24 May 2021

Infrastructure Services Committee May round up

During its meeting on Thursday, March 11, Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee discussed a bridges prioritisation policy and procedure, the significant volume of Covid-19 business grants paid out during the past year and future development of the authority’s seven harbours.

Bridges Prioritisation Policy

Elected members formally agreed a prioritisation policy and procedure for the future of the region’s bridge repairs and renewals. The local authority is responsible for 3,500 miles of public road, carried by 1,308 bridges, which equates to a bridge approximately every 2.7 miles of road. The policy and procedure which sets out how required works will now be prioritised across the region and direct funding to where it does the most good.
Members heard that feedback from the council’s six area committees and a digital community engagement process were broadly similar. Area committees were generally supportive of the approach, but had some concerns over the suitability of diversionary routes, the council’s operational ability to deliver the works and the importance of regular maintenance inspections. The public engagement also raised additional concerns over the impact on communities of multiple closures, the financial impact on businesses and the re-routing of emergency services.
The committee was told that the service had listened carefully to the feedback and taken into account the comments from both these exercises around the proposed prioritisation scheme. As a result it made a number of changes to the policy, most notably around the bridge alert status. The council now has a revised score which places a heavier weight on a bridge closure and brings it into line with the rating it would give for an imminent bridge closure.
Network criticality and bridge alert status remain the principal elements in the scoring, however the engagement process raised concerns regarding the manner in which diversions will be taken into account.
An additional resilience factor has now been included to better reflect the areas where the diversion routes pose significant issues. It will be used in circumstances where there are already excessive bridge restrictions locally and there is a high risk of any further bridge or road incident in the local area restricting traffic movement to an unacceptable level.

Extended Producer Responsibility consultation

The committee discussed and agreed the council’s response to a DEFRA consultation on proposals to introduce an Extended Producer Responsibility scheme for packaging which intends, in line with the ‘polluter pays’ principle, to make producers responsible for the full net cost of managing packaging they put on the market.
Under the proposals, packaging producers will be made responsible for the full cost of managing the packaging they place on the market, estimated to be in the region of £2.7bn in the first full year of implementation in 2024. This cost transfer - from the public purse and those who dispose of packaging waste to the packaging producers - will incentivise producers to question whether the packaging they use is necessary, could be reduced or not used at all.
The costs paid for by the producers of packaging would include the collecting, sorting and recycling of packaging waste from households and businesses together with the collecting and disposing of packaging in the residual waste stream from households only.
In practice, the proposals mean that from 2023 local authorities would receive reimbursement from the EPR scheme for the cost of collecting, sorting and recycling/disposing of packaging waste of behalf of packaging producers, as well as for the prevention and management of packaging litter.
Officers were also asked when considering plastics in the response, that the matrix should not just be based on tonnage but potential tonnage for CO2 emissions. Factors such as mixed materials in packaging which cannot be recycled, whether materials were recyclable within the carbon loop, using plant- based materials or fossil carbon based will be considered. 

Statutory Harbour Authority options

Robust new development plans are to be undertaken for Aberdeenshire Council’s seven harbours. Councillors considered various future management proposals for the harbours at Portsoy, Banff, Macduff, Rosehearty, Stonehaven, Gourdon and Johnshaven.
The harbours provide different roles within the portfolio and deliver a different range of services to their communities, offering commercial services, pleasure craft and leisure facilities and are a focal community asset, particularly in the smaller settlements.
The Harbours Service is responsible for ensuring that these assets are managed and developed in a way that they continue to support the growth of the economy, the local business community, and are able to meet current and future economic challenges.
Members heard that at Rosehearty – the council’s smallest harbour – the Rosehearty Harbour
Inshore Fisherman’s Association (RHIFA) has played a key role in reigniting a community sprit by running open days and various fundraising events for themselves, RNLI and other local charities. Members agreed that the success at Rosehearty was a good example of what can be achieved if harbour users take a degree of ownership over the improvement and
development of their harbour, supported by appropriate teams within the council and agreed that this was the most appropriate management model to support the future of the council’s harbour portfolio. It was agreed that up to £100,000 will be provided to support the production of the development plans for the harbours, with a draft brief for the engagement of external now being prepared.

Covid-19 business grants

Councillors were reminded that Phase 2 of the authority’s Discretionary Business Fund would close on May 21st and that to-date had paid out sums to businesses totalling more than £2.2 million. Combined with additional funding packages, it brings the total level of financial aid paid out by Aberdeenshire Council to £83.6 million. Launched in January this year by the Scottish Government, the aim of the Discretionary Business Fund has been to mitigate the short-term financial challenges being experienced by firms adversely impacted by restrictions and regulations introduced since October 2020 to control the spread of Covid-19. The committee paid tribute to the outstanding level of financial support which the council has provided to the business sector both through both its own schemes and those funded by the Scottish Government. It also thanked all those officers from the Economic Development and Finance teams who have worked tirelessly over many months to process the thousands of funding applications received to get the funding out quickly to support our business community.

Other Matters:

• Councillors received an update on the council’s Fleet Strategy along with developments and progress in decarbonising its vehicle fleet. The committee also thanked the Fleet team which had kept vehicles on the roads during extremely challenging times.
• Committee noted the council’s response to the UK Government on proposals for a subsidy control regime. The introduction of subsidy control legislation is designed to ensure a level playing field within the UK, compliance with international obligations and to provide legal certainty to subsidy providers.
• Members agreed the criteria and approvals process to be used for the distribution of the Scottish Government’s new Place Based Investment Programme for 2021/2022 which will support capital projects in our town centres.

Funding Matters:

• Continued annual funding of two key regional partnerships was agreed by committee. The sum of £9,000 was endorsed for the continued support of the Dee Catchment Partnership and £7,500 towards the work of the North East Scotland Biodiversity Partnership. Both organisations were praised for the tremendous amount of work they undertake in the Shire.
• Members approved a £37,900 contribution towards total project costs of £213,850 to progress work around a number of activities being undertaken by Opportunity North East (ONE) including the NES Food and Drink Network
• The committee approved an £80,000 grant to Huntly and District Development Trust to progress the development of an Active Travel Hub which is in line with the action and objectives within Aberdeenshire Council’s Huntly Integrated Travel Town Masterplan.

The agenda and documents for the meeting can be found here:

The full recorded webcast can be viewed here: