Draft Action Note - Ward Forum - Dingwall and Seaforth (Ward 9)
Meeting held on 9th December 2009
Present: Cllr’s David Chisholm (Chair), Peter Cairns, Angela MacLean, Margaret Paterson; Dingwall Community Council, Nigel Greenwood, David Lynch; Muir of Ord Community Council, Vic Clouston; Conon Bridge Community Council, Alister MacKinnon; Maryburgh Community Council, Nick Thornton; Northern Constabulary, Chief Inspector Mike Coats; Highland Council, Liz Cowie, Ward Manager.
Item 1 – Welcome and Introductions. Cllr. David Chisholm opened the meeting and made introductions. The format of the Ward Forum was explained and topics for the meeting outlined. Cllr. Chisholm advised that the format of the Forum would now change to allow for the Police Report to be taken first on the agenda.
Item 2 - Apologies. Angus Christie, Maryburgh Community Council; Colin Craig, Ferintosh Community Council.
Item 3 - Police Report
Operations that had been conducted by the Community Response Team in Dingwall, Muir of Ord and Conon Bridge, and their success, were highlighted by CI Coats. There had also been high visibility patrols. A reduction had been seen in boy-racers. A number of the vehicles concerned were known to the Police. Street Work projects were discussed, also advice and information given. Across the board crime is down, drug searches are up. There are still a significant number of drink drivers being detected which is obviously an issue. Taking licences off people does work. Crime is down overall by 10.6% and detection rates are up. Will continue to mount operations across the Area Command. Very happy to liaise with Community Councils on localised action. Success cannot be achieved without the input of members of the public and local community groups such as Community Councils. CI Coats advised that he can be contacted anytime. Contact details to be added.
CCTV in Muir of Ord. CI Coats hoped that this will be up and running again over the festive period. In terms of personnel changes, Acting Insp. David Greenlees has now been appointed to the post vacated by Insp. Matthew Reiss. Cllr. Chisholm raised incidents in the Muir of Ord area including reports of prowlers in the early hours. He advised that this had been reported. CI Coats said that the Police were aware of the issue and been carrying out investigations. Cllr. Chisholm then raised concerns that CCTV is not being monitored on a permanent basis in Dingwall Police Station. He asked if there were any plans to address this. Cllr. Chisholm also asked if Remploy could be employed as is the case in Inverness. Cllr. Paterson stated that part-time CCTV cameras were of little use. She advised that members of local Community Councils had offered in the past to cover CCTV monitoring. CI Coats said that although the offer was welcomed, it was not feasible as individuals needed to be cleared. Nigel Greenwood, Chair, Dingwall Community Council (NG) asked if cameras were recording all the time and how long are the tapes kept for. CI Coats advised that cameras do run on a 24/7 basis and that the data recorded is regularly used in incident investigation so it does have a vital role to play. Assurances were given that data is being reviewed if something happens. Cllr. MacLean asked for further detail on statistics. CI Coats responded that the main ones are breach of the peace, youth offending issues and vandalism. Cllr. Chisholm asked if spot checks could be carried out. All were totally in favour and this was agreed by Forum members. Cllr. Chisholm thanked CI Coats for his report and input.
Item 4 - Main Topic
Operational Overview of Winter Maintenance
The winter maintenance programme was covered with a full and comprehensive presentation by Ian Hay, Community Works Manager (IH). The network was outlined and the area covered. The reduction in budget was referred to, as was gritting according to Council policy, but also that there was a Scottish standard to maintain. The priorities for gritting were outlined as:
priority 1 - main routes
priority 2 - other strategic routes including bus routes
priority 3 - main urban streets and school routes
priority 4 - basically all other routes
Priority 4 routes are unlikely now to start before 8.00am and will not be gritted after 6.00pm. This will have undoubtedly impact on gritting this winter. Within the categorisations, the priorities have targets. Generally THC does not do trunk road footpaths. Footpaths are also done to a schedule and hierarchy.
The Winter Code of Practice and the Council Policy for Winter were highlighted. Route books and plans are available and it is vital to stick to routes. The area is down to 22 gritting vehicles, 11 footpath tractors and 8 loaders. All plant is calibrated to ensure maximum effective use of salting materials. There is a reduction in gritters and ultimately this will have an impact on service provision. There is now only one spare gritter for the whole of the Highland Council area. Salt is held in storage and is bought in on the basis on previous usage and averages and this was illustrated with a graph showing details of salt usage and peaks.
