005 as the proposals fail to adhere to the design standards in Appendix 1 by the provision of too many flats. 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 61 - "Development in Conservation Areas" of the Dundee Local Plan Review 2005 as it fails to preserve or enhance the Conservation Area because the proposed housing bears no relation to the style and character of the adjacent housing in the Perth Road Lanes Conservation Area. There are no material considerations of sufficient strength to justify the granting of planning permission contrary to the policy.

08/00293/LBC Land at former Tay Rope Works, Magdalen Yard Road, Dundee

1. The proposed development is contrary to Policy 60 - "Alterations to Listed Buildings" of the Dundee Local Plan Review 2005 as it fails to have regard to preservation or enhancement of a listed building by the removal of the second storey. There are no material considerations of sufficient strength to justify the granting of planning permission contrary to the policy.

Monday 16 June 2008

Paton's Lane

I have been in discussion over the past 24 hours with both local residents and the Police about the signage at Paton's Lane as the gas replacement works move eastwards along Perth Road. There was some confusion about signage, but now resolved.

Here's the latest update from Scotland Gas Network's contractors Turriff :

"The problem was caused by Paton's Lane being open from Perth Road and the signs at the bottom of the lane still in operation, the No Entry Signs were blanked off and a special sign on Magdalen Yard Road informing traffic that Paton's Lane was open from Magdalan Yard Road, hence two way traffic.

"The signs have been removed this morning therefore Paton's Lane is one - way down from Perth Road to the existing two way section."

Sunday 15 June 2008

FOCUS 63 : Save Nethergate Post Office!

The West End LibDem team has been out today delivering the Nethergate and adjacent area - and speaking with residents - to campaign against the Nethergate Post Office closure, as proposed by Post Office Limited.

It is clear that residents fully back the campaign to save Nethergate Post Office, just as we have found in relation to the other proposed closure - Lochee Road Post Office.

You can download FOCUS 63 by clicking on the headline above.

Westbound – Lochee Road

The City Council has advised me that from 17th June – for four nights – westbound traffic on Lochee Road between Blinshall Street and the North Marketgait roundabout will be prohibited between 7pm and 2am each night.

I am advised that this is because of telecommunications ducting works and the alternative route is via West Marketgait/Hawkhill/Horsewater Wynd/Guthrie Street/Brook Street/Polepark Road.

Pedestrian thoroughfare will be maintained throughout.

For further information, contact the Planning & Transportation Department on 433168.

Saturday 14 June 2008

Overgrown shrubbery complaint

Two years ago, following residents' complaints to me that I passed on to the City Council, shrubbery at the roundabout on Riverside Drive/Riverside Avenue near the Marmalade Pot was trimmed back (see earlier story by clicking on the headline above).

I have now received further complaints that the shrubbery is again in need of trimming back (see photo above) as it makes it, in particular, difficult for pedestrians crossing to see vehicles approaching the roundabout. I have therefore contacted the City Council asking for action to improve sight lines for both drivers and pedestrians here.

Class Sizes

I was pleased to see that, during the past week, in a debate in the Scottish Parliament on cuts to the education budget, Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Secretary Jeremy Purvis MSP demanded urgent clarification from the Scottish Government about how much extra money is necessary for the SNP to achieve its class size targets.

This is an issue I have raised locally here in Dundee on a number of occasions, as there is concern locally at the lack of funding from the SNP government for their own policy.

Jeremy said, “The SNP provided no additional resources to deliver what, before the election, it described as the flagship education policy. Teachers, parents and pupils deserve a statement from the Scottish Government to clear up the confusion surrounding the cost of cutting class sizes and exactly how the SNP will pay for it.

“Last week, the EIS voted unanimously to support a strategy to oppose funding cuts, which included ballots for industrial action. Meanwhile, teachers have been raising significant concerns about the future of education and a Liberal Democrat investigation found that councils across the country are struggling to implement strategies to achieve the SNP’s class size target.

