Infrastructure Services Committee Round up 21.6.18

Sitting on the longest day of the year, Infrastructure Services Committee (ISC) began by welcoming a decision that the Moray Offshore Renewable scheme has chosen Fraserburgh as its preferred harbour as a base for operation and maintenance of renewable projects being developed in the Moray Firth. ISC chair Peter Argyle welcomed the decision, describing it as a “significant development”.

Members of the committee heard a presentation from Aberdeenshire ranger Doug Gooday on a film produced to highlight the natural gems of the north east called “The Wild North East”. The film was shown to the committee and councillor Argyle described it as “absolutely stunning”.

“The Wild North East – Scotland’s Natural Gem” was commissioned by the North East Scotland Biodiversity Partnership, of which Aberdeenshire Council is an active member and supporter. 
 
“As a Council Ranger I’m very privileged to spend a lot of time in the many wild places we have in Aberdeenshire, from the Cairngorms to the coast,” Doug said. 

“I wanted to inspire others to enjoy these wild places as well, to understand about the services nature provides and the importance of caring for the natural environment for the benefit of ourselves and future generations.”

The new film was produced by the nature media company Scotland: The Big Picture. The collective specialises in producing high-quality short films which inspire and inform people on the importance of looking after our natural world.

It was produced with the support of Aberdeenshire Council, Aberdeen City Council, Scottish Natural Heritage, Outdoor and Woodland Learning Scotland, the North East Biodiversity Partnership and Forestry Commission Scotland - Grampian Conservancy.

It is freely available for anyone to use and distribute for education and to promote the natural heritage of our region. You can see it on the council's YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/Ef9lES0zYts

The committee then voted to refuse a planning application for roadside services at a site by the A90 at Mains of Luther, Laurencekirk. They heard representations from the applicant, supporters and objectors before making a decision. Planners had recommended the application be refused and a proposal to allow the development to proceed by Cllr Sandy Wallace (Stonehaven and Lower Deeside), seconded by Cllr Colin Pike (North Kincardine) was voted down by 11 votes to two.

Festive Lights and attachments to street lighting columns policy

ISC decided that the cost of electricity to power festive lighting in local communities will continue to be covered by Aberdeenshire Council, agreeing a new approach to the issue.

A new policy aimed at ensuring a reasonable, consistent and safe approach to requests from community groups was approved by the committee.

Hanging baskets, banners and bunting are also covered by the new rules, as well as attachments to street lighting columns, such as signs.

Councillors heard the use of festive lighting, bunting, banners and hanging baskets can help encourage commercial activity in towns, add seasonal colour and help promote community events.

Unregulated installations can however cause damage to street furniture, endanger the public and be an offence under the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984.

ISC previously considered proposals which would have seen community groups covering electricity costs for festive lights, hearing there was strong opposition to this from local councillors and groups.

Members asked officers to revisit the plans, setting up a working group to further investigate the potential impacts of the proposals.

An engagement meeting was held with community groups in April where a number of concerns were raised and consideration of these led to a number of changes to the proposed policy.

Electricity supplied through the public street lighting network will not be charged for and the council will now perform technical assessments on the suitability of lighting columns and advise community groups – it had been proposed that applicants would have to perform these safety tests themselves.

A proposed deadline for applications for festive lighting installations of September 1 has been extended and they will now have to be submitted by October 1 each year.

There will be restrictions on installations outwith main footfall areas but an arrangement to allow the use of festive lights featuring the branding of commercial organisations will be extended by a year.

ISC chair, Peter Argyle, proposed going against officers’ recommendations, which had been to charge community groups for the electricity used in line with the council’s policy to achieve full cost recovery.

“The excellent work communities do is clearly of benefit to the whole of Aberdeenshire and the cost is one we can bear,” he said.

Councillor Glen Reid (East Garioch) said: “This is a very sensible move and I’m glad we’ve reached agreement on this.”

A proposal by Cllr Cox to allow Local Area Committees to resolve any issues encountered by community groups looking to install lighting features or similar will be referred to the council’s Procedures Committee. He said he hopes this would give groups reassurance of being treated fairly.

