Infrastructure Services Committee - Round-up 2.2.17 + Special Meeting 3.2.17
The first meeting of the Infrastructure Services Committee (ISC) in 2017 began with a presentation from James Bream, Policy and Research Director at Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, titled “The North East Economy: Factors and Actors”.
He gave councillors an outline of how reliant the north-east economy is on the oil and gas industry in comparison to the rest of Scotland, while also highlighting that we are “at least two thirds of the way through the oil and gas story”, with 43 billion barrels recovered and a further 20 billion which could be recovered, though it is now more expensive to do so in this region than elsewhere in the world.
Mr Bream told the committee he doesn’t expect to see a “bounce” in the oil and gas sector “anytime soon” and said it was estimated in the region of 30,000 jobs have been lost from it in the area in the last two and a half years. He said last year only about 10% of oil and gas companies actually recruited, but it’s not necessarily the sector where most people are employed in the north-east, contrary to popular belief. He said 35,000 people are employed in the “health environment”, 23,500 in retail, 21,000 in food services and a further 18,000 in education.
He emphasised the importance of these and other sectors to the area’s economy moving forward, saying that on a positive note, the working age population of the area is on the increase and is predicted to grow faster than any other part of Scotland.
He pointed out £5.3billion worth of investment in infrastructure happening in the region and the private/public sector collaboration on the successful City Region Deal bid and said this represented real progress. Mr Bream said everyone should be proud of the community events which take place in the north-east each year, but more could be done in this regard to continue to make the area an even more attractive proposition for visitors and those who may want to live and work here.
He warned about the level of emissions generated by the north-east, stating that it’s one of the highest in the UK in terms of output and this is an important factor for environmentally-conscious young people thinking about relocating. But he finished on a positive note, saying: “I think we’ve got a really solid base to build on and there are good reasons to be confident”.
Planning Permission – housing development, Fordoun Road, Laurencekirk
Following a vote, the committee approved the formation of a new road at Fordoun Road, Laurencekirk, as well as six houses at the same location. The planning applications had been recommended for refusal by planners as they were contrary to planning policy, but councillors heard representations, including support from Mearns Community Council, whose vice-chair David Nelson said other members were unanimous in their support for the application, which would allow families the chance to build their own home, rather than have to occupy those created by mass housebuilders in the area. He said the proposals were also supported by the Laurencekirk Development Trust and the local Business Association. Local councillors on the Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee had also supported the application.
The approved properties will effectively extend the settlement boundary of Laurencekirk, lying just outside the existing town boundary. Full planning permission for the access road and the six houses was delegated to the council’s Head of Planning, subject to the agreement of suitable Developer Obligations and Affordable Housing Contributions. Conditions will be drawn up to cover roads and access and drainage matters.
Development Plan Scheme 2017
The committee approved and agreed to publish the Aberdeenshire Council Development Plan Scheme 2017, which sets out a timetable for preparing and reviewing the Local Development Plan, the planning blueprint for future development in the area.
The scheme contains information on the proposed timetabling and details of what is likely to be required at each stage of the plan preparation process, along with a “participation statement” setting out when and with whom consultation is likely to take place, and its likely form.
It sets out a programme for the final stages of the delivery of the Local Development Plan during 2017.
You can see the report to committee, which includes the Development Plan Scheme 2017 as approved, on our website.
Harmonisation of wheeled bin charges
The committee decided to implement a consistent charge across the whole of Aberdeenshire for residual (landfill) bins, meaning many communities will no longer have to pay.
Wheeled bins had been provided to new properties in the south of Aberdeenshire free of charge, but that wasn’t the case for new properties in the Central and North areas, where there was a charge of £57.80.
Now, only an administrative/delivery charge will be applied for these bins, with discounted rates available for those in financial hardship.
In order to promote recycling, councillors agreed the council will continue to supply recycling bins, food caddies and biodegradable food waste bags free of charge. Where sacks are provided for recycling and residual (landfill) waste collection, these will also be free.
You can see the report to committee on our website.
Simplified Planning Zone – Peterhead South
A planning based initiative to support business growth and encourage economic activity was backed by the committee.
