Back for a further five years

At the council elections on Thursday 3 May, Ian Mollison was re-elected to represent the North Kincardine ward.

Also elected were Alastair Bews, Alison Evison and Carl Nelson.

Liberal Democrat Paul Melling was not returned after nine years as a councillor. Other candidates were Alan Inglis and Tom Morrow.

Ian said: “It is an honour to be re-elected. I will do my best over the coming five years.

“I am very disappointed the Paul will not be there, at my side. He has put in a tremendous amount of effort for the area, not only as a councillor but previously as chairman of Portlethen Community Council.”

Meanwhile, the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and independent groupings have agreed in principle to form an administration to run Aberdeenshire Council.

Liberal Democrat leader Councillor Martin Kitts-Hayes said: “Our purpose will be to maintain continuity and build on previous successes which have resulted in a well-run, progressive administration over the past five years.”

The alliance aims to form a stable and strong administration with a majority of Aberdeenshire councillors for the good governance of the council for the next five years.

It is surprising that the 28 SNP councillors were unable to find support from only a further six (or more) of the 40 other councillors to have a majority. That is something for the SNP to reflect on.

Hopefully all councillors will now put aside the electioneering and concentrate on providing the best council services for residents.

The council was previously run by a Liberal Democrat / Conservative alliance.

Welcome for new community bus

A north-east voluntary group launched its new minibus on 21 April.

Portlethen and District Voluntary Community Ambulance Association chairman Noreen Harding said: “We took delivery of our new minibus on 23 March and are absolutely delighted with it.”

The vehicle is used primarily to take residents to and from the Portlethen Medical Centre. It is mainly for the elderly but is available for anyone in need of transport.

“We have been running a community ambulance in this area for 28 years now,” said Mrs Harding.

“The vehicle needs to be replaced every three years once it has covered between 40,000 and 45,000 miles. Its safer this way and keeps maintenance costs down.

“This has been a major challenge for the volunteers. I am delighted with the support received from the community, from local companies and oil companies from Aberdeen and nearby.  We are hoping they will come along and share a toast with us to our new bus.

“Our major donors have been Apache oil company and the Big Lottery Awards for All.“

The ambulance was launched by Ian McLeod, president of Portlethen Rotary Club, and a former treasurer and voluntary driver with the group.

The association has a pool of drivers who give their time both to ferry residents and to deliver prescriptions to those who find it difficult to get to the medical centre.

North Kincardine Councillor Ian Mollison said: “It has been a fantastic effort by all involved. It shows what can be done.”

 Mrs Harding added: “I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks to all those who helped us.”

NHS reassurances over Elsick

NHS Grampian has given reassurances about health provision in the Chapelton of Elsick new town.

Newtonhill, Muchalls and Cammachmore Community Council heard NHS Grampian physical planning client adviser John Gill outline how the development could be provided with medical services.

Currently the area is predominantly served by the Portlethen medical centre, which has roughly 10,000 patients. By 2023 it is predicted that Chapelton of Elsick will also have 10,000 patients. Mr Gill said the new town should have a surgery with eight GPs plus support services such as physiotherapy, a dental unit, social work, etc. The new town could also have two pharmacies. However GP surgeries are independent contractors and discussions are under way about making the transition.

Mr Gill saw the way forward as being a two-centre provision from Portlethen and the Stonehaven practices until Elsick was able to stand on its own. He also said that consideration would have to be given to extending Kincardine Community Hospital in Stonehaven.

In the meantime Portlethen medical centre is putting together an application for an extension to cope with the expansion of that town.

Mr Gill assured the community council that the first group of houses at Elsick could be supported by the Portlethen centre. Once there are 600 houses in the new town NHS Grampian would hope to see medical facilities available. This could be as simple as a community pharmacy with two consulting rooms.

By the time there are 3600 houses Mr Gill would expect to see a medical centre. He told the community council that a new centre would cost £6m to £7m. NHS Grampian would become the outright owner. He assured members: “We have been thinking about how we can plan this process.”

He added that there should be planning gain from the developers to provide these services. “This is a big enough development to make it work,” he added.

Later local councillor Ian Mollison said: “It was very helpful to hear what is being planned. I know that concerns have been raised about what will be provided, and what the impact would be on existing patients from Newtonhill and Portlethen.”

More using Portlethen station

More people are using Stonehaven, Portlethen and Laurencekirk railway stations, according to figures from the North East transport partnership Nestrans.

Wednesday’s board meeting was told that rail patronage in the North East has again shown a significant increase. Between 2009/10 and 2010/11 Stonehaven was used by 9% more people, Portlethen by 21% more and Laurencekirk by 15% more.

