Bus Forum to meet in Westhill

The Garioch Bus Forum meets again on Thursday 22nd March at 7.30pm in the Staff Room at Westhill Academy. There will be representatives from Stagecoach and Aberdeenshire Council at the meeting to answer any questions and listen to local concerns. The Minutes from the last forum in August 2017 are attached where you can see the issues discussed/taken forward from that meeting.





Do City officials really back plans which have “no regard to the need for flexibility and realism”?

Behind the headlines last week that Aberdeen City planners were backing the Kingsford stadium proposal, which city councillors will determine tomorrow; if you have had time to read the plus-100 pages of the planners’ reports, you will find many contradictions and repeats of the word “nevertheless” and you may be left wondering why such a “willingness to approve subject to conditions” has been put down in black and white when planners state that “the applicant has not demonstrated the necessity of a single 25ha site”, “the location is not readily accessible by sustainable modes of transport”, and “the applicants have not demonstrated that proper consideration was given to accommodating the development in a different form, and having regard to the need for flexibility and realism”.

The report starts off with summaries of the representations; using the planners’ words. Where I have added my own words, these are in italics. I have highlighted some words in bold for easier reading. These issues, to my mind, have not been adequately addressed in their evaluation.

Roads Management Team, ACC
• Provision for travel to non-football events has not been made clear.
• Correspondence from the bus station’s commercial manager indicates that there is capacity to accommodate 10 additional X17 services per hour, but there is no mention of capacity to accommodate shuttle buses at the bus station
• The use of additional parking provision at Arnhall Business Park is an arrangement that would not normally be permitted. There is uncertainty over long term retention of any such spaces to be secured at Arnhall through similar arrangements, undermining aims to promote sustainable travel.
• There are concerns over the main access, principally in terms of road safety. Access arrangements of any description will likely place a burden on Police Scotland. Since Aberdeenshire Council just last week agreed not to decriminalise parking, a CPZ is unlikely to be top priority with Police Scotland in light of the extra burden on site at the stadium.
• The proposed signalisation of the AWPR/A944 roundabout could remove any potential queue back onto the AWPR mainline, but to the detriment of the local road network.

• Restated earlier position that the development in its current form and location does not accord with the SDP, would result in the loss of 25ha of Green Belt land and the coalescence of urban areas. The development is inappropriately sited, giving rise to unsustainable travel patterns in a manner contrary to the modal shift sought by the SDP. Further, there would be a negative impact on the city centre.
No indication is given on the potential visual impact of the footbridge on this important entrance to Westhill.

Aberdeenshire Council
Restates position that the economic impact on Aberdeenshire is likely to be fairly modest. Notes that there is no specific consideration of the impact on Westhill town centre, and highlights the negative impact due to loss of trade from customers avoiding or being unable to enjoy the existing level of convenience is an area of concern.

AWPR is not designed to facilitate development, but to alleviate congestion around Aberdeen. There would be a huge disruption to the local community on matchdays.

The report then goes on to discuss the Development Plan

D3 Big Buildings –
The most appropriate location for big buildings is within the city centre and its immediate periphery. Big buildings must be of a high quality design which complements or improves the existing site context.

The SDP sets out a series of key objectives for the growth of the City and Aberdeenshire. It is framed around a vision, spatial strategy and a series of aims and objectives; with those relating to economic growth, sustainable mixed communities, quality of environment and accessibility being the most relevant to this application. The SDP sets a strong framework for investment decisions, and its purpose is to focus the right development in the right places and to prevent inappropriate and poorly located development.

In terms of the plan’s spatial strategy, the proposed stadium falls within the outer edge of the Aberdeen City “Strategic Growth Area”. The plan explicitly supports the principle of the development of a “new community stadium, a regionally important facility which will bring economic, social and cultural benefits”. Two possible locations are identified – on and around the current stadium site at Pittodrie/Kings Links and to the south of the city as part of the Loirston development.

National Planning Policy and Guidance
In terms of promoting sustainable transport and active travel, paragraph 287 of SPP states in relation to Development Management functions that “Planning permission should not be granted for significant travel-generating uses at locations which would increase reliance on the car and where:
• Direct links to local facilities via walking and cycling networks are not available or cannot be made available;
• Access to local facilities via public transport networks would involve walking more than 400m; or
• The transport assessment does not identify satisfactory ways of meeting sustainable transport requirements.

I have left the reference numbers on if you want to refer to them in the report.

