Thursday 30 September 2010

Road safety improvement - Perth Road

Last month, following a site-visit with a constituent, I wrote to the City Council asking for a safety improvement for pedestrians crossing Perth Road west of the Riverside Drive junction (near the south end of Hazel Drive).

I have now received the following helpful reply from the City Council :

"We have investigated this matter and produced a small scheme to highlight and sign the crossing making the location more visible to the motorist. This improvement can be implemented when approved, hopefully later this year."

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Junction of Seymour Street and Perth Road

Back in July, I mentioned that at the south end of Seymour Street, there is an area of grass on the south side down which water constantly flows, and then across the pavement of Perth Road.

At the time, I met with a local resident on-site and we agreed that, given there's a street drain to the immediate west, simply providing a channel to let the water flow into the drain, rather than across the pavement, would be the obvious solution - something I wrote to the City Engineer about.  

He has now responded positively as follows :

"Scottish Water has tested the water at the above location and confirmed that it is neither sewage nor water from a leaking water mains.

I have agreed to arrange for a low cost interception trap to be excavated within the grass verge, this will then be connected to the road gully as suggested.

This should hopefully prevent the water from running across the footway causing potential slipping problems in winter."

Latest on Queen Victoria Works

Following my update last week about concerns over building safety at Queen Victoria Works, I have been in continuing touch with council officers about this matter.

The matter is with legal officers but it is intended, subject to any necessary legal steps, that council buildings standards officers and engineers will inspect the building in the very near future.

Over a period of some time, I have had continuing concerns about the state of the building and the recent roof collapse only serves to highlight the building safety issue.

Clearly a vacant building like this will deteriorate over time and it is vital that all necessary steps are taken so I am pleased that the City Council is taking a proactive interest in the concerns I have raised.

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Plastics recycling - an update

Back in June, I advised residents of the latest information on the recycling of plastics.   I have now received a further update from the City Council as follows :

Dear Fraser,

The review period for the acceptance of an expanded array of plastics is now up, and we will be moving forward with these on an ongoing basis.

A flyer specifying the new plastic types that we are able to now accept was hand delivered out to all green box residents over the summer. The details on all the plastic recycling bins at points and centres are waiting to be changed, as the new artwork had to be ordered to reflect this change. Residents are though welcome in the meantime to use all plastic recycling bins for the expanded array of plastics as follows:

Yes please:

- Plastic bottles and lids e.g. milk, fizzy juice, water, household cleaning products and shampoo bottles
- Yoghurt pots
- Food tubs
- Butter and margarine tubs
- Microwavable food trays
- Fruit punnets
- Meat trays
- Vegetable and salad trays

No thanks:

- Black plastic bags
- Food bags, wrapper and film
- PVC pipes and tubing
- Polystyrene

The green box flyer also stated that we can accept supermarket shopping bags. Since the review period of introducing this change our plastics re-processor has requested as few of these as possible. The best solution for recycling supermarket shopping bags will always be taking them back to their source, or reusing them.

And then came Tuesday ...

Following a very productive meeting with representatives of the Western Cemetery Association and the City Council's Leisure and Communities Department on-site at the cemetery at lunchtime, I attended an opening exhibition view of the shortlisted designs of the V and A at Dundee project, held at the library of the University of Abertay, Dundee.   I am dreadfully impressed by the imaginative designs and the 3-D Fly Throughs are really helpful. 

I hope there's a great turnout at the exhibition and that people give their views on the designs.   My personal preference is the Delugan Meissl design - really striking - and my photo of it from the exhibition is pictured above.   Rather better images are available on the V and A at Dundee website!

This evening, I attended an excellent meeting at Blackness Primary School about the possibility of starting a 'walking bus' - the video below from Ireland was shown - it really sums up the concept and it would be great to see the project progressed at the school :

Monday 27 September 2010

Monday ...

