Infrastructure Services Committee Round-up 24.8.18

The first Infrastructure Services Committee (ISC) after summer recess began with a presentation from Aberdeenshire Council’s fleet manager, Paul Gray, on telematics in council vehicles.

Councillors heard telematics are being installed to help save money and benefit the environment. The web-based system uses GPS satellite positioning data and the mobile data network.

Following the successful use of such systems in other large organisations, including councils, it is also intended to promote safe and efficient driving and working practices.

It can help protect lone workers, reduce vehicle running costs and help to quickly ascertain the facts of any accident or incident.

It is hoped it may even allow the reduction of the council’s fleet in future, through the improved use of vehicles, which would also mean significant savings.

The system installations began at the Council’s Waste depot in Mintlaw, whose vehicles cover significant miles every week collecting recycling and waste from local households.

In the initial phase it will be installed in 790 vehicles, which alone covered 7.3million miles during 2016/17. Eventually it will be extended to a wide range of vehicles, possibly even ride-on mowers.

Aberdeenshire Council spent £2.75m on diesel in 2015/16 and the use of telematics could mean a saving of between £190,000 and £275,000 a year on fuel and between 5-7,000 tonnes of CO2.

See the report to committee for more information.

Outdoor Access Strategy 2018-2021

The committee agreed the proposed aims and key priorities of Aberdeenshire’s Outdoor Access Strategy 2018-2021 and its associated Team Action Plan.

The Strategy outlines the work of the Planning and Building Standards team in relation to non-motorised public access in the area.

Focussing on the efficient and effective management and enhancement of existing path infrastructure, it also outlines aims and objectives in relation to the development of new facilities, in particular how the council will work with other services, external bodies and communities.

The Strategy aims to promote and deliver responsible outdoor access that provides social, environmental and economic benefits. Overall it will aim to ensure that efficiency and best value are delivered from available Council resources.

Delivery of the Strategy will be facilitated by an annual action plan for each year of operation.

You can see the Outdoor Access Strategy and 2018-2019 Action Plan in the report to committee.

Strategic Transport Update

The committee received its latest report giving an update on Strategic Transport projects across the region.

This included the construction of shared use walking and cycling footpaths completed between Inverurie and Kintore, Ellon town centre to the Formartine and Buchan Way via the riverside, and at Deveron Road, Huntly.

Councillors noted progress and developments taken through regional transport partnership Nestrans and acknowledged the activities and developments being taken forward by external agencies and stakeholders.

They also decided to send a representative to the UK Transport Awards in London in October where Aberdeenshire Council has been shortlisted for UK Transport Authority of the Year.

The award of a Chargeplace Scotland grant offer of £276,000 to install a number of new EV charge points and bolster the charging network along the A947 corridor was welcomed by members.

You can see the full Strategic Transport update in the report to committee.

Greenspace and Biodiversity Development

The committee agreed to support a funding application to the North and South Aberdeenshire LEADER programmes in relation to Greenspace and Biodiversity development.

Following a number of gradual changes to open space management over the past three to four years, a new approach for the creation and maintenance of green spaces across Aberdeenshire hopes to increase biodiversity and the types of recreation spaces available for residents.

Council officers proposed the approach to continue to improve the local environment against a background of budget pressures, recognising its importance to local communities.

Councillors heard it is likely to lead to a reduction in well maintained grassy areas often known as “green deserts”, while increasing more natural spaces, with increased tree planting, woodland areas, pollinator friendly plants and wildflower meadows.

The intention is to concentrate limited resources on high priority areas which are well used, increase biodiversity and ensure a variety of open spaces of good quality for multiple purposes.

Given the substantial change in approach this represents, officers are aware of the essential need to engage with communities to help identify suitable areas and communicate the potential benefits.

The committee agreed to support a bid for European funding of £120,000 to allow two officers to be employed to take the initiative forward and engage and consult with communities over 18 months.

They would seek to identify opportunities for enhancement and development of local green spaces, developing an integrated approach to open space management in key areas.

They would also aim to help communities appreciate the benefits of biodiverse open spaces and understand the importance of trees and pollinators and their natural environment.

Where areas are identified for reduced or alternative maintenance, this will also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the equipment used and its transportation. More trees, woodlands and wildflower meadows will also absorb more CO2 from the atmosphere.

The intention is this will be a model which provides a cost effective and efficient method to deliver enhancements to green spaces and improve biodiversity.

Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Tourism Strategy 2018-2023

The committee approved the Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Tourism Strategy as Aberdeenshire Council’s policy approach to the tourism Industry.

Councillors heard the strategy’s development has been led by VisitAberdeenshire in consultation with the tourism industry, along with the Board and Industry Forum of VisitAberdeenshire.

The Strategy replaces the Area Tourism Strategy adopted by ISC in March 2013.
It sets an ambition that by 2023 the visitor spend in the region can be grown to £1 billion per year. In 2016 visitor spend was £630 million.

The strategy outlines that the area needs to develop a great visitor experience at the same time as inspiring and attracting visitors from within Scotland, UK and Europe and ‘Distant Cousins’.

The conclusion of the strategy is that we concentrate on the following existing strengths and develop action plans in each of these areas:

• Business Events
• Cruise
• Golf
• Culture, Heritage & Events
• Food & Drink
• Touring & the Great Outdoors.

ISC chair, Peter Argyle, said: “It is a fairly broad brush approach to tourism for Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire – it’s great it’s coming forward and I certainly welcome it.

“It says where we want to go and what we want to do.”

Vice chair, John Cox, said that in future he wants to see more information on the outputs delivered by the tourism strategy, showing what the council is getting for the money it invests.

Cllr Argyle asked officers to arrange a seminar or workshop for councillors in the autumn to go into tourism plans in more detail, particularly how they will impact at community level.

You can see the report to committee, which includes a link to the Tourism Strategy and emerging action plans, on Aberdeenshire Council's website.