Applications now open for volunteer snow wardens!

“Many people will remember a time when getting involved in local snow clearing wasn’t that rare an occurrence and people now have even higher expectations about their ability to travel in bad weather.”

Applications are now being taken for Aberdeenshire’s volunteer snow warden scheme, aimed at supporting and assisting communities and individuals to increase their resilience to winter weather.

Although recent years have been variable in terms of snowfall, last year was particularly notable for the ice which formed where snow couldn’t be cleared quickly enough from surfaces.

Many communities, such as those within the Cairngorms National Park, are well prepared for winter, getting regular snow, but others can be caught by surprise.

Establishing a volunteer snow warden scheme in a community with direct support from the council is one way to increase resilience to winter events, expected or not.

Aberdeenshire Council’s Head of Roads, Philip McKay, said: “It seems fairly obvious to point out the sheer physical size of our area, perhaps not so much the substantial areas of road and pavement surfaces which stretch to about 3370 miles in length, 10.3% of the non-trunk road network in Scotland.

“Despite their experience and dedication our teams cannot keep all surfaces clear at all times when snow is falling with the resources available.

“One way to increase the resource available is to equip and train volunteers in local areas who can see the value and sense in being part of keeping their community moving.

“Many people will remember a time when getting involved in local snow clearing wasn’t that rare an occurrence and people now have even higher expectations about their ability to travel in bad weather.”

You can find out more about the scheme here.

Community Travel Grant available

A message from SNH – check out travel grants available – could this benefit your group or someone you know?

“Outdoor activity is recognised as good for our mental and physical wellbeing. While many can easily get out and enjoy Scotland’s wonderful nature, it’s more difficult for others. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) wants to help everyone have the chance to enjoy what many people take for granted.

“Through the Buchan Countryside Group, SNH is offering 50% travel grants to community and similar groups. Times are economically tough, so we are targeting support for people who aren’t as independent – perhaps the elderly, those with disabilities or long-term illnesses. Many people just need some practical help to get their first ‘taster’ of the outdoors and then go on to explore the outdoors near where they live, with the confidence they get from their first adventure.

“The grant is open to groups operating in Moray, Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen and the Cairngorm National Park. There are lots of places you can visit: nature reserves, wildlife centres, country parks and beyond these, a network of footpaths link up our green spaces. Whether you live in the town or the city, just such a space will be nearby and there will usually be some local expert who can introduce you to the wonders of nature.

“For more info and application details, see the Buchan Countryside Group website at

“Scottish Natural Heritage is the government’s adviser on all aspects of nature and landscape across Scotland. For more information on all SNH’s work, visit our website at

Take action now to stop gull nuisance


Already some signs of spring are in the air – daffodils are starting to show and the sun is making a more regular appearance. But as anyone who has lived in Aberdeenshire’s coastal areas for any length of time will tell you, it’s also the beginning of seagull season. Love them or hate them, their breeding season is about to begin, and nowadays that’s often in our towns and villages rather than coastal cliffs.

One of the most effective ways to have an effect, lessen attacks on humans and pets and lower noise levels on summer nights, is to target the birds at source – by preventing them nesting and laying their eggs.

Now is the time to start thinking about carrying out preventative works to properties, particularly where there has been a problem with seagulls nesting in the past.

A range of measures are available and the council has a preferred contractor, Pro Check, which members of the public can contact for help and advice on the most cost-effective solutions.

These can include roof-mounted spikes or nets to deter landing and nesting, or even the use of a gel which makes birds think a surface is on fire.

The council has no legal powers to force owners to carry out preventative works, nor to undertake treatment during nesting.

It is reliant on the cooperation of owners and occupiers to firstly recognise the issue, then to take appropriate steps as early as possible.

The council takes action at many of its own properties, including schools and public buildings, where there is a need for it. It has also employed falconers at some premises and in the town centres of Stonehaven, Peterhead and Fraserburgh to fly hawks, which puts birds off settling in an area due to the presence of a predator. It is intended to continue flying hawks this year, but there is a limited budget for this.