Operations and how carried out were detailed. Information used to be provided by Met. Office Weather Services forecast but is now provided by Weather Services International route based forecasts. There are new formats and judgements have to be made and decisions taken on forecasts given. Ice alert was outlined. Information is updated every 2 minutes. This monitors from 6.00am to 9.00pm and quality is assured through this. Forecasts are zoned to areas. It is complex information to be interpreted. Cllr. Paterson asked how many sensors there are in the immediate area. IH responded there are 16-18 in this area. Precautionary treatments were outlined and that pre-grits are carried out from 6.00am on main routes. There are problems in gritting on domestic routes with cars and bins causing obstructions. The provision of grit heaps was detailed and requests for this being referred through CRM (THC’s customer service system). Only one standby gritter available for the whole of THC area was discussed again. It looked like in the future there would be even fewer gritters. Use of GPS and remote monitoring control and looking at salt alternatives was outlined and also that THC is constantly looking at ways to work more efficiently. Staff now cover all general duties and also have accidents and emergencies to deal with. (IH clarified absolutely that Tec’s is not classed as an emergency service.) IH emphasised that all work is being covered by the same squads.
Questions from the Forum were then invited. Cllr. Chisholm asked for clarification on the status of car parks in schools and also on town streets. IH confirmed that in the priority regime these are priority 4 so are at the lower end of the scale. He confirmed that even within the individual priorities there are scales. There is no doubt that there will be delays in gritting. NG said that the public do not appreciate the difference between THC and Transerv and asked at what stage is a decision taken by THC/Transerv to stop gritting and to close roads. IH said that there is close liaison on this with the Police before any decision is taken. However there is an obligation on the driver to make a decision on whether to drive or not. CI Coats wholeheartedly endorsed this statement and said that he felt that drivers should take more responsibility for decisions to travel. In terms of public transport and school transport provision, bus drivers also have decisions to make and this can be difficult. Cllr. Cairns asked about European Working Time Directives. IH responded that THC has to drive to domestic rules but can class callouts as emergency work – this has to be managed. Maryburgh Community Council, Nick Thornton (NT) advised that several approaches had been made by the CC re grit bins. These are often in poor conditions and can be full of litter, water and old grit. IH said that they do try to replenish these but they do have diminishing resource to get to every bin. If a bin is badly damaged it will be replaced but IH emphasised again that given budget cut backs, there will be a reduced service. NG asked if cycle tracks are dealt with on the same priority basis as footpaths. IH confirmed that A835 cycle path is not covered by THC. Andy Fraser, Transerv, at this point confirmed that the cycle path is not gritted. Cllr. MacLean advised NG that at the end of the financial year, the Ward Members will prioritise Discretionary Budget funds left and these will be used, where appropriate, to replace grit bins, dog bins etc. At this point Cllr. MacLean asked for thanks to be recorded for work carried out on War Memorials by IH’s team. With the winter upon us, CI Coats said that he wished to re-emphasise the message that if a journey is not necessary then do not make it. Cllr. Chisholm thanked IH for a very comprehensive and informative presentation. Forum Members endorsed this.
Transerv. Cllr. Chisholm introduced Andy Fraser, Deputy Network Manager and Cathill McAskill, Customer Service Manager. AF then gave a presentation on Transerv’s role in winter maintenance. Transerv are responsible for the main trunk roads and in the Ward 9 area this is principally the A835. AF covered:
