Free school buses for all Newtonhill pupils

School transport between Newtonhill and Portlethen Academy is to become free for all pupils thanks to a new concession bus pass scheme for everyone under 22.

Until the pandemic struck, the school buses also operated as a local bus service. However to maintain covid physical distancing rules Aberdeenshire Council opted to deregister meaning they were operating as dedicated school transport services only.

Physical distancing guidance has now changed and there is the opportunity to re-register these services.

Meanwhile the national Under-22 Concession Scheme for free bus travel is scheduled for implementation on 31 January.

A decision has been taken to reinstate combined school transport/local bus operation of the Portlethen Academy services, from 17 February, after the mid-term break.

This will have the advantage of:
• Bus operators will be able to seek reimbursement for fares revenue foregone on behalf of the council from Transport Scotland;
• families of non-entitled pupils who have been benefiting from free travel will continue to do so as the pupils affected will be able to continue to travel free under the Under-22 Concession Scheme; and,
• allowing families ample time to apply for a Under-22 Concession Pass, with the application process opening in mid-January.

Portlethen Academy is letting pupils/families know of the availability of the free concession travel in advance in order to permit a seamless transition for those affected.

Just to be clear, this only affects the three buses that serve Newtonhill. There are no current plans to register any other (dedicated) school transport services as local bus services. On the three buses from Newtonhill any member of the public could travel (as they could in the past)..

The buses will still display school bus signs. The signage will no longer be a legal requirement but the council’s terms and conditions of contract require operators of combined school transport/local bus services to display school bus signs on any journeys to/from a school.

Update on Chapelton progress

There are now 255 houses occupied in Chapelton, with a further 50 completed or under construction (excluding the retirement village).

The Chapelton liaison committee heard tonight that further expansion is very much under consideration. Snowdrop plans to build at the Pheppie Burn while other developments are planned to the west.

• Affordable houses are being built towards the retirement home.

• The next five years or so will see the development of Geddes Square with retail shops, a pub, supermarket, hall, and a primary school, playing fields and allotments.

• Two commercial conifer plantations to the west are to be felled and replanted, including broadleaf trees and paths.

• Mud on local roads from construction traffic was discussed with hopes that matters have been improved.

• Improvements to lighting in the bus shelter at the park and choose (pictured) were appreciated by residents, but complaints remain about how dark the area remains. Concerns are to be raised – again – with Aberdeenshire Council officers. The area is owned by the developers. • A defibrillator is now is in place on the side of the hut in Liddell Park.

• A bus shelter is scheduled to be placed on Greenlaw Road outside Teacake. Clarity is to be sought over whether the 7B Stagecoach service is a hail and ride service.

• The park to the north west of the development is to be named after a Scottish climber. It is due to open shortly.

The liaison committee is attended by residents’ representatives (there is a vacancy for one person), the North Kincardine Rural and the Newtonhill community councils, Aberdeenshire ward councillors, and the developers. Numbers were limited tonight due to covid restrictions. The next meeting is in March.

Latest scams bulletin

Here is the latest Trading Standards Bulletin from Aberdeenshire Council.

SCAMS

One resident from Formartine reported having problems with a roofer they had found via an online search engine. The roofer viewed the roof then provided a verbal quote for the work to be done. The resident asked for the quote in writing, which the roofer promised before the work started. The resident later had to phone the roofer again to ask for the quote in writing before any work started. Reputable tradesmen will provide this paperwork without having to be chased.

A few days later the roofer arrived unannounced and started work. A little later the roofer advised that he had found more problems with the roof which would almost triple the original quote. Despite the roofer making a terrible mess and standing directly on the conservatory, the resident was committed so felt compelled to get the work completed.

Once the work was done, the roofer asked the resident to write out the invoice instead of doing it himself, making excuses about doing so. The resident was reluctant to pay the roofer and again asked for a proper invoice but gave in when the roofer phoned, demanding payment and becoming very angry at the resident’s hesitation. It was also only later that the resident did an online search on the roofer and found his history of dishonesty and coercive behaviour.

Unfortunately, in this situation the resident made the fundamental mistake of searching for a roofer online instead of getting recommendations from trusted sources such as friends and neighbours and all of their subsequent problems
flowed from that decision. Also, they only discovered the roofer’s shady history after they were committed. Clearly in this scenario, the importance of obtaining the right paperwork from a trader is also underscored as this roofer prevaricated in providing a written quote before the work started and had the resident write out the invoice after it was complete, all to avoid providing the resident with hard evidence of their involvement in this work.

As described in more detail in previous bulletins, consumers have a number of statutory rights which appear to have been waived in this instance, to the resident’s cost.

Another resident in Aberdeenshire recently received an email containing an offer of a very attractive job as a businessman’s personal assistant. Some of the features of the job were working from home, flexible hours which could also work round existing employment, working without supervision, mail pick-ups and deliveries, running personal errands and some clerical duties. All the email recipient had to do was provide the sender with their full personal details and, from the tone of the email, the job was theirs.