The council does not advocate the killing of gulls and their young, and so the focus at the moment is on deterrents, preventative measures and on nest and egg removal. All of this should have a long-lasting effect on the local gull population, but only if communities work together – this is not solely the council’s responsibility and we all need to share a common goal of reducing the nuisance caused.

Action needs to be planned early – once the chicks have hatched it’s too late to do much to reduce the gull numbers. The council has limited financial resources available to tackle this issue, but will provide support and advice wherever possible.

We regularly receive complaints about gulls in our towns and villages, whether that relates to the noise they make, attacks on humans and pets or simply mess from their droppings, but people can start to claim their streets back from the birds. At a basic level this can mean being mindful of how litter and food waste is disposed of.

Nesting by gulls in communities normally takes place between April and June, but can happen much earlier in milder weather.

Further information on dealing with nuisance gulls, including the legal position and contact details and prices for Pro Check, is available on the council’s website, at:

Restoration work to begin at Arnhall Moss ponds

Ponds at a local beauty spot in Westhill are about to be restored for the benefit of wildlife and visitors.

Three ponds running between Arnhall Moss and Denman Park will be enhanced by Arnhall Moss Advisory Group and Aberdeenshire Council.

They are working in partnership with Froglife, the UK reptile and amphibian conservation charity.

The work begins on February 22 and will be jointly funded by Froglife’s Scottish Dragon Finder project (funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund) and Aberdeenshire Council.

“We are absolutely delighted to be working on this project with Froglife,” said councillor John Latham (Huntly, Strathbogie and Howe of Alford), the council’s Pond Champion.

“The plan is to open up and restore the ponds and add a dipping platform and some interpretation boards.

“Pond restoration work can be a messy business but the end result will be a spectacular transformation, with large areas of open water and hopefully lots of frogs in years to come.”

Westhill and District councillor Iris Walker, a member of the Arnhall Moss Advisory Group, said the group is looking forward to the work going ahead.

“The first phase will involve felling selected trees from around the ponds – this will open the area up and we will concentrate on taking out dead trees and species which are not really suited to growing by the ponds,” she said. “You will see the trees marked up for felling within the next few weeks. Very little management work has been done on the ponds over the years and we have a great opportunity to tidy the area up and enhance it for wildlife all at the same time”.

Garioch Area Ranger Alison Sutherland regularly uses the area for pond dipping with local primary schools and biology students from Westhill Academy.

She said: “The current dipping results do not generally show many invertebrates and no amphibians. We very much hope this situation will improve.”

Alison also hopes local people will help keep the ponds clean and litter free in future, as a big part of this project will be the removal of broken bottles, tyres, shopping trollies and other rubbish.

To find out more about the pond restoration project or about joining the Arnhall Moss Advisory Group, email Emma Williams at:



Drop-in sessions in Garioch for flood affected

In Garioch we are organising drop in sessions for residents affected by the flooding.  The sessions will be run by Scottish Flood Forum who work together with key agencies and the voluntary sector to provide advice, support and guidance on all aspects of flood recovery.

The drop- in sessions will take place on Thursday 14 January:-

12pm – 5pm in Port Elphinstone Community House, 1 Pinewood House, Elphinstone Road, Port Elphinstone, AB51 3UX

6pm – 9pm in Friendship Room, Village Hall, 8 Aquithie Rd, Kemnay, AB51 5SS

Anyone affected by flooding within Garioch is invited to come along between these times.

We would be grateful if you could share this as widely as possible to get the information out to affected residents.

It is anticipated that these will be the first of weekly sessions.  Further information regarding any future sessions will be sent in due course.

How to apply for flood funding in Aberdeenshire


Aberdeenshire Council are currently working with the Scottish Government to put in place a mechanism whereby the recently announced government flood relief fund can be distributed to those affected communities. Anyone interested in applying to this fund should email in the first instance. Please include your full name and/or business name, postal address and daytime contact number, residents/businesses will then be contacted once the fund is up and running.




