Councillors agree roads upgrade plans

Plans for upgrading roads and pavements across Kincardine and Mearns costing £4.2m have been agreed by councillors. In the North Kincardine ward, the improvements are below.

Resurfacing – C30K (rural area) at the junction with the U59K.

Surface dressing – C5K (rural area) from Calladrum Cottage to Woodlands of Durris; U57K (rural area) from the junction with the C5K north to the B9077;

Crollshillock Place and Cliff View in Newtonhill;

Mosside Drive, Mosside Crescent, Dunvegan Crescent, Avenue & Place, and Glascairn Avenue & Place in Portlethen.

Footway works – C8K at Checkbar.

Argyll Place between No 54 and No 60, Cookston Road and Downies Road in Portlethen.

Haunching (strengthening road verges) – C5K from the junction with the C30K, and C13K east of the Lairhillock School. 

Lighting – Low wattage bulbs instead of high wattage on Bruntland Road from the A90 to Bracken Road, Portlethen. 

There is also a reserve list costing £3.1m if work can be brought forward.

Finally, there is provision for on-going maintenance such as repairing potholes.

New style bins for Portlethen

New-style recycling litter bins could be established in Portlethen. “Recycling on the Go”, as this is called, is funded by the Scottish Government. It allows us all to recycle as we move around and separate litter into materials that can be recycled, and thereby reduce waste to landfill. As such, these can be located in areas where the public will be passing – in the same way litter bins are used.

The containers used are bigger than litter bins; however there is in essence no difference to what is put in the bins, only it is separated out. There are three containers, one for litter, one plastic bottles and one for cans. These are not the usual recycling points we have around – and should not be for people visiting by car. They are for people dropping single or a few items in as they pass.

The community council and local councillors are being asked for their comments.

Sites in mind at the moment are outside PortlethenAcademy in the school bus drop-off area, where there is already a litter bin; near the bus stop on Muirend Road across from Broomfield Park; and across Muirend Road from other exit from Broomfield Park. 

One site which is being ruled out is on Oak Drive, near the swimming pool. The Recycling on the Go unit there will be moved within the next week.

The community council is being asked to put forward one response on behalf of Portlethen.

Newtonhill shop to reopen

Newtonhill’s village shop is to reopen after being closed for more than three months.

The 100-year-old shop in Skateraw Road closed late last year as business declined. Now new management is taking over and aim to open it as a “Best-One” convenience store on Monday 31 March. A “Best-One” store has recently opened in King Street, Stonehaven.

The Newtonhill shop will be open from 6am to 10pm Monday to Saturday and from 7am to 10pm on Sundays.

A great number of people in the older part of the village have missed having their local shop. There had been many rumours circulating over the past months about what landlords Scotmid would do, ranging from hairdresser to dentist.

Footbridge being rebuilt

Work in under way replacing the footbridge over the Pheppie Burn between Muchalls and Newtonhill. Aberdeenshire Council is also having the path upgraded. The bridge was swept away in the downpours a year ago.
 
Local councillor Ian Mollison welcomed the news. “This is a missing link for walkers and cyclists which will be much appreciated.”

Progress with Chapelton new town

Tonight we had an update on progress with the development of the new town of Chapelton of Elsick. Steady progress. Work of well underway with the access road – apparently to be called Greenlaw Road – with the sales office due to open at the end of May.

Here are some of the highlights: 

  • The streets will be designed to restrict vehicle speeds to 20mph – and without using speed bumps.
  • The two objectors to the closure of the central reservation gap at the Bruntland Road junction with the A90 are sticking to their guns. There are fears over the safety of right turns. Transport Scotland officials are considering whether to hold a local public enquiry or let the objectors challenge the proposals in the Court of Session.
  • The construction work on the roundabout at the Newtonhill flyover should be completed by the end of March. The site roads should be completed in mid April.
  • There will be a further three weeks of rock breaking between 7am and 6pm during road construction.
  • Heavy construction vehicles have still been using the Newtonhill-Cookney road instead of access roads. The message is to be reinforced that should not be happening.
  • Portlethen community councillor Paul Melling told the meeting of meetings he has had with the Scottish Secretary and the Cabinet Secretary for Finance to argue the case for government help in the short-term to bring forward the building of an underpass at the Bourtreebush junction between Bruntland Road and the A90. North East MSP Alison McInnes will be following this up with the Scottish Government.
  • The provision of a medical centre was also discussed, with it being earmarked for 2028 (best guess, as this depends on the rate of development). Meanwhile at Portlethen, some £60,000 is being spent on scanning in paper records which will free up office space for an extra surgery room. However Dr Ewan Clark said that four more consulting rooms are ideally required to cope with growing demands.
  • Work is underway on the education implications, with youngsters due to attend NewtonhillPrimary School. A report is due to go before councillors in September.
  • The possibility of existing residences being connected to the new utility services was also raised. These houses were in the countryside but will shortly be either near or in a new town, but without the facilities. David Southesk promised that these residents can connect to the new services. He will continue the discussions with residents, including the cost implications. 