1. Contractual requirements for Transport Scotland and for Scottish Government Agency requirements.
2. Service Provision.
3. Winter Service Plan.
Cllr. Paterson asked if this information was available online. CMcA said that the Transerv website was under review but that he would ensure that this information was provided as requested. AF outlined that pre-wetted salt is used for road treatment (wetted with a brine solution). There two hour timescales for treatment. A 24/7 service is operated. There is a requirement for reactive treatments also. (In this area footway treatments are reactive.) The contract requires patrols and the A835 Maryburgh - Ullapool road is now a priority route. The decision making matrix used to determine treatments was outlined. In all trunk roads contracts these are used to determine same levels of service. GPS is used. Electronic data provision is in all vehicles. Can determine what speed they are going at, how much salt is spread and when. A lot of information is relayed back to base. Have to provide alternative access and additional vehicles to provide backup if problems arise. Transerv does work closely with THC and can use for backup as and when appropriate. Workforce is determined by winter maintenance. The local depot is Beauly. The same salt is applied as THC use so can support one another if supplies are low. In addition to gritters, have multi-purpose vehicles that can be changed for different uses through the summer. All routes are the same priority and are all done from Beauly. Procedures were outlined. From 1st October to end of May forecasts are provided. These are specific and detailed, and action is planned from there. Transerv also notify Transport Scotland and the Police. Control room monitored 24/7 by duty officers. Ice stations, Transerv have 47 on the network, 3 on the A835. There is one on the Black Isle. Also have 2-way weather cameras at the ice stations. Questions from the Forum were then invited. Cllr. Paterson asked for clarification on why different treatments were used by Transerv and THC. AF responded that this was due to the needs and requirements of different road usages. A request was then made for Transerv to return to the Ward Forum in 2010 to discuss the North Kessock Bridge maintenance works. This was agreed. Cllr. Chisholm thanked AF and CMcA for an effective and comprehensive presentation.
Item 5 – Dingwall Riverside Development Brief
Brian MacKenzie, Senior Planner (BMcK), outlined the background to the development brief and how the consultation was taken forward. The progression of the brief had also been supported by Dingwall Community Council. The brief examined the development potential within the determined sites. The brief also looked at the opportunities and constraints of the site. Stakeholder consultation had started in early January 2009. Wider community consultation on the draft brief commenced in May and ran through to late July including a public meeting held by Dingwall Community Council on June 25th. The consultation showed that there was an overwhelming desire to see the Council Depot moved and also for any other light industrial uses to be moved from the area. There was support for continued amenity use for the Riverside Field area. Many had sought improvements to the River Peffery and the canal area. The potential for construction of a further weir and control of vegetation had been mentioned. Any improvement would have to meet the terms of controlled activity regulation (CAR) for the Peffery with consideration of any environmental effects this would have. Access issues identified at the Baptist Church were raised as a potential concern. Concerns from Craig Road residents about increases in traffic movement had also been noted. The Community Centre had made comment and was seeking an improvement to the general amenity of the area and assurances on improvement to car parking and on vehicle speed movements. Cllr. Paterson advised that she had raised the issue of speed of vehicles using the Tulloch Street Depot with the Community Works Manager. There were contamination issues at the Riverside and Craig Road area. Flood level issues should be a key consideration and SEPA had highlighted the flood risk issue. The condition of the fabric of Council depot buildings was raised as a real concern. Cllr. Paterson said that she had continually raised the issue of the condition of buildings at the Tulloch Street Depot. The current review of the conservation area was also referred to and the potential positive impact on building categorisation. All of these are factors that have led to the two options that were now outlined in the report.
Option 1. Open space kept at Riverside Field. Refurbish the Scout Hut. Demolition of Depot. Retail use on Four Seasons site. Retention and refurbishment of community buildings and low level housing. A map was outlined covering option 1.
Option 2. This outlined the same options North of the Peffery. Considered potential for land assembly reflecting the Local Plan. Potential for single land use. Better placed to deal with flood issue. Suitability of existing community and education provision. A map was then outlined for option 2.
Cllr. Chisholm asked if there would be any fluidity between the two options. BMcK advised that at the time of the brief there was a clear agenda which had been followed but that the two options in the revised brief gave flexibility to develop opportunities and would be better placed to take account of constraining issues affecting the site. Cllr. Chisholm then referred to a question submitted by Garner Wilson re the Council Depot. IH was asked to respond and advised that there was consideration being given to relocation. Flooding at the Depot was then discussed. There had been flooding at the Depot at high tides and high Peffery flows. A flood risk assessment would have to be carried out for any future development. There are undoubtedly flood and contamination issues. The risk from flooding was the main reason why the potential for sheltered housing options had been dropped from the brief. Contaminated land on both Riverside Field and Muir of Ord has been raised. THC cannot address this until a planning application comes forward, and would need also to identify funding to address the issue on these sites.
