Calls for flyovers at Laurencekirk

More pressure is being put on Transport Scotland to construct grade-separated junctions at Laurencekirk on the A90. 

A report in support of the case has been commended by the board of the North East Transport Partnership Nestrans. It highlights that previous predictions for future traffic levels in the Laurencekirk are have been significantly underestimated. 

At present there is a 50mph zone at the southern exit to Laurencekirk, with speed cameras, in an effort to prevent serious accidents.

The analysis of recent studies also compares the situation with Newtonhill which saw a flyover built by Grampian Regional Council in the early 1990s. The population of Newtonhill in 1991 was 2139. At that time Laurencekirk had 1513 residents, which rose to 1808 in 2001, and 2440 in 2008. With more houses now planned for Laurencekirk, it is estimated that the town’s population in 2023 will be 4768.  

Councillor Ian Mollison told the Nestrans board meeting that he had been one of the campaigners for a Newtonhill flyover. “Our junction with the dual carriageway had been a tragedy waiting to happen. It took up to 40 minutes to get out of Newtonhill in the morning. Thankfully the flyover averted a major loss of life. Laurencekirk is in desperate need of such investment.” 

Nestrans chairman Cllr Peter Argyle commented that if a flyover could be built for a garden centre between Dundee and Perth on the A90 then surely Laurencekirk had a very strong case. 

The report is now being submitted to Transport Scotland, urging the Scottish Government department to give further consideration to grade separated junctions at Laurencekirk.

Welcome for £300,000 Hillside project

North Kincardine councillor Ian Mollison today welcomed the Aberdeenshire Council decision to give the green light to a £300,000 investment at Hillside.

“This will be a boon for the residents in the new community. However this is just the start of a long process. 

“The hard work will now begin for council officers, residents and the developer to turn this into reality. It will require an innovative design so that the centre can be incorporated into a new primary school when there is a need to build it.
 
“I know residents are eager to get started so that there can be a social heart to Hillside, something that is missing at present. At the moment there are houses, houses and more houses.
 
“From my own experiences in establishing and expanding the now successful Bettridge Centre in Newtonhill, I know first hand how a project like this can pull a community together.”     
   
The paper before the policy and resources committee on 20 September said:
The Council can acquire at no cost a site for recreation and education facilities this proposal would be to create a community hall which could in the future be integrated into a new school should one be required.  The hall would be run by the community. This project is accepted in its entirety but much detailed work is still to be completed before the funding is required.
It was approved along with a package of other measure across Aberdeenshire. 

More trains for Portlethen

ScotRail is expanding its timetable in the North East from Sunday 9 December. And the news that this will include more trains stopping at Portlethen has been welcomed by local councillor Ian Mollison.

Improvements to the Monday-Saturday timetable include Portlethen gaining a total of five more calls a day, including services to Inverurie and Glasgow. On a Sunday there will be four more calls at Portlethen.

Councillor Mollison said: “I am pleased that ScotRail and Transport Scotland are improving the train service between Aberdeen, Stonehaven and the south. At the ScotRail customer forum in Stonehaven in June I called for more trains to call at the stations between Aberdeen and Dundee, especially Portlethen.

“These changes are a step in the right direction but further improvements are necessary – including a re-opened station at Newtonhill – so that we have a service that fully meets the needs of local travellers whether commuting or going on longer journeys.”

More pupils walking and cycling to school

More and more youngsters are cycling or walking to school in Aberdeenshire, according to figures given to Aberdeenshire Council’s infrastructure services committee. 

The figures show a rise from 46.8% to 52%, compared to only a slight increase nationally from 57.2% to 57.4%. 

Meanwhile the number of Aberdeenshire pupils being driven to school has fallen from 24% in 2006 to 21%, according to the latest figures compiled from a national survey. 

Committee member Councillor Ian Mollison, who represents North Kincardine, said: “This is good news. It is good for the environment and it is good for the fitness of our young people. However more needs to be done to encourage everyone – adults included – to walk or cycle.” 