“The SNP is all over the place on its class size targets. SNP Ministers are sounding more and more desperate as they try to defend the indefensible.”

I'm pleased that the Liberal Democrats in the parliament condemned the Scottish Government’s complacency over the impact of its cut to the education budget. LibDem MSPs warned during the budget process that this was the worst settlement for education in Scotland since 1999.

The SNP must stop passing the buck to local authorities and start to take some responsibility for its own commitments. It must ensure that sufficient funding is in place not only to meet their own policy pledges but also to prevent job losses in our schools.

You can read Jeremy Purvis's speech by clicking on the headline above.

Friday 13 June 2008

Roundabout improvement

At the time of the recent resurfacing of the roadway around the roundabout at the west end of Blackness Road (at Glamis Drive/Road), I asked the City Council if a small environmental improvement scheme could be undertaken to make the rather drab roundabout a bit brighter and more attractive.

The City Council kindly agreed to this and the roundabout work is now completed. As you can see above, it looks much improved and I have now written to the Council staff involved, thanking them.

Back from Belfast!

I've spent the last four days in Belfast with my "day job" although have been in constant touch on local matters by phone and e-mail! My colleagues and I had an enjoyable time on the Belfast Wheel - see photo below and video above!

Thursday 12 June 2008

Post Office Card Account

Thank you very much to all residents who have contacted me about their concerns at the proposed Post Office closures of the Lochee Road and Nethergate branches. I am submitting a detailed objection to Post Office Limited, but I thought I should also highlight concerns about the future of the Post Office card account.

The Liberal Democrats are very keen for the contract for the new card account to be awarded to the Post Office. Only the Post Office has the network to allow people from all over the country to access a card account of this kind.

It is essential that people are able to access their savings and benefits over the counter at their local Post Office. Some 4.3 million people throughout the country use the card accounts, including many pensioners. Without access through an organisation who they trust, like the Post Office, some may be denied access to their own money.

There is huge frustration that the Government simply does not recognise the social value of the Post Office. Liberal Democrats have consistently and strenuously opposed the Government’s plan to close 2,500 branches across the UK this year - on top of the 4,000 they have already closed, and the 3,500 post offices that were closed under the Conservatives. So, while we respect the need to get a competitive deal for the taxpayer by putting the card account out to tender, we believe that protecting the long term viability of the Post Office and avoiding yet more closures should be the Government’s priority when they make a decision on the Post Office card account.

The card account contract is worth around £1 billion to post offices between 2003 and 2010. Without that income stream many thousands of other branches are likely to be unable to survive. The people who most need the service of a post office will be most affected

Instead of pulling the rug from under people's feet, the Government should be building on the success of the Post Office card account. We need to find additional services to be provided through post offices, not cut the services that are already provided.

The Government’s track record on this issue does not give much cause for hope. In recent years the Department for Culture, Media and Sport have pulled the plug on television license payments at the Post Office, the Home Office has decided not to allow post offices to be involved in delivering passport services, and the Department for Transport is not allowing all post offices to issue driving licences. They have undermined the Post Office’s business at every turn.

If the Government terminate the Post Office card account they would further seriously damage the post office network. Far from seeing it thrive, the Prime Minister risks making the destruction of Britain's post office network the most visible part of his legacy.

Wednesday 11 June 2008

Two further updates ...

Firstly, the lift problem at Sinderins Court. I received this from the Director Service Delivery at Home Scotland yesterday. I am pleased to learn that a proper solution to replace the existing lift mechanism (that has broken down on numerous occasions) is now in sight :

"Just to update you, tenders have now been accepted and works commence on 21st July. The lead time for the specialist equipment is 12 weeks so the contractor has managed to accelerate this substantially. The residents' meeting was held this morning, attended by the contractor and our lift specialist and residents are very positive about the proposed works. This will be confirmed to all residents within the next couple of days."

