Action Notes - Ward Forum - Dingwall and Seaforth (Ward 9)
Meeting held on 19 November 2008
Present: Councillors, Angela MacLean (Chair), Peter Cairns, David Chisholm; Dingwall Community Council, Nigel Greenwood; Muir of Ord Community Council, Tom Davis; Conon Bridge Community Council, Alister MacKinnon, Ian MacPhail; Maryburgh Community Council, Angus Christie; Ferintosh Community Council, Colin Craig; Northern Constabulary, Superintendent John Darcy; Highland Youth Voice, Sean MacKenzie; Highland Council, Cameron Kemp, Integrated Transport Manager, Sam MacNaughton, Head of Transport & Infrastructure, Fiona Richardson, Youth Development Officer, Liz Cowie, Ward Manager.
There were twenty members of the public present.
Apologies: Councillor Margaret Paterson; Highland Youth Voice, Emily MacAuley, Tom Ross, Catriona Burns.
Cllr. MacLean began the Forum by giving an outline of how the meeting would run. She explained that there is normally a set agenda but given the nature of the topic, and the consultation aspect, the agenda had been changed to accommodate this. She advised that the Transport Providers (Stagecoach etc) had been invited to attend the meeting but that there was a national awards ceremony taking place that evening in Glasgow that most were taking part in. This had been organised after the Forum date had been set.
Good News Items
• Dingwall Gaelic Choir’s recent success at the Mod in Falkirk coming back with a raft of prizes including the top Choir award, the Lovat and Tullibardine Sheild was applauded. The Ladies Gold medal had been taken by choir member and local girl, Kerry Finlay.
• The Blue Light Disco project had taken a top Quality Award at the recent Highland Council Quality Awards Ceremony
• Congratulations went to Douglas McKeddie on becoming the moderator designate for the Free Church of Scotland. He takes up his post next year. The community of Maryburgh had also elected him to be one of its Community Councillors. He represented the community on the old school boards until the inception of parent councils in Maryburgh, on which he continues to serve.
• Dingwall and District Environment Group are to be congratulated on opening their ‘Opportunity Shop’ in Hill Street. Not quite a Charity shop, the group aims to use funds raised through the shop to fund environmental works in and around Dingwall and hope eventually to offer small grants to groups for project work.
• New bus shelters are being installed this week at ‘Mr Fish’ and on Station Road after consultation with Dingwall Community Council.
Forum Topic – Local Transport Strategy
Cameron Kemp, Integrated Transport Manager, gave a presentation on the Local Transport Strategy and outlined how the consultation process would run. The context was detailed in that the existing Transport Strategy had been in place since 2000 and required to be reviewed. Transport issues have changed significantly since the last strategy was put in place. For example at that time there was more emphasis on car transport. Now looking for a modal shift to walking, cycling and greater use of public transport and overall a more sustainable way forward for Highland transport.
Cllr. MacLean then opened up the floor to questions initially from Forum Members and then to the open floor.
Points from the Forum
• Colin Craig, Ferintosh CC, advised that there is a real need for links to be made with car and bus use and railway stations. Particularly with regard to provision of adequate and accessible parking and also ensuring that local timetables work in. He asked that this be considered in the consultation. He asked if local trains could link better with trains departing from and arriving into Inverness. Also if consideration could be given in local plans and planning in general to parking at, for example, railway stations and with consideration to bus travel. This was noted.
• Nigel Greenwood, Dingwall CC, felt that a lot could be done to improve commuter travel to Inverness from Dingwall particularly with regard to linking to out of town sites where large employers are based. Linkages are not particularly good from, for example, Dingwall to Inverness and then on to the retail park. This was also true of trains linking with buses. If using the train, and then the bus, two fares would be incurred. He asked if consideration could be given to a ticket of the type available in cities where different modes of transport could be accessed. This was noted.
