National Planning Review unlikely to improve local situation, councillors tell Government

Scottish Government proposals to overhaul the planning system in Scotland are unlikely to have any positive effect in meeting the demands and aspirations of communities and the development industry, say councillors.

Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee (ISC) has written to the country’s Chief Planner in response to a range of changes being proposed at a national level.

Councillors and planning officials believe the current approach to strategic and local planning in the area works well and the proposed changes take decision making further from local communities.

There is particular concern over a lack of detail around proposals to replace the role of the Strategic Development Plan (SDP), which currently provides a long term strategy for future growth.

It also guides the production of Aberdeenshire’s Local Development Plan, which provides a blueprint for the development of the area, ensuring a consistent approach to planning applications.

The Government’s current intention is to replace Strategic Development Plans with Regional Partnerships and officers and councillors are concerned about the lack of detail so far.

Its Places, People and Planning consultation asked Scottish councils for their opinions on plans to bring forward a Planning Bill in the near future, which is part of a wider programme of work aimed at strengthening “planning’s contribution to inclusive growth and empowering our communities”.

Now ISC chairman, Peter Argyle, has written to the Scottish Government on behalf of the committee to set out the council’s thoughts on a Position Statement which outlines the changes the Government is considering.

The Position Statement was published following an independent review of the planning system, published in May 2016, and a subsequent consultation on 20 proposals for improvement.

Aberdeenshire Council has already responded to the initial consultation, and has now given its opinion on proposals for changes which have emerged as a result.

There is particular concern around timing as the north-east needs, at the very least, a transitional arrangement to ensure up-to-date development plans are in place throughout any period of change.

Cllr Argyle said: “This council’s most immediate concern is the lack of detail around measures to replace the role of the Strategic Development Plan and the means of engaging over regional spatial strategy and, in particular, housing requirement.

“The Council welcomes change where benefits can be evidenced but, in the context of the north-east of Scotland the current arrangements have worked very well and there is not as yet sufficient evidence or detail around a replacement system to demonstrate that it will improve on the current system.

“One size does not fit all and there is a lack of evidence that the proposals will improve the process or performance of the system in delivering infrastructure and further housing.”

ISC vice chair, John Cox, added: “The current barriers to development, particularly housing, are the physical cost of development and the demand within the local markets, not the planning system or its processes.

“The changes being proposed would also remove political control from the local area, taking it to the centre, and would also potentially give developers the opportunity to renege on agreements made for contributions to improve infrastructure impacted upon by their developments, known as Developer Obligations.

“The committee wanted to reinforce the resource implications of the proposals for all councils and the need to improve trust in planning processes, which the current proposals do not assist.

“There is nothing that gives me confidence the process will be easier, quicker or more efficient, basically failing most of the objectives. Plain and simple, this would be a further erosion of the local democratic process and accountability, driven by lack of funding.”

Councillors have also expressed their concern about the fast pace of the consultation and the emerging legislation, fearing it may lead to errors.

The Government’s Position Statement states no final decisions have been made on the content of any future legislation at this stage.

Sunnybank to Lyne of Linton road closure


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


ON C142c

From Sunnybank to Lyne of Linton

For 4 days from 18 September 2017

Diversion via, C146c to A944 Dockenwell, A944 to C141c 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.

Site notices will be erected in due course indicating the temporary restriction to traffic and the alternative routes where applicable.

Please look out for each other on the roads.


Road users urged to have Safer September following motorcyclists’ deaths.

Following the deaths of three motorcyclists on Moray and Aberdeenshire roads in two months, road users are being told to have a ’Safer September‘.

Two riders and one pillion passenger have died in the area since July, prompting the two councils to encourage motorists to be vigilant. Aberdeenshire and Moray have numerous routes which provide great opportunities to see the north-east at its best, however, thinking about road safety throughout your journey can make it a much safer experience.

Councillor Peter Argyle, Chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee and the council’s Deputy Leader, said: “North-east roads can be very busy during the summer months and with autumn now approaching, September is often seen by motorcyclists as one of the final months where good riding conditions are available.    

“When someone is killed in a road traffic incident, they are not just another number – they are someone’s family member, best friend or partner and a huge hole will always be left behind by their loss.

“Under the helmet and leathers, or inside any vehicle, is a person with a life, people who love and depend on them. Everyone needs to remember this when considering taking risks on public roads.”

Leader of Moray Council, Cllr George Alexander, said the recent death toll is distressing for all.

“Motorcycling is clearly growing as a leisure pursuit, which on our rural roads is perfectly understandable,” he said.