Secondly, at last month's West End Community Council meeting, concern was expressed that residents' dogs could get on to the rail line by Magdalen Green as Network Rail’s fence didn't have a low enough horizontal wire. I have now had this response from Network Rail :

"The local P / Way staff have carried out repairs to the fencing on the Green."

Tuesday 10 June 2008

Blackness Primary School - School Crossing Patroller - Update

I'm delighted that the lack of a school “lollipop” person on the very busy Hawkhill, for pupils of Blackness Primary School, has now been resolved and as of this week a patroller is on duty. See earlier story about this by clicking on the link above.

I was contacted by worried parents about the lack of a patroller due to illness of the post holder. Hawkhill is an extremely busy road at the best of times, but with the current roadworks on Perth Road, traffic is being diverted onto Hawkhill, including the bus services, and both they and I were extremely concerned at the lack of provision.

Interviews were thereafter held for additional staff and the subsequent delay was due to the need for health and disclosure checks before new staff can be appointed but I am very pleased that the matter is now resolved.

Committees last night - and Magdalen Green

I spoke on a number of items at City Council Committees last night including:

* POST OFFICE CLOSURE PROPOSALS - opposing the recommendations by Post Office Limited to close Lochee Road and Nethergate Post Offices.

* FREEDOM OF THE CITY - To support this proposal to award Freedom of Dundee to Burmese Leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

* ENVIRONMENT MATTERS - Regarding air quality issues.

The concerns of both Friends of Magdalen Green and myself regarding events over the weekend at the Green were reported in last night's "Evening Telegraph" - click on headline above to view article.

Monday 9 June 2008

Blackness Road - north side - pavement

At the Planning & Transport Committee (which I chair), we recently agree to various pavement improvements - Blackness Road (north side - east of Ashbank Road) was amongst these - and pleased to see work already underway (see below).

West End Community Council Update

I've launched today my June 2008 Update to West End Community Council.

Issues covered include Post Office closures, residents' parking and roads/pavement issues.

If you click on the headline above, you can download the update.

Sunday 8 June 2008

Lovely weekend ...

Janet and I have had a great weekend! Superb weather. Although a fair bit of time spent on constituents' issues and burning the midnight oil on a conference I'm running this week in Belfast, we had time to visit Monikie Country Park (see ducks right!) and Kirriemuir (Janet at Peter Pan statue below!)

National Liftshare Day tomorrow ...

Tayside and Central Scotland Transport Partnership (TACTRAN) has added a “Buddy Scheme” to its regional liftsharing site.
This coincides with National Liftshare Day on Monday 9th June and complements the Partnership’s already successful car sharing database, which encourages more sustainable travel across Tayside and Central Scotland. The latest upgrade to the site extends the liftsharing facility for matching up journeys to include anyone who is walking or cycling and also taxi users.

Developed with a Scottish Government grant, is a regional website which includes the four partner local authority liftsharing schemes:,, and

The website was launched in June 2007 to encourage sustainable travel and highlight the benefits of sharing journeys with others. The site helps people who work and live in the region to find lifts through a database which matches journeys and times of travel.

The site is free and available to both the general public and private groups. You don't even need a car to register a match for liftsharing – and any journey mode registered can be regular or one-off. The current regional liftshare membership of 1,500 has collectively saved 1.4 million road miles and 415 tonnes of Co2 so far!

Members simply register and enter their journeys on the site and when suitable matches are identified, they’re emailed basic contact information such as first names and postcode area. The whole process is handled through tactranliftshare and security advice on contacting and meeting potential sharers is fully provided on the website.

TACTRAN Chair, Councillor Fraser Macpherson said :-

“Promoting more sustainable travel is a key part of tactran’s Regional Transport Strategy. Our increasingly popular liftshare scheme aims to cut congestion and reduce the impact transport has on our local and global environment. The introduction of a “buddy scheme” incorporating other travel modes offers existing and potential users further alternatives to drive-alone commuting, which we hope will lead to more sustainable use of the private motor car and provide people with greater travel choice.”