• Cllr David Chisholm asked if issues around disabled access at bus stops could be highlighted as this was inconsistent and non existent in some places across the Ward. He then highlighted the poor quality of road surfaces and parking areas across the Ward. A third point was made with regard to linkages between communities. There are well used footpaths all the way from Muir of Ord to Beauly and from Conon through to Dingwall. Are there any plans to link up Muir of Ord and Conon Bridge? Also, what are the plans to provide and improve cycleways between the Ward communities? The point was also made that many bus stops did not have shelters, particularly in rural areas. The distance from the ground to the bus step was very high in some instances, not just for anyone with a mobility issue but for parents with children as well. Bus timetables are also in too small a print and also at the wrong height and in the wrong colour. Cameron Kemp (CK) asked if detail could be provided locally on the bus stops with particular issues. Cllr Chisholm felt that this should all have been picked up through DDA. CK to take this issue forward. The other points were all noted.
• Cllr MacLean then highlighted the HiTrans Active Travel Audit that had been carried out in the Dingwall area. Active Travel Plans should be put in place for communities.
• George MacIvor, Dingwall Community Council, advised that the train timetables were being reviewed to provide better connectivity locally and also to link up with National Express. He also advised that the parking issue was being looked at for Dingwall Railway station with a view to providing additional parking on the Ferry Road side of the platform.
• Caroline Rham, Strathpeffer. Asked if the framework would be purely policy, or would it be tangible? CK to advise. She then highlighted the proposals for a cycle route to link Strathpeffer to Dingwall and asked that this be noted for future consideration and support. She advised that there was a bid in for funds for a feasibility study to the Climate Challenge Fund and asked if this could/should be mentioned in the framework. This was noted. CK to action. Cllr Chisholm asked for it to be noted that these issues could also be raised directly with Councillors as they could lend support and could highlight issues such as this direct with TEC services.
• Stewart Campbell, Highland Cycle Campaign, stated that it was good to see cycling highlighted and asked what the Council are doing to promote walking and cycling? CK advised that Active Travel Plans would pick up these issues and that there were other projects and campaigns such as safer routes to schools that took these issues into consideration. Looking at walking and cycling was now much more a matter of course.
• Mark Sharples, Strathpeffer. How much of the Council’s 23 million capital spend is allocated to walking and cycling? Was there a mechanism for bidding in for cycle routes, paths and bike sheds for schools? CK said that schools were being targeted and Active Travel Plans could highlight issues such as the Strathpeffer to Dingwall cycle route as if in place, young people could feasibly cycle to school in safety. There is a small budget for cycle paths at the moment but for this financial year it is fully committed to the proposed Beauly to Inverness Cycle route. Mr Sharples then asked why the HiTrans audit had taken so long and when the information would be available. Sam MacNaughton, Head of Transport & Infrastructure, advised that the study done was a pilot and rather than rush this, to ensure it was done correctly more time had been taken. If the audit is acceptable then the format used would be rolled out.
• TSH Burns, Dingwall. Asked to draw attention to the traffic order and the recent enforcement. He called for the TO to be reviewed. Cllr MacLean advised that there various views on the TO enforcement from pedestrians who fully supported it to the High Street Traders who were calling for it to be reviewed. The Order had not long come into force so it did need time to bed in. However if it needed to be reviewed then that would be done. Superintendent Darcy advised that the Police had had considerable correspondence expressing concerns.
• Innes MacDonald, SPAR Shop, High St, Dingwall, raised his concerns and advised that the business had suffered significant downturn since the TO enforcement. Hours cut been cut and staff would have to be cut. Nigel Greenwood, Dingwall Community Council responded that the overall view of the CC was to support the order and that it had been fully supported by the CC when it had been introduced years before. He did support the view that the TO should be given time to bed in.
• Cllr Chisholm said that with regard to disabled drivers it was his understanding that Disabled Drivers could access the High Street between 11 and 3 and at any time if they are accessing services.
