Friday, 21 December 2012

Garnock Flood prevention scheme still waiting for SNP Government funding.

At  a recent meeting of North Ayrshire Council I asked the administration why there had been a delay in publishing a Flood Prevention Order planned for December 2012. Previously an outline flood protection scheme had been prepared identifying the level of investment and extent of work required and the Executive instructed Council Officers to submit the document to the Scottish Government as a bid for future funding and that a Flood Prevention Order be published by December 2012.

Councillor Ferguson who now has the responsibility for the Environment in the SNP administration replied, "The business case for the Upper Garnock Valley scheme was submitted to Scottish Government in December 2011. Bids received, at that time, by Scottish Government far exceeded the funding available.” “Clearly the timescale and any potential phasing for undertaking a full scheme will be reliant upon the availability of national funding.”
As a supplementary question I asked the Portfolio Holder for an indication of the timescale for works to commence. Councillor Ferguson indicated that a public consultation exercise will be undertaken in February to March 2013, which will include a road show. A report will be prepared and submitted to the Cabinet with a scheme submitted to the Scottish Government by the summer.

The Floodwarning station at Radio City is now online and you can access it at

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

SNP council choose worst site for Garnock Campus

North Ayrshire council voted by 18 votes to 12 to site the replacement for Garnock Academy and a merged Kilbirnie Primary School to a new Campus at Longbar. The plans also include the replacement for Garnock pool be included in the same building. The SNP coalition forced this decision through with only Kilbirnie and Beith independent Councillor Jean Highgate joining the Labour group on opposing this site choice.

The decision provided Moorpark Primary parents an option to opt out and keep their current school site, this is a clear acknowledgement of the unsuitability of the Longbar site for a Garnock Campus. Parents understandably have little faith in the SNP council ever listening to their viewpoint following the change to the Longbar site for the Campus. The choice of the Stoneyholm Road site was acceptable to the vast majority of parents in Kilbirnie and Beith being closer to the community for Kilbirnie pupils to walk and maintaing access to free school transport for Beith secondary pupils. However the council inexplicably chose to go back to the remote Longbar site, totally ignoring the views expressed in the statutory consultation, ignoring the views of their independent consultants and ignoring the 1700 people who signed our petition. Parents understandably have little faith in the SNP council listening to them this time and were reluctant to take part.

Despite these factors the results of the consultation have been announced showing over 80% of those who responded are strongly against the school moving to the remote Longbar site. We are told a paper to be discussed at the councils SNP Cabinet will now suggest a further consultation including altering the catchment area in an attempt to stop the Moorpark School being swamped as parents seek to avoid sending their children to the distant site planned for the new Garnock Campus. How many times must parents be asked the same question, before the council accepts Longbar is no place for a school?

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Victory for Democracy as Labour get Garnock Site Selection Delayed
The Labour Group on North Ayrshire Council is claiming a victory for local democracy after it forced the SNP Administration to delay the enforcement of a controversial proposal to site the new Garnock Campus at Longbar. The delay will allow time for consultation with Garnock Valley parents.

At the Council meeting of 19th September the decision on a proposal to site
the school Campus at Longbar was deferred until the next council meeting in
November.   Speaking at the Council debate Garnock Valley Labour Councillor John Bell
said;   "The location of a development like this is a major decision which will have a huge impact on Kilbirnie and Beith. The SNP leadership has tried to force this through without allowing parents and the community time to consider the change of site.  It's sharp practice by the SNP to officially tell the community only 6 days before the decision was to be made and giving them no opportunity to present their case to councillors. The decision is wrong and the process is flawed."

"Because of concerns raised by Garnock Valley residents about the unsuitability of the Longbar site at the statutory consultation the new Garnock Campus was planned to go to a site near Stoneyholm Road. For some reason the SNP have changed that and want to put it in exactly the wrong place.   "Given that they had no time to respond, it is remarkable that locals have organised a 500 signature petition which I have delivered to the council Chief Executive." 
"Four possible sites had been involved in the original consultation. Locals were strongly in favour of sites on Largs Rd and Stoneyolm Road. If these sites were chosen it would mean most of the schools users, the 970 nursery primary and secondary pupils from Kilbirnie, would be within reasonable
walking distances.   It also means that secondary pupils from Beith and Dalry would continue to
be eligible for free school transport."
A majority of councillors supported a motion to defer the decision in order to allow consultation with parents and to give an opportunity for the petioners to present their case to the Councils Scrutiny and Petitions

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

What do SNP have against Kilbirnie and Beith ?

Since the council elections in May a number of promising proposals for Kilbirnie and Beith have been cut or changed so much they will do real and lasting damage to the area.

An upgrade to the A737 has been announced but will not include the required safety improvements  to the junctions at Barrmill Road and Gateside Road on the Beith Bypass.

The revised Local Development Plan has been published for consultation, with the plan for Large Scale Regeneration of Lochshore removed leaving the council to concentrate on Ardrossan Harbour.