With the extensive movement of commuters across the region for work, study and leisure, the introduction of the Buddy Scheme on tactranliftshare offers new benefits for residents of Angus, Dundee, Perth and Kinross and Stirling as well as people travelling from outside the region.

Other major employers are also supporting the initiative by forming private groups within the scheme. In addition to the partner Councils’ own sites, NHS Tayside, The University of Dundee and Stirling University also operate liftshare schemes. By encouraging employees to car share, a considerable reduction in drive-alone journeys can be achieved. This in turn will help in cutting congestion, which is good for the local economy as well as the environment.

Saturday 7 June 2008

The US Election

I have been a supporter of Hillary Clinton, as anyone who takes a look at the links on the blog could not fail to notice. I believe she has been an excellent Senator for New York.

Today, Hillary endorsed Barack Obama. I think it is vital the USA elects a Democrat and kicks out the Republicans in November. Err .. so as of today, the links on the US election will alter.

Dundee Corporation - Vintage Buses

If you click on the headine above, there's a link to a very interesting website about Dundee Corporation buses of old.

The photo (above) was pictured in Blackness Avenue in 1957.

Friday 6 June 2008

The digital TV switchover

As residents will be aware, I have raised the issue of the anaolgue TV "switch off" on numerous occasions. I have been in discussions with both Digital UK and Ofcom about the issues affecting Dundee.

I'm pleased to see Jim Tolson MSP, the Scottish Liberal Democrat representative on the Local Government and Communities Committee, question experts about the digital TV switchover.

As Jim said,

“It’s really concerning that experts admit that a two-tier digital system could develop for access to digital television.

“Liberal Democrats in Westminster and Holyrood have been actively campaigning to ensure a smooth transition between analogue and digital services.

“Given ...(the) ... evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Communities Committee, I expect Scottish Ministers to press the UK Government to re-examine the Communications Act. The Act must be amended to oblige the commercial organisations responsible for digital transmission equipment to ensure that a full digital service is accessible to all.”

Scotland performs ... or is it just spin and bluster?

Commenting on the launch of the Scottish Government’s ‘Scotland Performs’ website, where the Scottish Government judges Scotland’s economic performance, Liberal Democrat Shadow Finance Secretary, Tavish Scott MSP, said,

“The Scottish Government cannot be judge and jury about its own performance. As it has no independent monitoring this website amounts to nothing more than government propaganda.

“The people of Scotland will decide whether this Government is achieving its economic targets, not a load of SNP spin and bluster.”

Personally, I'd go for the spin and bluster explanation!

Thursday 5 June 2008

Hird Bridge leaflet

Arising out of the recent reopening of the Hird Bridge, if you click on the headline above, you can download the commemorative leaflet. It talks about the Balgay Bridge and, as those of us who have always known it as the Hird Bridge, here's the explanation from the City Council's Leisure & Communities Department :

"At the time of the opening of the bridge it was referred to as the Balgay Bridge. Sometimes it was called Balgay Bridge, sometimes Balgay Hill Bridge.

At the time of its original opening, there was correspondence about who was responsible for the design of the Bridge, with George Hird, claiming credit.

In your email, you correctly stated that many people now refer to the bridge as the Hird bridge, but on checking with the City Archives, the view was that we should refer to it as the Balgay Bridge."

Balgay Bridge, Hird Bridge or Balgay Hill Bridge - it is beautifully reconstructed and a credit to the City Council and all involved in its restoration.

Wednesday 4 June 2008

Tonight ... and parking again ...

A very informative meeting of the "Community Spirit" group for the north of the ward (Ancrum, Pentland, Cleghorn, etc) tonight with an excellent presentation from a representative of the Waste Management Department and a good discussion thereafter on cleansing, graffiti and recycling issues - to name just three.

Am meeting the parking consultants tomorrow morning (see yesterday's item below) to ensure progress on the residents' parking consultation process.

