New applications

The applications on the list below were registered last week within the North Kincardine ward of Aberdeenshire Council and can be viewed using the online Planning Register: https://upa.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/online-applications/.

APP/2020/1722

Site address: Mill O Cragiecat, Netherley, AB39 3QL.
Applicant: GR and AJ Murison c/o Andrew A Ritchie, Chartered Architect, Whitehill, Stonehaven, AB39 3TH.
Full planning permission for siting of a modular building (retrospective).
Public comment expiry date 5 November.

APP/2020/1872
Site address: Newtonhill Car Sales, Newtonhill AB39 3NN.
Applicant: Mr Barry Mitchell.
Advertisement consent for the erection of advertisement signs.
Public comment expiry date 27 October.

[I normally don’t comment on planning applications at this stage as this is a quasi judicial process, however in this case I’ll simply say residents may find the address given above as perhaps not as specific as it could be.]

APP/2020/1946
Site address: Birchwood, Kirkton of Maryculter, AB12 5GW.
Applicant: Goldcrest Highland Limited c/o Andrew Thompson, Mackie Ramsay Taylor, 47 Victoria Street, Aberdeen, AB10 1QA.
Full planning permission for the erection of a dwellinghouse (change of layout to Plot 3 of planning permission reference APP/2018/0084).
Public comment expiry date 5 November.

Vaccinations are on their way

I have had a few enquiries about the flu vaccinations. This is being organised differently by NHS Grampian this year.

Colleagues from around Aberdeenshire have confirmed that letters have been received in their wards … but I haven’t heard of anyone getting a letter in North Kincardine yet.

I’m told that a batch were posted today and should arrive by the middle of next week.

Meanwhile, here is a link to the NHS Grampian flu vaccination website. The website has information on how the immunisations are being rolled out this year along with all the details as to who is eligible for a free vaccination.

The roll-out will happen over the next two months and not everyone who is eligible will get their letter immediately.

There is also information on how both social and health care staff can access a free vaccine.

https://www.fluvaxgrampian.com/

UPDATE, 10 October: The postie has just delivered my invitation to attend Portlethen Academy for a jab. No doubt others will be receiving theirs too.

Next year’s exams plans

A ministerial statement to the Scottish Parliament set out next year’s examination and qualifications arrangements.

In Aberdeenshire, secondary head teachers have welcomed the fact an announcement has been made, however they await further detail coming out after the October break which should support staff in how they best support candidates prepare for certification next year.

National 3/4/5

No change as these are already internally assessed and awarded on a pass or fail basis and there are no external exams.

National 5

There will be no National 5 exams next year. An alternative certification model will be developed based on teacher judgement and this will be supported by resources which are currently being developed and quality assurance measures will be in place to ensure consistency across the country.

Guidance on evidence gathering and estimation was published by the Scottish Qualifications Authority on Wednesday and further guidance will be issued on exactly what will be required of schools, staff and of course candidates after October. The focus will be on the quality of evidence rather than on the quantity and teacher professional judgement will remain of key importance.

Higher and Advanced Higher

The current planning assumes that exams will go ahead but the exam diet will start two weeks later than usual, on 13 May 2021, thus giving an additional two weeks of teaching time than has been the case in previous years. A contingency plan is also being developed should exams not be able to proceed again next year as a result of the pandemic.

More home improvements

A number of Aberdeenshire Council-owned houses in Portlethen and Newtonhill are to have solar photovoltaic roof panels installed.

This is part of a plan for home improvements being rolled out across Aberdeenshire.

Letters will be sent out shortly to tenants who will be affected. They will contain details of the works but also on the impact of Covid-19 and contractor and tenant responsibilities because of the pandemic.

Nursery hours to increase

Aberdeenshire Council is increasing the number of funded Early Learning and Childcare hours.

The council’s Education and Children’s Services Committee heard today that from next month all funded provider settings working partnership with the council will be able to offer up to 540 hours more than the Scottish Government’s current statutory entitlement of 600 hours.

This will see the figure increase to 1140 hours, the total that the Scottish Government requested all local authorities to meet in the first instance.

Council-run settings will move to increase to 1140 hours in proposed phases:
• 20% offering 1140 hours in full, by December.
• Between November and February, 30% will offer 1140 hours in full with the remaining 70% offering 900 hours.
• From February to April, 50% of settings will offer 1140 hours in full with the other half offering 900 hours.
• From April to August the majority of settings will offer 1140 hours but there may be exceptional cases meaning some may need time to adjust up to August.

Parents and carers can split their 1140 funded hours between a council-run nursery or a private provider setting.

Nurseries will be writing to parents and car shortly to explain the arrangements in full. Any questions can be emailed to elcadmissions@aberdeenshire.gov.uk

New scams warnings

Aberdeenshire Council Trading Standards Service has issued its latest update on scams taking place locally and further afield.

Doorstep Crime & Scams

▪ Doorstep callers offering to purchase scrap metal have been reported operating in the Insch area.

Historic reports suggest doorstep callers operated in the same area a few years ago collecting scrap metal but failing to return with payment. It is believed these are the same individuals.

Residents should be cautious if engaging with doorstep callers and report any concerns to Trading Standards or Police Scotland. When reporting doorstep crime or concerns about doorstep callers, try to remember key details about the trader such as business names, addresses, names, age, accents, descriptions, vehicle type, registrations and signage. Keep all original paperwork, leaflets and brochures.

▪ A resident has reported receiving a call from a claims company who repeatedly asked for bank details.

▪ Amazon Prime scams remain prevalent with one resident receiving several unsolicited calls a day attempting to obtain banking and personal information. If you or someone you know is bothered by unsolicited calls then a call blocking device or service may be beneficial.

