Council wins planning award

Aberdeenshire Council has won an award at the Scottish Government’s 2015 Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning.

The council won the Quality of Service Award for its six short films on the Proposed Aberdeenshire Local Development Plan. The judges found the six short films were “a clever way to present planning to the public”. The films have been watched more than 3,700 times and can be viewed on the council’s You Tube channel at www.bitly.com/ProposedLDPfilms.

The council and partners Turnberry Consulting and Elsick Development Company also received a commendation for the Chapelton Delivery Process in the Delivering in Partnership category. Chapelton promotes new and innovative street design and promotes high quality materials and design. There are now 50 houses occupied in the new town.

Weekend working on AWPR

Extended weekend working hours on the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route will begin this Saturday and Sunday (14 and 15 November). The contractors will be able to undertake works during the extended hours on each weekend up to and including the weekend before Christmas (Saturday, 19 and Sunday, 20 December).

The last day working on the road’s construction will be Wednesday 23 December and construction works will recommence on Monday, 4 January.

Council officers also tell me that during the downtime there will be activity on site which will be limited to security and to keep a watching brief on any possible sources of pollution that may arise from operations on the site; so some activity may well be noticeable over the holiday period and local residents should not expect complete inactivity.

Officers expect that Aberdeenshire Council will receive a similar request for weekend out of hours working in the New Year.

The council’s environmental health will monitor activities on the site.

Police update on local situation

Interesting briefings this morning to local councillors from senior police and fire officers.

Four points in particular from the police caught my attention:

– The series of ATM thefts in the North East and elsewhere in Scotland are believed to be committed by thieves from the north of England.

– Where possible a police officer should attend meetings of the local community council. Where this is not possible – for operational reasons – a written report will be provided. It is a difficult balance.

– The force is actively recruiting in the North East. For the first time since Police Scotland was established they expect to have their full establishment locally in the near future. The aim is to recruit locally, and work locally.

– The merger of the present Aberdeenshire & Moray division with the Aberdeen division will take place on 1 January, and will be called the North East division. Only the command structure will change, with only one chief superintendent in charge, instead of the two as at present. We were told that there had been an invisible demarcation line under the current arrangements, and this will disappear. We were assured this will not mean Aberdeenshire officers being called into Aberdeen to patrol the city centre on Saturday nights.

The fire officers told us the service attended 2211 emergency incidents in the last year. Staff had made 1444 home fire safety visits, and they wish to step that up – call the service to ask for one. There were no fatalities in dwelling fires in 2014/15 in Kincardine and Mearns. That compares to nine in 2010/11. There is an all time low for deliberate fires. However the North East has the highest fatality rates in Scotland on our roads.

Works start on rutted surface

Contractors have started work replacing the badly rutted anti-skid surface on Cookston Road at Hillside. They expect to be finished next week providing the weather holds out. The old surface has now been skimmed off, and they are on site today to start laying the new anti-skid surface. The reason for delay in undertaking this work was that it has to be done by a specialist firm, and they have a number of such tasks to undertake in the North East.

Over the past months I have been contacted by several residents about this. It is good that the work is now under way.

Views sought over pharmacy plan

NHS Grampian and Dickies Pharmacy are conducting a consultation on a proposal to open a pharmacy at Hillside.

The premises would be at Unit 2 in the yet-to-be-built retail centre on Hillside Road, if the application is approved. Dickies Pharmacy has community pharmacies in Torry, Summerhill, Northfield and Queen’s Cross in Aberdeen and in Kingswells and Balmedie.

Under new regulations health boards now have to carry out a joint public consultation with any community pharmacist proposing to open a pharmacy providing NHS pharmaceutical services to the public. The consultation runs until Wednesday 9 March.

More details can be found at http://www.nhsgrampian.co.uk/nhsgrampian/gra_display_simple_index.jsp?pContentID=9504&p_applic=CCC&p_service=Content.show

National award for academy

Portlethen Academy has beaten off competition from schools across Scotland to win an award for its work with local employers, and will attend a national final in London next month run by the British Chamber of Commerce.

The school was winner of the Chamber of Commerce Education Business Partnership Award for Scotland and recently collected the award at an event hosted by Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce.

The school attributes its success to its focus over a number of years on creating strong links with business partners such as Maersk Oil and Hydrasun and it has also created a Portlethen Partnership Industry Team.

The school takes part in a variety of initiatives to build links between employers and young people from work experience programmes to collaboration with organisations such as Career Ready UK.

The school also adheres to Scotland’s Youth Employment Strategy Developing the Young Workforce as well as Curriculum for Excellence and last year delivered a workshop at an ADES (Association of Directors of Education in Scotland) conference called Learning 2 Earning.