Tuesday 3 June 2008


I've been in discussion with City Council Planning & Transportation officials over the past few days regarding concerns about delivery delays to some residents of the survey on parking issues.

The Council’s parking consultants have now agreed to meet with me in my capacity as Planning and Transport Convener to discuss the concerns and to ensure that all residents and businesses definitely get their say over parking problems in the consultation areas across the City, which include two parts of the West End.

The timeframe set by the consultants for the return of the many questionnaires issued was tight, but I have been concerned to learn from residents in a number of West End streets – Bellefield Avenue and Thomson Street in particular – that delivery of some of the questionnaires had been delayed making the timeframe for return extremely tight.

The postal delays have not helped the process of getting a large number of returns and although the deadline has been extended, I have arranged to meet the consultants to discuss return rates across the five areas of the City being consulted at this stage, and see if there are any streets that will require a re-survey.

I would stress that it is not too late to send back your questionnaire and also there will be consultation meetings across the areas before any recommendations are made by the consultants.
However, as Planning & Transport Convener, I want to ensure that we get as large a response to questionnaires as possible because all residents and businesses are rightly entitled to their views on parking problems and how these could be tackled. I am looking for reassurance from the consultants that the questionnaire exercise has been meaningful and looking for them to take any additional steps to improve the process.

Monday 2 June 2008

Planning & Transport Committee - news releases

Three City Council news releases just issued, covering issues to be covered at the Planning & Transport Committee that I will chair next Monday, 9th June :


Street lights in Dundee have fewer faults that are fixed quicker than in any other Scottish city.

The figures, revealed in a new report to go before councillors next week, also show that the carbon footprint from street lighting in Dundee was the lowest of the four other major population centres in Scotland.

Members of the planning and transport committee, which meets on Monday (June 9), will be told that in 2007/08 the average time taken to repair a street light in Dundee was 1.8 days, and that only 20% of street lights developed a fault.

Convener of the planning and transport committee, Fraser Macpherson said: "Street lighting makes an important contribution to road safety, crime prevention and the safety of groups who might feel vulnerable after dark.

"Recognising that, the council moved to a more proactive way of dealing with the street lighting stock throughout the city.

"Rather than just repairing faults when they are reported, groups of lamps are replaced in an area when they are coming to the end of their natural life. In this way we are being greener and brighter."

The report by director of planning and transportation, Mike Galloway shows that street lights in Dundee are repaired twice as quickly as in Glasgow, the next best performing city; and that in percentage terms Dundee has fewer street lighting faults every year than any other city.

Compared with Dundee, Aberdeen has four times as many lights per 1000 street lights not working as planned on any one evening, while in Glasgow the figure is seven times, and there 11 times as many in Edinburgh.

Dundee City Council has also reduced the energy consumption per street light to 104 watts as a result of the planned replacement regime cutting wasted energy.

This figure compares with 111 watts in Edinburgh, 119 watts in Glasgow and 120 watts in Aberdeen.


Work on two key elements that will underpin the multi million pound transformation of Dundee's waterfront will go before councillors next week.

Members of Dundee City Council's planning and transport committee will be asked to approve £450,000 of works to Gellatly Street and changes to the area's car park to help patrons of the new hotel at the site.

Planning and transport committee convener, Fraser Macpherson said: "As work on the waterfront goes on and roads are re-aligned and traffic flow changed, Gellatly Street will become much busier.

"With this in mind the road surface needs be improved and carrying out the resurfacing work now will help to avoid the potential of greater disruption in the future."

The resurfacing work will be done in two parts the first going from the south junction of Dock Street and Commercial Street round to the entrance of the multi-storey car park.

As a result Gellatly Street will temporarily change from being one-way northwards from Commercial Street to Seagate to a no-through road.

While work is going on in the first phase Gellatly Street will become two-way from Seagate to the multi-storey car park, which will remain open throughout the contract.