After attending today's meeting of the Best Value Review of Child Protection Services, I held my usual Monday surgeries at the Mitchell Street Centre and at Harris Academy, and I then took part in tonight's City Council committee meetings.
At Education Committee, I asked questions about the latest report on the proposed Harris Academy rebuild.   Following the written questions I made to the Director of Education last week, he responded as follows :

"Dear Fraser,

Front-loading of this project is not considered a possible option. Although the start date of 2013/14 - which is in line with the release of funding - seems distant, the Capital Projects Team considers that this is a realistic timescale given the complex design work for this project, and also given the protracted negotiations which our experience tells us to anticipate with Historic Scotland. I take your point about the current economic climate, but we do not anticipate being ready to be able to make a start any earlier than 2013/14.

Future expenditure on the present Harris Academy will ensure that the building remains wind and water tight, and safe for pupils and staff.

I am very happy to confirm that facilities at Harris, including those for community use, will be at least as good as those at Grove and St Paul's. Although the reference in the report is only to the two specific community facilities you mention, the community will of course have access to the school, with all its modern facilities, just as they do in all our schools. In fact, this provision is likely to be better than Grove, and I can cite one small but important aspect: whereas at Grove the design has allowed an average of 10.5m2 per pupil, SFT funding for Harris will allow 11.0. In addition, lessons regarding the effective use of circulation space have been learned by the Capital Projects team from our other new builds."

At tonight's meeting, and in response to the questions I raised at committee, the Director indicated 'everything necessary will be done' in terms on on-going maintenance at the school pending the rebuilding project commencing, and the Chief Executive advised that a project board will be established as soon as possible.

At City Development Committee, I spoke on the agenda item about the East Coast Main Line Rail Franchise pointing out that Scottish Government should move forward electrification of the rail line north of Edinburgh as it promised in its Strategic Transport Projects Review in 2008.   I also queried the use of Rapid Rhino permanent repairs to potholes on Dundee roads - these have been successful and cost-effective and their use could be increased.    I again highlighted the need for the council to move forward residents' parking improvements - and am concerned at the lack of progress on this.  I also asked about the proposed use - for the third year - of an artificial Christmas Tree in the City Square and the need to consult on alternatives for future years.

At Policy and Resources Committee, I asked for assurances on timescale for improvements on staff absence levels and I also asked about how the council will approach improving public perception of the City Council.

Sunday 26 September 2010

Gamu Nhengu gets through ...

Art exhibition at the Botanic Garden

From 30th October until 7th November, there will be an art exhibition at the University of Dundee Botanic Garden Gallery.   It will be open from 10am to 4pm daily.

Further details are available by clicking on the headline above or by going to 

Nicol's decision to stand down

As announced by the Scottish Liberal Democrats yesterday, Nicol Stephen MSP is standing down next May, 28 years after first being elected a councillor, then an MP and latterly an MSP.

Nicol has served the people of Aberdeen with great distinction over three decades and he has done much to build up the Scottish Liberal Democrats, particularly during his period as party leader between 2005 and 2008.

Nicol has always been very supportive of our local party in Dundee, visiting the city often and campaigning with us.  See photo (right) of some of the Dundee LibDem team with Nicol when he visited Lochee in 2007.

Scottish party leader Tavish Scott said yesterday, “Nicol has made an enormous contribution to both the north-east and to Scotland. I will miss his presence, strategic approach and sense of humour as a colleague and above all a friend in Holyrood.”

I wish Nicol, Caris and the family all the best for the future.

Saturday 25 September 2010

Matt Cardle on X Factor tonight

Former Dundee Goods Yard - hoardings and graffiti

As reported in today's Courier, West End residents have been querying with me the large hoardings that have appeared in recent months round the western end of the former Rail Goods Yard area (behind Roseangle, west of Seabraes). The site is owned by Scottish Enterprise and I have been in touch with them about this and the complaints about graffiti on the hoardings. See photo (right).

Scottish Enterprise tells me that the work is decontamination work to make the land useable in the future. It intends to eventually sell off the ground for possible residential use, although this would be some time off and any possible development sometime in the future would require planning approval, and give assurances about access and no loss of local amenities.

Scottish Enterprise has advised me :

“This is a project which will take a couple of years which means the hoardings will be there for a considerable time. It is actually a contractor who is now responsible for that site, however we have asked them to paint over any particularly explicit graffiti. It is a bit of a losing battle with graffiti but we will do our best to keep on top of it.”

I certainly hope that Scottish Enterprise’s contractor removes the graffiti, particularly any that is offensive.