• Cllr MacLean then highlighted issues around integrated transport throughout the Ward and asked that this be considered as part of the review. This was noted.
• A member of the public raised the sheer cost of using public transport and cited a recent trip with his family to Inverness that had cost £17. This was not encouraging families to use public transport. He fully supported the earlier call for an all encompassing ticket and also for better family type tickets to be introduced for bus travel. This was noted.
• Sheila Fletcher, Support and Development Officer (Scotland), Community Transport Association, advised on a Private Members bill coming forward with regard to de-regulation. This will be debated at Parliament level. There was then discussion around bus travel and subsidy of this.
• Bill Ross, Beauly, highlighted services that he provides around Muir of Ord, Beauly, Marybank, Cannich and Strathglass, Mulbuie and in to Dingwall. An example was given of the 18th October when 16 people had used the service from Cannich and 9 from Strathglass. This was bringing income into Dingwall as he had carried out research and average spend was in the region of £50. Cllr MacLean thanked Mr Ross for bringing this service to the attention of the Forum and asked how the service is advertised. CK to pick this up with Mr Ross direct.
• Fiona Richardson, Youth Development Officer, spoke about Issues around school transport and the need for this to be upgraded so that young people are not put off and are encouraged to use services. There is also an issue of poor attitude toward young people using public transport and the example was given of a of bus driver not accepting entitlement cards (this also confirmed by Nigel Greenwood, Chair of Dingwall CC). CK to pick this issue up. There were also issues of having to pay to go to college which when not earning could be a significant burden. FR asked for full consideration to be given to young people and travel issues in the consultation and offered to liaise with TEC’s on this. This was noted. She then highlighted youth work in Dingwall that was looking to set up car and motorbike clubs engaging young people in doing up cars and bikes through which skills could be learned but also a better awareness of driving issues. Sean MacKenzie, Highland Youth Voice, spoke about how to engage young people with driving safely and suggested linking the Young Persons National Entitlement Card to discounted driving lessons. This point was fully supported and noted. CK encouraged anyone encountering problems with providers not accepting National Entitlement Cards to bring this to the attention of the council and also if bus drivers are being unhelpful. He added that the Road Safety Team is keen to work with young people so will pass on the YDO contact details. FR also to follow this up.
• CK then advised that further provision was being looked at in terms of ‘late trains’ and ‘late buses’ and that would benefit the local area. More information on this to be provided.
• Cllr. MacLean read out a question regarding the proposed station at Conon. Question from Mr and Mrs Stirling, 2 Brahan View, Conon Bridge. ‘We are 100% for the Station development at Conon Bridge but are concerned about the parking, if only 9 designated parking space are to be made available. Can Highland Council respond?’ CK advised that Beauly Station has a 10 space car park and has proved to be a great success. Sam MacNaughton, Head of Transport & Infrastructure advised that the only land available was being fully utilised for parking but that the situation would be monitored. There was also a possibility of linking the car park at the church to the station via a path. There was a drive to encourage passengers to walk to and from the station when it came into being. Colin Craig, Ferintosh CC, referred back to the point made earlier re making provision for this type of development through better planning processes. He also highlighted that the Conon Station Halt would serve a large rural community who could only access the station through using the car to get there. He advised that there is a field near the station that is not particulry good quality and asked if consideration could be given to this being identified for future parking provision. All points were noted.
• Sheila Fletcher, Community Transport Association. Will responsive transport be included in the strategy? Also could integrated ticketing be looked at as well? The idea of ‘zoned tickets’ could be looked at as provided for in and Glasgow and Edinburgh. All of these ideas could be implemented for Highland to the benefit of the traveller as the moment you had to be ‘clever’ about how you booked your journey and got your fares.
• Stewart Campbell, Highland Cycle Campaign, highlighted the benefits of the Highland Rail Card. Also if you book a ‘single’ ticket you get travel to Glasgow and Edinburgh for £10.