Attending were the developers, Transport Scotland, contractors, NHS Grampian, three local councillors, community councils, council officers, and residents.

Decision of hope for Portlethen Gala

A busy night in the academy at Portlethen Community Council. And six members of the public (including well-behaved youngsters), two police officers, three Aberdeenshire councillors, and three developers. But no press. Here’s some of the highlights:

  • The community council agreed in principle to take over the running of the Portlethen Gala in August from Befriend a Child. It will depend on the level of support from residents.
     
  • Youngsters have again been seen inside the listed Hillside House which is slowly crumbling.
     
  • Seven or eight sheep have been killed, possibly by a dog, in the fields between the church and Old Portlethen. The farmer would be within his rights to shoot a dog worrying sheep.
     
  • Issues about local bus services are to be raised at the Kincardine and Mearns Bus Forum on Thursday 3 April in the council chamber at Viewmount in Stonehaven. Residents are welcome to attend and put their points to Stagecoach bosses.
     
  • Plans for a commercial waste recycling centre at Duffshill were unveiled. Concerns that Aberdeen City Council wanted to build an incinerator on the site were dispelled. The site will not be expanded until the link road (part of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route) from the Findon underpass goes ahead.
     
  • A traffic survey is to be carried out by Aberdeenshire Council following concerns over congestion at the two primary schools.
     
  • Police are to continue to pay attention to parking particularly at PortlethenPrimary School. Although traffic wardens are being removed by Police Scotland, police officers will still enforce parking laws. The meeting heard that on one day in Huntly 36 parking tickets were issued.
  • Local officers are also keeping an eye on local properties after reports of suspicious characters. Residents are again reminded not to leave front doors and back doors unlocked. Sneak thieves can be looking for car keys.
  • More graffiti has appeared locally. Police appealed for any information.
     
  • The news of £60,000 from the Scottish Government for the Jubilee Hall was welcomed. There are hopes that the government can be persuaded to help finance the building of an underpass at Bourtreebush earlier than planned by Chapelton of Elsick developers.

Slow progress over Newtonhill station

The campaign to re-open the railway station at Newtonhill is being sidelined by the Scottish Government, though not ruled out in the long-term.

The Transport Minister in a letter to North East MSP Alison McInnes was tantalisingly vague about Newtonhill.

In his letter the minister refers to plans to increase the number of services stopping at existing stations in the area. This will be done by extending the Inverness-Aberdeen services south to Montrose. He writes that this would benefit Portlethen, Stonehaven, Laurencekirk and, most interestingly, “additional new stations”.

Transport Minister Keith Brown refers to the Nestrans regional transport strategy, and echoes the response Alison McInnes received from Rab Dickson, the transport strategy manager for Nestrans. Mr Dickson had suggested that there is a possibility for additional train stations to the south of the city, but “this is not a priority” with there being are no immediate plans to build a station at Newtonhill.

Indeed the minister closes by saying the re-opening of stations such as Newtonhill will only be considered if they meet two qualifying criteria. The first is a positive Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG) appraisal. The second is that there will be high levels of demand.

Local councillor Ian Mollison said: “We always knew this would be a long haul. Kintore railway station is due to open by 2019, apparently. After that we have to campaign hard for Newtonhill. By that time some of the houses in Chapelton of Elsick will be occupied. This new town will bolster the case for re-opening the station. However l fear this will be a long campaign.”

Fire service’s £1m plans for Portlethen

More than £1 million may be invested in the fire service’s training centre at Portlethen. 

The news was warmly welcomed this week by North Kincardine Liberal Democrat councillor Ian Mollison.   

He said: “I made enquiries after Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill MSP told the Scottish Parliament at Topical Questions that there would be investment at Portlethen. This could provide jobs for staff displaced by the closure of the fire control centre at Mounthooly in Aberdeen. 

