Picking up the Telephone

The forthcoming relocation of British Telecom’s Dundee operations to new premises at West Marketgait will mean complete abandonment of the ‘new’ Telephone House, lying between Ward Road and West Bell Street. A planning application for conversion of this building to student accommodation has, however, been submitted (23/00684/FULL).

The office block was erected in the mid-1970s for what was then still known as Post Office Telephones. Built as an extension to the earlier Telephone House at the junction of Ward Road and Courthouse Square, it was one of the city’s biggest office developments. It was designed by the architectural practice of Ian Burke Associates. Visually it is very much of its time, although not necessarily unappealing. The site is a historic one, formerly occupied by the central fire station and (much earlier) the Dundee and Newtyle railway station.

The new proposal is to completely refurbish this outworn building inside and out to make it fit for modern student accommodation, providing over 400 bedspaces and support facilities. This is one of several applications for purpose built student accommodation (PBSA) in the city; and whilst a few projects are underway, significant demand for more quality accommodation remains.

While awaiting further details, the Trust is minded to be supportive of this project in principle.

Dundee Housing Design Workshops, June 2023

Dundee Civic Trust, working with the Dundee Institute of Architects (DIA), organised successful housing design workshops that took place in June 2023 in the University of Dundee Department of Architecture and Urban Planning. The workshops’ aims were to achieve better design of housing in the city and to develop a template for developers, taking into account the need for compliance with the National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4). Numerous other organisations and professions contributed to the workshops: architects; planners; private and social housing developers; community groups; Scottish Water and others.

The outcome was a report with recommendations for housing design standards that the Trust and DIA would wish to see included in the new Dundee Local Development Plan 3, the preparation of which is now underway with a view to adoption in 2028.

29 recommendations have been refined from the workshops and will in due course be submitted to the city planners as part of the consultation for the above Plan. We expect the call for such contributions to be made in the spring of 2024.

The first three recommendations are fundamental to all proposed housing developments and their wider context. The remaining 26 relate to the basic principles of NPF4, which must be adopted by all Local Development Plans and applied in consideration of planning applications: transition to net zero emissions; conserving and recycling assets; local liveability; compact urban growth; and rebalancing development to create opportunities in areas of past decline whilst managing development in areas of high demand.

These recommendations challenge “the business as usual” approach we have seen in many of the housing developments in Dundee. Preliminary discussions have been held by the Trust and DIA with the City planners and we expect a lively debate to follow with stakeholders in the development and retrofit of housing.

We must insist that new housing developments are worthy of the City’s status as the only UK UNESCO City of Design.

Read our recommendations here.


50th Anniversary Awards

Further celebrations of the Civic Trust’s 50th anniversary took place at a Civic Reception at the City Chambers on 12 October, at which awards were made under three categories:

  • Dundee Civic Trust Awards for 2023 – for projects completed since our previous awards in 2019, exhibiting a high quality of design and exhibiting excellent use of materials, energy conservation and sustainability;
  • Dundee Civic Trust/Dundee Historic Environment Trust Awards for 2023 – for projects deemed worthy of restoring and preserving the city’s built heritage and historic buildings;
  • Dundee Civic Trust 50th Anniversary Awards – for outstanding projects not previously considered for a Dundee Civic Trust Award and parties who have made a consistent contribution to Dundee’s built environment.

Full details will appear soon on the Awards page.


AGM, followed by ‘Are We Nearly There Yet?’

Thursday 18 April 2024, 7.30 pm

Talk by Bruce Keith

Author Bruce Keith will return to speak to the Trust about Scottish Milestones based on his book ‘Are We Nearly There Yet?’ – but this is not just a story of distance markers.  This talk will also provide an insight into early methods of measurement and mapping in Scotland, as well as the travellers of the 18th and 19th century whose journals laid the foundation of the Scottish tourist industry.

The book was, the author claims, ‘inspired by the Road and the Miles to Dundee’—the familial reason for this will be explained to us during the talk.