The Cyclists’ Touring Club (CTC) had representatives at the Portlethen Gala on Saturday highlighting their plans for better links between Cove, Portlethen, Newtonhill and Muchalls. It is possible to cycle along the route at present but there are missing sections between the communities which would be more direct. 

Councillor Mollison commented: “People are more likely to walk or cycle if they can do so in safety and within a reasonable time. At present the routes zigzag along country roads, tracks and paths. 

“For example between Cammachmore and Portlethen there is a very convoluted route to use via Downies or by going alongside the A90. Neither is direct, and the A90 route is not particularly pleasant, especially when lorries and buses zoom past only inches away. 

“I welcome the plans by the CTC to establish new paths which I am sure would be well used. 

“The challenge is getting the agreement of local landowners to allow routes to be provided along the edges of fields.”

Local shop changes hands

Newtonhill’s village shop is changing hands after operating for a number of years as a Co-op store.

A spokesman for Scotmid Co-operative confirmed “that Scotmid will transfer ownership of the Newtonhill store on Friday, August 31 to Aberdeen-based food convenience store operator Sky Convenience Stores.” 

Local councillor Ian Mollison commented: “There had been fears for the future of the village shop – which has been in Skateraw Road for more than 100 years – following the opening of the Tesco store beside the A90. So the assurances I have received from the new owner will come as a relief to staff and customers.” 

Kanwar Pal Singh Chouhan will be in charge of the shop. He plans to make improvements regarding prices, organisation and variety of products.

He said: “I would welcome the views of local residents on how we can make this store a true convenience store for Newtonhill. I am in talks with different groups and my only approach is to get good variety of products with excellent prices for the residents. For example I will bring in good range of fruits and vegetables.

“Lottery and PayPoint services will continue as usual. The ATM machine will be removed from the wall for now, however I am in talks with few companies who can provide me ATM machine which will be free to use for the customers but will be inside the shop.

“I will take over the shop on August 31, starting at 7am. I will try opening the shop as soon as possible but it might not materialise that day. The shop will open at the normal time on 1 September. I am looking forward to this venture and the support of residents of Newtonhill to make it a success.”

Scotmid announced they will close the shop at 7.30pm on Thursday 30 August in preparation for the change-over. A notice pinned to the shop door thanked residents for their custom over the years.

Newtonhill news in brief

Buses: Some buses on the St Michael’s Road and St Ternan’s Road route have only been picking up passengers at the stop outside the school. Stagecoach has confirmed it is a Hail and Ride service, and that the bus should stop when requested. Drivers have been informed.

Brave: Three showings of the Disney Pixar film at the Bettridge – and its North East premiere as well! Great entertainment. Just shows what can be done to make things happen in our village. 

Weeds: The rose bed on Old Mill Road outside Quoiter’s is no longer being maintained by Aberdeenshire Council. A check has shown the land is not owned by the council. It is unclear who the owner is. The local action group NEAT is considering tackling the weeds. 

School: The new head teacher at Newtonhill primary is Jonathan Revell. He told me he is very much looking forward to the challenge. 

Benches: Aberdeenshire Council’s landscape services hopes to replace benches in the play area north of the Courts and at Murray Road as soon as possible.

Poo: Some dog owners are failing to clear up after their pets. The dog bins are emptied once weekly, and if overflowing, the waste operative who empties them advises his supervisor, and they are emptied more frequently. A rusty dog bin in Hillhead Road is not to be replaced by the council as this is on a private road. There is another (plastic) dog bin within 100 yards. 

Litter: Volunteers from the action group NEAT have been picking up rubbish around the village. Who keeps chucking drink cans on to the grass on the A90 slip road towards Aberdeen? Meanwhile Aberdeen Journals has apologised for the mess being left by staff at the bus shelter opposite St Crispin’s Road. The council has been asked to review the bin situation at the refurbished tennis courts now back in use – and the chip van is there most nights as well. By the way, maybe people who drop chewing gum in the tennis courts might use a litter bin? 

Unkempt: The ground in front of the electricity sub station in Crollshillock Place has become overgrown. I have written twice to Scottish Hydro and await a response.

