Infrastructure Services Committee March round-up

Decriminalised Parking Enforcement, full-cost recovery of trade waste and Aberdeenshire Council’s Proposed Development Plan Scheme were all discussed at the latest meeting of the Infrastructure Services Committee on Thursday, March 12.

Presentation by George Main, Development Manager (Scotland) with the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK

Councillors were provided with an overview of the North East Bus Alliance which is aimed at reinvigorating bus use in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. It aims to arrest the decline in bus patronage by 2022, with Mr Main providing an overview of the group’s ongoing work, the opportunities and challenges which lie ahead and where bus users and operators may need the council’s support. He said that according to figures sourced by KPMG, during the period 2011/12 to 2015/16, some 27 million bus journeys had been lost in Scotland. He added that new opportunities and fresh ideas were required to tackle the issues both in our rural and urban areas. Councillors sought clarity on the potential of free bus travel for all under 18s and the impact that could have on the existing bus infrastructure. Committee requested links to the reports referred to in the presentation and the KPMG-surveyed trends in both Scottish bus patronage and the impact of congestion on bus passengers to be issued to members.

Development Plan Scheme 2020

Councillors approved the Draft Development Plan Scheme which paves the way for a number of public consultation sessions to be held as part of an eight-week consultation on Aberdeenshire Council’s Proposed Local Development Plan 2020 (LDP). The authority had formally agreed its Proposed LDP on March 5 and will submit its proposals to Scottish Ministers for examination later this year, following consideration of representations received during the consultation period. Once every five years the council is required to publish a new LDP for the area to inform and advise developers and communities of the principles on which built development should follow and where it should be located. As part of the process, each year a Development Plan Scheme is published to inform stakeholders of the stage the council is at in preparing a new Local Development Plan for the area. In light of Covid-19, details of the public consultation will be confirmed in due course.

Decriminalised Parking Enforcement

Aberdeenshire Council will progress the introduction of Decriminalised Parking Enforcement (DPE) across the region after councillors unanimously approved the making of an application to Scottish Ministers to allow the council to implement enforcement in a phased approach. Members heard that currently, enforcement of the legal restrictions covering on-street parking in Aberdeenshire sits with Police Scotland. However, in recent years, some Scottish local authorities have been granted relevant powers to decriminalise on-street parking, taking responsibility for enforcement away from the police. In those areas, parking attendants have been employed to issue Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) for inappropriate parking on double yellow lines, single yellow lines, misuse of disabled parking bays, School ‘Keep Clear’ areas and for overstaying periods in limited waiting spaces. Councillors heard that the implementation process could take between 18 and 24 months and that there was a strong desire to see it dove-tailing with the future enforcement of a Scotland-wide ban on pavement and double parking. Councillors praised the authority’s Transportation team for the huge volume of work and research which had gone into the preparation of the proposals.

Transport Strategy

There was discussion on the publication of the National Transport Strategy by Transport Scotland, with councillors also noting the progression of the Nestrans’ Regional Transport Strategy which is being supported by the City Region Deal funded Strategic Transport Appraisal. Committee heard that the National Transport Strategy was clear in respect of the challenges around climate change and highlighted that the move to low and zero carbon transport remains essential to our future well-being. Transport is currently the largest contributor to Scottish emissions with 37% of total emissions in 2017. Of this, 40% are attributable to cars, 12.5% to vans, and 12.5% to HGVs. Councillors heard that key actions to meet this challenge are an ambition for phasing out the need for petrol and diesel vehicles by 2032, switching to sustainable modes for trips of less than 2k, addressing the decline in bus use and reviewing investment priorities. Members noted that while tackling climate change was a key principle, extra capacity would be required to resource the challenges faced and to achieve targets.

Trade Waste Charges

Councillors agreed to introduce a small increase in its charges for handling both trade waste and recycling to provide full-cost recovery for the authority. Members heard waste fees have gone up due to the annual increase in landfill tax and gate fee costs, while recycling fees have also risen owing to the significant increase in processing costs. The increase in charges equates to a weekly rise of just 19p per week for the most common 240L waste bin collection, while a standard 240L recycling bin collection will increase by 30p per week. The waste charges will be inclusive of landfill tax and gate fees, with VAT only being charged when the council sub-contracts to provide collections. Councillors asked that third sector bodies, charities and voluntary organisations should be encouraged and involved, to consider the costs of mixed recycling in advance of the implementation of the Deposit Return Scheme prior to it coming into effect. 