9.2 The proposed development relates to a site allocated in the Green Belt….. other elements (most notably the stadium itself) would cause a degree of harm in terms of the main aims of the Green Belt Policy. This is because of the dominant size of the stadium would intrude into, and erode, a green buffer which visually separates existing settlements of Kingswells and Westhill and contributes to maintaining their separate identities. Nevertheless, sufficient information has been submitted by the applicant to enable the officers to conclude that there are no other sites within Aberdeen and the area covered by the ALDP that would be suitable….

9.4 The applicant has not definitively demonstrated the necessity of a single 25ha site, but the planners go on to say…. Nevertheless…

9.5 …. The location, within the green belt, is not readily accessible by sustainable modes of transport…. This would be mitigated to some extent by shuttle buses (where there is no guarantee they could be facilitated at Aberdeen Bus station) … together with the provision of off-site parking (again the Arnhall parking has not been guaranteed, and cannot be).

9.38 Co-location of Stadium and Training Facilities
The question of ‘need’ is central to consideration of this application. ‘Need’ is relevant to the overall assessment of the application and its Kingsford location against the LDP. The personal circumstances of the applicants are of limited relevance. The planners go on to say that “the extent to which they are reliant on a co-located development is considered to remain unsubstantiated. Put another way, there is no compelling evidence provided to demonstrate that these same benefits could not be reasonably achieved with a new stadium and training facilities in separate locations”.

The Aberdeen City Council LOIP as mentioned under 9.56 in that it supports the work of AFCCT would stand wherever the trust is based. Both Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Council provide financial support to AFCCT and the trust would continue to operate successfully from their various outreach centres within city and shire, regardless of where they are based.

9.59 It is considered that the potential benefits of the proposed development have been demonstrated. However, there is no evidence to suggest that the benefits identified are unique to the Kingsford location.

9.63 The applicants’ requirements for (i) a single, co-located development comprising stadium and training facility; and (ii) a site of at least 25ha – are not decisive. The Council requires to be persuaded that they are justified in the planning context.

9.64 On that basis, it is therefore considered that in developing their proposals in accordance with the relevant policies, the applicants have not demonstrated that proper consideration was given to accommodating the development in a different form, and having regard to the need for flexibility and realism.

9.65 There appears to have been little consideration given to sites other than those which could accommodate the applicants’ stated requirements for co-located facilities. However, even if there is a need for co-location, the Council still requires on that basis to be satisfied that the sequential approach has been properly addressed. The expectation remains that the applicants will assess alternative sites having adopted a flexible and realistic approach. It appears that the proposal has evolved without proper consideration being given to whether development in an alternative form would, or could, be more appropriate. It is considered that the applicants have not adopted the flexible approach required.

9.66 It is noted also that the alternative sites considered by the applicants in the Environmental Statement and in the later statement on ‘Co-Location, Site Selection and Sequential Test’ refers to ‘advantages and disadvantages’ throughout, with the ES concluding that the alternative sites present no ‘significant advantages’ to the Kingsford site. This is a further indication that the applicants have approached the consideration of alternative sites and application of the sequential approach from a perspective of advantage to the applicants’ interests, rather than an objective assessment. This approach is reinforced by the November 2017 Supporting Statement, which refers (at 2.15-2.18) to capital costs and operational expenditure as guiding AFC’s consideration of sites.

9.68 The preceding text explains why it is considered that the applicant has not carried out the sequential approach with flexibility and realism in accordance with SPP, ALDP policy and case law.

Some further paragraphs contradict some of the previous statements by saying such as (re Loirston) “sale of land within Loirston site is not ruled out, however Hermiston’s letter confirms that full residential value would be sought”.

9.102 It should be noted that the lack of suitable, deliverable and available sites in sequentially preferable locations does not in itself justify the application site at Kingsford.

Transport and Accessibility
The initial TAA incorporated a further supporter survey, carried out by Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce (AGCC). Whilst the sample size and return rate are considered sufficient to provide a representative sample, the Council’s RDM Team has expressed concern regarding the methodology used in conducting this survey. The AGCC survey, in addressing chosen mode of travel, relates entirely to travel to the current Pittodrie site. The survey results seem to back up a view that people will walk further to football matches than might otherwise be assumed, and therefore demonstrate that the city centre and its public transport connections across the region are relatively accessable from Pittodrie. By contrast, the Kingsford site is in a peripheral location on the edge of the city, where it would be heavily reliant on a combination of car borne travel and dedicated match day shuttle services from the city centre.

