Getting things done – Pleasance Court #dundeewestend

I have been in correspondence with Home Scotland about getting the graffiti painted on some ground floor windows in Pleasance Court removed.
 
I have received assurances from Home Scotland about this, which is reassuring as the most recent graffiti appeared before the festive season.

Getting things done – fencing damage at Pleasance Court #dundeewestend

Following concerns raised by a resident with me yesterday about the damage to fencing at the side of Pleasance Court, I immediately raised this with the fence owners, Home Scotland.
 
See photo – right :
 
The broken fencing was lying across the public pavement at the Brewery Lane/Brook Street junction.
 
Home Scotland’s Maintenance Surveyor responded very promptly late yesterday afternoon as follows :
 
“I have attended and removed the fence from the street. We will now organise repair / replacement. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.”

Pleasance Court – Residents’ meeting

Pleasance Court
Earlier tonight, I had the pleasure of chairing a meeting with the residents of Pleasance Court.   
 
I am very grateful to the council’s Environment Department representative at the meeting who updated us on the Seagulls problem in the area.
 
I am also grateful to the representatives from Ross & Liddell and Home Scotland who attended and to the residents for their participation.

Waiting Restrictions Review in part of the West End Ward

Back in April, I mentioned that I had chaired a residents’ meeting at Pleasance Court at which one of the matters discussed was the proposal by the City Council to review the parking waiting restrictions on streets in the area.
 
This should hopefully free up some additional on-street car parking in the area – including quite a wide area to the east of Pleasance Court towards Lochee Road to the north and Hawkhill to the south.
 
As a preliminary part of the legal procedures to be undertaken to give effect to the proposals, the Council be undertaking public consultation soon and you can download plans of the current situation and the proposals here.

Falling masonry concern at Pleasance Court

This morning, following concerns raised about falling masonry at Pleasance Court, I visited the scene (see right) and have been in discussion with site factors, Ross and Liddell, about the situation.
 
A significant amount of masonry fell from the south side of the building into the car park area and it was extremely lucky that no-one was close to the site when the stonework fell.   There was also no damage to vehicles and three Fire and Rescue vehicles attended to ensure the building is safe and, along with police colleagues, an exclusion zone has been established round part of the building.
 
Ross and Liddell assure me that they are taking immediate steps to address the issue and ensure the building’s stonework is 100% secure.

Pleasance Court residents’ meeting

Pleasance Court
Last night, I had the pleasure of chairing the latest meeting of the residents of Pleasance Court.
 
There was a useful discussion on a number of local issues – seagulls nuisance, wheelie bins, door entry security and roof guttering to name a few.
 
There was a very useful update from two representatives from the City Council on the review of parking restrictions in the area which will free up new parking space and there was also a helpful update from another City Council officer on the draft site planning brief for Queen Victoria Works.
 
I am also most grateful to representatives from Home Scotland, Ross & Liddell and Community Spirit Action Group who attended and participated in the discussion.

Progress in tackling West End derelict mill welcomed

The deteriorating condition of Queen Victoria Works
I have welcomed the bringing forward of a draft Site Planning Brief for the Queen Victoria Works site in Brook Street.    
 
I have long campaigned to see the situation at the derelict works being improved with a view to seeing sensitive development of the site.  
 
The idea of consulting with owners and interested parties on a Site Planning Brief is due to be discussed by Dundee City Council’s City Development Committee on 22nd April.     It gives guidance on possible future uses and design and it is hoped that its publication will allow for future proposals to bring the site into useful future use.
 
I greatly welcome the proposal to have a site planning brief for this important building.    Dundee has a proud industrial heritage and a number of the key historic buildings like Queen Victoria Works are in danger of being lost.   The City Council has a key role in ensuring this does not happen.
 
A site planning brief does not in itself guarantee future development but it does aid the possibility of giving the works a positive future use.    It is good that the council will consult widely on the proposed brief and I am meeting with the residents of the adjacent Pleasance Court later this month and will be keen to hear their views.

Pleasance Court – Residents’ meeting

Last night, I had the pleasure of chairing the latest – and well-attended – meeting of the residents of Pleasance Court.
 
There was a useful discussion on a number of local issues – seagulls nuisance, wheelie bins, parking issues and security to name a few – and I am most grateful to representatives from Home Scotland, Ross & Liddell, Tayside Police and Community Spirit Action Group who attended and participated in the discussion.