Friends of Magdalen Green Coffee Morning

The calm before the storm ... setting up last night!

A thoroughly enjoyable and busy morning today at the Friends of Magdalen Green Coffee Morning at Dundee West Church - here's a few photos!

Coffee Morning in full swing!

Guess who was on dishes-drying duty!

Dundee Wasps Artists' Open Studios

Dundee Wasps Artists' Open Studios
Dundee Wasps Artists' Open Studios take place on 2nd and 3rd October.

This is an opportunity to meet different artists, designers and makers working within their own studio spaces.

Dundee's Wasps Studios can be found at Meadow Mill in West Hendersons Wynd :

Saturday 2nd October 2010 11am to 5pm
Sunday 3rd October 2010 12 noon to 5pm

Read more at   This event is taking place in studios all over Scotland.

The Campaign For Fairer Votes

Liberal Democrat MPs, led by Deputy Prime Minster Nick Clegg, have voted in Parliament to give people an opportunity to throw out the archaic First Past the Post system.

Up and down the country activists are coming together to campaign to replace that system with the Alternative Vote (AV).

AV is a fairer system which forces MPs to work harder to earn and keep your support.

Over the months until the referendum on May 5, 2011 the Fairer Votes Campaign from the Liberal Democrats will be fighting hard for a ‘yes’ vote.    It will not be easy to win, defeating the voices of conservatism who want to keep the status quo because it protects them from the will of the masses.

Friday 24 September 2010

Friday activities

I had a very useful meeting earlier today with the Director of Housing, City Housing Manager and the Homeless Services Manager about the homeless in Dundee and the council's progress with the issue.   This follows on from recent correspondence I have had with the Housing Department recently.    Later, I attended a briefing for councillors on council rents issues.

Also today we held our latest West End Christmas Week meeting.   The 10th Anniversary West End Christmas Week is taking great shape with great events being planned.  

Residents will recall that at the 2009 Christmas Week, we held a balloon launch and the winning balloon went all the way to Sweden.   Imagine our surprise when a lady called Ellen Grundt e-mailed us from Norway earlier this month as follows ...

"I'm writing to tell you that I found your balloon. In fact three of them.   I live in Oslo, Norway but we have a cottage in Vestbygda, Eggedal ( 140 km from Oslo. I was walking in the mountains while picking cloudberries and found the balloons under a tree close to a marsh. At first I didn't understand what it was but then I saw the notes you had attached."

See photo below!    I've sent Ellen a package of Dundee branded items as a thank you for letting us know!

Proposed Riverside Nature Park - latest

I have had a further useful update from the City Council about the proposed Riverside Nature Park :

“I am pleased to report that good progress has been made and that the project is still on programme to meet the end of March 2011 deadline. To be more specific, Cut and Fill Earthworks have been underway for the past two months and are on target for completion at the beginning of October. The site will subsequently be seeded, followed by the creation of paths. Planting works are then programmed during the Winter period.

Following your enquiry and a review of the planned works, I can confirm that it is intended to allow public access to the completed works which at this point is scheduled for the end of March 2011.

You will be aware from our previous briefings that the project timeline is subject to both weather and the inclusion of additional or unplanned works which may affect completion. We are scheduled to visit WECC, which hopefully will include River Crescent Residents' Association to update them on progress and this will include details of programming, completion and the extent of access permitted.”

You can read my previous articles about the project by clicking on the headline above or by going to

Thursday 23 September 2010

Roseangle Cafe Arts - first exhibition

Tonight, I had the pleasure of attending the first ever exhibition at the Roseangle Cafe Arts, fearuring  a collection by local printmaker Barbara Robertson.

It was a great event and extermely well-attended.   It is really good to see the cafe at Dundee West Church going from strength to strength.