• In general it was felt that there was a wide variety of tickets available but not all bus drivers seemed to be aware of what was on offer.
• Stewart Campbell then went on to put on record that he was fully in support of the Traffic Order from a pedestrian viewpoint.
• Ian MacPhail, Conon Bridge Community Council. Highlighted the importance of the Local Transport Strategy but that future developments and growth of the area had to be considered now. The example of parking for the station at Conon was given again. Also the need to keep information up to date if the public are to be encouraged to use public transport. Timetables are out of date in Conon at bus stops at Brahan View, the Vets and at the chip shop. CK to take these issues back to Neil Young, Transport Officer.
• The issue of buses not appearing as timetabled was raised. CK asked if a note of this happening could be taken and reported direct to David Summers, Transport Development Officer, who had the remit to deal with this issue.
• Marj Donaldson, Access Forum. It was felt that there is no point in providing accessible buses if drivers are not trained in how to operate the equipment. The example was given of one bus driver having the equipment but not being willing to use it as he had not had training. The issue of accessible taxis was also raised. Stewart Campbell made the point that on occasion it could take 10-15 minutes to load a wheelchair on and off a bus. Time for this is not allowed for in timetables. Mobility issues other than wheelchairs also need to be considered. CK took these points on board. The idea of vouchers to help provide for flexible access to access a wider range of travel options was raised and the question was asked if this had ever been considered. The point was noted.
• Bill Ross, Beauly, advised that there was a ‘Dial a Bus’ service operating in the Aird District and that this was a good service.
• Sheila Fletcher highlighted the need to raise the profile of community transport issues and also the need for consultation on these issues.
• Cllr. MacLean then closed topic thanking all present for their full and valuable contribution.
In closing, Cllr. MacLean reiterated that the Transport Providers had offered to come back to a future meeting to discuss specific local issues. It was agreed that this be arranged given the issues raised and the level of feedback from the meeting. A ‘Transport Specific’ Forum would therefore be organised and Cllr. MacLean said that at this meeting the idea of a Local Transport Forum could be explored. Action Point. LC to organise with a date to be set toward the end of January.
Item 5 - Community Safety. Superintendent John Darcy addressed the Forum and gave an outline and overview of the area under his command. He clarified that it is usually the local Inspector who attends the Ward Forum. With regard to local issues, the new shift system due to come into effect in January was outlined. Overall it was hoped that this would achieve a better level of cover at key times and allow for Officers to have sensible time off. The success of the Blue Light Discos referred to earlier was discussed with the focus on how this demonstrates full partnership working. There was a real commitment to Blue Light but it did come with a lot of additional work and this had to be recognised. The success of Blue Light has generated requests for support for these events both in Easter Ross and in the West. This will be looked at as resources permit. Tom Davies, Muir of Ord Community Council commended the event, but did have concerns about other young people who seem to be outwith parental control, and that this group seems to be getting younger. Superintendent Darcy acknowledged that this was an issue in the area at present but that it was being tackled head on with a range of methods being used. Overall however there had been a drop in levels of vandalism, violence and alcohol related incidents.
Tom Davis, Muir of Ord CC, wanted his thanks to be recorded for the swift provision of information and statistics requested from Inspector Reiss. He then asked if there were statistics to show any drop in activity on the evenings of Blue Light. Superintendent Darcy responded that so far there had been a marginal drop in activity but it was too soon to have a full statistical picture. There certainly had not been any increase in activity. Fiona Richardson, Youth Development Officer, said that there was now a very positive view locally of the Police with young people going on from Blue Light. She also discussed the street work in Dingwall and Conon Bridge and the plans to extend project work to Muir of Ord in the spring if funding is secured. The Police were an important part of this process also.