Danger: Some drivers are overshooting the turning from St Ternan’s Road into St Crispin’s Road. There is a dotted white line and a cul-de-sac sign but still there are near misses. Council officials take the view that “anyone who is flying past a junction is driving without due care given the limited visibility at many junctions within this estate.” 

Village shop: Scotmid Co-op transfers ownership of its Newtonhill store on August 31 to Aberdeen-based Sky Convenience Stores. The implications at not yet clear, at the time of writing. 

Wi-Fi: Partnership working between Aberdeenshire Council and Stagecoach is expanding the availability of free Wi-Fi on buses. Stonehaven routes will get the service in the autumn, meaning all mainline commercial bus services between Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen will have free Wi-Fi.

Kincardine folk at Balmoral garden party

The Queen’s Garden Party at Balmoral on Tuesday 7 August was attended by a number of people from Kincardineshire. 
 
They were invited to the event which rounds off her main Diamond Jubilee celebrations. It was the first time a garden party had been held at the Royal Deeside castle since the Golden Jubilee in 2002.  

 

The Queen was accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and his wife, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, as she mingled with the 3000 guests. 

  
Carol Kinghorn, the Lord Lieutenant of Kincardineshire, helped introduce guests to the royal hosts. 
 
North Kincardine councillor Ian Mollison was among those enjoying the afternoon with their partners and spouses, despite the damp weather. He said later: “It was a delightful occasion, with dainty sandwiches and cakes on the lawn, rounded off by the pipes and drums playing as the Queen sat in front of the castle. 
  
“Among the local people I saw were former Portlethen GP Denis Durno, retired Stonehaven councillor George Swapp, Aberdeenshire Council’s area manager Willie Munro, Newtonhill’s Iain McLeod who is immediate past-president of the local Rotary Club, former Portlethen councillor Paul Melling, Stonehaven community councillor David Fleming, and Councillor Bill Howatson from St Cyrus.”
 
Balmoral has been one of the Royal Family’s private residencies since 1852, when it was purchased by Queen. It remains the private property of the monarch, and has remained a favourite residence for the Queen and her family during the summer holidays.

Welcome for new trains

Local councillors Peter Bellarby and Ian Mollison have welcomed the announcement by the Westminster Government that new trains have been ordered for the Aberdeen – Stonehaven – London service. 

The new trains will be introduced 2018 and will be bimode, meaning that they will use electric power south of Edinburgh and diesel power north of Edinburgh. 

Councillor Bellarby – the Liberal Demcorat councillor for Stonehaven – said: “It is good that we will be getting new trains to replace the aging high speed trains used on services to London. It is rather a pity that they have to be bimode since all-electric trains are cheaper to build, run and operate.

“If the Scottish Government had been more committed to electrification we could have the Edinburgh – Aberdeen line electrified and electric trains introduced. Instead the Scottish Government has scaled back electrification plans in Scotland. Electrification to Stirling and Dunblane has been removed from the present phase and so getting the wires up as far as Aberdeen is receding even further into the future. Improvements to the East Coast line in England will benefit Stonehaven and Aberdeen as punctuality will be improved and there will be the scope for additional trains, hopefully including Aberdeen.”

Councillor Mollison – who represents Netonhill and Portlethen – added: “Electric trains are greener and better for the environment. The Scottish Government needs to reconsider its plans and get the line to Aberdeen electrified sooner rather than later. This would not only benefit long distance services but also making it easier to introduce an improved local service in the Aberdeen area including a decent train service for Portlethen and a reopened station at Newtonhill. The bimode trains that have just been ordered could be used elsewhere in the network once electrification has been carried out.”

Fitting tribute to local resident

More and more residents are moving into Newtonhill’s newest street which has been named after a local resident who died last year. 

The first residents moved into Michael Tunstall Place, in the development at Cairnhill, earlier this year after Aberdeenshire Council agreed to name the street in memory of local resident Dr Michael Tunstall.

Dr Tunstall, a former consultant anaesthetist, revolutionised the world of anaesthetics and widely recognised as his biggest achievement was the 1961 invention of Entonox which is now given to women in childbirth all around the world.