Further concern over Queen Victoria Works

Over a long period, I have raised concerns about the dilapidated state of the former Queen Victoria Works between Brook Street and Douglas Street.    

The concerns were raised again recently by residents of Pleasance Court at a meeting I held with them.

Following this, I raised the concerns again with the City Council and the Head of Planning has advised:

“Building Standards Officers have regularly inspected this property following the receipt of numerous reports.  These inspections have confirmed that a reasonable level of site security is achieved such that no law abiding citizen could inadvertently find themselves at risk within the existing perimeter walls.

A recent inspection on 28 May 2012, following a report that the Mill was accessible to children, again indicated the site to reasonably well secured.  A loose security mesh grill was identified over a ground floor window to the building on Brook Street and dislodged lining boards were observed to a timber gate to the Lower Pleasance elevation.  Neither of these damaged/vandalised areas created a significant or immediate breach of the site perimeter security.  However, when one of my officers returned the following day to effect repairs, the loose security mesh (and others which did not necessarily require it) had been re-secured by spot welding and the timber gate had been boarded over.  It is assumed that these works had been carried out by the owner, or on the owner’s behalf.

The owner has intimated that regular security checks are carried out on the premises.  

The serving of a Dangerous Building Notice may be subject to technical or legal challenges via the appeals procedure.  Any such Notice would set out a description of works to be undertaken and a timescale for completion.  In the event of an owner’s default, the Council would be required to instruct the works required by the Notice and recover costs reasonably incurred.  Such costs can only be recovered where the owner has sufficient funds.  Emergency Works can be instructed without a formal Notice, but this action has to be justified, and creates the same issues in cost recovery as indicated above.
The condition of this site will continue to be kept under review.”

I have responded saying:

“I am pleased that there was a recent inspection but remain concerned about the continuing decline in the condition of the site and the owner’s lack of any real action to address this other than alleged infrequent “security checks.”

I note what you write about the Dangerous Building Notice but given the long term decline of this historic mill, I feel this is a procedure the City Council should now be initiating – the alternative is simply to see the mill’s state to decline to an extent that demolition is the only answer and I convinced that the City Council has a responsibility to ensure that does not happen.”

Here’s two photographs I took last week that show the extent of deterioration of the mill:
The City Council’s Chief Executive has agreed to my request to reconvene a working party to tackle vacant and derelict buildings in the city.   I have asked him to ensure that this group swiftly tackles issues like Queen Victoria Works and Verdant Works.  Dundee has an industrial heritage that is in danger of being lost – and the City Council has a key role in ensuring this does not happen. 

Pleasance Court Residents’ Meeting

Following an initial meeting last month, I was pleased to last night chair a second meeting of residents of Pleasance Court at the residents’ lounge in the complex.

I’m grateful to both Home Scotland (who have tenants across the west and north of the former mill) and Ross & Liddell (who factor the properties across the south of the mill) and who both had representatives in attendance yesterday evening.

Feedback was given by these representatives and myself on the issues raised at the May meeting and there was discussion about these and other local issues.   Additionally, the Chair of the Community Spirit Action Group, the community group that covers much of the wider area between Lochee Road and Blackness Road attended to let the residents of Pleasance Court know about Community Spirit’s work.

Pleasance Court – new residents’ group

Pleasance Court
Last night, I chaired a very productive and positive meeting with residents of Pleasance Court (“The Coffin Mill”) off Brook Street, and am grateful to all residents who attended and to Home Scotland representatives who both hosted the meeting in the residents’ lounge and participated in the discussion.   Ross & Liddell, who factor many of the properties on the south side of the mill, are also very supportive.

The principle of re-forming the residents’ group was agreed by all who attended and will be holding another meeting in the coming weeks to progress this and to update everyone on progress with actions taken as a result of issues raised last night.    Between Home Scotland, Ross & Liddell and myself, an update will be sent to every household on issues that have been raised and seeking views/feedback.

Numerous issues were raised including home and parking security, bins, repairs and concern about the state of the nearby Queen Victoria Works site – an issue I am continuing to pursue with the City Council.

