Infrastructure Services Committee January round-up

There was detailed discussion around flood-damaged bridges at the latest meeting of the Infrastructure Services Committee on Thursday, January 24, along with allocation of new coastal funding and a mid-term review of regeneration projects.

Toux Lodge, Fetterangus - Planning permission in principle renewal for house

An application for renewal of planning permission in principle for a house on the outskirts of Fetterangus was discussed. Councillors were told that the previous application in 2016 was approved under the then Aberdeenshire Local Development Plan 2012, but that changes to the current LDP in terms of a development ‘buffer zone’ around the village had halved – meaning the proposal now fell outwith the settlement boundary.
Planning officers also explained that policy which allowed for an additional 20% growth of the settlement - up to a maximum of 10 new homes - had already been met.
Cllr Jim Ingram motioned approval, saying it had been the unanimous view of the Buchan Area Committee that on this occasion the previous approval in principle should be honoured and that there should be some flexibility within the policy.
Seconding, Cllr Colin Pike questioned the irregular-shaped development boundary, saying if the buffer zone had been circular from a central point within the village it would meet the new criteria.
However, Cllr Martin Ford moved the recommendation for refusal, seconded by Cllr Ian Mollison, saying that policies were in place for a purpose and that there was no specific reason for departing from policy. He warned that a precedent could be set if approval was granted, however the application to delegate to the Head of Planning and Environment Service, subject to conditions, was approved after an 8-6 vote.

Burnthill, Fraserburgh - Full planning permission for house

Councillors discussed an application for a new house at Burnthill near Fraserburgh. Planners recommended refusal on the basis that the proposal did not comply with policy as it did not constitute a suitable addition to a cohesive group of at least five houses. Councillors were also advised the application breached the 20% growth allowance permitted within the Local Development Plan period which had recently been exhausted by another approved application at a different site. Planners also recommended refusal on the grounds that the house would be visually out of keeping with the surrounding landscape in terms of its mass, scale and external materials.
Addressing committee, the applicant’s agent said his client required the new property to attend his farm and other business interests, insisting that the design was very similar to other nearby properties and that the proposed house did form part of a cohesive group. He also questioned the validity of the 20% growth allowance which included properties which may never be built.
Cllr John Cox told committee that the Banff and Buchan Area Committee had voted to approve on appropriate conditions as the proposed development would form part of a cohesive group, would satisfy the need for a house for an essential worker and would meet two aspects of national planning policies by supporting regeneration and economic development.
Following lengthy discussion over the lack of any labour report to substantiate the need for the property for an essential worker, Cllr Iain Taylor, seconded by Cllr Cox, moved to defer consideration of the application to allow the applicant to submit additional information.
After Cllr Martin Ford, seconded by Cllr Peter Argyle, moved to support the officer’s recommendation, the committee voted 8-6 to refuse.
  
Fleet Services Strategic Plan 2020-30

Councillors welcomed the publication of the Fleet Services Strategic Plan 2020-2030.
In line with the climate emergency and commitment from the Government to decarbonise transport, the authority will now plan to replace its vehicle fleet with alternative fuels such as battery and hydrogen.
The high-level strategy is based on the requirement to phase out the need for all new petrol and diesel vehicles in the fleet by 2030.
Councillors heard that in order to achieve that target, there needs to be significant changes to the vehicles the council operates and how and where they are used by Services and maintained.
Head of Transportation Ewan Wallace explained that the light and heavy commercial vehicle sector had not developed as quickly as the car industry and, as a result, councils were having to wait to see what direction many manufactures of light and heavy goods vehicles would go in terms of alternative fuels.
This, he said, would, directly impact on what vehicles the council is able to purchase, and the
supporting infrastructure required. But he added that 2020 was a big year for manufacturers both in terms of mainstream EVs and larger vehicles which was hugely-important for councils.
During general discussion, Cllr Colin Pike warned against the council becoming the tester of new, unknown technology, however Mr Wallace said the authority had provided test-beds for the likes of electric vehicles in the past and fed that information back to the Scottish Government and the manufacturers themselves.
While welcoming the Strategic Plan, councillors agreed that Aberdeenshire’s own commitment to meeting specific targets - including climate change targets - should be featured and that while incremental changes were necessary, Aberdeenshire Council should also consider ‘whole-system’ changes.

Strategic Transport Update

Councillors welcomed the progress made with various projects, activities and developments taken forward by Nestrans, external agencies and stakeholders highlighted in the council’s Strategic Transport Update.
The report provided up-to-date information on a host of initiatives across Aberdeenshire including E-Bike schemes, cycle parking and Park Smart to EV charging places, car-parking and strategic rail projects.
The committee agreed to receive further updates on the progress of both the implementation and delivery of the Aberdeenshire Local Transport Strategy.
During general discussion, several localised issues were raised with the Head of Transportation for progression.
Among them was the ongoing issue of the Toll of Birness junction on the A90 trunk road north of Ellon. While the Committee recognised that this fell under the remit of Transport Scotland, councillors agreed that the chair should write to Scottish Ministers reminding them that Aberdeenshire Council will continue to work closely with Transport Scotland to deliver this project. Chair Cllr Peter Argyle stressed that there remained very strong business and humanitarian cases for a roundabout at the busy junction.