The talk will take place at our usual venue, Dundee Art Society’s Roseangle Gallery. It comes after the business of our Annual General Meeting, which begins at 7.00pm (19:00) and runs for half an hour. Guests are welcome and there will be the opportunity to chat over a glass of wine before the talk.

A Hacklemaker’s Tale

Thursday 15 February 2024, 7.00 pm

Talk by Roderick Stewart

“The Hecklie”, as Wm R Stewart & Sons (Hacklemakers) Ltd was known, was an unorthodox Dundee company founded in 1874 which expanded from making hackles for jute machinery to become the world leader in supplying pinned products to a wide range of industries with its own subsidiary, Stewarts of America Inc., in the USA.  The story covers the company’s transition from traditional wooden staves to high-tech aluminium pinned tubes and also includes the stories of the ‘Nutshell’ folding caravan, ‘HMS Hackleworks’ and the company’s role in the saving of HMS Unicorn and the return of RRS Discovery to Dundee.

The talk will take place as usual in Dundee Art Society’s Roseangle Gallery, starting at 7.00pm (19:00). Guests are welcome and there will be the opportunity to chat over a glass of wine afterwards.

An Inspection of the Ballachulish Bridge

Thursday 7 December 2023, 7.00 pm

Talk by Ken Peebles

When the Ballachulish bridge opened in 1975, replacing the old ferry across the Narrows, the travel geography of the west coast was altered for ever. The ‘new’ bridge is now approaching its 50th anniversary and Trust member Dr Ken Peebles will give us a layman’s guide to the theory which underpins the structural design of the bridge, followed by an insider’s description of a physical inspection carried out by the speaker.

The talk will take place as usual in Dundee Art Society’s Roseangle Gallery, starting at 7.00pm (19:00). Guests are welcome and there will be the opportunity to chat over a glass of wine afterwards.

V&A Dundee – The Story So Far

Thursday 16 November 2023, 7.00 pm

Talk by Leonie Bell

Leonie Bell, Director of V&A Dundee, will tell us about the design museum’s journey up to its recent fifth anniversary and look towards the next five years as the V&A continues to inspire through design, to deepen its civic impact and inspire new audiences.

Leonie leads V&A Dundee at its spectacular home in Dundee’s re-imagined waterfront: delivering the museum’s vision to inspire and empower through design, and for championing design and designers and the infinite possibilities they bring as catalysts of creativity and change.

The talk will take place as usual in Dundee Art Society’s Roseangle Gallery, starting at 7.00pm (19:00). Guests are welcome and there will be the opportunity to chat over a glass of wine afterwards.

Developing the University of Dundee’s City Campus

Thursday 19 October 2023, 7.00 pm

Talk by Jim McGeorge and Rose Jenkins

Since its foundation as University College Dundee in 1881, the University has played an important role in shaping the civic and urban heritage of the City of Dundee. Continuous investment across the University’s City Campus has developed the landscape of the estate and, following the hiatus after Covid, it is about to embark on another wave of transformational change. University Secretary & Chief Operating Officer, Jim McGeorge, and Director of Estates, Rose Jenkins, will discuss the University’s strategic direction and how this will shape the City Campus over the next decade. They will speak of the impact of global reach, the requirements associated with delivering cutting edge science and research, the evolution of modern educational practices and the role and adoption of technology on the estate; and how these growing demands are balanced alongside government changes to legislation, mandatory net zero targets and the economic impact of policy. The University’s estate strategy must value its heritage and respect the conservation area in which the campus sits, while enabling the University to adapt to the needs of current and future generations of students and researchers. That, alongside the challenges of funding new developments and delivering economic viability means there is a challenge afoot.

The talk will take place as usual in Dundee Art Society’s Roseangle Gallery, starting at 7.00pm (19:00). Guests are welcome and there will be the opportunity to chat over a glass of wine afterwards.