Lib Dems step up campaign to keep local fire control centres

Scottish Liberal Democrats are throwing their weight behind local fire control rooms ahead of a crucial meeting on the future direction of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

Proposals are being considered which would close five out of Scotland’s eight fire control centres immediately – Aberdeen, Inverness, Dumfries, Fife and Falkirk – and  with the eventual closure of the Edinburgh centre. This would only leave control centres in Dundee and Johnstone.

Liberal Democrats have launched petitions urging the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and the Scottish Government to rethink the plans. 

The proposals will be considered at a meeting of the national fire board in Aberdeen on Thursday 26 September.

Ahead of the meeting, Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson and North East MSP Alison McInnes said: “The closure of six out of eight of Scotland’s fire control centres would strike a real blow to local communities. I have real concerns that staff will be asked to make life and death decisions without having crucial knowledge of the area. We know that this is particularly important in rural communities.

“It could lengthen response times and potentially put residents at risk. It seems completely illogical to close a state-of-the-art control room in Aberdeen only to then invest in upgrading the Dundee facility.”

“Many of the firefighters in rural areas are retained staff. I believe that it takes additional expertise to deploy and manage these resources.”

“This is the true face of the SNP’s centralising tendencies.”

Gordon MP  Sir Malcolm Bruce said: “We need a fire and rescue service that reflects and responds to local needs. I am deeply concerned that the move of the control room from Aberdeen could lengthen response times and potentially put residents at risk.” 

West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP Sir Robert Smith added: “It is really important that the Fire and Rescue Service understands the rural nature of Aberdeenshire and this is best achieved by keeping the service local.”

North Kincardine councillor Ian Mollison commented: “It baffles me that the SNP want to centralise everything within Scotland while at the same time arguing that Scotland should separate from the UK. Where is the logic?”

Meeting hears of plans for new town

Chapelton of Elsick was the main topic discussed on Thursday evening when about 40 people turned up for the North Kincardineshire Community Forum at Portlethen Academy. The public meeting heard that:

• Chapelton of Elsick will be bigger than Stonehaven when completed.
• Houses are expected to be in demand once construction starts. Hillside was the fastest selling housing development in the UK.
• The council’s area manager Willie Munro said the first primary school will open its doors when the 300th house is under construction. The second primary follows after 1200 houses and the third after 2700 houses. At that stage a secondary school will also be provided as the potential roll should by then be around 600. In the meantime secondary pupils will go to Mackie or Portlethen academies. The schools will be designed and built by Aberdeenshire Council but will be paid for in due course by the developer.
• Stagecoach’s commercial manager Bob Hall said he would not expect bus services in Chapelton of Elsick to be provided at the expense of either Portlethen or Newtonhill. There were questions raised about express buses on the A90 stopping at a new interchange beside the Newtonhill flyover. Concerns were also raised about the capacity of the Newtonhill flyover and surrounding roads to accommodate the first stages of development, until a second access could be provided at the Bruntland Road junction at Portlethen.
• The challenge of funding medical services at Chapelton of Elsick continues to concern NHS Grampian. Property planning manager John Gill said NHS Grampian had no funds available to provide facilities there. The developer has stated a retail unit will be available for rent in the first phase and land made available once the town grows. Mr Gill said there was no expectation on money from the developer. He said that at this stage “it was impossible to know where we will get funding.” Approaches to the Scottish Government had not been successful so far. Some £6m to £9m is needed for a new medical centre.
• Dr Ewan Clark from Portlethen Health Centre said they could probably cope with the extra patients from the first 800 houses. A new health centre would be needed after 2400 houses are occupied.
• An agreement between the developer and the council regarding conditions and planning gain (roads, sewage, education and so on) is close to being signed. Once that process is completed, work can begin on the ground.
• A Chapelton liaison committee is being set up which will include the developer, representatives from the community councils, the local ward councillors and others.
• A founding ceremony will take place on Wednesday 2 October at Elsick House to mark the start of the new town development.
• There are moves afoot to start up a Men’s Shed in Portlethen. This is a facility for older men who want to get together, share and learn new skills. It is an Australian idea, and allows a man to socialise while carrying out tasks, such as restoring furniture or fixing lawn mowers. The first in Scotland opened this year in Westhill.

Local bus timetable set to change

Stagecoach is to make a number of significant changes to the bus timetable (including routes) from 14 October.

The company held a number of public consultations for the first time to guage customer feedback. As a result of the 100 or so comments further changes were made.