The committee heard the highest cost to power festive lights in any community is £1,000 and that electricity costs could be reduced by encouraging the introduction of more efficient LEDs.

The new policy will apply from October 1 this year and the cost of electricity for festive lighting will be funded from the roads maintenance budget.

For more information see the report to committee on our website.

Aden Country Park – Heritage Lottery Project

The committee agreed to underwrite an exciting funding bid for the development of Aden Country Park, near Mintlaw.

Councillors heard there are plans to restore and develop the attraction, one of the most popular in the north east, which could be part funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

A previous funding bid was unsuccessful, but has been improved and resubmitted and officers are hopeful of receiving an award.

If successful, the Aden Restoration and Regeneration Project would see over £2.1million invested in major restoration and improvement works with Heritage Lottery funding of around £1.25 million of this total.

Funding of around £223,000 is being sought from the Landfill Trust for refurbished and redesigned play facilities, but a decision on this will not be made in time for the HLF bid deadline.

Councillors heard the application would be stronger if this funding is in place, and agreed to underwrite that amount from council budgets.

Councillor Stephen Smith (Peterhead South and Cruden) said there had been strong support for the decision from the Buchan Area Committee.

Councillor Colin Pike (North Kincardine) highlighted the park’s success in terms of visitor numbers and said: “It is a fantastic facility and we should recognise the good work that is going on there.”

The council is already committed to providing around £230,000 of the overall funding total for the project, should it be successful.

Councillors heard this HLF application gives a fantastic opportunity to secure significant external funding to further develop what is already Aberdeenshire’s most popular visitor attraction, with an all-time high in 2016-17 of around 352,000 visitors.

The funding would provide improved infrastructure, facilities, learning and skills opportunities, events and community health and wellbeing. Supporting the bid by underwriting the match funding element may prove to be the deciding factor for the project to be successful, the committee heard.

New Waste Strategy – Pre Consultation Approval

ISC gave the go ahead to allow officers to consult with local residents about proposed changes to recycling and waste services within a new Aberdeenshire Waste Strategy for 2019-23.

Councillors heard that changes are proposed to the landfill bin collection regime, also to Household Waste Recycling Centres and other aspects of services for residents.

A consultation will now take place later this year to allow residents to give their views, which will include a question asking which of two kerbside collection services is preferred.

Further details on how to take part in the consultation will be made available in due course. Councillors agreed it should be publicised as widely as possible to ensure high participation.

The committee heard materials, including plastic, previously considered as waste have a value attached to them as a resource to be used again and again. Local authorities have a role to play by providing effective collection systems and encouraging residents to maximise reuse and recycling of those materials that cannot be avoided in the first place.

Aberdeenshire Council undertook extensive waste analysis of landfill waste in 2016-17. The research showed that if all recyclable waste was recycled effectively through existing services, the area’s recycling rate could be well over 70%, instead of the current 43.5%.

In addition to the missed environmental and local benefits, this equates to around 40,000 tonnes of material that is recyclable being landfilled at a cost of around £4.7 million a year.

You can see the report to committee on the council's website.

Regional Economic Strategy Update

The committee received an update on progress of the Regional Economic Strategy (RES) and on the activities of Opportunity North East (ONE).

The RES provides a shared vision and ambition for the future of the North East of Scotland to align commitment, lead investment and coordinate action in pursuit of its economic growth and diversification objectives.

Co-signatories are Aberdeenshire Council, Aberdeen City Council and Opportunity North East (ONE).

The Strategy is influenced and driven by a wide collaboration in north east Scotland, including the national enterprise and skills agencies and regional economic partners.

The partners have been reviewing the Regional Economic Strategy given significant and improving economic investment and outcomes across the region.

This has resulted in the development of a new, revised and updated Regional Economic Strategy Action Plan for 2018-23.

Councillors approved the refreshed Regional Economic Strategy Action Plan 2018-2023 and noted the update on the regional economic work, including Opportunity North East.

You can see the report to committee, which includes the revised RES Action Plan, on the council’s website