Residents had previously raised with me the bad graffiti in Douglas Street opposite the entrance to Pleasance Court.   I had raised this with the council’s Rapid Response Team and they swiftly attended to this earlier this week – see below:

Before …


After …
After this residents’ meeting, I was pleased to catch part of the Friends of the University of Dundee Botanic Garden meeting that took place in the Botanic Garden Education Centre on a beautiful warm evening.    The Friends have achieved very substantial donations and earmarkings to assist the Botanic Garden and it was good to learn of the establishment of a Dundee Botanic Garden Endowment Trust.

Getting things done … Pleasance Court – street lighting

I have received complaints from residents at Pleasance Court about the poor street lighting behind the housing at Lower Pleasance, due to overgrown trees.
I raised the matter with the City Council and the Forestry Section has responded as follows:
“I am writing to you to keep you up to date regarding your enquiry about trees located in the southern section of Lower Pleasance and the south side of Brewery Lane. As you are aware I had contacted City Development to ascertain if it held any responsibilities here, but it does not.   I also contacted the roads maintenance section asking if there was anything it could do to assist with the matter.    The department has since inspected the site and decided that due to the difficulty in determining ownership of all the derelict grounds upon which the offending trees are growing, it will – under public safety – issue an order to cut/prune back the offending trees.
I have now received this order of instruction to carry out the pruning works to prune from the lamp posts and prune back the overhanging branches to improve headroom for pedestrians and vehicles. 

I will programme this work into our current work schedule. I will arrange for the works to be carried out as soon as reasonably practicable.”

A good result.

UPDATE : Winter maintenance in the West End

Following residents’ requests, I recently requested a grit bin for Pleasance Court. I am pleased to advise that the City Engineer has updated me as follows :

“I can advise that following assessment against the Council’s grit bin criteria, a grit bin will be placed on the north side of Pleasance Court near the junction with Lower Pleasance in due course.”

At West End Community Council last week, the issue of grit still lying on footpaths was raised. The City Engineer assures me that :

“The grit will be gathered up and recycled in due course, however, at present we are leaving the grit in position as snow has continued to be forecast.”

More on grit bins in the West End

During the recent very wintry spell, a resident in Hillside Drive asked me if the City Council would provide a grit bin at the top end of the street. The City Engineer has now responded positively to my request as follows :

“Your constituent’s request for a grit bin at the top end of Hillside Drive has been assessed by Road Maintenance and as this location meets the necessary criteria it is proposed that a grit bin be set out at a suitable location as soon as this can be arranged.”

Also, at the request of residents in Pleasance Court, I have asked for a grit bin to be placed in the courtyard area – currently, the nearest grit bin is in Edward Street.

Improving parking in the West End

I have been in touch recently with Home Scotland, one of the major housing association landlords in the West End, about complaints from residents that the car parks designed for them as Home Scotland tenants were being used by non-residents, simply parking there to avoid parking charges in the City Centre.

The main complaints in the past have come to me from people in Seafield Lane, Thomson Street and in Brown Street – and in the latter Home Scotland development, the housing association has piloted a residents’ parking scheme that is properly policed to ensure that only those entitled to park there – local residents – do so.

Following further complaints from Home Scotland tenants in other streets, I asked for an update on the pilot’s success and tackling the problem elsewhere and I have today received the following feedback from the Home Scotland Housing Services Manager :

“I am glad at last to be able to advise that we are now in a position to progress the roll out of the parking to other areas. Letters are being issued over the next week to our tenants at the following addresses to seek their agreement to the parking scheme in their area. (We require the agreement of the majority of the residents). This includes:

Thomson Street
Seafield Lane
Forest Park Road
Forest Park Place
Pleasance Court

I would therefore anticipate the scheme being in place within the next month.

I realise that this has taken a long time to be implemented, but following the success of the pilot in Brown Street , I hope that our tenants see the benefits of the scheme.”

I am very pleased to see progress with this – all credit to Home Scotland for taking a proactive approach to help West End residents.

On the wider issue of parking problems for residents in the West End on-street and in council-owned car parks, since the SNP took over council control last March, there has been inaction on moving forward the recommendations from consultants the council brought in to look at the issue and come forward with proposals to improve matters for residents.

I recently met the City Council’s new Chief Executive and the Director of City Development to voice my concerns at the delay in progressing parking improvements for local residents and I have been given assurances that the matter will be progressed in the near future. Needless to say, I’ll be keeping a very close eye on this!