Wednesday meetings …

A very busy day yesterday with numerous meetings, including :
* Attending two tenants’ meetings organised by Home Scotland at Blackness Court and Sinderins Court for the residents there and at Pennycook Court,   The meetings were to review the revised warden/support arrangements that were introduced last year and get tenants’ feedback.    The meetings were a good opportunity for all the tenants who attended to raise any issues or concerns, not just about support issues but also on other matters, such as repairs.
* A meeting with two senior Police Scotland officers to discuss the proposed loss of the 999 and 101 calls Dundee response centre, with the resultant loss of local knowledge in call handling, which I view as a detrimental step.    We had a useful exchange of views and information on the matter and I will be raising the issue at the council’s Policy & Resources Committee next Monday.
* A meeting of the Harris Academy Parent Council, which took place at Menzieshill High School.   This was followed by a joint meeting with the Menzieshill High School Parent Council – an excellent initiative, given that that the two school communities come together later this year.     It was a very positive meeting and planning for the future is well in hand and very reassuring.
* The formal opening of the High Mill at Verdant Works took place.  It was a very well-attended event and the restoration of the High Mill is simply superb – I would thoroughly recommend a visit.    Sir Neil Cossons, the eminent historian and leading authority on the industrial heritage, performed the official opening.    I had the opportunity to speak with Sir Neil, who is very pleasant and interesting.     A few photos from the opening of the High Mill :
Large turnout for the High Mill formal opening
Part of the High Mill restoration
Sir Neil Cossons performs the official opening
The beautifully restored Boulton and Watt steam engine

Thursday West End meetings

Yesterday, I took part in tenant consultation meetings at Blackness Court and at Sinderins/Pennycook Courts with Home Scotland representatives, about future scheme manager/support staff posts.   

This was the latest in a series of meetings with tenants I have attended with the tenants since last November and it was agreed yesterday that there will be further consultation meetings towards the end of the year to ensure that the changes to support arrangements are working fine and resolve any issues.
After my ward surgery at Blackness Primary School last night, I attended the West End Local Community Planning Partnership meeting at Blackness Library.
The LCPP meeting is a good opportunity for representatives from different council departments, councillors and representatives from other organisations like police, fire and rescue and the NHS to discuss local issues and matters of concern and also let local residents raise issues, ask questions and have their say.
There was an interesting and informative update from the Partnership Manager at Tayside Contracts/Dundee City Council Roads Maintenance Partnership on the work undertaken to improve and maintain Dundee’s roads and pavements.
I also took the opportunity to highlight an enterprise initiative by the P6 pupils at Blackness Primary School, who are selling West End “Bag Buddy” shopping bags.   Costing only £5 each, they have various West End designs (see below) and can be purchased from the school office, the Rosebud, Nisa, Spar, Fraser’s Fruit & Veg, Indigo House, West End Gallery, Urban Print and Roseangle Arts Cafe. 

Blackness Court meeting

This morning, I had a very useful and productive meeting with the tenants of Blackness Court at which we discussed a number of local issues including the following :

Need to have overgrown foliage near Blackness Court trimmed as it is obstructing the handrail.   I have taken this up with Home Scotland.
Dumped items and litter round the communal bins in Rosefield Place.   I have reported this to the City Council’s Environment Department.