Harris Academy - report to Education Committee

As reported in today's Courier, I have written to the Director of Education and the Head of Secondary Education at Dundee City Council about the report going to Education Committee on Monday about the Harris Academy proposed re-build.    The questions I have asked are as follows:

"In advance of committee on Monday, I have some questions I’d be grateful if you could respond to prior to the meeting :

a) When the Harris Academy rebuild was last at committee, I asked about ‘front loading’ the project using the City Council’s third share of the capital cost to enable a start earlier on site. Reading 4.25 on this report appears to rule that out, assuming that construction works can only start when the funding from Scottish Government comes forward in 2013/14. Can you clarify? I should have thought that the council’s £10.41 million contribution could have been front loaded to enable an earlier start? Can I also make the point that if the opportunity to start earlier is missed, so may be the opportunity to take advantage of the highly competitive construction costs that are available at present in the current climate in the construction industry

b) If you confirm that work will definitely not start in advance of 2013/14, can I ask what additional financial provision will be given to the school for maintenance for the 3 years that the school will remain in the existing building?

c) I note the only reference to community facilities is “swim pool reception” and “swim pool entrance (cafĂ©)” – can I seek clarification that community use and facilities will be no less than at St Paul’s Academy and at Grove Academy?"

I will, of course, update constituents on the response received.

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Vince Cable at Conference

Part One :

Part Two :

Well done Sanjay!

I mentioned last month that I was returning officer in the selection of the Scottish Liberal Democrat candidate for the new North Angus and Mearns seat for the 2011 Scottish Parliamentary Election.

Nearly 40% of the new seat comes from the current Liberal Democrat West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine seat with its very active LibDem membership and councillor base, so is promising territory for the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

From a Liberal Democrat perspective, the new seat is also helped by the fact that in the "non Mearns part" that is not in the current West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, there is also very active team of Liberal Democrats, including Councillor David May in Montrose.

The party is pleased to announce that Sanjay Samani has been selected to contest the North Angus and Mearns seat at next May's Scottish Parliamentary Elections. The photo (above right) is of me congratulating Sanjay at the announcement of his selection.

Hillside Terrace - proposed stopping up order - Public Inquiry

The public inquiry relative to the proposed stopping up order at the west end of Hillside Terrace (next to Wimberley Houses) started at the Invercarse Hotel this morning. I attended the first part of the inquiry this morning. Details of the case can be read on the Scottish Government Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals website by following this link - - where the Reporter's decision will appear in due course.

Scottish Ju Jitsu Association

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting with Bob Ross, Technical Director of the Scottish Ju Jitsu Association, to see round their premises in Douglas Street that were formerly part of the Park Mill complex (see the colourful entrance gates - right).

Bob and colleagues have put a lot of effort into getting the premises into shape and they hope to have them fully operational for participants of Ju Jitsu and other martial arts early in 2011. Bob is also keen to progress positive diversionary activities around the graffiti issue in the area.

It is good to see positive progress for another sport in the West End and I've made clear to Bob that I'll be pleased to assist the Association in any way I can in the months ahead.

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Concerns over Queen Victoria Works

Over the past three years, I have raised concerns about the condition of Queen Victoria Works in the West End Ward. Yesterday's partial roof collapse reinforces my concerns.

Earlier today I wrote to the council's Legal Manager, Director of City Development and the Buildings Safety Officer as follows :

"I paste below some of the previous correspondence regarding the above works and write to express my concern at the collapse of a significant section of roofing of the building yesterday.

I reiterate my concerns about the safety of the building. I am aware that it has been inspected in the past and I would be grateful if it was urgently re-inspected and necessary action taken. I presume Listed Building Enforcement Action is now a possibility given the lack of action by the owner is respect of its deteriorating condition?"

I also asked that the owner of the site is contacted and asked to take immediate action on safety. The council's Legal Manager has confirmed to me that this would be undertaken.

Tuesday ...

This evening, I attended the networking event run by the Maxwelltown Information Centre (see right) before its AGM, to highlight the educational and support services the centre offers.

I then attended the Harris Academy Parent Council at which the rebuilding programme report going before the City Council's Education Committee next Monday was discussed.

On Radio Tay News this afternoon

I was on Radio Tay News this afternoon regarding the council budget and the so-called "Changing for the Future" Board - click 'play' to listen.

Dropped kerbing - good news

Back in May, I raised the need for dropped kerbing in the Peddie Street area.
I was concerned to learn recently from an elderly resident in the area that she had a fall from her motorised scooter at the Annfield Street/Peddie Street junction, where there is currently no dropped kerbing.

