Warning of identity theft

Police in Aberdeenshire are aware of several recent instances of residents having their wheelie bins stolen or moved from their storage area and the contents gone through.

The concern is that this has been done to gain personal details to carry out identity theft.

Identity theft happens when fraudsters access enough information about someone’s identity, such as their name, date of birth, bank details, current or previous addresses to commit identity fraud.

Fraudsters can use identity details to:
– open bank accounts
– obtain credit cards, loans and state benefits
– order goods in your name
– take over your existing accounts
– take out mobile phone contracts
– obtain genuine documents such as passports and driving licences in your name.

Please dispose of all items of mail/paperwork by shredding or burning to prevent this happening to you.

Re-opening plans

Here are the current plans for re-opening Aberdeenshire Council’s sport and culture facilities in Portlethen. Of course this all depends on the national restrictions in force at the time due to the pandemic.

Portlethen Library (at community centre) – proposed date for reinstatement of service/building: Thursday, 15 October.

Portlethen All Weather Pitch – opened 29 July.

Portlethen Community Centre – partially open. Expected to fully open in October.

Portlethen Swimming Pool – No date set for reopening. Expected to be October with a service available during the October break.

Efforts have focussed on opening up outdoor facilities (including Nicol Park) in Portlethen, with the swimming pool due to open as part of phase 3 of Sport and Physical Activity facilities – it’s anticipated it will provide an October programme. Facilities at the academy are also now open for use by the community.

Round-up from area committee

The council’s Kincardine and Mearns area committee met today (virtually). Here are some key points.

BARRIERS A petition calling for changes to social distancing measures in Stonehaven, particularly in Allardice Street. Councillors instructed officers to bring a full report to the committee about the provision of cones and barriers to give pedestrians more space.

PARK BRIDGE A petition called on the council to re-open the Deeside bridge to vehicles weighing less than 3 tonnes, and to provide technical details on the state of the listed structure. It was agreed the points would be included in a report this autumn on the future of the bridge. Meanwhile councillors approved an order to ban vehicles from the cast iron, steel and wood bridge.

HOUSING Plans to introduce a choice-based letting policy for council housing were welcomed. It is an internet-based system where applicants can view property features including rents and additional costs. Applicants can then “bid” for a property. Should there be several bidders, then the allocation reverts to a points system. The new policy goes before the shire-wide communities committee in November.

HOMES The local authority’s strategic housing investment plan for the next five years came before us. There are projects for social rent homes in North Kincardine at Newtonhill (30 at Park Place), Portlethen (11 at the former chicken sheds; 30 at Leathan Fields, 20 at Coull Cars). Chapelton (20), Blairs (22). Mid market rent homes also feature in Portlethen (14 at Leathan Fields), Chapelton (20), and Blairs (18). There are also a low cost shared equity homes in the plan at Kirkton of Maryculter (1) and low cost home ownership homes (shared equity) at Chapelton (20).

GRANTS Just over £59,000 remains in the area committee’s budget for grants to local groups, to be spent in this financial year. Auchenblae Parks Committee was awarded £8000 towards the cost of a replacement steel building on the community’s football pitch. Johnshaven Environmental Group were awarded £900 for a storage container.

PARKING A seven week consultation will now take part on the provision of disabled parking bays. Two are listed in this ward, at Puffin Court, Newtonhill, and Mosside Drive, Portlethen.

BIODIVERSITY There was a split in the committee over whether Landscape Services should pursue potential sites for increasing biodiversity. By six votes to five we agreed that discussions should take place with community groups on where, if at all, to replace cut grass with wildflowers, bushes and trees.

Landscape Services officer Iain Welsh said the proposals were not set in stone and would not be forced on communities. The council would undertake the work where suitable and where there is buy-in. He warned that there will have to be changes over the coming years as the council does not have the resources to continue as in past years.

The council would maintain the areas though any involvement by the community would be welcomed.

A report will come back to the committee next autumn.

TRANSPORT Councillors were given the opportunity to comment on the regional transport strategy looking forward to 2040. I voiced my support for reopening railway stations including Newtonhill to take advantage of the new Montrose-Inverurie commuter service.

AND FINALLY All the reports before councillors are available on the council website, including (in due course) a recording of the meeting: https://committees.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/committees.aspx?commid=8&meetid=19619

Changes to flu jab plans

NHS Grampian has announced details of this winter’s flu vaccine programme. And it is different from previous years. Here is what they have to say …

The way the flu vaccination is delivered in Grampian is set for significant change this year, as the location for immunisation shifts from GP practices to dedicated clinics.

In 2017, the Scottish Government and the Scottish General Practitioners Committee (SGPC) agreed vaccinations would move away from a model based on GP delivery to one based on NHS Board delivery through dedicated teams.

Dr Simon Hilton, Immunisation Co-ordinator for NHS Grampian said: “The biggest change will be that individuals who previously got their free flu vaccination from their GP will now be invited to attend a local vaccination clinic instead.

This also comes at a time where we anticipate the number of flu vaccinations to increase significantly, with additional groups being offered immunisation due to COVID-19.

Clinics will be set up in a number of locations across Grampian within secondary schools and community spaces such as sports halls, churches and any other large venues that can allow for social distancing. Measures will be put in place to ensure health and safety is priority.”

The following groups will be offered the flu vaccine, free of charge:

  • Children aged 2-5
  • School children in Primary 1-7
  • Pregnant women
  • Health Care workers
  • Social care workers who provide direct care
  • Unpaid carers
  • 55-64 year olds
  • Those over 65
  • Anyone with an underlying medical condition such as asthma, COPD or diabetes
  • Anyone who lives with someone who is in the shielding category

Dr Hilton added: “We always give very strong encouragement to people in those groups to come forward and get their flu vaccine. We are now living with a global pandemic, making it even more important that people in the at-risk groups are immunised. Flu adapts and changes constantly. It is not just a bad cold; it is a virus which can make people seriously ill and, unfortunately, claims lives every winter.”