There are various call blocking devices available on the market to purchase and some landline providers also offer their own service. Aberdeenshire Trading Standards have a number of call blocking devices that can be provided free of charge to residents who would benefit from their installation. Enquiries can be made to Trading Standards using the details below.

▪ Scammers purporting to be from utility providers continue to target residents. One resident was cold-called by an individual claiming to be from Scottish Power demanding payment for an overdue bill or the debt would be referred to a debt collection agency.

Emails have also been received claiming to be from British Gas and advising customers that they owe a small amount of money on their bill.

The email includes a link to access the customer’s account and if clicked on the recipient is redirected to a spoof webpage where log in and payment details are required. Once inputted these are harvested by the scammer and used to access the customer’s bank account. Always check your own records to establish whether a payment/ amount is overdue and if in doubt contact the utility provider using the contact details on a genuine bill or their website.

Some utility providers have a designated number or email address for reporting suspicious or scam calls/ emails and customers are encouraged to use these.

▪ There have been reports of consumers in England and Wales receiving emails purporting to be from HM Courts and Tribunals Service that request payment for alleged parking misdemeanours.

The emails do not provide a specific date, time or location of the offence and threaten greater penalties if not paid.

Residents should be aware that it is the Scottish Courts that operate in Scotland and not HM Courts and Tribunals Service and if you have not visited England or Wales then the correspondence should be treated with suspicion. A genuine pursual of payment by the courts will not be done via email, regardless of country.

There are several signs that can indicate a scam email – an unusual or foreign senders address, impersonal greeting, poor spelling and grammar, incorrect or limited contact information, poor quality branding, attempts to look ‘official’, fake links, demand for payment and asking for bank/personal details.

The emails are also designed to instill panic, prompting the recipient to take action or respond immediately before they have had time to think about it or contact their provider using genuine contact details. Suspicious or scam emails can be reported to report@phishing.gov.uk

▪ A scam involving the purchase of premium level tyres has been identified targeting businesses in Aberdeenshire. An order is placed by phone, often just before the weekend and paid for by credit card with an agreement in place for collection during the weekend.

The credit cards used for these transactions have been stolen and collection arrangements over the weekend are designed to hamper checks on their validity. If concerned about the legitimacy of an order checks can be made to ensure the payment has been processed prior to releasing the goods.

Contact

For urgent Trading Standards matters, contact Aberdeenshire Council’s Trading Standards at 01467 537222. For non-urgent enquiries, please contact Consumer Advice Scotland at https://www.consumeradvice.scot/ or on 0808 164 600.

Contact Police Scotland on 999 if you need urgent assistance or 101 for nonurgent matters.

For more information about scams please visit Friends Against Scams at https://www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk/

New restrictions

Aberdeenshire Council officers are in touch with the licensed trade about the changes announced by the First Minister yesterday.

Effectively the sale of alcohol will be only permitted outdoors as further restrictions are being imposed on hospitality businesses from 18:00 hours on Friday 9 October until Sunday 25 October.

Here is a brief overview:

  • All hospitality premises (pubs, bars, cafes, restaurants, members clubs) can operate indoors from 06:00 until 18:00 for food and non-alcoholic drinks.
  • All hospitality premises can operate outdoors until 22:00 for food, non-alcoholic drinks and alcoholic drinks.
  • Hotel restaurants will be able to operate beyond 18:00 hours for residents only and without alcohol. The consumption of food and non alcoholic drinks in public areas must cease by 22:00 hours as per the current measures.
  • Any funerals or weddings which have been booked to take place during this period are permitted to go ahead under current measures.

All of the above must comply with current physical distancing measures including up to six people from maximum two different households meeting at any one time. Physical distancing between households must remain in place at all times.

The full speech can be found here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-update-first-ministers-speech-7-october-2020/

Go-ahead for B979 junction

This will be of interest to those who use the Netherley Road (the B979).

A Scottish Government reporter today overturned a planning decision by Aberdeenshire Council. He has approved a change in the road layout at East Lodge at Ury just north of Stonehaven.

Back in March local councillors on a 5-3 vote refused the proposals put forward by Kirkwood Homes. I was one of the three.

At the time I said the design of the new junction would be feasible and deliverable. It would remove the need for residents to take a long detour from the Ury estate to access the Netherley Road and the Aberdeen bypass.

A padlocked gate will eventually close access to the existing road from the new diverted route.

It makes a change for a reporter to agree with me.

The applicant applied to be awarded expenses but this was refused by the reporter.

All the details can be found here, but for simplicity I have reproduced a copy of the plan for the junction below: https://www.dpea.scotland.gov.uk/CaseDetails.aspx?id=121055&T=20.

Council and the impact of Covid-19

Aberdeenshire Council was meeting today to agree a new council plan for the next two years.

Covid-19 has had an unprecedented impact on the local authority’s budgets which will be felt for years. Up to September 2020 the council has £13.1 million less than it should have at that point in the year, through lost income, unexpected costs and savings that can’t be delivered. This could result in a gap of up to £30 million for this year.

Councillors also had a significant report outlining the areas most vulnerable to Covid-19 and at risk as a result. Its purpose is to help the authority make decisions to help those in greatest need of assistance due to the pandemic.

The community impact assessment analysed how communities all throughout Aberdeenshire have been and continue to be affected by the virus.

It shows that the Portlethen and Newtonhill area is one of the least vulnerable areas, with parts of Fraserburgh and Peterhead the most vulnerable.

The assessment was previewed by the Press and Journal: https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/aberdeenshire/2544238/council-maps-out-areas-most-at-risk-of-pandemic-pain-to-help-inform-future-decision-making/

The reports before councillors can be found at: https://committees.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/committees.aspx?commid=1&meetid=19805