Superintendent Darcy then referred to the need for more effective local Community Planning Partnerships. Cllr. David Chisholm agreed and said that this had been getting raised for some time and that it would be taken forward with the Corporate Manager, Bob Cameron. There was also a need for TEC, ECS and Police to work more closely together as a lot of the time issues could be resolved without funding and budgets. Superintendent Darcy said that the Anti Social Behaviour Partnership was working well.
Questions from the Forum were then invited and Angus Christie, Maryburgh CC asked about the benefit, or otherwise, of CCTV in communities. Superintendent Darcy responded that it can be extremely useful as a detection tool, of this there is no doubt as could be evidenced in many national cases. Cllr Chisholm asked if it is preventative. Superintendent Darcy said again, it can be useful if action is seen to arise out of the presence of CCTV. If it is monitored and Officers can attend an incident quickly it is extremely worthwhile. Tom Davis, Muir of Ord CC. When would a particular area or corner be deemed to be an accident black spot? This was not a clear cut issue as there could be significant factors such as road conditions, road hazards and unusual factors. However any recurrence of accidents at a particular road area would be looked at and analysed as would road hazard reports. However poor driving remained the main cause of accidents.
From the floor, Innes Macleod, SPAR Shop, Dingwall High St., stated that there seemed to be ongoing problems with the Dingwall High St. CCTV system and that as far as he was aware the system was not working. There had been incidents at his premises with newspapers being stolen and the shop door being kicked in and on neither occasion was this caught on CCTV apparently because it was not operational. Action Point. This to be checked out and reported back on.
Item 6 - Consultations. LC advised that the public is being asked to help The Highland Council improve its library service. The responses are aimed at increasing library usage; increasing user satisfaction; and targeting service improvements at specific groups of people within the Highland community, including disadvantaged and ‘excluded’ groups. A postal survey, street surveys and surveys through Libraries and Service Points will be used to gather views. The deadline for responses is the end of November.
Item 7 - Action Note from Last Meeting. The Ward Forum Action Note was approved. LC updated on the actions from the last meeting:
• LEADER. LC advised that concerns had been fed back to the consultant and that the draft Development Plan would shortly be out for consultation.
• Muir of Ord Railway Bridge. Tom Davis, Muir of Ord Community Council, wanted to put on record his total dissatisfaction with the process to date. Communication had been poor to non existent. Action was required immediately and if there was no update or explanation then a public meeting would be called. Cllr. MacLean undertook to establish what had caused the delays and to report back on this direct to the CC. Tom Davis then highlighted problems experienced with information requested with regard to the Fairburn Windfarm. This matter was discussed and Cllr Chisholm offered to find out where the problems lay and to get a response back to Muir of Ord Community Council.
• Colin Craig, Ferintosh Community Council, said that Ferintosh had also had difficulty in getting replies from certain services. The Community Council had tried using the CRM system but this had not proved any more effective. Cllr Chisholm stated his disappointment in the lack of responses, as did the other Members present, and advised that Members had also been highlighted poor communication issues. Action Point. It was agreed that the Community Councils send the Ward Manager all of the issues outstanding for these to be collated and for Members then to take the issues forward.
Item 8 - Strategic Priorities. LC gave a short overview of progress on the key headings. Forum members had received the update documents. It was agreed to look again at the Strategic Priorities at a future Ward Forum.
Item 9 - Discretionary Budget. LC distributed a spreadsheet showing Discretionary Budget spend to date. Position noted.
Item 10 - Format Dates and Format: AM offered the opportunity to review the Forum format. Members felt that the format worked well. Provisional dates for 2009 were discussed. The topic for the next Forum was discussed and agreed as Highland Council Budgets and review of Strategic Priorities. Tom Davis, Muir of Ord CC, felt that all Highland Council Directors should be present at the next Forum given that budgets and capital projects would be discussed. Forum Members from the Community Councils then asked that thanks be recorded to the Ward Manager. This was endorsed by Members.
Action Point. LC to circulate Ward Forum dates and to publish these on the Ward web page.