Councillor Ian Mollison said: “The issue was also discussed at the Kincardine and Mearns Area Bus Forum when passengers and management get together.

“A few people from Newtonhill and Portlethen attended and voiced their concerns. I have had several subsequent inquiries from residents, particulalry about the routing of services along Wellington Road. I am happy to email the latest version that has been provided by Stagecoach.”

Reassurances over lollipop patrollers

A campaign has been needlessly raising fears among local people that lollipop patrollers are under threat. The campaign asks councillors to “save our lollipop ladies and men”.

North Kincardine councillor Ian Mollison said: “I asked council officers about the situation in Aberdeenshire and I have been assured that no reductions have been made to the school patroller service and that there are no plans to do so.

“The campaign appears to be a UK-wide one which takes no account of the local situation.

“In Scotland recently released statistics indicate that on average four children were killed between 2010 and 2012: 72% below the 2004-2008 average (target 50%) while 193 children were seriously injured in 2012: 41% below the 2004-2008 average (target of 65%). The long term trend is down across all of the categories that are used to collate road accident statistics.

“While with any loss of life or injury statistic everyone would like to see zero figures, it is good there is a downward trend.

“There are no plans to reduce the provision within Aberdeenshire, but if anyone in my North Kincardine ward hears otherwise, I would like to know.”

Reassurances over A90 concerns at Newtonhill

Transport Scotland has sought to reassure Newtonhill residents that work at the Newtonhill flyover will not result in the loss of express bus services.

Community councillors were concerned that alterations at the flyover for the new Chapelton of Elsick development would result in nowhere for direct Stonehaven-Aberdeen bus services to stop. The two existing stops on the A90 are to be removed for safety reasons.

Now Transport Scotland officials have told community council secretary Edith Stephen and North East MSP Alison McInnes that the proposals “will not result in the loss of the express bus service.”

A local interchange facility – a park and choose – will be established and will be directly served by existing express services along the A90 and the No 7 service serving Newtonhill.

Strategic road safety manager Stuart Wilson said the change in the location of the bus stops “would not appear to be too onerous, i.e. less than 200 metres.”

Local councillor Ian Mollison – who had also contacted Transport Scotland – commented: “The new location may be better than the current situation which sees a number of people run across the dual carriageway to catch northbound buses, rather than go over the flyover.”

Mr Wilson also said that the interchange will include car parking and a free connecting minibus which will go into Newtonhill village centre. In the other direction the bus will head to Chapelton of Elsick.

The community council had also called for deceleration lanes at Cammachmore, however this was ruled out by Transport Scotland as their records “do not indicate any reported personal injury accidents in the last three years involving left-turning vehicles.”

Mr Wilson revealed that bollards will be installed on the A90 verge opposite Tesco to prevent vehicles mounting the kerb at the southbound bus stop.

He also added that work is being progressed for a temporary footpath at the Bridge of Muchalls bend where the winter storms caused the embankment to slip. A permanent repair is at the design stage.

Mrs McInnes commented: “Transport Scotland is undertaking a heavy schedule of work on the A90 this summer, which is most welcome as it is a vital artery for the North East.”

Work starts on repairing storm-damaged paths

Work started this week on repairing storm-damaged paths in Muchalls and Newtonhill.  

Contractors were working at Muchalls on the path from the railway bridge near the former station to the Grim Haven Shore. The path had been gouged out and in places almost washed away by the torrents of rainwater during the winter.

 The path is being regraded and material brought in to re-instate surface for about 120 yards.

This work is due to last about a week. Contractors will then move to Newtonhill to repair the path to the beach from the car park at Skateraw Road. This is anticipated to take three weeks.

Stone steps will replace the timber steps, the path will be resurfaced and workers will be carrying out drainage works to keep water off the path which should ensure longer term stability. 

The footbridge over the Elsick Burn at the beach will also receive attention, with eroded material around the abutment and missing handrails being replaced, and the rock armour upstream of the bridge stabilised.  

Technically the paths will be closed while works are underway although the contractor will make allowances if people still attempt to use them.

North Kincardine councillor Ian Mollison said: “Local people will welcome this work as the paths are very popular walking routes. There is more still to be done in the area but this will depend on funding coming through.” 

The work is being carried out for Aberdeenshire Council as the routes are part of the council’s core paths network.

Local groups urged to apply for funding opportunities

Community groups in the Kincardine and Mearns area are being urged to take advantage of two grant schemes funded by Aberdeenshire Council. 

The Area Committee Budget and Regeneration Priority Area Small Village Grant Scheme both have funds available for the financial year 2013/14. 

