Getting things done – Greater Balgay #dundeewestend

I have had numerous concerns recently about the frequency of grass cutting and maintenance in Balgay Park, Victoria Park and Lochee Park and also the need to attend to overgrown bushes at the Victoria Park boundary with Jedburgh Road.
 
I took this up with the council’s Service Manager – Environment and he has now responded as follows :
 
“I can confirm that the grass at Victoria Park has now been cut. 
 
In terms of Lochee Park, to ensure the pitches are kept in a suitable standard for football we always endeavour to cut these weekly, the remainder of the park is cut on a fortnightly basis hence the grass is a bit longer in the non football areas cut rather than being of excessive length.
 
The hedge in Jedburgh Road is cut annually and is scheduled to commence at the start of next month.”

Play On Wheels Easter Holidays events #dundeewestend

Here’s Play On Wheels Easter Holidays events in the West End for local children!
 
Play On Wheels will be out whatever the weather so hope to see lots of you for some adventures.    Come and say hello and have some fun. 
 
Everyone welcome and all sessions are free of charge.
 
Play On Wheels is a Smart Play Network project funded through the BIG Lottery Investing in Communities 21st Century Life programme.

Repair work at Victoria Park #dundeewestend

From the council’s Neighbourhood Services Area manager for the west of the city :
 
“As you may have noticed that there is an area of grass that has been killed off in the middle of the park – this is due to a damaged underground cable.  
 
SSE will be carrying out extensive repair works to this on the 28th May
 
This will comprise of large excavations for around 5/6 weeks.  
 
The area will be secured with Heras fencing each night and weekends.
 
Once repairs have been completed SSE sub contractors will repair the area.”

Victoria Park – new tennis courts #dundeewestend

Having updated residents over the past few years over the council’s proposals to improve the tennis courts at Victoria Park, it is great to see the new tennis courts now complete and looking great!
 
There’s been very positive feedback from constituents.   “Before” and “after” photos below :
I’m pictured a few years ago at the old tennis courts – above
 
The new tennis courts are a very substantial improvement

West End playpark improvements

Having long campaigned for an upgrade to the Victoria Park playpark, it is good to see the proposals for the impending improvements agreed by the council’s Neighbourhood Services Committee – here’s a couple of images of the plans that should be completed before the end of March :

 

Last July, I raised with the council residents’ requests to make improvements at the playpark in Milnbank Road/Bankmill Road and I am pleased at the positive response to my request.   On Monday, the council’s Neighbourhood Services Committee will consider the following proposal :

Milnbank Play Area – Improve all surfacing within the play area. This includes removing slabbed surface and replacing with rubber mulch safety surface and additional ground restoration works.

I am also pleased that the following proposal is also being considered on Monday :

Magdalen Green Play Area – Improve stability of the well-used banking by installation of a Scramble net to enhance play for users and additional restoration to safety surfacing.

Balgay Stakeholders’ Walkabout

Earlier this evening, I attended a walkabout round Greater Balgay by the Balgay Stakeholders’ Group, which brings together local councillors, council parks/Neighbourhood Services staff and representatives from the Friends of Balgay – to look at issues related to Balgay Park and its surrounds.
 
We had a very useful walk round Greater Balgay, and discussed proposals for improvements in the forthcoming year or so which include :
 
• Improved directional and road safety/vehicle speed limit signage
• Removal of the unused bowling green at Lochee Park to incorporate it into the main park (but maintaining the remaining bowling green)
• A welcome new overspill car park in Lochee Park and the lining of the main car park into bays
• Repair of the Serpentine steps in Balgay
• Significant upgrade and improvement to the Victoria Park tennis courts, hopefully taking place this summer
• Upgrade to the playpark in Victoria Park 
• Ask Community Payback to repaint the railings at the bandstand – see right
• Look at ways of improving areas like some of the hedgerows
• Some alteration to the Rose Garden to maintain its lovely appearance but improve its grass cutting regime
• Some solar lighting on paths
• Upgrading of Balgay Cemetery paths
 
These are very positive developments and I will continue to keep residents advised of progress.

Victoria Park Bowling Green – positive site visit

Further to my update at the end of last month about the future of Victoria Park Bowling Green, last night I took part in a site visit with local schools’ and community representatives, Environment Department staff and two of my ward colleagues to look at the green’s condition and that of the pavilion.
 
We had further very useful discussions about future schools and community use of the facility and we clearly now have a positive way forward for the former Bowling Green, which is really good news.
 