“The fire service’s local senior officer for Aberdeenshire & Moray, David Rout, confirmed that this is under consideration.

 “He told me that a strategic review of training facilities in the North of Scotland has identified a number of key capital investment opportunities across the service delivery area. 

“Mr Rout said that the Portlethen facility is an integral part of the training and employee development strategic training infrastructure due to its location, ease of access and current facilities.

“A capital investment plan has been developed for the next three financial years which includes an accumulative spend of circa £1.2m at the Portlethen site. 

“The proposed capital investment includes the purchase and installation of new compartment fire behaviour training units, a covered all-weather training facility and the upgrading of the ICT infrastructure. 

“A further proposal for the development of an incident command training suite at the site is to be considered as part of a wider incident command training strategy and forms part of the organisation service transformation programme.

“Mr Rout also told me that further investment may also be required following the outcomes of the organisation’s specialist appliances review and the need to train personnel in new specialist skills across the North.

 “He did however emphasise that these are only proposals at this time and although included within Scottish Fire and Rescue Service capital plan, they are subject to final approval by board. 

“This could be very welcome news for the Portlethen area.” 

The training centre is to the west of Portlethen, just beyond the site of the planned Hillside primary school.

How the council will spend our money

Councillors today agreed how Aberdeenshire will spend its money over the coming years.

North Kincardine councillor Ian Mollison explains: “We agreed a budget of £517 million for 2014/15 on how we run day-to-day front-line services. That’s everything from providing carers, emptying bins, paying staff, to fixing the roads. The Press and Journal ran a scare story the other day about cuts. There are none at this time.

“However, we don’t know for certain what grants we will get further in the future from the Scottish Government. These grants become more and more important the longer that council tax is frozen (that was agreed too today). The council’s cost are continuing to rise as well. So the best estimate from our financial team is that there could be a £49m hole in the budget by 2018/19. We are preparing for the worst while hoping for the best. There’s no hiding the fact that very serious challenges could lie ahead. But not this coming year.

“Councillors also agreed the capital plan. This is good news. This year we are spending £100m. Over the coming years it is the investment totals some £800m, unrivalled across Scotland.

“New academies/community campuses in Laurencekirk, Ellon and Alford; care homes in Stonehaven and Inverurie; and new primary schools including Hillside (£11m), Drumoak, Kintore, Turriff, Inverurie and Kinellar. Two new children’s homes, a family centre at Inverurie and new leisure facilities at Banchory and Banff/Macduff are also included.

“We will also be paying £75 million maximum for the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, which will be financed through £30 million of budgeted expenditure and anticipated borrowing of £45 million.

“More than £20 million is being spent on improving our council housing in 2014-15, with £24.6m earmarked for new builds (meaning 169 programmed for completion by April next year). 

“Councillors also agreed to a 4.5% increase in council house rent charges from 1 April 2014. The current average weekly rent is £60.19. This decision will increase the rent by £2.71. Funds raised through rents are ploughed back into the housing stock.

“All the decisions were agreed by all parties – Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Labour, SNP and independents. There only two dissenting voices: the lone Green and an independent.”

Changes to bus timetables

A new bus timetable is to be introduced by 5 May, including additional services between Aberdeen and Stonehaven.

Stagecoach are now asking customers to look at the proposals and share their thoughts, whether in support of the revisions or expressing any concerns.

Managing director Steve Walker said: “Our monitoring has shown that some of the routes would benefit from these proposed timetable changes to increase journey reliability above all else, so it’s important we get these changes right.

“We’re asking our customers and indeed prospective customers to let us know what they think, so we can take any comments on board and make any amendments where possible.”

The proposed timetable includes these local changes:

Monday – Friday Additional X7 journeys at 0840 and 1645 ex Stonehaven and 0925 and 1600 ex Aberdeen. Service X6 at 1655 ex Aberdeen retimed to operate 5 minutes later. Service 7 at 1740 ex Aberdeen to become a service 7B.

Saturday 1615 Service 7 ex Aberdeen to become a 7B, 1730 Service 7 ex Aberdeen retimed to 1740 and additional 1720 Service 7B ex Aberdeen. 

All the proposed changes available to view at website: www.stagecoachbus.com/HIghlands and Bluebird timetable review.aspx 

Comments should be put directly to Stagecoach at bluebird.enquiries@stagecoachbus.com  Stagecoach ask emails have the subject line of ‘Timetable Consultations’.