Food and Drink Activity Budget

Councillors committed £47,000 to support ongoing food and drink project work being undertaken by Opportunity North East (ONE). Members welcomed the valuable work being undertaken by ONE throughout the region before approving the contribution towards the total project costs of ££213,000. ONE was established in 2015 as a private sector-led body, focused on ensuring a sustainable economic future for the North-east Scotland. Councillors were advised that the activity undertaken by ONE in 2020 to support the food and drink sector via the North East Scotland Food and Drink Network, Food and Drink Awards and Business Growth Programme, will be along similar lines to previous years

Business Support Scheme Funding

Businesses in Banchory, Huntly and Stonehaven are to be offered an exciting opportunity to work with leading retail after councillors agreed to provide £22,500 for the allocation of a match-funded SALAG grant which will be available for each participating business. Up to £500 grant funding will now be available from Aberdeenshire Council, to be matched with 50% funding from applicants, to help implement the advice received. Local businesses signed up to the scheme following its launch in January where they met Gordon Bell from retail management consultants The Retailer for an introduction to the scheme. Councillors requested a future report on how changes related to sustainability within the food and drink industry would be achieved taking into account climate change and the circular economy.

Port Marine Safety Code

In line with the Port Marine Safety Code (PMSC) an independent Designated Person is appointed to provide support and guidance on all seven of Aberdeenshire Council’s harbours. Chris Spencer provided his annual report and advised the ISC that he was pleased with the year’s performance in that the council had exceeded the guidelines. Members acknowledged the incidents, accidents and occurrences which had been recorded, monitored and actioned during the course of the year and noted that all seven harbours had met the criteria for management of the outages on the Navigation Aids for the three-year period ending December 31, 2019. Cllrs Findlater, Cox, Agnew, Cassie and Robertson were also appointed to a new Harbours Sub-Committee.

Financial Reporting

Members were provided with a comprehensive report which reminded that the Infrastructure Services revenue budget for 2019/20 was set at £66.7 million which had increased to £68.2 million as a result of virements, Scottish Government funding and transfers from reserves. Planned budgeted expenditure on service delivery to the end of January 2020 was £56.608 million, with the actual expenditure incurred within this period being £56.645 million. Committee was advised that there were several emerging issues, some of which are consistent with previous financial years, including quarries, grounds maintenance, waste collection and disposal and transportation.

Food and Feed Law Enforcement Service Plan

Councillors approved the Food and Feed Law Enforcement Service Plan for 2019-
2021 and endorsed the Service Plan Performance Review for 2018-2019. Members heard that there are 2,263 registered food businesses, 81 approved food manufacturers
and 3,697 registered or approved feedstuff premises within Aberdeenshire which makes up a significant part of the local economy. In order to ensure that food and feedstuffs are fit for human and animal consumption, a robust regulatory regime is in place, under which the council has defined statutory obligations. Committee also encouraged more businesses to go ‘above and beyond’ in terms of excellence in food hygiene and food safety management by working towards the Eat Safe Awards. Eligible food businesses are assessed for the Eat Safe Award as part of official food law control inspections carried out by the Environmental Health service.

Other matters
 
• Clarification was sought and agreed on the adoption of Option C made at the November 2019 meeting relating to the recovery of costs for EV charge points
• Councillors agreed to commit £47,000 to support ongoing food and drink project work being undertaken by Opportunity North East (ONE)
• A response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the design of future European Territorial Co-operation projects – INTERREG – was approved, with members unanimously extolling the virtues and benefits of such schemes
• Councillors approved a soft-touch policy review of Business Improvement Districts
• And Councillor David Aichison is Aberdeenshire Council’s new representative on the North Sea Commission Marine Resources Group. His appointment follows the resignation of Councillor Richard Thomson from the post having been elected MP for Gordon

You can see all the reports to the committee on the Aberdeenshire Council website at:
https://committees.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/committees.aspx?commid=495&meetid=19389

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