Alongside work experience placements Hydrasun has provided training to staff and pupils from the company’s chief executive Bob Drummond and this now forms part of the school’s training programme.

Work with Maersk Oil has involved participation in the Maersk Stars programme as well as pupils regularly writing for the company’s newsletter.

Head teacher Neil Morrison said: “Our partnership, the school and wider community are proud of the strong links we have created. Parents are aware that their children gain an excellent awareness of the world of work through the strength of the links we have made here at the school and I thank our partners for helping us gain this award and look forward to the final.”

Good news over recycling

New figures show that recycling in Aberdeenshire has increased following a change to recycling and waste services.
The roll-out of new services to more than 114,000 households began in north Aberdeenshire in September 2013 and ended in Kincardine in Mearns last March.
Now figures from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency show that the council’s recycling rate increased from 36% in 2013 before the new service started to 40% during 2014.
This is on track for the predicted 44% recycling rate the service was designed to achieve, once the whole of Aberdeenshire has been using the new blue recycling bins and green food caddies for a year.
Households now have a greater range of recyclates collected in the same bin and have seen the introduction of a weekly food waste collection service.
The figures are even more impressive given that glass is no longer collected at the kerbside to comply with government guidance aimed at pushing up the quality of recycled materials.
Glass is accepted at an extensive network of household waste recycling centres (one is being built at Portlethen) and recycling points throughout the area and the council can supply smaller local facilities where required – these have already been installed in 65 locations.
Changes to the way recycling and waste are dealt with in Aberdeenshire were introduced to help push up recycling rates and reduce waste going to landfill.
As well as the increased weight of collected recyclates, since April 2014 more than 5,000 tonnes of food waste have been recycled, most of which would previously have gone to landfill.
This food waste now becomes agricultural fertiliser: this year’s food waste helps grow next year’s crops.
The council’s figures show customers prefer the new service: there has been an increase from 65% participation in recycling using the old ‘box’ service, to 96% recycling using the new blue bins.
Food participation rates remain lower than general recycling at between 45-65%, but this is broadly reflected across Scotland. National campaigns will run soon to encourage food waste recycling.
The changes are designed both to help the council meet the Scottish Government’s Zero Waste targets by increasing the range of materials collected at the kerbside and to make it easy for householders to use, raising the recycling rate.
Information on recycling and waste in Aberdeenshire is available by calling Wasteline on 03456 08 12 07 or on the council’s website: http://bit.ly/WasteAndRecycling

Inspiring conference for youngsters

Today some 1000 of the North East’s young workforce – including university, college and senior phase school students – will join business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs at the AECC and a sister event at Fraserburgh college for Scotland’s largest free conference on the topic of ‘Making It Happen’.

The Elevator Conference 2015, run by business support agency Elevator (also know as Enterprise North East Trust), has nine inspiring speakers. They include a candidate from this year’s BBC The Apprentice, the first Scottish woman to summit Mount Everest, BBC Dragons’ Den survivors, and a branding entrepreneur who turned £1,000 into a £1 million turnover in a year.

I mention it as I am privileged to be a director of the trust, though I can take no credit for this superb event. I am sure many youngsters will be inspired by the conference and maybe some will become the Steve Jobs of the future.

Sports clubs get together

meeting has been held in Portlethen Academy about setting up a sports hub in the town. We heard that Fraserburgh set up such a hub with four clubs and 18 months later they now have nearly 30 clubs. Hubs give a forum for clubs to work together and support each other, as well as aiming high to provide more facilities and increase participation. The clubs present tonight were enthusiastic, and the next meeting is on Wednesday 25 November at 7pm. If interested in finding out more contact andrew.watson@aberdeenshire.gov.uk

Helping hand from the councillors

A number of local issues were discussed by Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee today.

Portlethen Community Allotment Association was awarded a grant of £4000 towards set-up costs after a presentation by Christine Lorimer. The one-acre site is to the east of the railway line off Thistle Drive. At present 18 people are signed up for an allotment.

The Men’s Shed is to receive further help. The council will meet the £1889.80 cost of removing asbestos from the Cookston Road premises. A further £3000 will be made available to pay for the removal of an internal wall.

Fewer people are using Aberdeenshire swimming pools. I have asked for the figures for Portlethen.

It was agreed to name the new primary as Hillside School. This is in line with the public consultation.

Councillors are to have a site visit to the EIS Waste Services premises to see where the company wishes to erect a stone cleaning plant. There were 41 objections to the planning application. Resident Andrew Smith put forward their concerns and agent Lesley Tierney put the case for approval to councillors. Both faced questions. The date for the site visit is still to be fixed.