01 February 2024

Infrastructure Services Committee January round-up

During its first meeting of 2024 on Thursday, January 25, Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee discussed its bridges workbank prioritisation programme, a roads and infrastructure status and options report and agreed funding for community transport groups.

Bridges workbank prioritisation programme

Councillors noted the current bridges workbank prioritisation which has seen Banff Bridge being placed top of the porgramme after serious structural issues were discovered during investigations. Essential scour remedial and preventative works are required immediately to safeguard the vital A98 road across the River Deveron at Banff. Committee also heard that Aboyne Bridge has been upgraded to second in terms of urgency after significant concrete disintegration was discovered in the structure’s top deck.

The 84-year-old bridge has been closed to all motorised traffic since November last year and requires major structural remediation as a minimum at a cost of around £2.5million. The council’s bridges workbank prioritisation is critical to managing its bridge stock and will ensure effective use of funding. It provides a framework for decision-making and is reviewed and updated to ensure it reflects the current condition of the bridge portfolio and the cumulative impact on the resilience of the wider road network.

In a separate matter, councillors also considered a petition from a resident of King Edward who asked that “Aberdeenshire Council reinstate the funding for bridge repair and replacement and fulfil its commitments to maintain vital rural infrastructure such as Gorrachie Bridge”. Councillors thanked petitioner Caroline Close for her presentation and her understanding of both the criticality of infrastructure across the region and also the position the council finds itself in in terms of financial constraints. It was noted that Gorrachie Bridge remains on the workbank prioritisation.

Councillors welcome roads asset management report

Committee heard at length about the region’s roads management assets and the cost of maintaining and improving that infrastructure over the next 20 years. Members were given a detailed account of the condition of the 3,500-mile roads network across the region through the Status and Options Report which summarises the status of the authority’s road assets in terms of size, value and condition and presents a number of investment scenarios for its major road assets. The options presented and issues raised are in line with the nationally-agreed approach to roads asset management and are also designed to assist with the decisions that elected members require will be required to take in any annual budget-setting process.

Council confirms new 2-year partnership with North East Scotland Fisheries Local Action Group

Committee agreed to participate in the North East Scotland Fisheries Local Action Group (NESFLAG) for a further two years. The partnership was established by the council and comprises representatives of stakeholder organisations from the private, community and public sectors. Councillors were advised that under its partnership working policy, a partnership assessment and a risk assessment must be undertaken every two years for every non-statutory partnership of which the local authority is a member.

A key role of NESFLAG is the delivery of the Aberdeenshire Coastal Communities Challenge Fund through the processing and evaluating of grant applications before making recommendations to the council on project approvals. Councillors were advised that the 2023/24 allocation amounted to £755,232 and that the council had exercised an option to defer the allocation for spend in 2024/25 in order to maximise the time for delivery and ensure best value in the use of the funds. The committee will be appointing a councillor representative on the group in due course, and councillors also agreed to delegate powers for the Head of Planning and Economy in order to manage potential underspends which may require prompt decisions to meet the funder’s spending deadlines.

Aberdeenshire Community Transport Initiative grants agreed for 2024/25

Community Transport Initiative grants for seven organisations were agreed in principle subject to the approval of the Revenue Budget for 2024/25 at Full Council in February. Under the measures, new organisations are allowed to apply for grants from the 2024/25 financial year onwards. Councillors were provided with the findings of a review undertaken earlier this year into the process for awarding grants to community transport organisations under ACTI.

Other matters:

Planning – Following discussion, committee agreed to make no objection to the installation of a battery energy storage system on land adjacent to Mill Of Kinmuck Farm north of Ellon. The Scottish Government consulted Aberdeenshire Council in respect of the application under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989. The proposed development comprises two main elements - a 105MW lithium-ion energy storage facility and an air-insulated 275kV electricity substation.

Strategic Transport Strategy Various updates were provided to committee on projects associated with the ongoing local, regional and national transport strategy work across Aberdeenshire. Key points included a review of the Health & Transport Action Plan Annual Report, an update on the impact of the revised tariff introduced in April 2023 for using the EV charging network in Aberdeenshire, an update on Aberdeen City Council’s Local Transport Strategy and progress made on the Regional Active Travel Network Study.

Development Plan Scheme – Councillors considered the draft Development Plan Scheme 2024/25 and agreed a six-week round of public consultation to be launched in February. Aberdeenshire Council is required to prepare and submit a DPS at least annually to Scottish Ministers which presents the timetable and participation statement for the Local Development Plan (LDP) that is anticipated to be adopted in 2028.

The full agenda, documents and links to the recording of the webcast can be found here: https://aberdeenshire.moderngov.co.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=144&MId=386&Ver=4