In comparison the increase in rail patronage across Scotland over that period was just 4%.

North Kincardine councillor Ian Mollison – who is a substitute member of the Nestrans board – said: “This is encouraging news and surely strengthens the case for further investment in North East railway services with new stations at Newtonhill and Kintore.

“I have contacted Nestrans director Derick Murray about the recent government announcement on funding more stations across the country.

 “The director confirmed that he has been in touch with Transport Scotland.

“Mr Murray told me that ‘the recent success of the Laurencekirk re-opening and the additional trains through to Inverurie do provide compelling evidence that there is a very strong demand for services if we can provide them.’

“He added me that Nestrans will be making this case ‘in the strongest possible terms’ to Transport Scotland.

“On a positive note, he also said Nestrans has been discussing with Transport Scotland and ScotRail the possibility of extending the Inverness to Aberdeen train through to Montrose to create a local service permitting additional stops without affecting the national train system.

“A study will be required first. Mr Murray assured me it would take into account planned development to the west of Newtonhill, at Chapelton of Elsick.”

In the meantime, Nestrans has been discussing with ScotRail the possibility additional stops at Portlethen which, with adjustments to the timetable further south, would have little impact on journey times between Aberdeen and Edinburgh/Glasgow. 

Mr Murray is hopeful that some progress may be made on this by the December 2012 timetable change.

North Kincardine councillor Paul Melling welcomed this news. He said: “Portlethen is crying out for more trains to stop. At the moment some 18,000 passengers a year use the station, up 71% on 2004/05. I am confident this would rise dramatically if there was a more regular service.”

Boost for railway campaign

Local councillors Ian Mollison and Paul Melling today welcomed the news that a new Scottish Government fund could lead to the reopening of Newtonhill railway station, along with others across the country.

The £30million programme of improvements for railway stations across Scotland was announced by Keith Brown MSP, Minister for Housing and Transport.

North Kincardine councillors Ian Mollison and Paul Melling are urging North East transport partnership Nestrans to press for Newtonhill and Kintore stations being included in the government’s list.

Cllr Mollison said: “This is great news. These local stations would be well used – as long as enough trains stop! Portlethen station has suffered from a poor service from ScotRail.

“Hopefully a fresh look at rail services around Aberdeen will see that more stations and services will take the pressure off our roads, and be better for the environment. The North East should be a priority.”

Cllr Melling said: “Unfortunately the funding will not become available for two years, but nonetheless this is a step in the right direction.

“Laurencekirk station, the new Alloa line and the Airdrie-Bathgate line have exceeded expectations since re-opening. They were all planned by the previous Liberal Democrat – Labour coalition Scottish Government.”

Nearly 70 stations have been added to the Scottish network within the past 30 years, which now totals 350 stations. New stations cost around £2.5m-£3.5m to open.

Councillors’ planning decisions backed

North Kincardine Liberal Democrat councillors Paul Melling and Ian Mollison have welcomed the outcome of the 11-month long deliberations by the government’s reporters into Aberdeenshire Council’s new Local Development Plan.

This is the blueprint which sets out where future building should – and should not – take place. It also revises the council’s policies on planning. 

Councillor Melling said: “In our ward there are no significant modifications to the council’s plans for Portlethen, Elsick, Marywell, or Newtonhill.” 

“It is an endorsement of the decisions taken by the Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee after extensive consultations with the public and other interested parties.”

Councillor Mollison added: “This clears the way for the major new settlement at Elsick. It will see the majority of building in North Kincardine, and ease the pressure on existing communities.

“One important aspect to stress is that in all but exceptional circumstances developers will be asked to provide 25% of all houses as affordable.

“The reporters made one change – they threw out proposals to zone land to the west of the Causey Mounth at Cammachmore as green belt. This is a disappointment.”

Raw deal for Newtonhill bus passengers

Newtonhill residents have hit out at Stagecoach for treating them as “second class citizens” following the reintroduction of late night buses from Aberdeen.

The bus company recently reintroduced the late services on Friday nights and Saturday nights, with buses leaving Aberdeen at 00.40, 01.40 and 02.40am. However the first two terminate at Portlethen.

Councillor Ian Mollison said: “I have been contacted by unhappy residents in Newtonhill. They are at a loss to see why they do not have the same opportunities as Portlethen people. They did when the previous service was running.

“Unfortunately the former Nightbird services ended because of trouble from some travellers.

“While the return of the late night service is welcome, it is disappointing that only the 02.40am service continues on to Newtonhill and Stonehaven, arriving at 03.31am.

“The residents tell me they feel Newtonhill people have become second class citizens because our village is smaller than Portlethen. They rightly point out that Newtonhill is an expanding community.