The requirement of a CPZ will need to be addressed through a “Grampian condition”. This type of condition is used to grant permission which is conditional upon something else happening first (in this case the requirement for implementation of a CPZ) but without specifying who is responsible for its implementation. A further Grampian condition would be required for the footbridge across the A944. A third Grampian condition would be required to upgrade the core paths.

City Councillors have a task ahead of them tomorrow. I would hope that the following statement within the report is foremost in their minds:


To be clear, I acknowledge the body of support for a new stadium at Kingsford. I support the club in its aspirations for a new stadium. When determining planning applications, councillors are acting in a quasi-judicial basis. This means they are more tightly governed by legislation than most of the other decisions they make and should take heed of their own Local Development Plans (LDPs) and planning policies. The LDP allows democratic discussions about land use and all applicants are afforded equal opportunity to make bids for sites at the appropriate time. Equally, residents are afforded the same chance to have their say on any bids. Developers are well aware of the time scales for bids. Both developers and the public must have confidence in the local planning process. Approving this development would undermine this trust.

Full report can be accessed here.



Cluny, Midmar & Monymusk community council dates

Cluny, Midmar & Monymusk Community Council have announced dates for their regular meetings in 2018 which are open to all residents residing in the local area. You can keep up to date with the community council on their website which includes the link to their Facebook page.


11th January 7.15pm Cluny Church Hall
22nd February 7.00pm Midmar Hall
5th April 7.00pm Monymusk Hall
17th May 7.15pm Cluny Church Hall
28th June 7.00pm Midmar Hall
9th August 7.00pm Monymusk Hall
20th September 7.15pm Cluny Church Hall
1st November 7.00pm Midmar Hall
13th December 7.00pm Monymusk Hall


New plan surfaces for Carnie pitch

After campaigning for almost six years for improvements to the Carnie pitch, I was delighted today when colleagues on the Garioch Area Committee agreed the recommendations in the options appraisal put forward by officers.

Local residents will know that this synthetic surface, built by developers and opened to the public in 2008, has seen much better days. The surface has lacked maintenance and been misused due to the open access of the facility, particularly by dog exercising and other inappropriate use.

We have worked with a number of interested parties over the years looking at ways in which a new 3G or similar surface could be made sustainable by using a booking system so that different groups could make best use of the space, and at the same time generate income for maintenance of the facility. Unfortunately at this time, no group has expressed an interest in taking financial or ownership responsibility for the facility.

The option recommended to committee and agreed today was to replace the existing surface with a tarmac surface which would include an acrylic two-colour top cover to enhance playing quality for a number of sports including tennis, basketball, mini-hockey etc. This is a basic but enduring surface and the most suitable for a public access facility. The appropriate infrastructures (e.g. goals) and line markings would be included in the works. The work will be commissioned this month, although of course completion will be weather-dependent with synthetic surfaces typically laid in the April-September period.

This is great news and will mean that the facility can once more be enjoyed by nearby residents and the wider community. I have asked that Landscape Services input to the programme of works by tidying up the area immediately surrounding the pitch too.

I really appreciate the work officers have done in bringing this options paper forward, and the speed in which our new Area Manager has matched funding to appropriate local projects. A perfect example of the right people, in the right place, doing the right thing, at the right time!

Road Safety Week sees approval of reduced speed limit at Kirkton of Skene

I was pleased that Road Safety Week has been marked in my ward by the Garioch Area Committee approving today the implementation of a Traffic Management Order (TMO) which includes the reduction of speed limit to 50mph on the A944 west of Gairloch Smiddy to Mason Lodge, an overall distance of 2030 metres. Within the five year period from January 2012 to December 2016, of the 17 accidents reported to Police Scotland, 65% of these involved inappropriate speeds. The purpose of the 50mph speed limit is to reduce the number and severity of collisions at the crossroads.

The TMO earlier went to public consultation. An objector argued that safety should be improved on the bends of the road and drainage needs to be looked at. The Roads team have been asked to investigate drainage issues and I have today requested an early report back to ward members. Officers today stated that the bends on the route where vehicles have known to have left the road have already been identified for inclusion in next year’s surfacing programme and again, I asked for early implementation.

Drivers will be aware that on both sides of the smiddy junction, there are “slow down” LED warning signs. Unfortunately these are out of order at the moment. My final request was to ensure these are fixed promptly and that they remain in place to complement the new speed limit.

The additional journey time travelling at 50mph rather than 60mph over the proposed change, we are told, would equate to 14 seconds (the time I took to type the first 20 words of this blog!).

Proposed changes to Aberdeenshire bus network – have your say.