Road safety – Blackness Road

I mentioned at the end May that I had held a very well-attended meeting with the residents of Blackness Court.   Issues discussed included pedestrian safety and traffic speed on Blackness Road and I have now received this feedback from the City Council’s Head of Transportation:
“Thank you for email about Blackness Court and elderly pedestrians having difficulty crossing Blackness Road at the Bus stop.  I do have sympathy for elderly people crossing the road, however I think it would be highly unlikely that a new pedestrian crossing could be installed at this location as I do not believe that there is a significant pedestrian demand to justify one. In addition there is already a pedestrian refuge island just down the road to the east of the bus stop and this is within a short distance and I would recommend that this should be used to assist them across the road.
I would also resist the introduction of a 20 mph speed limit on this section of road as this road is a C Class road that carries significant amount of through traffic including buses, I know that there are ‘part time 20s further up Blackness Road however this is directly related to the new school that has been built.
Finally I have asked that the location be looked at in signage terms however there are limits to the type of signage that is allowable.  We have had difficulties around the city with signage clutter which can be aesthetically unattractive and reduces the effectiveness of the signage.”
I have updated the Blackness Court Scheme Manager about this feedback and the matter will be discussed further at the next tenants’ meeting there too.   The agreement to review signage is welcome although I do think the City Council should embrace more 20’s Plenty zones particularly where there are elderly residents crossing and in highly residential areas.

Blackness Court Tenants’ Meeting

Yesterday afternoon, I had the pleasure of speaking at a packed meeting of tenants at the Blackness Court Sheltered Housing Complex.
We had a good discussion about local issues such as parking, pavement condition, bin collections and other matters and also discussed forthcoming local events such as the Festival of Volunteering and WestFest.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours and I am grateful to all who attended and participated.

Happy Birthday Blackness Court!

This afternoon, I had the great pleasure of attending the 25th Anniversary Party of the Blackness Court Sheltered Housing Complex.    There was a great turnout of residents – see below – and it was a lovely event to mark an important anniversary for the complex.
The event also marked the 25th Anniversary of Linda Webster as Blackness Court’s Scheme Manager.    Linda has been at Blackness Court since 1988 and is a much-loved and hard working scheme manager who has made Blackness Court such a lovely place for the tenants to have made their home.   Linda gave an entertaining rendition of a poem about the past 25 years at Blackness Court – see above right – and was fittingly given a presentation by colleagues at Home Scotland.

Improvements on Blackness Road planned

Last June, the City Council sensibly decided to postpone road resurfacing works on the part of Blackness Road between Abbotsford Street and Blackness Fire Station.    It makes sense to undertake this work after all the disruption to the roadway around the new schools on the former Logie Secondary site has finished.

Constituents have asked when the work is now planned to happen so I asked the City Engineer for an update.   He has responded as follows:

“… the surfacing works were postponed until mid September 2012 to allow for utility connections to be made to the school development.  A road closure will be required to carry out these surfacing works which are proposed to last 6 days.
A letter drop will be carried out to notify frontagers of the proposed works.”

A plan of the works area is given below:
Constituents at Blackness Court have also asked about extending the length of the “bleep” of the Green Man at the crossing near to the sheltered housing as it currently gives the pedestrian the impression that it is not safe to continue walking and this is particularly disconcerting for elderly residents.      

The Head of Transportation at Dundee City Council has responded as follows:

“This pedestrian crossing is planned to be refurbished, ahead of the new school opening, and the UTC team will include an extended ‘beeps’ stage during the daytime.  After 9pm the ‘beeps’ are truncated to minimise noise intrusion to neighbouring residents.”

Rosefield Place

Back in February, I reported that I had spoken with a number of the sheltered housing tenants at Blackness Court about the worn double yellow lines in Rosefield Place. As a result of the yellow markings being so worn, cars park on the pavement edge making it very difficult for elderly folk – especially those on motorised scooters – to get from their homes to the shops.

At that time, the City Council advised me it hoped to repaint them in the Spring, but this has not yet happened – in part because of the rather unusual situation of a world-wide shortage of one of the raw ingredients for the paint that is used for road lining. The Director of City Development has assured me, however, that the council has received shipments of materials in July.

With regard to Rosefield Place, I asked for a specific update from the City Council and have now been advised as follows :

” …unfortunately due to budget constraints and more recently a shortage of raw materials, the work is still outstanding.

However, on a brighter note, (I am advised) that I will be allocated an extra £100k to spend on line refurbishment during the current financial year. This will clear my backlog of orders and I will be instructing Tayside Contracts to refurbish all outstanding work from financial year 2009/10 before they begin with orders from financial year 2010/11. Therefore, please be assured that the wait is almost over.”