“I am aware that this is a commercial decision for the bus company. However I will be putting these points to their managers at the Kincardine and Mearns Bus Forum on Monday. This is a public meeting held in the council chambers at Viewmount, Stonehaven, on Monday (26 March) at 7.30pm.

“I hope they will be able to reassure Newtonhill – and indeed Stonehaven residents – that their needs will be taken into consideration when they evaluate the success of the late night services.

The bus forum, which is open to the public, is chaired by Councillor Paul Melling. It brings together bus users, community councils, council representatives and bus operators in a consultative forum.

UPDATE: Stagecoach told the Bus Forum they hope to extend the two late night services to Newtonhill in the near future. The new services have been successful so far, with no untoward behaviour.

Paul and Ian to stand again for Lib Dems

Councillors Paul Melling and Ian Mollison are to stand again for the Scottish Liberal Democrats in the North Kincardine ward in May’s council elections.

Paul Melling has been a councillor since 2003. Before that he was active in the community, particularly as chairman of Portlethen and District Community Council. He now works full-time as a councillor, after running his own engineering consultancy in the oil industry in the past.

Since 2007 he has also been chairman of the Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee, and is a member of the council’s policy resources committee. He serves on a number of other organisations, and is closely involved in a Befriend a Child and Cornerstone project at the Green.

Ian Mollison, who lives in Newtonhill, was elected in 2007 after also playing a full role in his community.

He was chairman of Newtonhill, Muchalls and Cammachmore Community Council, and had a leading role in the building of the village’s community centre, now the Bettridge Centre.

He works for North East MSP Alison McInnes, after a career with Royal Mail and newspapers such as the Evening Express, Daily Record and Scotland on Sunday.

The two candidates today pledged to continue to work hard for the area.

Paul said: “There have been a number of fantastic developments in recent years such as our new academy, investment in the local primary schools, the building of two underpasses on the A90, and the provision of more homes and jobs for our residents.”

Paul continued: “It has been a privilege to represent this area. I enjoy helping constituents with a wide range of concerns. I am proud to have been a member of the council’s administration, which has continued to do much in spite of difficult financial circumstances. We will need to be very focused in the coming years to deliver the services we have become used to.”

Ian said: “We need to ensure that we provide the very best of facilities. More homes are being built in Newtonhill and Portlethen and so the task is to ensure that the right infrastructure is in place.

“The development of the new town at Chapelton of Elsick – assuming that the Scottish Government approves the plans – will have a big impact, as will the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route.

“There are many challenges ahead, not least trying to persuade government to invest in railway services so that more trains stop in Portlethen, we get a station at Newtonhill and a Crossrail suburban commuter service.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed representing my local community for these last five years, working on issues on behalf of residents with successes that include improving local facilities, tackling road safety concerns, and championing local environmental improvements.

“Portlethen and Newtonhill are great places to live and bring up families, with the benefit of being in the countryside but close to the city.

“As well as being a member of the Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee, I sit on the council’s infrastructure services committee. I have also served on the board of Enterprise North East Trust, and the Aberdeen International Youth Festival Trust.”

Both councillors regularly attend local groups including the ward’s three community councils (Newtonhill, Muchalls & Cammachmore, Portlethen & District, and North Kincardine Rural).

Commenting on the announcement, North East MSP Alison McInnes said: “Paul Melling and Ian Mollison are well known as hard-working campaigners who put local people first and get things done. They are excellent representatives for this area on Aberdeenshire Council.”

West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP Robert Smith added: “I am delighted that Paul and Ian have been selected as candidates. Alison and I will work with them as a team to make sure that this area’s interests are put first at all levels of government.”

The North Kincardine ward covers the Portlethen, Newtonhill, Muchalls, Netherley, Maryculter and Banchory Devenick area. The election is on Thursday 3 May.

LOCAL, LISTENING, DELIVERING: The Lib Dem approach to our council

Aberdeenshire Council Liberal Democrats today launched their manifesto for the local elections on 3 May. The Liberal Democrats have been in the adminstration since the council was established in 1996.

The future holds many challenges for local government; Aberdeenshire Council is not immune to the financial constraints and pressures facing the whole public sector. Effective, efficient use of public money, combined with sound financial management, is essential.

We recognise that strong local government is a fundamental requirement of a liberal democracy; its strength comes from its relationship with the people it serves. Aberdeenshire Council has an important leadership role and yet must be accountable and responsive to the people and communities we serve.

We are proud of our record of listening to our residents and delivering local services in a fair and effective way. We can demonstrate that we have delivered the overwhelming majority of the commitments and promises we made in 2007.