Stagecoach have issued the following information and are seeking your views. All feedback received by 17th November will be considered ahead of plans being finalised.

Full details of all routes can be found here.

I have summarised the main changes to Westhill and the surrounding areas as highlighted by Stagecoach:

Within Westhill, the service is proposed to become two way rather than operating a circular route in Westhill with journeys finishing at Broadshade to improve the overall reliability of the service. Other minor timing adjustments to the timings between Kingswells P&R and Union Square.

Service 220 withdrawn from Broadshade due to the extension of service X17, some 220 journeys will extend to Kirkton of Skene.







Evening closure of Straik Road for waterworks

Please note that due to Utility Works to be carried out by Scottish Water/A Plant Lux Traffic Management it will be necessary in the interests of public safety to apply the following restriction to traffic.



From the junction with A944 Broadstraik Roundabout to the junction with Carnie Avenue

For 1 night on 30 October 2017 between 19:00 and 00:00

Diversion via B979 to B9119, B9119 to A944, A944 to Straik Road as shown on the attached plan

Access to Emergency Vehicles will be maintained at all times.

Access for pedestrians will be maintained and vehicular access to affected properties will be maintained whenever possible.






Aberdeenshire schools honoured in national school sport awards

Schools across Aberdeenshire have been recognised in a prestigious national sports award for innovation and achievement in delivering PE and extra-curricular sport.

Three schools were awarded Sportscotland’s highly prized gold status in the School Sport Award; nine achieved silver status and one was honoured with bronze status.

As part of the National Lottery funded programme, the Sportscotland School Sport Award is a national initiative that is designed to encourage schools to continuously improve PE and sport. The award encourages sporting links schools and the communities around them.

The Sportscotland School Sport Award is supported by the Active School’s Network which aims to ensure there are opportunities for all children and young people to engage, participate and reach their potential in this area and is part of Aberdeenshire Council’s Sport and Physical Activity Service.

Cllr Gillian Owen, Chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Education and Children’s Services, said: “I am delighted that so many schools in Aberdeenshire have been acknowledged in this prestigious national award.

“The schools involved impressed those judging the award by presenting a wealth of evidence demonstrating among other aspects increased attainment and that key targets were met.

“Schools also demonstrated an increase in the number of extra-curricular sports clubs and a rise in the number of activities offered. For example, at Meldrum Academy participation rates went up three per cent from 24 per cent to 27 per cent.

“I would like to thank all the teachers, pupils’ parents and Council Officers who played such a key role in this success.”

Cllr Anne Stirling, Chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Communities Committee, said: “There is plenty of anecdotal evidence which suggests that young people who are involved in sport at after school clubs not only become healthier but are less likely to get involved in anti-social behavior.

“This is not only good for the young people but means are communities are nicer places to live, work and visit as a result.

“Schools play a vital role in shaping our children and young people as citizens so it is very positive indeed that so many schools in Aberdeenshire are receiving these noteworthy awards.”

Stewart Harris Chief Executive of Sportscotland, said: “Congratulations to all the staff and pupils at the schools in Aberdeenshire – they should be extremely proud of this fantastic achievement. Not only have they put physical education and sport at the heart of their school and the local community, but they have managed to do so in a way that encourages all pupils to engage in physical activity whilst having fun at the same time.

“Sportscotland is committed to being a world-class sporting system for everyone, and a crucial part of that is putting young people at the heart. Working with our partners in local authorities and governing bodies of sport, we are creating closer links between physical education, school sport and club sport, which benefits young people by providing more and better opportunities to take part in sport.”

With more applications than ever before, there are currently 212 sportscotland Gold School Sport Award schools – 336 schools have been awarded silver and 84 with bronze.

To achieve a Bronze or Silver Sportscotland School Sports Award, schools self-assess their current practice. However, to gain gold status an extensive external assessment is also carried out by an independent panel of experts.

The on-line self-assessment tool supports schools to achieve this by helping them to reflect on their current practice and identify areas for improvement. It also puts young people in the school at the forefront of the decision making and implementation processes around the school.

For more information, please visit https://sportscotland.org.uk/schools/school-sport-award/.



Here is a list of the schools in Aberdeenshire that have received awards:

GOLD The Gordon Schools
SILVER Aboyne Academy
SILVER Barthol Chapel Primary School
SILVER Elrick Primary School
SILVER Lairhillock Primary School
SILVER Markethill School
SILVER Mearns Academy
SILVER Midmar Primary School
SILVER Skene Primary School
SILVER Westhill Academy
BRONZE Crombie School