Update on the proposed pylon route from Beauly-Blackhillock-Kintore


Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) have just provided the following update:

“The aim of recent consultation (27 October – 8 January) was to provide communities and landowners with an initial corridor for discussion and comment. All comments and feedback received during the consultation will be reviewed and used by the project team to design a preferred route for the overhead line. I have taken your comments to the project manager for his awareness and review during the design stages. The project team will aim to develop the project to achieve a balance between economic, environmental and technical factors whilst considering viewpoints and feelings of communities and affected landowners.

It will be the project teams intention to revisit communities to display a preferred route for the overhead line later in 2016. There will be opportunity for members of public to provide comments and feedback on proposals at that time. You will also have opportunity to comment formally on any planning application that may be submitted in the future.”

Details of the initial corridor examined during the consultation,  and other project documents can be viewed on the project webpage –


Fly-tipping adds to the eyesore of Carnie pitch

Carnie flytipping (640x485)


Work to tidy up the area around Carnie and bring the All Weather Pitch (AWP) up to a better standard is ongoing.  I met with Leisure Officers last week to discuss a plan of action. The lights should be back in operation over the next few weeks. We are hoping to get all interested community groups together in January to gauge demand and gather ideas on how to best use the site. In the meantime, I have spoken with the building company who have fenced off a quantity of building material in the car park while they do remedial work on the estate and they assure me that this will be removed over the coming week or so. Quite separately, there has now been some fly-tipping in the car park. This has been reported to Aberdeenshire Council Waste service. If you have any information on who left it there, please get in touch. I have also asked that the glass recycling area be tidied up and the unauthorised advertising sign be taken down.

This is an unsupervised area and it is a shame that it has been left in a mess. Bottles are still being dumped at the side of the pitch despite bins being provided. Dogs are still being exercised on the pitch. We need to get it tidied up and bring the pitch and the surrounding area up to a good standard so that it becomes a well-used community facility.

If you want to be involved in the project please get in touch so that you can be kept on the mailing list for any forthcoming meetings.

Are lessons from the Continent still relevant today?

paul lewis...litter louts

Drop LitterDrop Litter 3






On researching a historical record on a local issue online, I stumbled across this account of a meeting on Housing and Public Health held in Aberdeen and reported in the Press & Journal on May 18th, 1935. I have many, many conversations with residents about litter and hope this piece will be of interest!

“The lessons Scotland had to learn from Continental practice in house-building were given by Mr John Wilson, principal architect of the Department of Health for Scotland.

It might be claimed, he said, that on the whole they had little to learn in internal planning and in the provision of sanitary facilities they were ahead of the Continent as a whole.

Speaking of the upkeep of property, Mr Wilson said one could not but be impressed with the high standard of cleanliness of the tenants and their children.

We are not a tidy nation, and one wonders how the beautiful courtyards of the Viennese schemes or the Siedlung Britz of Berlin would be kept if transplanted to Scotland. How is it that in the surroundings of our houses and in the countryside we are so often indifferent to litter lying about?

There was much better discipline among the children abroad than at home, and it was obvious in all large schemes in Scotland a uniformed caretaker was necessary if outside amenity was to be observed.

The Continental people seemed to have a strong sense of house pride which was well worth emulating, though it is only fair to state that in many of Scotland’s slum clearance schemes many of the tenants had reacted well to the new conditions.

Declaring that the squares in Berlin were kept much cleaner than they were in this country, Mr J Norval said that if one threw away a cigarette box or match box in Berlin there was a hand on one’s shoulder and a note demanding two marks. So there you are, he said, amid laughter.”

Residents stranded by flooding

SMG path flood

I have again urged Stewart Milne Group to look in to the flooding on the path leading from Westhill to Kirkton of Skene. Today the path is again flooded and the verge is a mud bath forcing residents to either turn back or walk on the road. Contractors are working on the site above the path. I have also asked Aberdeenshire Council’s Roads service to ensure that the developer’s obligation of keeping Hill of Keir road clear of mud and in good condition is adhered to. We appreciate that with any building work there will be disruption, but this situation is totally unacceptable.

Update on 13/11/15. Council officers continue to investigate the cause of the flooding on the path and to pursue possible remedies. I will update when more information is available.