Aberdeenshire Liberal Democrats are proud of what has been achieved in the integration of work, transport, leisure and housing in our settlements. We will work in partnership with communities, developers and other agencies to ensure that Aberdeenshire continues to offer the best quality of life.

Local planning policies and process play a key role in delivering the aspirations of communities, residents, business and the council. We have already delivered significant improvements and will continue this work. Planning must be strongly linked with Economic Development; both are integral to developing sustainable communities.

We have listened to Residents’ Surveys, which have consistently highlighted the priority residents give to the appearance and cleanliness of their communities. We have ensured that as far as possible, residents’ expectations have been met. We will continue to give priority to this work and to environmental issues.

Liberal Democrats also value our built heritage and have given a high priority to both protecting and enhancing it. We will stress the need for higher design standards in new development, seeking design solutions that respect the built heritage of Aberdeenshire.

We are committed to the waste hierarchy of ‘Reduce, Re-use, Recycle’ and have worked to deliver an efficient and effective Waste Management service. We will continue to encourage residents to work in partnership with the council in managing their waste and driving down the volume of waste going to landfill.

Economic Development plays a vital role in ensuring that Aberdeenshire remains a prosperous and economically active region. All council services must contribute to the goal of an economy that delivers sustainable growth, low unemployment and a broader economic base. The current economic situation serves to emphasise the importance of this work:

Our Economic Development service has built successful relationships across Aberdeenshire, Europe and beyond, promoting Aberdeenshire across the world as an excellent place to do business. We will continue to give a high priority to this work, as well as supporting initiatives developed within communities. We will deliver the council’s new Economic Development Strategy.

Our new Local Transport Strategy was developed through consultation with communities and our partners. It contains our aspirations and ambitions for transportation in and to Aberdeenshire. We will work to deliver this Strategy and continue to lobby for significantly better investment by the Scottish Government in our transport infrastructure.
Liberal Democrats are committed to investing in Education in its broadest sense. Despite the intense financial pressures in recent years, we have continued to manage the council’s resources in order to deliver an integrated and up-to-date life-long education service, delivered in the best possible environment.

We will offer the best possible opportunities for Education, Learning and Leisure to all. We will continue to involve all of our communities in the decisions that affect them. We recognise the great value of our Education, Learning and Leisure staff, teaching and non-teaching and the contribution they make to delivering excellence in Aberdeenshire Education.

We also recognise the vital importance of our school estate in the delivery of a modern education to all. We have committed significant capital resources to the provision of new secondary and primary schools and will continue to grasp every opportunity to invest in our schools.

Education is a life long process and there should be educational opportunities open to all, regardless of age or means. We support the delivery of such opportunities through Community Learning and Development and are committed to involving the community fully in this service.

Culture and Heritage are important to our communities; we will continue to work in partnership with community groups to widen opportunity in the face of budget pressures. We remain committed to the provision of a modern Library service across Aberdeenshire, freely available to all.

In Aberdeenshire, the Social Work and Housing Service has faced considerable challenges over recent years, brought about by a steadily growing but ageing population, increasing expectations and ever mounting volumes of regulation and inspection by Government and its agencies. The pressure on housing in a rural area, combined with government timetables for homelessness, has grown and will continue to grow.

We will continue to foster joint working with other agencies, with community groups and with the wider community in order to maintain high quality services in Aberdeenshire, fairly and on the basis of need. The financial background will require continuing robust budgetary control and sound management of service finances.

We are committed to the provision of social housing of all types and tenures and to maintaining the high standards of the Council’s own housing stock. We have worked in close partnership with our tenants and this will continue. We have worked with housing associations, other agencies and with developers to increase the supply of affordable housing in Aberdeenshire communities. We will build on this work and seek to improve still further the services we offer.

The issues around health and social care grow ever more complex and demanding. Aberdeenshire Liberal Democrats are committed to the greater integration of Health and Social Care and to working closely with our partners.

Aberdeenshire remains our absolute priority. Our approach has been – and will remain – pragmatic. We are driven by commonsense, local, decision making rather than by political dogma. Our programme for 2012 to 2017 will build on our achievements to ensure that Aberdeenshire offers all its residents the best quality of life and all of its businesses the best possible environment in which to prosper

  • The full Manifesto Document can be downloaded by clicking here.

Buses: make your views known

If you have points you would like to make to the local bus bosses, then there’s a public meeting coming up for you.

The next Kincardine and Mearns Bus Forum will be held on Monday 26 March at the Council Chamber, Viewmount, Stonehaven.

Interested members of the public, community councillors and local councillors attend. They can all raise their points about local buses with representatives from Nicoll’s and Stagecoach. 

It starts at 7.30, and lasts until 9pm.