Practical arrangements for delivering the vaccine are as follows:

  • Pregnant women will be advised by their community midwife;
  • Children aged 2-5, those over 65, and anyone with an underlying medical condition will be invited to attend a local clinic at a set date and time. That invitation will come to your home address;
  • School children in Primary 1-7; parents will be sent information and a consent form, and children will be vaccinated at school;
  • Health & social care staff will be advised by their employers;
  • If you are aged 55 – 64, you will receive an appointment letter in December.

If you are an unpaid carer, or you live with someone who was advised to shield as a result of COVID-19, and you wouldn’t normally get the flu jab, then you can contact the NHS Grampian flu helpline to arrange an appointment.

If you’re aged 16 years or older, and not in one of the eligible groups, you can get the vaccine in many high street pharmacies for a small fee.

To find if you are eligible or how to get your flu vaccine visit NHSinform.scot or call NHS Grampian Flu Call Centre 01224 555999.

Report any squirrel sightings

This is Red Squirrel Week in Scotland. Reporting a sighting is one of the simplest things that anyone can do to help protect our red squirrels.

Autumn is a great time of year for squirrel spotting — they are often more visible than usual as they gather food, preparing for winter.

The Great Scottish Squirrel Survey lasts until 27 September. Report your sightings of red and grey squirrels to provide the project with a snapshot of the situation: https://scottishsquirrels.org.uk/great-scottish-squirrel-survey/.

Last year more than 600 people reported 828 squirrel sightings in just one week.

Why am I especially interested in this? I am a red squirrel champion for Aberdeenshire Council.

Spotlight on the rural area

A wide variety of issues discussed tonight at the monthly (virtual) meeting of North Kincardine Rural Community Council. Here are key points that caught my attention.

– A restored 1940s Willys Jeep has been stolen from a local farm building. It is feared it was taken to order.

– A volunteer has come forward to help with the community council’s social media.

– Community councillors are supportive of a 40mph limit on the South Deeside Road at its junction with the Maryculter Bridge. Speed checks along the road showed some vehicles were driving in excess of 70mph. The average speed at the Mill Inn access was 42mph eastwards and 39mph westwards.

– The Duffs Hill road has been repaired to a much better standard than was expected by residents.

– Community councillors discussed the future of Park Bridge. It has been closed to vehicles for some time due to safety concerns. A report proposing continuing the ban on vehicles goes before Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee tomorrow, with a full report on long-term plans coming to the committee later in the year. The community council will comment at that time.

– As ever planning applications were discussed, including a shelter for Mucky Boots and an extension to Maryculter Cemetery. Community councillors discussed whether 35 parking places (including eight for people with disabilities) would be sufficient, but agreed not to make a representation to the local authority.

– It was agreed to plan for the annual plant sale at the Corbie Hall on 15 May next year, pandemic permitting.

– There was a discussion on the impact of the pandemic on the area and the services provided by Aberdeenshire Council. Things will not be the same. We also heard that a number of organisations may not be returning when lockdown is further eased.

– Other matters were discussed too including broadband provision, wreaths for Remembrance Sunday’s local services, and the Nestrans transport strategy for the North East up to 2040.

– The next meeting will be on Monday 19 October, which will be the annual general meeting. Existing community councillors will remain in post.

Food fund still available

Aberdeenshire Council is still accepting applications to its Community Food Fund.

Earlier this year the council made funds available to support projects tackling food security in North-east communities as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since then community and resilience groups have been supported financially to provide much-needed support to residents. For example, the Coronavirus Community Care Group for Portlethen and Surrounding Areas received £1,500 to provide essential food items and snacks for children.

The fund accepts applications aiming to tackle food security but is not available to individuals or private organisations operating as a business to make a profit.

For more information click here: https://online.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/apps/news/release.aspx?newsid=6927

One new application

One application was registered last week within the North Kincardine ward of Aberdeenshire Council and can be viewed using the online Planning Register (https://upa.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/online-applications/).

Site address: Hillhead Farmhouse, Old Portlethen Road, Portlethen, AB12 4QP.
Applicant: Mr Kevin Thompson c/o Moir Design Chartered Architects, Gardeners Cottage Studios, Netherley, AB39 3QN.
Full planning permission for alterations and an extension to dwellinghouse.
Public comment expiry date: 8 October.

Gloomy council warning

Some amenities may not reopen according to a report to Thursday’s full meeting of Aberdeenshire Council which says that the local authority overspent its budget by more than £7.1m during April, May and June.

Furthermore the report says £42.465m of additional expenditure related to Covid-19 was only partially met by £40.499m in Scottish Government funding.

Council leader Jim Gifford is quoted in the Press and Journal saying the “harsh reality is that not all facilities will be reopened everywhere.”

The report, he says, “lays out in stark detail the challenges that we face. We are spending more money than we have in the budget and our limited income has been severely reduced during the months of lockdown.”

It may mean also that some services have to be delivered differently.

There is more here: https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/aberdeenshire/2501020/closure-of-gyms-pools-and-sport-facilities-should-be-last-resort-as-aberdeenshire-council-slips-7-1-million-over-budget/

Warning of road closure

As Chap Group will be carrying out tree felling it will be necessary in the interests of public safety to close the B9077 South Deeside Road from Craiglug to the C35K junction at Durris on Saturday.

This will take place from 7:30am to 5pm.

Notices setting out the diversions route will be set out in due course.