Mr John Leitch’s questions were then referred to. If an application came forward it would need to consider the 1 in 200 year flood risk.
Questions from the Forum were then invited. Dingwall CC, David Lynch (DL) asked is everything subject to both flood risk and contamination? BMcK said that much of the land to the north of the Peffery probably would be, and also to areas of land to the south where previous and current activities indicate that there may be a contamination issue. Given ground levels, the evidence from SEPA flood mapping and flood risk studies that have been undertaken in support of planning applications, flood risk was a clear issue. It was further confirmed that it would be a long process and would require significant investment to address the contamination issues present. THC had tried get Vacant and Derelict Land Fund monies but had not been successful, but would make bids for further monies when they became available from the Scottish Government. It was extremely costly to investigate and the cost of remediation would be significant. DL raised concerns and asked if there was space for further options to be added in at a later date. BMcK confirmed that the development plan will be reviewed in about 2 years and that the brief on the table at the moment would provide supplementary guidance until then (at which point if could be re-examined). NG asked what happens next. BMcK advised that the report will now go the Planning Environment Development Committee in January. Cllr. Chisholm said that THC is always open to comment and that amendments have been made. He advised that Members concerns was the reason that the item had been added on to the agenda. He also reminded those present that when it comes to planning, anyone can object. The guidance has been prepared as a result of the consultation and will now go to Committee for approval. The main change is to the development options. NG indicated the change from housing to retail. MP worried about timescales of progressing the change and also the continued use of two depots and the safety of Highland Council buildings. Does not want to see this dragged on and on. IH indicated that there are joint usage issues with the depots that would have to be looked at (Housing/TECS/ECS). Action Point: Feedback for MP on aspect of status of buildings.
Questions from the floor were then invited. Aimee Campbell, raised a query on the consultation process and asked if THC felt that it had been fully carried out. She asked if the consultation was over and was THC satisfied that full consultation had been carried out. BMcK outlined the consultation process and that the period was advertised as running from May 2009 to June 2009 covering a 9 week period which was over the statutory requirement period of 6 weeks. Letters had gone out to all residents, premises, businesses and interested parties covered by the brief area. There was information available both in the Service Point and the Library. Information had also been published in the Ross-shire Journal and posters had been displayed. In terms of Statutory Consultations it was felt that THC had exceed requirements. Cllr. Chisholm, advised Mrs Campbell that she could object to or support any planning applications that came forward for comment. DL said that he did not realise that the process would be so quick and referred to the idea of a design specification. Cllr. Chisholm advised that a key problem is land ownership. However there is scope is there and matters can be taken forward from there. There are however land owners who are currently pursuing their own developments. This is a land use framework and that is the purpose of the document.
Mr Leitch stated that Craig Road Residents they were quite happy about the development brief but that the group have their concerns on other matters that are currently under discussion with THC. Traffic Impact Assessments would be required of any developments coming forward. BMcK advised that in any development proposal, routes would be the subject of detailed consideration outlining specifics and times of uses, and in the way that plant is moved. NG confirmed that the brief is to be supplementary guidance to what the Local Plan provides taking into account changes such as flooding risk and he advised that Dingwall Community Council would be monitoring this. Cllr. MacLean asked what the process would be for putting a weight restriction on heavy goods vehicles using a particular road. IH advised that a broad range of criteria are considered. In terms of the report, Cllr. Paterson said that different uses can come forward and advised that she had given details of a contact point for a new Dingwall Surgery. BMcK confirmed that he had followed this up but that NHS had not responded to the consultation on the brief. There being no further questions from the floor, Cllr. Chisholm thanked BMcK for a comprehensive and informative presentation.
Item 6 - Good New Items. Given the time constraints, good news items were deferred.
Item 7 – Action Note From Previous Meeting. LC confirmed that Conon Community Council feedback on housing matters was in hand. A brief update on the conservation area appraisal was given by the Ward Manager.
Item 8 – Discretionary Budget. Position noted.
Item 9 – Public Questions. All covered throughout the Forum meeting.
Topic for Next Meeting. It was agreed that MP would Chair the next meeting and that the postponed topic would be Community Council aspirations for their areas for 2010 in light of strategic priorities and budgets. LC advised that there would also be presentation from the digital switchover team.