Aberdeenshire Community Transport Initiative grant awards

Councillors approved a maximum of £386,275 in Aberdeenshire Community Transport Initiative (ACTI) grants for the next financial year.
The Committee agreed the 2020/21 allocation subject to the approval of the authority’s revenue budget in the Spring.
They also approved in principle funding for the subsequent two financial years based on the 2020/21 grant awards and delegated authority for the approval of monies from the ACTI Small Grant Fund up to the value of £7,500 subject to available budget.
Next year’s allocation would see the following grants:
Ballater Royal Deeside Ltd (Marr) £3,780; Banffshire Partnership Ltd (Banff and Buchan) £142,327; Buchan Dial-a-Community Bus (Banff and Buchan, Buchan and Formartine) £140,280; Mid Deeside Community Trust (Marr) £60,823; Silver Circle (Marr) £10,449; RVS Aberdeenshire (Aberdeenshire) £28,615.

Scottish Crown Estate Funding 2019-20

A number of North-east coastal projects were granted financial support as part of the first tranche of marine-sourced funding from the Scottish Crown Estate.
Councillors heard that as part of the devolution settlement following the Scottish Independence Referendum, revenue generated from the Crown Estate’s marine assets within inshore waters now accrues to the Scottish Government, which in turn, devolved a proportion of it to the 32 local authorities.
Revenue is generated from activity such as licensing for offshore wind farms, oil and gas pipelines and aquaculture leases.
Aberdeenshire Council’s allocation from the 2017-18 revenue is £328,314, with the ISC agreeing that each of the authority’s four area committees be allocated £12,500 to spend on their own coastal initiatives.
Among the eight proposed funded projects is East Grampian Coastal Partnership’s ‘Turning the Plastic Tide’ which will receive £40,000 to extend its waste clean-up project to include the entire Aberdeenshire coastline.
 
 Update on damaged bridges at King Edward
 
Opening the discussion, chair Cllr Peter Argyle proposed new recommendations which were approved by committee. These were:

• Note that the bridges listed below were severely damaged/lost in the flood event on September 28, 2019 as follows: C7S/20 Bridge of Gorrachie, C9S/10 Bridge of Fortrie, C51L/10 Bruntyards, U12S/20 Millcroft, U12S/30 Mill of Balmaud, U17S/30 North Litterty

• Agree that the Gorrachie and Bruntyards bridges are confirmed as the top priorities of the six

• Agree that representations are made to both the Scottish Government and the UK Government to seek additional financial assistance, particularly in the context of the wider challenges the council faces with its bridges

• Agree that there will be early engagement with local communities and businesses - and with SEPA - to explore other solutions and opportunities to address the loss of these bridges

• Agree that other opportunities for funding are explored

• Agree to receive a further update report in early course

An amendment raised by Cllr Martin Ford ‘noting the closure or restrictions on use of bridges is inevitable with current funding availability’ and ‘agreeing that the council’s future approach be that prioritisation for use of available funding for bridge maintenance and keeping bridges open take place across the whole Aberdeenshire road network, to minimise the impact on residents, businesses and travel’ did not receive a seconder.
Councillors were given a detailed overview of the bridges by Philip McKay, Head of Roads, Landscape and Waste Services, before three community representatives were given opportunities to address committee.
For more, go to: https://online.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/apps/news/release.aspx?newsID=5634

Developing Excellence in our North Coast Communities – Mid-Term Review

A review of Aberdeenshire Council’s regeneration work in Peterhead, Fraserburgh, Banff and Macduff revealed positive progress over the first half of the five-year Vision and Action Plans for the north coast towns.
The report to committee indicated that the partnership approach to change was delivering what it set out to do and had generated a variety of leverage funding. Councillors heard partners were engaging in a range of activities, from community groups delivering social change to businesses taking charge of their own destiny such as town centre improvement group Rediscover Peterhead.

Other matters
 
• Councillors acknowledged the authority’s response to the Scottish Government consultation on proposals for a Circular Economy
• A consultation response to replacement of European Structural Funds was approved, with councillors calling for significant emphasis on the replacement being user-friendly for community groups and voluntary organisations
• Committee endorsed the partnership reviews of the Grampian Health and Transport Action Plan and Road Safety North East Scotland and agreed that the council will continue to participate in the partnerships until January 2022
• A 2% increase on rates and dues at the seven harbours the council operates in the North-east was approved along with an 8% increase at Macduff Harbour in lieu of the scrapping of an annual security charge

You can see all the reports to the committee on the Aberdeenshire Council website at: http://committees.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/committees.aspx?commid=495&meetid=19388

The full meeting was webcast and you can view a recording of proceedings online here: https://aberdeenshire.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/468964