Then there is the replacement for Garnock Academy where they seem set in changing a major opportunity into a disaster by locating in in the no mans land of Longbar. They think saving  money from removing school buses from Beith is more important than choosing the best site for a school.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Local Development Plan, the SNP changes

This is the section that the SNP councillor had removed from the Local Development Plan.
The Section titled RES 9 : Large Scale Regeneration Opportunities

Lochshore, Glengarnock
Proposals for a residential led enabling development will be supported provided such proposals form part of an approved comprehensive masterplan for the area. Such development will establish or contribute to an existing Town Centre Regeneration Fund and also provide a basis for improvement to the existing business/industrial development at Lochshore South, which may include its rationalisation and/or consolidation. The masterplan will demonstrate the creation of direct links with Kilbirnie Town Centre and also on the major opportunity for creation of a well connected green network in the area.
The masterplan will also set out in detail the proposed phasing for the development, including timescales.
Provision of an education campus on the site would also be supported.
The development of land at Caledonian Road outwith the control of the majority landowner lies within the masterplan boundary and will require to consider links to the wider masterplan site.

Now the only major Regeneration Opportunity being pursued in North Ayrshire is for Ardrossan Harbour.

Should you want to make a case for Kilbirnie please get the forms from the website

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

North Ayrshire Council invests in local jobs, young people and protecting the vulnerable

North Ayrshire Council is to invest millions of pounds tackling unemployment, protecting vulnerable people and investing in the area's young people.
The Council is able to make this investment thanks to good housekeeping and prudent financial management over the last few years.
Around £4m will be invested in the Council's core priorities, including:
  • Early intervention and Prevention, including parenting programmes, child protection, family centres and tackling domestic violence - £920,000
  • Investment in a range of schemes to stimulate economic activity and job opportunities across North Ayrshire – over £1m
  • Increased allocation to the capital investment programme – around £800,000
  • Mentoring vulnerable children, supporting educational attainment and developing excellence among young people – almost £300,000
  • Increasing Council living wage to £7.20 per hour
  • Increasing level of funding to the Older People Change Fund
Speaking after the Council approved its budget for 2012/13 today, Leader of the Council David O'Neill, said: "By approving this budget today, we are investing in the most pressing areas of need in North Ayrshire.
"We will make this investment despite facing a funding shortfall of £23.3m over the next three years and a poor grant settlement compared with some wealthier authorities.
"Our staff have worked incredibly hard and have responded positively to the challenges of the last few years and this has allowed us to invest in the Council's priority areas of job creation, early intervention and prevention.
"It is clear that next few years will continue to be challenging. However, I am confident that we can continue to show the right attitude while providing quality frontline services to the people of North Ayrshire."
The Council agreed a total spend of over £450 million for the forthcoming financial year (2012/13).
Agreed efficiency options totalling £4.9m in 2012/13 include improved contracts and tenders; the personalisation of care for people with disabilities, and a redesign of Council services.
Elected Members also approved indicative options of £7.1m for 2013/14 and £2.37m for 2014/15
They also approved a Capital programme for the next four years. A total of £126m is available to fund a wide range of capital projects between 2012 and 2016. Projects approved include:
  • Additional investment in the school estate, including Irvine East Primary School and Garnock Campus – approximately £43m
  • Investment in core infrastructure, including roads, lighting, vehicles and waste – approximately £16m
  • Resources for first phase of Upper Garnock Flood Prevention Strategy - £2m
The Council also agreed a lower rent increase than had been anticipated and potentially increasing investment in Council Housing stock. In 2012/13 rents will increase by 2.25% rather than the anticipated 5.5%. Additional resources will also be made towards achieving and exceeding the Scottish Housing Quality Standard.
Further investment in the Council's housing in 2012/13 includes:
  • Improvements to existing housing, including a minimum of 1,290 window replacements, 850 new kitchens and 720 new bathrooms - £26m 
SNP Council ignores Garnock opinion and chooses “worst” site for school
Councillor John Bell attacked the “disgraceful decision” of SNP Councillors to defy the majority local opinion in the Garnock Valley, and the opinion of the Council’s own consultants, on the site of the proposed new Garnock Campus.
At a recent Council meeting on the preferred site for the Campus, it became clear that the ruling SNP group is determined to site the Campus at Longbar, Beith despite sites in this area being previously rejected following extensive consultation with parents and pupils. Consultants commissioned by the Council had recommended 2 sites, off Largs Road and off Stoneyholm Road, as providing the best opportunity. The consultants also judged that the Longbar site was the worst of all the options available.
Councillor John Bell said
“The SNP’s decision to ignore the views of Garnock Valley voters on this matter is wrong-headed and illogical.
"Choosing Longbar as the site would be a disaster for parents and pupils in Kilbirnie and Beith as well as Kilbirnie town centre shops and businesses. The Longbar site is isolated and too far from the main housing areas and will mean an increased reliance on cars and buses to get kids to school. It will also mean that pupils from Beith will have a long and exposed walk, in all weathers, to the SNP’s preferred site. The SNP seem more eager to save money by cutting free school transport for Beith pupils than they do in choosing the best site for the Campus.”