A couple of photos from last night :
The green is in good condition and has much to offer for schools and community use
The pavilion – needs some brightening up but good potential and has toilet facilities

Positive meeting about future use of Victoria Park Bowling Green

Victoria Park Bowling Green
Earlier this evening, along with representatives from the council’s Environment Department, Friends of Balgay, West End Community Council, Community Spirit Action Group, St Joseph’s Primary School, Victoria Park Primary School and fellow ward councillors, I took part in a meeting to discuss what can now be done with Victoria Park Bowling Green, following the council’s decision to close it.
 
I was critical of the closure decision, particularly after the council recently spent nearly £23 000 re-roofing the green’s pavilion, so I am anxious that positive alternative use is found for the bowling green and its pavilion.
 
We had a very positive meeting tonight and the upshot is that there’s now a proposal to give use of the facility to local schools to use for outdoor activities, school eco and gardening projects during the day, with community use in the evenings.    
 
Environment Department officers are now to draw up a paper outlining how the proposals could work in practice and a site visit will be undertaken after the school Easter holidays.

Council spent over £20 000 on Victoria Park bowling green pavilion – then shut it

Victoria Park Bowling Green
As reported in last night’s Evening Telegraph and today’s Courier, I have expressed concern about the City Council’s decision to close the Victoria Park Bowling Green, axed in the SNP administration’s budget, after it emerged that, only last year, the council had spent nearly £23 000 on repairs to the bowling green’s pavilion.
 
As residents are aware, I attempted at last month’s City Council Budget Meeting to save the Victoria Park Bowling Green and also the one at Baxter Park from the axe but unfortunately the SNP voted to close them and Labour also failed to support the bowling greens.   After my asking questions about the situation, it now emerges that the council spent £22 836 in 2014 repairing the pavilion at the Victoria Park green just a matter of months before closing it.
 
This rather made a nonsense of claiming closing the bowling greens saves money.    The total annual revenue budget saving from closing both bowling greens was claimed to be £30 000, so, as Victoria Park’s is the smaller of the two, I suspect the saving there would be under £15 000, which begs the question why council spent nearly £23 000 on the pavilion only to shut it months later.
 
The council claimed that these bowling greens could have been better used but the council itself has failed to properly promote the greens and their availability for local people to use.   If the council had been more proactive in advertising these bowling greens, they would been better used.
 
In the West End, we are lucky to have excellent private bowling clubs like Hillcrest and Balgay, but for people unable to afford an annual subscription or residents just wanting an occasional game without a recurring subscription, council bowling greens provide that facility.   The bowling green at Victoria Park has a lovely setting and it is a crying shame to see it dismantled.    
 
The Environment Director has said the council will consider possible alternative uses for the pavilion and green but so far there appears to be no proactivity to progress this.    I would like to see possible new community uses explored, but meantime I am simply scratching my head as to why anyone would think of spending nearly £23 000 of public money on a building and then shut it just months later.

Save Victoria Park Bowling Green

I have today issued a last minute appeal in advance of this Thursday’s City Council Budget Meeting to save the Victoria Park Bowling Green in the West End but also the Baxter Park Bowling Green, both facing the axe by the SNP council administration.
 
The council claims that these bowling greens could be better used so they intend to axe them but the council itself has failed to properly promote the greens and their availability for local people to use.   If the council had been more proactive in advertising these bowling greens, they would been better used.
 
In the West End, we are lucky to have excellent private bowling clubs like Hillcrest and Balgay, but for people unable to afford an annual subscription or residents just wanting an occasional game without a recurring subscription, council bowling greens provide that facility.   The bowling green at Victoria Park has a lovely setting and it would be a crying shame to see it dismantled.    
 
I have submitted a budget amendment that council officers agree is legally competent and this would save both Victoria Park Bowling Green and the one at Baxter Park.    I call upon all the West End councillors to support efforts to save Victoria Park Bowling Green.  
 
My budget amendment also stops the SNP’s proposed reduction in street cleaning services and the highly controversial SNP proposals to restructure the Young Mum’s Unit at Menzieshill High School.
 
The bowling greens can and must be saved and I hope common sense with prevail at the budget meeting on Thursday.

Update on tennis improvements for Victoria Park

At the Victoria Park Tennis Courts
Last year, I welcomed proposals to improve facilities at the Victoria Park Tennis Courts, including a new porous macadam surface.
I recently requested an update on timescale from the City Council’s Head of Environmental Management, who advises:

The current plan is to look at upgrading Victoria after Dawson Park is complete; hence the timescale planned is 2015- 16.We have remitted the Engineers to provide indicative cost for removal of the existing surface, it’s replacement and new fencing.

