Infrastructure Services Committee round up 16.6.16

Infrastructure Services Committee (ISC) began with a presentation from Energetica Development Manager, James Welsh, who outlined the scope of the programme and some of its recent achievements.

He told councillors Energetica is a programme managed by three public sector partners – Aberdeenshire Council, Aberdeen City Council and Scottish Enterprise – which had previously been under the remit of the now defunct Acsef organisation.

It is centred around the themes “live, visit, work and invest” and is very much about economic development, that being its core purpose, Mr Welsh said, but it also has leisure and lifestyle elements.

The committee heard its objectives are aligned with the aims of the Regional Economic Strategy and Mr Welsh outlined the geographical scope of the project, which runs up the east coast from the north of Aberdeen, through Ellon and up to Peterhead, covering around 300 square miles.

He also touched on the publicity and marketing work which has been taking place as part of the project, aimed at increasing the number of visitors to and investors in the area.

Mr Welsh also told councillors Energetica is heading further afield to drum up interest in the north-east, recently visiting conferences in Stavanger and Houston, in response to a query from Councillor John Cox (Banff and District). The committee thanked him for an informative presentation.

More information on Energetica is available online.

Aberdeenshire Forestry and Woodland Strategy 2016

Following a public consultation, the results of which were noted, the committee approved a revised Aberdeenshire Forestry and Woodland Strategy 2016.

It is intended to form part of the Supplementary Guidance to the Aberdeenshire Local Development Plan 2016 when it is adopted as a planning blueprint for the area, expected to be at the end of the year if approved by Scottish Ministers.

The Strategy identifies high-level objectives for the management and creation of forestry and woodlands in Aberdeenshire outwith the Cairngorms National Park.

Its content was influenced by a public consultation, a stakeholder workshop and three community events which were held in late 2015.  Further public consultation took place in early 2016 and local councillors also had a chance to have their say.

You can see the report to committee and associated information on our website.

Strategic Transport Update

The committee received an update on progress and developments on strategic transport across the area, including activity by Nestrans and other external agencies.

In particular, councillors welcomed progress on work to deliver a new railway station at Kintore, which they heard may be in place by December 2018.

They also welcomed news that Network Rail has committed to undertake a re-assessment of accessibility at Insch Station, subsequently deferring a decision to further lobby the Minister for Transport on the issue until the fresh assessment has been carried out and actions agreed.
The committee has been highlighting access issues at the station for wheelchair users and people with child buggies and wants to see improvements made.

ISC also agreed that chairman David Aitchison (Westhill and District) should write to the Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities to seek clarity on the timescales for the earliest possible delivery of a planned flyover at a notorious junction of the A90 at Laurencekirk. Local campaigners have been seeking safety improvements there for a number of years.

All of the relevant updates and additional information can be seen in the report to committee on our website.

Opportunity North East (ONE) Progress Report

The committee was given an update on the progress of ONE, a new local partnership established in 2015 by local businessman Sir Ian Wood.

It is described as “a private-sector led body, focused on ensuring a sustainable economic future for north-east Scotland”.

It aims to “broaden and strengthen the region’s economy by investing in and accelerating the delivery of projects of scale and impact through four sector boards”. These are: the ONE Oil and Gas Board; the ONE Food, Drink and Agriculture Board; the ONE Life Sciences Board; and Tourism, through working with Visit Aberdeenshire.

You can see information on the development of ONE in the report to committee on our website.

Councillors agreed that a further report on the work of ONE should be provided to the committee in six months and also that the committee should ask co-leader Richard Thomson, as the Aberdeenshire representative on the ONE board, if he would be willing to provide a report after board meetings to keep members up to date on what is being taken forward.

Members also asked for a list of the membership of the four sector boards and asked officers to send a strong message to the ONE board that the committee has concerns that the small business community is not being adequately represented.

Energetica – Progress Report

Following the presentation by the Energetica Development Manager at the start of the committee meeting, councillors were presented with a formal progress report for the project.

Energetica is a 25-year programme to attract and retain world-class talent of all ages. It is run as a partnership by three public sector organisations; Scottish Enterprise, Aberdeenshire Council and Aberdeen City Council.

Additionally, other key stakeholders sit on the Energetica Steering Group to provide leadership, direction and activity prioritisation for the programme.

The overall aim is to make the region the location of choice for high-value oil and gas and renewable energy organisations, and a first choice for organisations of all sizes operating in other high value, quality, niche markets.

This aligns with and reflects the aims and aspirations of the Aberdeen City and Shire Regional Economic Strategy (RES) agreed in December 2015.

The committee noted the actions being undertaken and the progress made under the Energetica Programme, all outlined in the report to committee.

Cllr Cox said he would like to see “a far more active approach” and suggested the project could prepare a bid for increased funding, to this end.

The committee asked for a further progress update in six months and also asked the Development Manager for sight of designs for promotional signage expected to line the route of the Energetica corridor in the near future.