The City Council has now informed me :

"This area around Peddie Street and Annfield Street has been included in the area already identified and a works order has been issued to Tayside Contracts undertake dropped kerb work here. We have strived to provide access at most important junctions in this area."

Monday 20 September 2010

Caravans at Riverside Business Park

The return of caravans at the Riverside Business Park has resulted in many constituents' concerns. I have received the following feedback tonight from the City Council's Chief Executive:

" ...the owners have been advised today, and we are liaising directly with them and Tayside Police."

West End Primary/Nursery Schools' Planning Application

At tonight's Dundee City Council Development Management Committee, the planning application for the replacement St Joseph's Primary, Park Place Primary and Park Place Nursery schools was approved.

I asked questions about the traffic assessment and proposed travel plan. You can read the committee papers on this matter at

Britain in 2015 - Nick Clegg’s speech to Autumn Conference

Dear Fraser,

Imagine you're asking a friend or neighbour to vote Liberal Democrat in the 2015 General Election.

Imagine how it will feel to say that in Government, the Liberal Democrats scrapped ID cards. To say we cut crime while stopping Labour's mass incarceration of children. That finally we have a fair tax system where the rich pay their share - and the lowest earners pay no income tax at all. You'll say we brought troops home from Afghanistan after they'd finished the difficult job we sent them to do.

You’ll be able to tell people they have a new right to sack MPs who do wrong, and that the party funding scandals of the past are history. And if we campaign hard enough in the referendum on Fairer Votes you'll be able to say the clapped out First Past the Post system is gone for good.

That is the goal, the prize, that I have set out in
my speech to our Party Conference today.
In 2015 Britain will be a different country. For five years you and I will give it a different kind of government and a new politics. Five years of transforming the state and reversing generations of centralisation.

Five years of delivering fairer taxes, a fair start for every child, a rebalanced green economy, a cleaner politics - as we promised to do in our Liberal Democrat election manifesto.

The Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives are and always will be separate parties, with distinct histories and different futures. But for this Parliament we work together to fix the problems we face and put the country on a better path.

This is the right Government for right now. Our first job is a difficult one - balancing the budget.

Let me be clear with you about this - we are not dismantling the state. Even when all the cuts have happened, the Government will still be spending the same proportion of national income as it did in 2006. We will not repeat the mistakes of previous recessions.

But to delay solving the deficit would mean the Government would soon be paying £70 billion a year on interest payments alone. We cannot ask our children to pay our credit card bills.

We have to do it so that Britain in 2015 can be a different country.

Strong, fair, free. A country we can be proud to hand on to our children.

Thank you for all your support and all your hard work. Together we will change Britain for good.

All best wishes,

Nick Clegg MP
Leader of the Liberal Democrats & Deputy Prime Minister

PS. You can read my full speech here:

West End play parks

A constituent recently wrote to me about the play parks at the foot of Roseangle and in Balgay Park :

“I write about the play parks at Magdalen Green and Balgay Park. I understand that due to the current climate that play park improvements aren't very high up the priority list but these parks are not great and really need some improvements.

I have a 15 month old son and during the summer have been visiting the parks a lot and compared the the lovely play park at Castle Green in the Ferry the parks are pretty rubbish. I am not looking for an adventure playground but better ground covering instead of the skin removing concrete and slightly better range of facilities for older and younger children would be nice.

I understand there are several parks across Dundee that all need attention and that it is difficult to decide which parks should get attention.”

I contacted the Leisure & Communities Department about this and have received the following helpful feedback :

"We will certainly look at the two play areas that have been highlighted at Magdalen Green and Balgay Park, particularly in relation to the issue regarding safety surfacing. I suspect that the safety surfacing that your constituent is referring to is surrounding the shute area which, in itself, is not so much a priority as compared to a climbing frame or a swing, as you can possibly appreciate.

I would agree that our aspiration is to create play which is interesting, challenging and provides a focal point for the park and for the children in respect of enjoyment and fulfilment. Obviously the major stumbling block is going to be funding of any improvements and refurbishment of a similar sized play area would ballpoint be around £150,000-£200,000. Obviously there are variations on this which could take the figure down. However at this stage we have no financial provision in our budget.