We will make sure that the existing courts are to standard with the summer coming up.

Victoria Park and Lochee Park improvements

A constituent recently pointed out that the litter bin at Victoria Park (see right), although functional, lacks the aesthetic look of the rather nicer “heritage” style bins in other parks – for example at Roseangle.
 
I asked the Environment Department about improvements and have been advised :
 
“… we are putting in a couple of new benches at Lochee Park;  there will also be a bin going in too.   As for Victoria Park there will be a new bin replacing the old basket.”

Balgay Stakeholders’ Group meeting

Earlier today, along with representatives of the Friends of Balgay, two of my ward colleagues and a City Council Environment Department officer, I attended the latest Balgay Stakeholders’ Group meeting that took place in the pavilion at Lochee Park.
 
The group discusses projects and issues at Balgay Park, the Hill, Cemetery and Victoria Park and we had a really good meeting covering a number of positive developments – 3 new noticeboards being proposed for the area, 5 new benches (mainly for the Balgay Cemetery area) and I was pleased to see that the area at the entrance to the park at Scott Street where I had highlighted dumping and a broken fence earlier this year, has now been subject to environmental improvement.   See photo – above right.
 
I raised residents’ concerns about gates openings on the hill, slippy leaves on paths and the poor road surface at the entrance to Lochee Park.

Victoria Park Tennis Courts – an update

Back in July, I gave an update on planned improvements for the Victoria Park Tennis Courts (pictured right).
 
I recently asked for progress towards the improved playing surface and a senior manager in the Environment Department has advised:
 
“At this stage we have still to finalise the priority noting we are working with Tennis Scotland with Dawson Park which is next in line (noting that there is an external funding application in for this).
 
I will keep Victoria in mind … I would envisage that we would remove the current surface and lay down permeable tarmac to the same specification as laid down earlier this year at South Road and Fairmuir Park. 
 
This is what is recommended by Tennis Scotland and has proved to be a big hit (excuse the pun) for recreational tennis and is easier to maintain.”
 
I will continue to pursue this matter on behalf of constituents as playing surface improvements are really needed at the Victoria Park Tennis Courts.

Balgay Stakeholders’ Group meeting

Yesterday, along with representatives of the Friends of Balgay, two of my ward colleagues and a City Council Environment Department officer, I attended the latest Balgay Stakeholders’ Group meeting that took place in the pavilion at Lochee Park.
 
This group discusses projects and issues at Balgay Park, the Hill, Cemetery and Victoria Park and we had a very productive discussion on a number of issues including repairing the wall damage at the Jewish Section of Balgay Cemetery, proposals to replace the goalposts in Lochee Park and repairing damage to the hedging at the Victoria Park Bowling Green.
 
There was excellent news that environmental improvements, much needed at the park’s Scott Street entrance, are being scoped in the coming weeks.   This issue – of fence damage and fly-tipping – was raised at a walkabout I participated in back in April, so I am pleased at progress towards a solution.  As you can see from the photograph (right) action to improve the fencing is needed.

Tennis improvements for Victoria Park

Back in May, I welcomed improvements that the City Council has planned for tennis facilities across Dundee, including a new porous macadam surface for the Victoria Park Tennis Courts.
 
I don’t doubt that the Andy Murray success at Wimbledon 2013 will encourage more and more people to take up tennis and so it was good to see the courts at Victoria Park were very well-used last week during the really good weather.
 
But the fact remains that the playing surface is from the old days of red shale and blaise courts and it badly needs upgrading,
 
I asked for an update from the City Council on improvements planned for Victoria Park’s tennis courts and have been advised by the Head of Environmental Management:
 
” … the promotion and upgrade of public tennis courts in Dundee was agreed at committee on 20th May 2013.  In the action plan it outlines that Victoria Park will have the blaise surface replaced with an all-weather porous macadam surface and replacement of the perimeter fence.  
 
This is scheduled for anytime between 2014-2016.  If we manage to secure external funding over and above the monies for Dawson Park, then we would like to look at the potential of bringing some of the tennis renovation programmes forward.”
 
I am anxious to see the improvements at Victoria Park’s tennis courts as soon as possible and have asked the council that all efforts are made to ensure this happens.

A great success for the Balgay Hill Nursery School Parents’ Group

At lunchtime today, I had the pleasure of saying a few words of welcome and thank you to the huge turnout of parents and pupils of Balgay Hill Nursery School as they met up at Victoria Park to set off on their sponsored walk round Balgay Park and Hill to raise funds for outdoor play equipment at the school.
 