Latest news

A few latest updates!

* Blackness Court Sheltered Housing – I have been campaigning for some time to have the footpaths near to the sheltered housing improved. On Friday, along with two residents, I had a useful site visit with a City Council roads inspector who has promised to progress pavement improvements at the Rosefield Place/Blackness Road junction and at the pedestrian crossing used by the sheltered housing residents to cross Blackness Road to get to the Post Office and other local shops.

Residents have also complained that the yellow lines in Rosefield Place are worn and cars park on the pavement edge making it very difficult for elderly folk – especially those on motorised scooters – to get from their homes to the shops. I was pleased to be advised today by the City Development Department as follows : “The lines in Rosefield Place will therefore be refurbished around April/May time along with other long term outstanding orders.”

* Council housing allocations policy – Earlier today, I attended a briefing for councillors on council housing allocations policy. I raised questions about the need for a common housing register and co-ordination between housing association and council allocation policies to maximise allocations of housing for people in Dundee on housing waiting lists.

* Hunter Street Parking Project – I met the Head of Transportation today about my concerns regarding this project being delayed. I received an assurance that the project will be revisited in 2012 and, if the business case holds, the project will go ahead, as promised. I am disappointed at the delay, especially given that there was interest from around 8 commercial organisations to the advertisement in the European Journal. The multi-storey car park – immediately adjacent to the University of Dundee campus, would greatly assist parking problems in the area.

I also had the opportunity to discuss community transport with the Head of Transportation. We discussed the future of the Friendly Bus sheltered housing shopping service that I am anxious to see secured for the long term.

* Tay Rail Bridge Disaster 1879 – memorial – I had an excellent meeting with Stuart Morris, son of the Laird of Balgonie, regarding his suggestion of a lasting memorial to the victims of the 1879 rail disaster. We have agreed a route forward and will meet again with a group of supporters of such a memorial in March.

* Surgeries – Two busy surgeries late this afternoon at Mitchell Street Centre and Harris Academy.

* City Council Meeting – At tonight’s City Council committees I welcomed an energy efficiency scheme and made some suggestions about ensuring publicity of these (apparently well-received by all sides) and also commented on proposed waiting restrictions in the area around Harris Academy – these will now be subject to public consultation.

Parking at Polepark, Street Cleaning and Heating Charges – Blackness Court and Sinderins Court

Had useful meetings with residents today – one about street cleaning in a West End street, the other about the parking problems in Polepark Road.
Also been in touch with the Courier today following on from the article about the large increase in heating changes at Blackness Court and Sinderins Court – here’s a copy of the news release I have given the Courier:
Councillor’s concern over heating cost hike for sheltered tenants.

West End Councillor Fraser Macpherson today expressed great concern over the heating charge increases being faced by residents in Blackness Court and Sinderins Court and indicated that he has been in correspondence with the landlords Home in Scotland about the issue.

“Residents from Sinderins Court attended my surgery last week to express their worries about the huge hike in charges and I immediately wrote to Home in Scotland seeking an explanation,” said Cllr Macpherson.

“The housing association has replied and said that the fuel charges they pick up from Scottish & Southern Electric and Scottish Gas have increased and they are having to pass this on to tenants. It is deeply concerning as the increases are very significant – in a typical flat in Sinderins Court a previous heating charge of £15.76 becomes £57.34,” continued Cllr Macpherson.

“Although there has been a welcome reduction in other service charges which will reduce the net increase for those who do not receive housing benefit, for anyone on Housing Benefit the situation is particularly concerning as the heating charge that has significantly increased is not eligible for help through housing benefit. I have therefore made arrangements to meet with a Home in Scotland representative next week to discuss the issue further. I am really concerned about this situation, especially as it affects residents many of whom are elderly,” he concluded.