ISC gave the go-ahead to begin the creation of a Simplified Planning Zone (SPZ) for Peterhead South.
The initiative is designed to strengthen the town’s position as a key strategic investment location, complementing works aimed at regenerating the town centre. It is only the second initiative of its kind in Scotland targeting business and employment uses.
The SPZ has a clear boundary, and will remove the need to apply for planning permission for commercial development that complies with the SPZ Scheme. There is a requirement to notify Aberdeenshire Council of development proposed under the terms of the SPZ Scheme, and also at the commencement of works and on completion of the development.
The duration of a SPZ is ten years from its adoption, with monitoring and review on an annual basis.
Councillors agreed officers should begin the statutory process for the creation of the SPZ, including consultation with key agencies and partners.
Councillors on the Buchan Area Committee will be asked for their views before the proposed scheme is brought back to ISC for final approval.
The SPZ would lie at the northern gateway to Energetica, a 30-mile development corridor stretching from Aberdeen to Peterhead.
ISC Chair David Aitchison welcomed the decision and said: "It's the type of scheme I would hope to see coming through in terms of regeneration throughout Aberdeenshire.
"Certainly if the pilot was to prove successful I imagine other areas being interested in taking it on board.
"Clearly it has to be the right scheme in the right place - with that proviso it's something that, in terms of economic development, is a trial which could be used throughout Aberdeenshire if the Peterhead pilot is successful."
Peterhead North and Rattray councillor, Alan Gardiner, said: "We're delighted to do this - the area committee is in full support of it.
"Here's a really good news story to say to businesses: 'Come to Peterhead, we're willing to work with you and do what we can.'"
Energetica development manager, James Welsh, said after the meeting: “We’re delighted to progress this initiative and add to the Energetica inward investment offering as the ideal location to work, live, visit and invest.
“We will continue to investigate innovative solutions to increase the attractiveness of the corridor and complement work of business already investing in Energetica. In a challenging economic climate we are keen to support and facilitate sustainable economic growth and this agreement will enable officers to begin the statutory process delivering a Simplified Planning Zone at Peterhead South, in turn bringing a host of potential benefits to the area.
“It is anticipated that it will take approximately 9 – 12 months to adopt an SPZ Scheme with the aim of streamlining the decision making process for businesses seeking to grow or locate within the boundary and helping stimulate economic activity and creating jobs.”
ISC agreed officers should begin the statutory process that would allow for the creation of the SPZ. Following consultation on the scheme with key agencies and other relevant stakeholders, including the Buchan Area Committee, the scheme will be referred back to ISC for final determination.
Operation of the SPZ will be reviewed during year three following adoption and the findings will be reported back to ISC for a decision on its continued operation.
You can see the report to committee, which contains additional information, on Aberdeenshire Council’s website.
Special meeting of ISC – Friday, February 3
The committee convened in Turriff’s St Ninian’s and Forglen Church to determine a planning application for a wind turbine at Beechwood, Burnend, Forglen.
A C Duncan and Co. was seeking full planning permission for the 45.5 metre structure, an equipment cabin and vehicular access at the site.
Planners had recommended refusal of the application, made by current Aberdeenshire councillor, Sandy Duncan (Turriff and District).
The application previously gained planning approval from the Banff and Buchan Area Committee, but that decision was subject to a Judicial Review at the Court of Session, the outcome of which effectively overturned the decision to approve it.
As a result, the planning application had to be determined afresh and was again approved by the Banff and Buchan Area Committee in September 2016.
However, following a new material consideration regarding the process which was followed, the application had to be reconsidered again.
At the special meeting of ISC, councillors heard representations from the applicant, as well as objectors to the scheme.
After detailed discussion, the committee voted to reject the application on the grounds that it was contrary to a number of local planning policies and would have an adverse impact on the Deveron and Upper Ythan Valleys landscape character area, due to being dominant and out of scale with the landscape, resulting in a noticeable change to it, and the further damage that would result to the landscape in conjunction with the other turbines already operational and consented to the south of the River Deveron in the area.