However, the benefits of the job gave away that it was a scam. The wages were $670 per week, a 401(k) plan and AD&D Insurance were included. Obviously the wages were couched in US dollars rather than pounds, a 401(k) plan is an American name for a type of pension plan and the AD&D insurance relates to accidental death and dismemberment insurance which is also an American term (which also seems to be at odds with the job description above – AD&D for clerical work?). Added to these that the ‘reply to’ email address had the suffix ‘dk’ which relates to Denmark.

It’s unclear at this stage if the intent of the email was to harvest the details of the recipient for selling to other scammers or to have the recipient make financial transactions on behalf of the sender believing that they would be reimbursed, though in all likelihood no reimbursement would ever take place. As with all such emails, it is a fairy story so we recommend that you don’t reply to it and simply consign it to the spam folder.

COUNTERFEIT GOODS

One topic which Trading Standards receives quite a number of phone calls about is counterfeit goods. Usually, people have gone onto social media and knowingly or unwittingly bought goods which are counterfeit, i.e., manufactured by someone who does not have lawful authority to do so. In most cases counterfeit goods, as well as being illegal, are of substantially lower quality than the genuine article.

In the case of counterfeit cigarettes this has direct health implications for the consumer in that the substances used in counterfeit cigarettes are profoundly more damaging than the legal substances. In the case of certain types of clothing there is a higher fire risk to the wearer. Similarly with sunglasses, in that counterfeit sunglasses will not give the same protection from UV rays to the wearer’s eyesight as the real thing would.

Some people who sell counterfeit goods, and some who buy them, justify this by asking “what harm does it do?”. If the buyer purchases goods believing that they are genuine and the seller knows they are not, this is a criminal matter, most likely fraud, or an offence under the Trade Marks Act 1994 if the goods have a counterfeit registered trade mark applied to them.

Someone who unwittingly buys fake goods which don’t wear or perform as well as the real thing, may develop a negative view of a product or company, share that view with friends who then vow never to buy that company’s goods in future, so the company concerned suffers reputational damage and lost future sales as a result. Even when both parties know the goods aren’t genuine, what are the implications of these transactions?

Firstly, the owner of the trade mark or patent has intellectual property rights in that they own the design of the product. Imagine if you had created a unique product which had taken substantial amounts of money and years of your life to perfect, you’d managed to take it to market and were waiting to receive the just rewards of your labours when some upstart pops up and makes a cheaper, poorer quality version for a fraction of the price, depriving you of the profits you’ve worked for. Companies are in a similar situation in that counterfeiting might affect their income and ability to pay wages to their workers and the bills to keep their factories running.

Also, there’s a high likelihood that the seller of the product doesn’t pay taxes on the income they make from selling it. You have to pay your taxes, so why shouldn’t they? Lower tax revenues every year for the HM Treasury, in the region of several billions of pounds, also means less money to spend on public services. So, we are all poorer for that.

Back in the country of origin, investigations have shown that employees there are often paid a pittance in wages, work long hours in difficult conditions where health and safety is almost non-existent. Some counterfeit manufacturers have
been found to direct their profits into the drugs trade, further fueling that industry and strengthening ties between counterfeiting and organised crime.

Further reading on the impact of counterfeit goods can be found at https://www.oecd.org/gov/risk/trade-in-counterfeit-products-and-ukeconomy-report-update-2019.pdf where even a quick scan of the executive summary is very informative.

CONTACTS

For urgent Trading Standards matters, contact Aberdeenshire Council’s Trading Standards at 01467 537222. For non-urgent enquiries, please contact Consumer Advice Scotland at https://www.consumeradvice.scot/ or on 0808 164 6000.
Contact Police Scotland on 999 if you need urgent police assistance or 101 for non-urgent matters.

For more information about scams please visit Friends Against Scams at
https://www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk/ or Take Five at https://takefivestopfraud.org.uk/

New B9077 bridge being planned

A priority list of Aberdeenshire bridges to be improved, repaired or replaced came before the infrastructure services committee today.

Over the coming 10 years some £46 million is being spent on 40 bridges.

Locally it includes a new Tilbouries Bridge on the B9077 South Deeside Road in the west of the North Kincardine ward. That is estimated to cost £3 million.

Other work include a new replacement Abbeyton Bridge at Castleton off the A90 (£1.6 million), a new Inverbervie Bridge carrying the A92 (£20 million), and conservation and refurbishment for Park Bridge for active travel use (£750,000).

Speeding update

Speeding is a thorny problem often raised by the three community councils in the North Kincardine ward. Newtonhill’s community council, for example, raised concerns this week about vehicles speeding on Newtonhill Road.

Aberdeenshire Council is considering buying speeding indicating devices which would be used in different locations on a rolling basis.