It was great to see such a large group of children, mums, dads, other family members and friends take part and our thanks go to all and in particular to Sharon and her colleagues on the Parents’ Group and to Mrs Cowan, Head Teacher.
Ready for the sponsored walk start!

New roundabouts in place!

New Roseangle playpark roundabout

Last autumn, on behalf of residents, I requested that the City Council replace the two children’s roundabouts it had removed at the Victoria Park and Roseangle playparks with new ones.

 
The removed roundabouts – over 30 years old – had worn spindles and were removed on safety grounds.
 
I am pleased to say the City Council agreed to my request and the new roundabouts have recently been installed – see right and below:
Installation of the new Victoria Park playpark roundabout is nearly complete

Extensive graffiti vandalism in Victoria Park and adjacent streets

I have slammed the mindless vandals responsible for extensive graffiti vandalism in Victoria Park and in nearby streets (Scott Street and viewing area of Logie Avenue).   It is thought the vandalism occurred overnight Friday/Saturday.
 
Over the weekend, I reported the extensive vandalism to the police and also to the City Council’s Rapid Response Team to get the graffiti cleaned up.   See examples of the graffiti below:
After months of very little of a graffiti issue, it is thoroughly disappointing to see this sort of mindless activity take place at the weekend.     Some of the graffiti is offensive so I hope the council can clean it off as soon as possible but I am concerned about how viable it will be to try to remove the mess on the trees in Victoria Park.   A resident has also advised me that a van was also graffitied.   It is utterly stupid, mindless and criminal activity.
 
I have asked the police to consider deploying mobile CCTV and would ask if any resident saw any suspicious activity at the park or in surrounding streets, it would be greatly appreciated if they could speak with the local police.

Monday meetings

Yesterday, I took part in the latest meeting of the Balgay Stakeholders’ group that gives the opportunity for representatives from Friends of Balgay to discuss issues around the park area with local councillors and representatives of the City Council’s Environment Department.
 
It was a very positive meeting with a number of matters discussed, including:
 
* The “triangle” of ground outside Balgay Park at the Scott Street entrance has been improved and a new shrub bed and trees planted – see right.
 
* New roundabouts are about to be installed in Victoria Park (and also in the Roseangle playpark).     This is something I asked the Environment Department to do following the removal of the old roundabouts on safety grounds.
 
* Work on the Rose Garden is nearing completion, which is very welcome progress.   Two ramps are to be installed to allow for ease of access for visitors with mobility difficulties.   The garden is well-used by patients from Royal Victoria Hospital.   It was also good to hear that the Rotary Club has offered to sponsor two new pergolas at the Rose Garden.
 
* A second bench is now in place at the Poor Ground in Balgay Cemetery.
 
* A new set of alpines are to be planted in the Rose Window in Balgay Park.
 
After a site visit to discuss parking issues around the rail station area, I held my two weekly ward Monday surgeries at the Mitchell Street Centre and at Harris Academy and then I took part in City Council committee meetings.
 
At City Development Committee, I raised the on-going issues about safe drop-off and parking near the new West End schools campus (St Joseph’s Primary School, Balgay Hill Nursery School and Victoria Park Primary School).   I was given assurances by the Head of Transportation that all necessary steps will be taken to ensure any concerns from parents and residents are addressed and I am grateful to his department, the police and the Head Teachers and staff at the schools for the attention they have given to addressing any problems in the Glenagnes Road/Blackness Road area when school pupils are going into or coming out of school.
 
At Social Work and Health Committee, I spoke in a debate about the proposed running of a revised consultation process with service users of the Kemback Street Adult Resource Centre – and their families.   I made clear my view that the Care Inspectorate had made significant criticism of the previous consultation process and that there was a need for the City Council to act promptly and effectively to address these concerns.    
 
The Director of Social Work recommended bringing forward a further report next month giving detail of a new consultation process.   The Labour Group put forward an amendment that would have effectively meant no response by way of a fresh consultation to the Care Inspectorate’s criticisms until 2014.  That was not something I could support – the council does have a duty to respond timeously to the Care Inspectorate’s criticisms and apparently ignoring it for a year is not an acceptable response.    
 
The bottom line for me now is that there is a proper and meaningful consultation with all service users of Kemback Street and their families and I’ll await the Director of Social Work’s full report on the new intended consultation on 25th March.
 
One assurance I got from both the Convener and the Director was that, in bringing forward the detail of a new consultation to committee on 25th March, they accept that no final decision on the future of the Kemback Street facility should be made until every service user has undergone their assessment process, this has been completed and any agreed future service for that person has been communicated to and discussed with the service user and his or her family.