Dr Tunstall’s career spanned decades and many of these years were spent as a consultant at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. His main motivation was pain relief and his family said he was more interested in helping people rather than the commercial values.

After contracting leukaemia 20 years ago, Dr Tunstall suffered ongoing problems with cancer, but he did not let the illness hold him back.

The Newtonhill man had a great love for the outdoors and despite working long hours and putting a lot of dedication into his work, he also put the same effort into his family life and adventurous side. The family shared a passion for sailing and he also enjoyed windsurfing, even when in his seventies.

The family man felt he was never too old and took up skiing at the age of 55 so he could help his daughter learn the sport.

Dr Tunstall devoted his life to help mothers and children and he first arrived in Aberdeen to help in the treatment of a woman expecting quads, at the request of Sir Dugald Baird.

The 82-year-old died of cancer on 21 April in 2011 at his Newtonhill home. He is survived by his wife Anne, his children Chris, Gareth, and Amanda and six grandchildren. Anne is a former Liberal Democrat councillor for the area.

Councillor Ian Mollison said: “When the opportunity came up to name the new street I thought it would be a fitting tribute. Thankfully the community council and two other ward councillors agreed.”

Local bank branches to change hands

Local branches of Lloyds TSB are among the 632 branches to be sold to the Co-operative Group in a deal worth up to £750 million.

The part-nationalised bank, which is offloading the branches to meet European Union rules on state aid following its UK Government bailout, hopes to complete the sale by the end of November next year.

This means the accounts of 4.8 million customers including 3.1 million personal current account customers will transfer to the Co-op.

In the North-east this will affect nine Lloyds TSB branches in Aberdeen, and those in Alford, Banchory, Banff, Brechin, Buckie, Culter, Ellon, Fraserburgh, Insch, Inverurie, Keith, Montrose, Peterhead, Stonehaven, and Turriff. Cheltenham and Gloucester branches, including 148 Union Street, Aberdeen, will also transfer.

Stonehaven councillor Peter Bellarby commented: “This will be unsettling for local customers at first as many people stay with the same bank for years. However the extra competition can only be beneficial in the long-run.

“Although some Stonehaven residents may be concerned at the number of businesses operated by the Co-operative Group in Stonehaven, in the banking sector there will be healthy competition with four different banks having offices in Stonehaven.”

North Kincardine councillor Ian Mollison added: “A strong banking sector relies on diverse banks competing for customers. This deal will help throw open the retail banking market, and will help the industry move back to responsible banking.

“Furthermore the mutual approach to business gives people a proper stake in the places they work, spreading wealth through society.”

A Lloyds spokeswoman said the affected branches will be rebranded to TSB from spring 2013 and will transfer to the Co-operative at completion under that brand.

The TSB business would operate separately for a period ahead of integration with the existing Co-operative Banking Group.

Co-operative Group chief executive Peter Marks said: “It would be a great deal for customers because it would make the services of our member-owned, customer-led, ethically-driven, bank available to millions of people we’ve not been able to serve up until now.”

Following the acquisition, the Co-op will have around 7% of the personal current account market. With almost 1,000 branches the combined entity will have around 10% of all UK bank branches and will be similar in size to Nationwide.

The affected Lloyds TSB branches include: Aberdeen: 435 Great Northern Road, 8 Holburn Street, 499 Great Western Road, 5 Kincorth Shopping Centre, 33 Queens Road, 99 Rosehill Drive, 70 Victoria Road, 226 Union Street, and 19 Union Terrace. Alford: 32 Main Street. Banchory: 82 High Street. Banff: 12 Castle Street. Brechin: 10 Mary Street. Buckie: 5 Cluny Square. Culter: 241 North Deeside Road. Ellon: 36 Bridge Street. Fraserburgh: 70 Broad Street. Insch: 11 High Street. Inverurie: 32 West High Street. Keith: 151 Mid Street. Montrose: 14 Castle Place. Peterhead: 14 Queen Street. Stonehaven: 8 Evan Street. Turriff: 12 Main Street.