The infrastructure services committee was told today that cost estimation work underway in parallel to developing a plan for the potential roll out of 20mph limits across Aberdeenshire towns.

Council officers have also contacted Police Scotland over speeding in our communities.

A report with proposals for speed enforcement will come before a future meeting of the committee.

Update on Hillside EV chargers

I asked council officers when the EV chargers being installed at Hillside School will go live. Early in the new year, is the answer. Here is the full response.

“When we provided the most recent update, we had been assured by our contractor that the delays caused by covid were resolved and completion of works would be undertaken this autumn. The contractor had been given a date by the distribution network operator (SSEN) of end of October for the connection to be made and that would allow our contractor to complete the installation process thereafter.

“The latest update we have had from the contractor is that, due to a failure on our contractor to complete the booking of SSEN, the date of October 2021 has expired and the works need to be rebooked. This is extremely frustrating as the lead time for such works is 4-6 weeks and it is now likely to be into the new year before the units are connected and fully commissioned.

“Although it is of no consolation for this particular site, this is the last of the EV installations to be carried out by this specific contractor.”

The developer obligation funds were allocated to specific projects following approval at Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee. In terms of an analysis of where to site the EV chargers, there was a difficulty identifying a site in Portlethen that was under council ownership and had an adequate power supply nearby for the units. Hillside School met these requirements. The developer obligation funding was for sustainable transport.

These are public chargers that are available for use by anyone, visitors or residents. The developer obligation funding could only be utilised in the Hillside area and on sustainable transport projects.

And finally, it is planned to rectify the spaces marked green in error.

New planning applications

The following applications in the North Kincardine ward can be viewed on the Aberdeenshire Council planning register: https://upa.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/online-applications/.

APP/2021/2567
Date validated: 12 November 2021.
Site address: West Wing, St Devenick’s on the Hill, Banchory Devenick, AB12 5XP.
Applicant: Mr Mark Moseley c/o Andrew Keir Chartered Architect, Bloomfield, Finzean, Banchory, AB31 6LY.
Listed building consent for internal alterations and formation of rooflight.
Public comment expiry date: 16 December 2021.

APP/2021/2524
Date validated: 15 November 2021.
Site address: Site st Burn of Pheppie, Muchalls.
Applicant: Drumrossie Land Development Co Ltd c/o Rachael Walker Architects Ltd, The Old Estate Office, Cluny, Sauchen, AB51 7RR.
Planning permission in principle for the erection of three dwellinghouses.
Public comment expiry date: 16 December, 2021.

APP/2021/2608
Date validated: 17 November 2021.
Site address: 1 Little Banchory Mews, Banchory Devenick, AB12 5XS.
Applicant: Mr & Mrs Gary and Janette Roberts c/o John G Aitken Architectural Services, 2 Cameron Court, Stonehaven, AB39 2FH.
Full planning permission for alterations and extension to dwellinghouse.
Public comment expiry date: 9 December 2021.

APP/2021/2477
Date validated: 18 November 2021.
Site address: Site at Badentoy Road, Portlethen.
Applicant: CK Hutchison Networks (UK) Ltd c/o WHP Telecoms Limited, Station Court, 1A Station Road, Guiseley, Leeds, LS20 8EY.
Full planning permission for the erection of 18 metre high street pole to replace existing 17.5 metre high streetworks pole and ancillary works.
Public comment expiry date: 8 December 2021.

What do young folk want?

I have had a couple of comments recently about the provision of facilities for young people in Portlethen. Council officers want to know more about what folk want. Please encourage people to respond.

Community Development is running a short survey, publicised through Facebook. The posting reads:

“Young people and adults in Kincardine and Mearns are working with Community Learning & Development to find out if there’s a need for accessible and inclusive youth provision, i.e. in the form of dedicated youth space/centre/hub/cafe.

“This short survey will take no more than 2 minutes and will help us to learn more about your thoughts and ideas for this type of youth provision. Just click on the link below.

https://forms.office.com/r/fLfbks121B

https://forms.office.com/r/fLfbks121B

Update on C12K repairs

I have been asking the Roads Service – for quite some time – about plans to repair potholes on the C12K west from the A92 at Bridge of Muchalls. Here is the response:

“There are a number of defects recorded on the system and scored through the matrix along this route. Indeed the road was inspected in the last week or so, and we therefore have an up to date picture of the overall condition.

“The defects are mainly programme and 60 day. In that regard I would hope that they will be on our radar for a suitable repair in the coming months but as you are aware we do have a considerable backlog of such defects.”

What residents can take from that reply is that the road is on the list for action, but it will be a quite a while yet. People have been (largely) patient so far.

My understanding is the “programme” means a stretch of road is included on the annual roads programme for a re-tarring or surface dressing. That is a better long-term solution. “60 day” means it receives attention within that period.