With no possibility of carrying forward the funding to the next financial year, community groups are being urged to take advantage of the schemes. 

Both of the funds are aimed at supporting local groups and organisations to realise local projects.

A maximum of £4,000 is available from the area committee budget, while up to £2,500 can be applied for from the regeneration fund. Both funds can be used for the same project, ideally as part of a wider funding package with a maximum contribution normally being 50%. 

Funding from the regeneration fund is only available to communities and groups based on Kincardineshire’s coastal strip south of Stonehaven.

The funds can be used to support a whole range of initiatives, including:

· Transport initiatives

· Information and communication

· Environmental projects

· Civic pride and village presentation

· Cultural and historical projects

· Tourism development

· Event development

· Improving community facilities

· Improving community assets and facilities

· Village enhancement 

Chair of Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee, Councillor Carl Nelson, said: “These funding schemes can provide vital assistance to local groups who are working on a project which will benefit their local area. 

“They are available on such a wide range of projects, I would urge any groups in the Kincardine and Mearns area looking for financial support to get in touch and find out more.”

North Kincardine Councillor Ian Mollison said: “The area fund supports a wide range of projects each year. It is important that the funds benefit as many groups as possible before the end of the financial year. 

“I would like to see more groups in North Kincardine – such as in Newtonhill Portlethe, and the rural area – apply.” 

Details of funding criteria are available from the area office at Viewmount on Arduthie Road in Stonehaven. Alternatively, for more information, email:

karen.mcwilliam@aberdeenshire.gov.uk

or phone 01569 768202.

Council takes action on dog mess

Aberdeenshire Council is putting in place an action plan to tackle dog fouling. This includes empowering more staff to issue fines and making dog waste bags available free of charge. 

The plan was approved by the council’s infrastructure services committee last Thursday (20 June). 

North Kincardine councillor Ian Mollison is a member of the committee. He said: “It is a combination of carrot and stick. As well as being unsightly and a nuisance when it gets on your shoes, dog mess carries a health risk.

“At present the three dog wardens and four community wardens can issue fixed penalty notices. This will rise shortly to more than 40 council staff. The penalty is £40, which rises to £60 if not paid within 28 days.

“On a more positive note, the council hopes to develop partnerships with local communities. The Clean Dog Walking Campaign has bee successful in some areas.

“Dog waste bags are provided free of charge by the council, available from environmental health officers, and it is hoped to expand this service to more council offices.

“Additional dog waste bins are being provided in appropriate locations. Dog waste bags can also be deposited in any dual purpose council litter bin. 

“Areas which are particularly prone to fouling will be prioritised.

 “In Newtonhill villagers have launched their own campaign, with poo bags freely available from dispensers around the community. This has led to a reduction in dog mess being left on the streets. I urged officials to consider replicating this initiative by having dispensers near to waste bins so that dog owners cannot give the excuse of being caught short.”

New Hillside primary gets the go-ahead

Proposals for a third primary school in Portlethen were approved today. Now steps will be taken to source funding for a £12.9 million primary school at Hillside, which could be completed by June 2016.

North Kincardine Liberal Democrat councillor Ian Mollison welcomed the decision. “This is great news. The case for a third primary school makes sense. With the new curriculum and the changing needs of today’s youngsters it became plain that the existing schools would not be able to cope.

“Everyone – council staff, councillors, and the community – pulled together for the benefit of our young people.”

The future of educational provision in Portlethen was considered by Aberdeenshire Council’s key policy & resources committee today (Thursday, June 13).

The councillors heard how on Tuesday Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee had unimously backed the proposals.

A report from council officers recommended proceeding with a primary school at Hillside.

A recent school estate review predicts that the school roll at Fishermoss Primary will fall to 214 (currently 261) in 2018, while the school roll at Portlethen Primary will rise to 646 (currently 309) in the same period.

Also taken in account was the issue of extensive housing development at Hillside, which lies to the west of the A90. 

The new 355-pupil capacity school will have the core facilities to accommodate 540 pupils in the future. It is estimated to cost £12.9million and has a target completion date of June 2016. 

With £1.8million of the project cost identifiable from planning gain, councillors also instructed the Capital Plan Group to identify the remaining £11.1million funding in the Capital Plan and report back to the committee.

There has already been wide consultation with the community on the proposals. The community of Portlethen favour a three-school solution.

In the meantime two temporary classrooms will be brought back into use at Portlethen and a further two temporary classrooms provided.