We will certainly look at the play areas to see whether there are alternative methods of funding and I will ensure that you are kept in the loop."

I'll obviously update residents on this matter as I hear further.

More roofing repairs for the Tullideph Area

The roof repairs programme for the Tullideph Area continues with new roof replacement work starting next Monday (27th September) at 2-6 Tullideph Place and 9/10 Tullideph Street.

This part of the programme should be completed by November.

The Housing Department has written to tenants with full details and I am also happy to speak with any tenant who may have any questions about the roofing work that is about to commence.

Friends of Magdalen Green Coffee Morning

The Autumn Friends of Magdalen Green Coffee Morning takes place at Dundee West Church, Perth Road, on Saturday (25th September) from 10am to 12 noon.
Don't miss it!

Sunday 19 September 2010

X Factor Sunday Star ...

Thomson Street - latest

At the request of residents, I have been keeping a close eye on the road works and road closure in Thomson Street and have dealt with any issues residents raise.

Last week, the bin collection arrangements did not work well (bins not returned to residents by the contractor) and the brown bin collection arrangements did not really work at all.

I have been in touch with the City Council to ensure liaison arrangements with the contractor over cleansing collections work better in future weeks.

Dundee House - progress

On Thursday, along with other members of the Dundee House Project Board, I took part in a site visit round the Dundee House construction site in North Lindsay Street.

The new council headquarters are proceeding well - the view (right) is from the top floor of the building - although I raised some queries about the project at the board meeting that took place immediately after the site visit.

Saturday 18 September 2010

And Rebecca Ferguson was superb!

Awfully good

The HuHas - stars of this week's X Factor

Love this ...

Best advert on the telly! Love the suitcase bit ...

Good luck Caron!

Later tonight, the results of the LibDem Blog of the Year will be announced during our party's Federal Conference in Liverpool. Fellow Scottish LibDem blogger Caron Lindsay has been shortlisted in not just one, but two categories this year - Liberal Democrat Blog of the Year and Best Posting on a Liberal Democrat Blog!

I was at Scottish Liberal Democrat HQ in Edinburgh yesterday (nothing to do with blogging - internal party elections!) and it was good to see Caron & wish her all the best for tonight. So here's a few bloggers' photos then!
Above : Yours truly and Caron
Above : Scottish LibDem bloggers' convention - Yours truly, Caron, James Taylor and Sanjay Samani
Above : Yours truly and Alison Burns, Liberal Democrat candidate for Dundee West

Friday 17 September 2010

Unadopted footways programme - progress at Glamis Terrace

In 2007, I proposed to the then council administration - and fellow councillors agreed - to a two and a half fold increase in capital funding to tackle the problem of poor-conditioned unadopted pavements in the city.

It is good to see the progress on this issue that has taken place since - and this week the bad pavements in Glamis Terrace are being upgraded to a high-quality standard - see right.

Thursday 16 September 2010

Dundee Councillors' expenses

As reported in today's Courier (and last night's Evening Telegraph):

"Details of the thousands of pounds in expenses claims made by Dundee councillors have been revealed by the city council.

The release of a list outlining every single item councillors claimed for from the public purse in the last financial year only came after the intervention of the Scottish information commissioner."

Over the past few weeks I have been in correspondence and discussion with David Dorward, the City Council's Chief Executive, about this matter. Whilst it is good that the information has finally been revealed, I would make two points :

a) It is a pity that it has had to take the tenacity of our local DC Thomson press, my discussions with the Chief Executive and the intervention of the Information Commissioner to get the council to release the information. It should have been released voluntarily by the council as a matter of course and in the interest of openness and transparency. This is public money and the public has the right to how it is spent.

b) The council did not provide copies of the actual receipts - only a list of the detail. It should have released the receipts. If it is good enough for Westminster, it should be good enough for Dundee City

I said in the Courier today that the u-turn on this issue by the council is a positive step, adding :

"I am pleased to hear this information has been made available and it is only right and proper that it is."

Both my LibDem colleague, Cllr Helen Dick, and I have claimed no expenses whatsoever, throughout our time on Dundee City Council. We will continue to make no expenses claims.