25 January 2021

Infrastructure Services Committee January round up

During the meeting of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee on Thursday, January 21, there were decisions taken on a number of planning applications and discussions on a clean-sheet review of supported bus services, a response to the A96 dualling route option and ongoing progress around walking and cycling on rural roads.

12 affordable houses and flats to the south of Kinbroom House, Rothienorman
The committee approved a delegated grant for Aberdeenshire Council’s own application for the erection of 12 affordable houses and flats to the south of the Kinbroom House sheltered housing unit at Rothienorman. Concerns had been raised by the community around drainage and flooding issues, but council officers said Scottish Water reported no issues with accepting foul water at its treatment plant. The council’s Planning and Environment Service was of a view that the material considerations warranted a departure from Policy R2 in that the housing is affordable and would meet an identified and unmet need for such properties both within Rothienorman and the wider area.

5 houses at Lairhillock Lodge, Netherley
Members approved a delegated grant for the change of use of the former Lairhillock Lodge at Netherley to create five new homes – including one affordable unit. Originally opened back in 2010, the purpose-built 25-bedroom guest house – closed since last March - had succumbed to a number of economic pressures including the downturn in the oil and gas industry, creation of additional hotel accommodation in the city and the closure of the neighbouring pub. Councillors approved the application subject to a number of conditions and delegated matters which include the provision of a safe walking route to neighbouring Lairhillock School.

Erection of house at Millbreck, Clola
The committee went against planners’ recommendations and approved the erection of a single house in a gap site at ‘Bridgestone, Millbreck, Clola. Officers said the application was in significant conflict with the current Local Development Plan in that there was no criteria under Policy R2 to add a further house within the connected group of seven houses close to the site as the scope for growth had already been met. Councillors heard that the Buchan Area Committee had unanimously agreed to refer the matter to Infrastructure Services Committee for final determination, considering that the proposal was an acceptable departure from the Local Development Plan given it would complete the site and improve the amenity of the surrounding area. While it was noted there was no policy support for the proposal, the ISC chair said there had been a clear and reasoned argument for approval which the committee unanimously endorsed.

Construction and operation of windfarm at Clashindarroch Forest, Huntly
Aberdeenshire Council has been consulted by the Scottish Government’s Energy Consents Unit on Vattenfall Wind Power’s proposal to build 14 three-bladed wind turbines, each with a maximum height of 180m to blade tip at Clashindarroch Forest near Huntly. Councillors were told each turbine would have a capacity of between 4MW and 6MW, giving an anticipated output of between 56MW and 84MW across the development. The Planning Service gave a very detailed overview of the proposals and said while development of the windfarm would have carbon reduction benefits, it was a delicate balancing act. They said the proposed development was contrary to a number of policies laid out in the current Aberdeenshire Local Development Plan and would, by virtue of its scale and location, cause adverse landscape and visual impacts in an area identified as having no underlying capacity for new wind energy developments of any scale. After lengthy consideration, during which councillors heard from both agents for the applicants and a representative for Wildcat Haven, the committee unanimously agreed to formally object to the application.

13 short-term letting accommodation units near Rhynie
Councillors unanimously welcomed plans for the creation of 13 short-term letting accommodation units near Rhynie. Planners said the proposed lodges and associated
infrastructure on the former quarry site were served by passing public transport, would be well related to the settlement of Rhynie and nearby tourist attractions and would be of an acceptable siting, layout and design which was respectful to the site. Councillors did, however seek the inclusion of a ‘travel plan’ as a condition of the delegated grant.

Strategic Reviews
Councillors offered praise and thanks to Aberdeenshire Council staff who have been involved in three key strategy reviews. The committee was presented with reports on the council’s Archaeology Service, Ranger Service and North East Scotland Biological Records Centre. All three strategy reviews received very positive feedback and comment from the council’s six area committees, with councillors paying tribute to the dedication of the small teams who are making a big impact across the region through their dedicated work.

Walking and cycling on rural roads
In response to a Members Promoted Issue, the committee was given a detailed report on progress with regards to the ongoing work around Aberdeenshire’s strategic cycling routes. The MPI had asked the council to consider which measures could be undertaken to promote the continuation of the significant increase in cycling and walking on rural roads witnessed during lockdown. Councillors were advised of the development of a Green Route trial in three areas - the Polinar Dam “loop” at Inverurie, Woodhead of Fyvie to Gight and the Ythan Trail and the Fernie Brae Road in Cornhill, Banff.
Councillors also heard that the council’s Strategic Cycle Route is a longer-term project which aims to encourage greater uptake of active travel modes as everyday transportation within the Aberdeenshire area, linking larger settlements and key destinations.
Routes under development featuring the populations reached are as follows:
PHASE 1: A92N Ellon to Aberdeen - 15,000; A92S Stonehaven to Aberdeen - 20,000; A96 Inverurie to Aberdeen - 21,500
PHASE 2: Kemnay to Kintore/Inverurie - 9,000; Inverurie to Oldmeldrum - 16,000; Fraserburgh to Cairnbulg - 14,000
PHASE 3: Blackburn to Westhill - 15,000; Alford to Kemnay - 6,000; Ellon to Peterhead - 30,000; B9119 Westhill West - 15,000

Clean Sheet Review – Supported Bus Network
The committee acknowledged the considerable work undertaken by the council’s Passenger Transport Network Review group on a clean sheet review of the support bus network. Councillors were given details of a proposed revised approach to service delivery along with an indicative timeline and agreed an enhanced Demand Responsive Transport pilot starting in August which will be developed on the Deeside corridor and/or Inverurie area in order to evaluate the revised approach to supported bus service delivery. Unlike an A2B dial-a-bus service, where usually a minimum of 1-hour pre-booking is required, the DRT will enable passengers to book a vehicle at any time with the first available vehicle then dispatched. The committee also sought - as part of the pilot - consideration of a timetabled operation on cross-country routes which have been reduced by the framework to be considered as part of the business model.

A96 dualling - preferred route option
The committee expressed its disappointment over the timing of Transport Scotland’s consultation into the preferred dualling option of the A96 Aberdeen to Huntly route having been launched just days before Christmas. The chair said he had issued a strongly-worded letter to Cabinet Secretary Michael Matheson seeking an extension to the February 15 deadline to give more time for responses to be made both from the community and the council’s Garioch and Marr area committees. Councillors considered and provided comment on the issues arising from the identified route and agreed to delegate the final submission of the consultation response to the Interim Director of Infrastructure Services. Among comments were calls for more information to be provided on the impacts on the local economy, Inverurie town centre and the A947 and greater transparency around the project’s carbon footprint to allow the public to understand the implications of the development in terms of carbon budget figures.

Other Matters:

• Trade Waste: Councillors considered and approved the introduction of increased Trade Waste charges to achieve full-cost recovery and note potential future impacts of Deposit Return Scheme on trade waste charges

• Bridges: Committee agreed the principles set out in a proposed bridges prioritisation model - including initial scenarios for differing investment levels - and agreed development of a formal policy and a public engagement exercise

• Crown Estate Funding: Councillors approved the reallocation of funding from decommitted projects to the future programme and approved the recommitment of £120,000 of Crown Estate Funding to the St Cyrus National Reserve car-park and Newburgh Links car-park initiatives

• Covid-19 Business Grants: Councillors praised staff both from Economic Development and Finance along with those from other council services for their ongoing efforts in processing thousands of applications and delivering vital grant funding to businesses since March 2020

The agenda and documents for the meeting can be found here:
https://committees.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/committees.aspx?commid=495&meetid=19532

The full recorded webcast can be viewed here:
https://youtu.be/gMAEA7Hfv_w