Heavy goods vehicles which will not have space to turn will be required to park on Seagate and transport deliveries from there to businesses in Gellatly Street.

Residents and traders in the street have been notified of the changes to the traffic flow and arrangements for deliveries while work progresses.

Plans to open the new Holiday Inn Express hotel in Dock Street are well advanced and a link between the building and the adjacent Gellatly Street car park has been agreed.

Councillors will be asked to endorse a recommendation to issue paid for permits to hotel patrons allowing them to park in Gellatly Street car park from 2pm until noon the following day.

Cllr Joe Morrow, who chairs the Waterfront Project Board said: "These two elements of activity in Gellatly Street are fundamental to the early part of the revolutionary makeover of Dundee's waterfront.

"With considerable work already completed under ground to prepare the waterfront, these two pieces of activity will be tangible evidence of the forthcoming transformation."

Details of the latest developments in the project and the wider waterfront vision can be found on

The planning and transport committee meets on Monday (June 9).


Almost £250,000 could be spent in Dundee on projects that will improve access to walking and cycling facilities and/or reduce danger to pedestrians and cyclists.

If councillors back the move at a meeting on Monday (June 9), the money will be spent under four broad headings to meet the council's cycling, walking and safer streets policy.

The planning and transport committee is being asked to back lowered kerb/footway improvements, pedestrian access and safety, outdoor access and cycling measures.

Convener of the planning and transport committee, Fraser Macpherson said: "Projects across the city will be funded by this extra money, which has been allocated by the Scottish Government.

"All of the woks will promote cycling, walking and safer streets with the aim of helping to reduce Dundonians' dependence on the car, and in turn further improve air quality in the city."

According to a report to go before the committee, £100,000 has been allocated to lowering kerbs and improving footways to increase accessibility for vulnerable pedestrians including the elderly and children.

Improvements to existing pedestrian crossing facilities and new infrastructure to improve pedestrian access and safety have been given £99,000.

A number of projects to give more access to the outdoors for cyclists and pedestrians have had £30,000 earmarked for them, and £20,000 has been identified to fill in the "missing links" in the city's cycling network.

Joint MSP/City Councillor Surgery for the West End

I'm holding an extra surgery this week for the local area jointly with Joe FitzPatrick, MSP for Dundee West, at :

St Peter's Free Church Hall
St Peter Street

this Friday (6th June 2008)

from 1pm to 2pm

If there is any issue or problem you'd like your City Councillor or MSP to help with, please come along. All West End residents welcome.

Sunday 1 June 2008

Busy weekend ...

Yesterday, Janet and I had the pleasure of attending Ancrum Road Primary School's Summer Fete and Fun Day and as you can see from the photo above, there was lots of activity in the playground (and also great stalls in the school itself).

All credit to Colin, Depute Head Teacher, for agreeing to go into the stocks! (See below).
Later on, we had a trip to Pitlochry (again see below) - a fabulous day!
And in the evening, a family party as Janet's cousin and her husband are across visiting from the Netherlands (again, see below).
Had the joy of a car tyre puncture today on the way to deliver leaflets in the ward - tyre now fixed and leaflets delivered before the worst of the Sunday rain came on!

Sign of times to come ...

Last week media speculation that the SNP’s honeymoon is over gathered pace as three high profile policies were mired in confusion.

“The SNP government suffered a "wobbly Wednesday" yesterday as three flagship policies ran into trouble.”
Times, 29 May 2008

“Wednesday, May 27, 2008 may well go down in history as the day the electorate stopped loving Alex Salmond and the Nationalists.”
Times, 29 May 2008

“If Alex Salmond’s worst day in government so far was ‘Wobbly Wednesday’, then yesterday would have to be threadbare Thursday.”

Times, 30 May 2008

I feel that no amount of huff and puff by Alex Salmond and John Swinney will hereafter disguise the fact that key SNP policies are unravelling. In the long term, running a government based on spin rather than policy substance is a government built on sand.