Monday meetings …

This afternoon, I participated in the latest meeting of the Balgay Stakeholders’ Group that brings Friends of Balgay, local councillors and City Council Environment Department officers together to discuss issues at Balgay Park, Victoria Park and the surrounding area.
 
We had an extremely productive meeting, discussing amongst other issues – improvements to the Rose Window, including new planting and a commemorative plaque, very good progress on dealing with potholes on the roadway up to the Mills Observatory and plans to improve the Rose Garden.
 
After this, I attended an exhibition by Whiteburn Projects on development proposals for the former Parkview School at 309 Blackness Road (see right) – this was very well-attended by local residents.
 
I then held my weekly surgeries at the Mitchell Street Centre and Harris Academy and thereafter took part in tonight’s Dundee City Council committee meetings.
 
At City Development Committee, I expressed concern about the narrow footpath that has been created at the front of the development on the former Homebase site at Riverside Drive – it is not wide enough given the very busy road and I sought assurances that the department that this will be looked into.
 
At Policy and Resources Committee, I moved deferral of any decision to replace the civic cars.   The council had sought prices for a 3 year lease but I felt that getting costs of taking leases over 4 or 5 years would make sense.   I am pleased that committee agreed to this and the matter will be reconsidered with this additional information in two weeks’ time.    
 
I also spoke about the concerns regarding high interest rate lenders and supported the council’s moves for Dundee to be UK City of Culture in 2017.

Monday meetings …

This morning, I participated in the final meeting of the West End Schools’ Project Board – the working party that has overseen the new schools’ building project on the former Logie Secondary site that is now the superb new home to St Joseph’s Primary School, Victoria Park (previously Park Place) Primary School and Balgay Hill (previously Park Place) Nursery School.

I gave my views on a number of issues including safe drop-off/pick-up near the schools and the future of the former Park Place schools’ site – the latter is to be utilised by the Education Department for Head Teacher meetings and other uses up to June 2013.
 
I am delighted that there will be an evening community tour of the new schools as part of West End Christmas Fortnight – if you wish to take part, please call my Dundee City Council office on 434985.
 
I spoke during the day to both Wave 102 and Tay AM news about West End Christmas Fortnight and you can hear one of these interviews by clicking ‘play’ below:
After my ward surgeries at the Mitchell Street Centre and Harris Academy, I participated in tonight’s City Council meetings at which:
 
* I welcomed the proposal at the Environment Committee to replace the “missing” roundabouts at the Roseangle and Victoria Park playparks, something I have been campaigning for, on behalf of local residents. I also sought assurances about the maintenance of the high banking at Pentland.
 
* At Housing Committee, I sought assurances that the Green Deal will benefit all tenures, including tenants of registered social landlords.
 
* At the Policy and Resources Committee, I queried the revenue outturn monitoring report and have been given assurances that my concerns will be looked into.

Call for playpark roundabouts to be replaced

I recently highlighted the concerns of local residents and their children over the missing roundabout in the Roseangle playpark – see right.     Now the children’s roundabout in Victoria Park has also disappeared and residents have contacted me seeking assurances that the disappearing roundabouts will be restored or replaced soon.
 
I took up the issue on behalf of constituents whose children are most disappointed that, perhaps the favourite pieces of play equipment at the local parks, had disappeared.    Having contacted the City Council’s Environment Department about this, I am advised that the roundabouts have been removed following safety concerns about the central spindle of the equipment.
 
An Environment Department official advised me
 
“The roundabout at Magdalen Green and at Victoria Park are both of the same manufacturer (Wickstead).  Unfortunately the centre spindle on which these roundabouts rotate are no longer available to purchase.   This design is approximately 40 years old and the spindles in question around 30 years old.   
 
The spindles at both of these sites were severely worn – therefore the roundabout removed for safety reasons.
 
We are currently looking at the best alternative to these roundabouts but no similar model is available.
 
The other consideration is resources – the cost to remove foundations of the old roundabouts and replace with a new model may be circa £4000 per unit so when we have settled on the best alternative we must consider affordability.”
 
Whilst I am pleased that the council is looking at alternatives, I am adamant that the playpark roundabouts must be replaced.    There’s been comparatively little spent on these West End playparks in many years compared to some other playparks and I’ve also made the point that the roundabouts have been really well-used over the years.  The council owes it to local children to give them back their roundabouts.
 
We discussed the situation at the Friends of Magdalen Green committee meeting recently given that the Roseangle playpark is adjacent to the Green.    The point was made that there’s been nothing in the way of new play equipment given to these playparks in recent years so taking away the children’s roundabouts would not be acceptable.