30 August 2022

Infrastructure Services Committee August round-up

During its meeting on Thursday, August 25, Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee discussed the launch of an £8.3m Shared Prosperity Fund, improvements to council car parks and the potential of an opt-in garden waste collection service.

Bus Partnership Fund

Robert Andrew of the North-East of Scotland Bus Alliance gave committee an update on its £12million award from the Scottish Government’s £500m Bus Partnership Fund – the largest allocation approved in the country. The ambitious proposals have been developed with the vision to significantly transform public transport provision in the north-east. The success of the bid means that early work can begin on the development of an Aberdeen Rapid Transit system - which he said could be a “real game changer” - as well as delivering significant bus priorities in the city centre and on key routes into the city which will help many of those commuting from Aberdeenshire. Funding will be used to develop the business cases and designs for the city centre including £10m for enabling works on South College Street, radial corridor bus priority measures such as the Ellon-Garthdee corridor, the Westhill/Stonehaven/Inverurie-Aberdeen corridors and the Aberdeen Rapid Transit system. Councillors were also advised that the bus sector continued to face challenges, particularly around falling patronage numbers as a result of the pandemic. There have been changes to travel patterns, a slower return in the over 60s using services and just a 42% uptake of the under 22s Young Person’s Concession Scheme. During general discussion, members raised a number of topics for consideration including integrated bus shelters with lockable bike racks for those cycling to catch the bus, improvements to the bus stock itself to reduce breakdowns and improve passenger experiences and the expansion of Demand Responsive Travel provision to connect smaller communities with larger villages and towns across Aberdeenshire.

Shared Prosperity Fund

Councillors endorsed a 3-year investment plan for the use of an £8.3million UK Shared Prosperity Fund allocation to Aberdeenshire. It is proposed that the funds are allocated to a number of multi-annual programmes which will provide grants to a wide range of community, private and public organisations to deliver specific projects. The criteria and governance processes for awarding funds will be approved by Full Council prior to grant applications being invited, with community engagement being a key priority throughout the lifespan of the programme.

Car park improvements

A programme of improvements for Aberdeenshire’s off-street car-parks was agreed after councillors approved a £500,000 allocation for works over the next five years. Members unanimously supported the proposals which will be financed from the £130million Infrastructure Fund agreed back in March. Managing and maintaining 113 public car parks providing a total of 4,088 spaces in 43 different settlements across Aberdeenshire is a major undertaking for the local authority. Potential schemes will be prioritised on condition with those in the poorest state being given a higher priority, with car parks in Town Centre First locations also being given a higher priority over those of similar condition outwith town centres. The aim is to bring car parks up to a good standard which should last for many years without further intervention and these will be considered on the basis of need across Aberdeenshire as a whole rather than attempting to achieve an equal spread across administrative areas. As part of the improvements, the need for future cabling will also be taken into consideration and installation of empty ducts may be required to facilitate the potential installation of EV charging points or pay and display terminals at a later date. And with average car sizes increasing over the last 20 years, bay sizes are also to be re-assessed as part of the upgrades on a case by case basis, together with requirements for Blue Badge and mobility accessible parking, parent and child bays and motorcycle allocation

Opt-in garden waste collection

Councillors have agreed to discuss the feasibility of a garden waste kerbside collection service for Aberdeenshire at a forthcoming workshop. Following a request from Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee earlier this year, the authority’s Waste Service had drawn up a business case focusing on four potential options. It sets out how an opt-in garden waste kerbside collection service could be provided to all households, highlighting the costs, benefits and risks associated with such a collection and identifying alternative options with lower costs and risks. Currently, garden waste is collected in Aberdeenshire through a network of 15 Household Recycling Centres (HRCs) which are operational all year round, alongside a further 12 seasonal garden waste collection points which operate on Saturdays from April to October. These locations allow the council to collect on average 9-10,000 tonnes of garden waste each year, more than 50% of the overall total of garden waste being produced from households in Aberdeenshire.  While tonnage has dropped slightly due to behaviour change surrounding Covid, tonnages are increasing again and starting to reflect pre-pandemic levels.

Coastal Communities Challenge Fund

Members welcomed and agreed two awards from the council’s Coastal Communities Challenge Fund - £14,603 for the Grow@TheVinery project provided by Aberdeen Foyer and £19,980 for the Development of the Mill of Benholm Project being driven by the North East Scotland Preservation Trust. Six other projects were recently granted funding under delegated powers inc:

• Buchanhaven Harbour SCIO - Storm Arwen Pier/Slipway Repairs £19,017
• Dekmar Ltd - Beach Clean Up/Ocean Litter Recycling £10,350
• Invercairn Community Council - Bridge engineering/design work for cycle/footpath between Fraserburgh & Cairnbulg £8,235
• Belhelvie Community Council – Installation of benches on North Beach Road and Eigie Road, Balmedie £5,809
• The Windsurf Club - Purchase of a trailer for storage/transportation of windsurfs £9,720
• Stonehaven Yacht Club - Installation of accessible toilet and shower in clubhouse £13,691

Fees and charges review

Councillors heard that the Environment & Infrastructure Services directorate is completing a deferred fees and charges review which was initially due to take place during 2021/2022. As part of this review each service has been asked to undertake a costing exercise in line with the Corporate Charging Policy, to confirm the actual costs of service delivery. Committee endorsed a public consultation for those charges which are not making a full cost recovery or are not set by statute and have requested that the outcome and review of the consultation be reported back to the committee. Members also stressed the need for the Integrated Impact Assessment within that report to carefully take into consideration affordability for services in light of these challenging financial times.

Planning Matters:

Planning permission in principle was approved for a house at East of Deerkyne, Keplahill, Mintlaw.

The full agenda and documents for the meeting can be found here:
https://committeesinternal/committees.aspx?meetid=20089

The full recorded webcast can be viewed here:
https://youtu.be/O686skEzhpA