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Kilbirnie Police Office

At the council meeting of 27th June, Strathclyde Police Chief Inspectors Newbigging and Ritchie (Strathclyde Police), provided Members with details of proposed changes to the opening hours of particular Police Offices within North Ayrshire, with the aim of maximising the number of officers on the street at busy times. These changes include a proposal to alter the opening hours of the Kilbirnie police office down to almost a 9 -5 Monday to Friday service. All councillors were concerned about the proposal and are very aware of the general publics concerns about the current service. Locally I have been contacted by a number of people complaining about delays in response times and a general lack of confidence on getting a response. The Police have worked hard locally in trying to improve communication and to get people to report incidents so these changes may be a step backward.

National measures to increase Police numbers are having little impact when the Police have been forced to cut the numbers of civilian staff in order to pay the wages of the extra officers. Officers are taken off patrol to the back office functions previously done by civilians.

Friday, 25 May 2012

May 2012

Thank you to all who voted for me and for Labour in the local elections, it is a great honour to represent my local community. Unfortunately the Labour Party is now in opposition in North ayrshire Council with the SNP, who dont have a majority but are the largest party by one vote, forming an alliance with some of the independents and the Conservative to take control of the council.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Fuel Poverty
 At a the recent meeting of North Ayrshire councils Executive councillor John Bell raised the issue of the need to improve insulation in the councils timber housing stock. The meeting discussed the Council’s support for reducing fuel poverty, maximising fuel efficiency in its housing stock and supporting efficient energy use in housing generally.

Executive members heard of actions taken to improve the energy efficiency, including the installation of energy efficient boilers and improvements to the fabric of existing dwellings. The Head of Community Care and Housing undertook to submit a report to a future meeting of the Executive on the outcome of work to examine options for improving the energy efficiency of the Council's timber housing stock. Councillor Bell said “The councils Timber houses are notoriously poorly insulated and we need to examine options for tenants in these particular houses. While currently over 90% of the Council's housing stock attains the minimum standard we need to achieve this on the remaining stock.
Olga Clayton, NAC’s Head of Community Care and Housing undertook to submit a report to a future meeting of the Executive on the outcome of work to examine options for improving the energy efficiency of the Council's timber housing stock.

Thursday, 5 April 2012


At a recent meeting of the North Ayrshire Local Development Plan committee a decision was taken to remove the housing allocation from the North Lochshore area. I was unable to attend the meeting through illness but the minutes seem to suggest that the members involved were persuaded that this site is less viable than others in the area. Most local people would point out that none of the allocated sites are viable in the current market. 
The Lochshore site is more than just a housing site however, and if this change makes it through to the finalised plan it would have major repercussions for the local community.
 In this blog in December 2006 I wrote "Big news this month for the area with the council signing up to the framework agreement with SEA on the regeneration of the steelwork site at Lochshore. Part of the agreement is that income generated from the project will be held in a Kilbirnie and Glengarnock improvement fund, which will use this to improve the town centre and link in with the conservation area."

I have been successful in persuading the Labour Executive to allocate council funding to Town centre Improvements in Kilbirnie and Beith, but locally the main chance for continuing long term regeneration lay in the Lochshore project , where profits from an area of housing would fund the remediation of some contaminated land, improve the business park at Glengarnock  with a proportion of the profits from the scheme allocated to a Kilbirnie and Glengarnock Regeneration Fund. The Lochshore Project was stalled for two years in 2007 with the incoming SNP Governments preoccupation with splitting Scottish Enterprise, and the subsequent credit crunch which again delayed the project.

At the council meeting yesterday 4/4/12 I questioned the decision and asked for more detail on the questions asked before members decide on this move. The Local Plan process will continue with the publication of an amended plan and further consultation will take place. The local community need to be ready to respond.

Planning decisions should be made in the interests of the whole community not just landowners and property speculators.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Sultans of Spin

When the SNP Government announced that it was to finally start on the long awaited Dalry Bypass in their budget statement on 8th of February it seemed like good news for North Ayrshire. I have written previously how much this area needs investment in infrastructure to provide both construction jobs in the short term and improve the areas competitiveness long term. While Scottish Government statisticians have identified North Ayrshire as an area of deprivation it has always invested its capital in other areas.
I looked at the Transport Scotland web site for more details on this new funding and was surprised that it stated that the funding was for £10million of a £28million project. Previously there were plans for some safety related works on the A737 which included roundabouts installed at the junctions for the roads to Barmill and to Gateside and for the realignment of the road at The Den. These works have been repeatedly delayed over the past 5 years and it has been suggested that their estimated cost of around £7million was diverted towards the Forth Bridge project.
The Dalry bypass is a priority that we need fully completed as soon as possible and North Ayrshire Council Labour group have lobbied government extensively to get this road on their capital programme, I welcome this initial funding but we must continue to press them to make sure all of the funding is available to complete the project.