Councillors today had an update on progress with strategic cycle routes in Aberdeenshire.
We heard that it is a longer-term project which aims to encourage greater uptake of active travel modes as everyday transportation, linking larger settlements and key destinations.
With the increased sales and affordability of E-Bikes which now feature significant ranges and generally faster speeds, these longer commutes have become even more viable.
Phase 1 of the project aims to provide linkage between the peripheral settlements of Aberdeen to the city, namely Inverurie, Ellon and Stonehaven (via Portlethen). Due to the long-distance nature of these projects, it is proposed to develop each Phase 1 route in a section by section phased basis.
Routes under development are summarised below.
Phase 1 A92N Ellon to Aberdeen – Reaching an approx. population of 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.
The infrastructure services committee heard that developing the initiative will take a considerable amount of time and investment to deliver.
There will be engineering issues to overcome, third party landowners to engage with and funding to be sought.
However once delivered, these routes will form the backbone of an inclusive infrastructure resource which will serve communities for many generations and help steer Aberdeenshire and the nation on a path to cleaner air, improved health outcomes, reduced congestion and lower carbon emissions.
These routes would typically be of a high surface quality to support faster cycle speeds and the longer distances involved. However, it should be noted that delivering this level of infrastructure will take considerable investment and a phased approach to surfacing should be considered.
Delivering an unbound surface would in the short term allow these routes to open creating valuable off-road commuting corridors which can then be surfaced as funding allows.
Full planning permission was agreed today for the conversion of the Lairhillock Lodge to five houses.
The 25-bedroom hotel has been closed since last March due to the business becoming unviable. Aberdeenshire Council’s infrastructure services committee heard that it had been affected by the downturn in the energy sector, the provision of new hotels in Aberdeen, and the closure of the adjoining Lairhillock Inn a year ago.
Councillors were also told that a planning application had been lodged to demolish the former inn and replace it with five houses. The application has yet to be decided.
Regarding the Lairhillock Lodge, planners advised that there was no realistic prospect of an improvement in its position due the continuing decline in demand which has been further exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. The business had been marketed for a year but attracted no interest.
Accordingly, planners recommended that approval be granted subject to conditions and delegated matters. These included the provision of a safe route to the nearby Lairhillock School. Planning officer Bruce Stewart said they were confident that this can be delivered and would ensure it happens.
The proposals state that one of the five homes will be affordable.
My motion to approve the application was supported unanimously by the committee.
I recalled that I was part of the committee which some years ago had approved the building of the Lairhillock Lodge. Sometimes despite the best efforts such ventures simply don’t succeed.
The 19th edition of the Kincardine and Mearns Community Planning E-Bulletin has just been issued.
This bulletin focuses on what is happening locally and provides useful information and guidance. This includes sections which will signpost you to official guidance, changes in service provision, local health and wellbeing providers, community news, support, and advice.
Yesterday Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee approved a package of works at Mackie Academy, Stonehaven, to make significant improvements to the facilities at the school.
Committee chair Cllr Wendy Agnew said afterwards: “The report – which was heard in private for legal reasons – will involve the closure of Mackie Academy pool and the space converted into a multi-purpose learning and activity space for both school and community use.
“There will also be a full refurbishment of the changing rooms associated with the school’s gymnasiums and a new fitness suite.
“Education and Children’s Services officers reported a low utilisation of the pool at Mackie Academy and existing pool users will be able to be accommodated at other Stonehaven facilities.
“Officers have met the Mackie Academy Parent Council to discuss the proposals and will continue to highlight progress with them and the wider parent body through the head teacher. This investment at Mackie Academy is the start of a wider review of facilities and future investment across the town of Stonehaven.”
Children who attend Lairhillock School are zoned for Mackie Academy.
Stagecoach Bluebird is cutting the frequency of most of its bus services in response to government advice on avoiding non-essential travel.
The company has told me that following an analysis of the demand for bus services in the area since the latest lockdown began on Boxing Day, the frequency of most services will be reduced while continuing to cater for essential shopping trips and key workers to commute by bus.
Newtonhill village, for example, will be served by buses every two hours. Portlethen Asda will have buses approximately every hour in either direction. Chapelton is reduced to a bus every two hours to/from Aberdeen or Stonehaven. There will be however frequent X7 services on the dual carriageway.
Revised timetables across Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray will be in place from Monday 25 January and are now available at stagecoachbus.com. Scroll down to the Stonehaven area services to check the details.
In normal times Newtonhill, Muchalls and Cammachmore Community Council would be meeting tonight in the Skateraw Hall. But instead the community council is now relying on the internet.
The following is an update from the community council about progress with the Barratt development on the moor.
Work is now progressing at pace on several aspects of the project. The basic structures for the houses are being erected at the rate of two or three each week with the work progressing inwards from the Park Place and Cairnhill Way site access points.
Work has begun joining the new site road access to Park Place and is scheduled to be completed by late February. Work is also scheduled to start soon connecting the new foul sewer pipe to the existing sewer on Cairnhill Drive, followed shortly afterwards with the new road link to Cairnhill Way.
The main road through the site linking Park Place to Cairnhill Way will however not be completed until approximately 100 of the 121 houses have been completed.
Work has also begun alongside the railway track laying the first of two new storm drains which will discharge into the Pheppie Burn.
Excavation requiring rock breaking still continues with the long overdue muffler finally fitted to the hydraulic breaker which has made a small reduction to the noise.
Discussions are ongoing with Barratt concerning landscaping at the Park Place / wildlife park areas with the goal that these areas will be restored to be as natural as possible.
Money is now available to help Aberdeenshire sports clubs remain covid-19 compliant during the pandemic.
Clubs can apply for a maximum of £250 through a Reactivation Fund launched by the Aberdeenshire Community Sport Hub Project.
The fund can help to support costs such as social distancing measures and Personal Protective Equipment, facility charges, training and education. It is designed to complement and support the Aberdeenshire Clubsport Discretionary Fund.
So lockdown measures and school closures will continue until mid-February at the earliest.
The First Minister said today that although lockdown appears to be having an impact on case numbers, transmission of the virus remains too high to relax restrictions.
More than 90% of care home residents in Scotland have received their first dose of the vaccine, along with 70% of care home staff and front-line health and care workers. The First Minister said the vaccination rate of 100,000 people a week is expected to rise to 400,000 a week by the end of February.
All those over 80 are due to have been offered their first jag by the start of February. I heard today that contact is now being made with people over 80 in this area.
All over-70s should be contacted by mid-February, and everyone who is over 65 by the start of March. All those on the priority list are expected to have received their first dose by early May.