“But, as I’m frequently told by motorcyclists, it’s a pursuit that requires complete concentration at all times, so I would ask all riders to take that extra bit of care, concentrate and watch the speed.

“Everyone using the roads, irrespective of the mode of transport they are using, has to be mindful about their own and other road users’ safety.  A momentary loss of concentration, being distracted or a poor decision can result in a catastrophic outcome.”

Police Scotland Road Policing Inspector Jon Barron said: “I am acutely aware of the desperately tragic toll following road traffic collisions and that too many families have suffered and are continuing to suffer across our area.

“Road users can help by concentrating fully, by paying attention to what is going on around them and by making sure that their vehicle is safe and they are fit to drive or ride. 

“Please look out for each other, particularly more vulnerable road users including motorcyclists, pedal cyclists and pedestrians and play your part in keeping north east roads safe.”

The ‘Safer September’ message is simple; enjoy travelling in the north-east, but remain focussed on your driving, riding and the road around you.


South Fornet to junction with B9126 set to close for 5 days

Please note that due to CARRIAGEWAY REPAIRS to be carried out by Aberdeenshire Council it will be necessary in the interests of public safety to apply the following restriction to traffic.


ON THE U102c


Commencing    21 August 2017 for 5 days.

Site notices will be erected in due course indicating the temporary restriction to traffic and the alternative routes where applicable.

The alternative route is B977 to U101c, U101c to C99c Blackchambers OR B977 to B9126, B9126 to U102c

Hillhead of Concraig one day road closure

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.



At Hillhead of Concraig

For 1 day on 24 August 2017

Diversion via A96 to B994 Kintore, B977 to Lyne of Skene, B9126 to A944 Gairloch, B979 to Kirkton of Skene 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.

Pre-Determination Hearing date for Kingsford Stadium set

CORRECTION: Please note individual letters to those who submitted a representation will NOT be sent out due to the huge volume. Letters have only been sent to consultees. Look out for public notices in the press over the next few days (I will copy here also) giving full details of who to contact if you wish to speak at this meeting. Those wishing to speak will be encouraged to group together with other like-minded supporters/objectors so that points are not repeated and that the time allocated to each speaker can be used effectively.

Aberdeen City Council last week issued a letter to all who submitted a representation notifying them of the Pre-Determination Hearing to be held on Wednesday 13th September 2017 at 9.30am in the City Council Chamber. Before this hearing, city councillors will undertake a site visit to Kingsford on Monday 11th September, leaving the Town House at 2pm. Members of the public can attend the site visit but are not permitted to lobby members or to participate.

The Hearing on 13th September will follow this procedure:

Convenor: Opening remarks, purpose and procedures set out;

Case Officer: summarises the planning application and material considerations;

Other services/external consultees (as relevant): detail aspects of the application/impact/issues;

Applicant: presents proposal;

Community Council for the area: present their observations;

Objectors/supporters: state their case;

Elected members: can ask questions of officers, consultees, applicant, Community Council, objectors and supporters after each presentation. Also opportunity to ask for additional advice and information from officers;

Convenor: Concludes session, following which the Head of Planning and Sustainable Development will prepare a report for submission to Full Council for subsequent consideration.

I have asked for information about who will represent Aberdeenshire Council at this Hearing and await a response.


Westhill A2B dial-a-bus changes to service

Following a re-tendering exercise of the contract for the A2B dial-a-bus, the following changes are effective from Monday 21st August.

Service Area

It is proposed that the service operating area will be more compact as per the attached map to keep the bus closer to Westhill. Alternative arrangements are being considered for the one existing passenger who will be negatively impacted. It is anticipated that the revised operating area will make it easier for the management of requests from passengers living outside Westhill, e.g. Echt, Garlogie and Kirkton of Skene.

Monday-Friday Service

The finish time is being brought foward to 1615 hrs which matches the usual demand for trips. Due to the revised operating area, mentioned above, from 21st August, residents of Dunecht and Echt will be able to request a trip on a Friday (an option not currently available). The service will be operated by two wheelchair accessible taxis instead of one minibus. The availability of two vehicles should result in an increase in the number of transport requests that can be accommodated and the vehicles will be easier to manoeuvre in narrow streets.

Saturday Service

A timetabled service will operate, as below, using the wheelchair accessible minibus that currently operates the service. This service is similar to the current operation on Saturdays.

Proposed Timetable

All passengers must pre-book to travel via the Council – bookings cannot be made via the driver.

The following times are indicative and the actual times will vary by up to 15 minutes depending on the number of passengers and location of pick-ups on the schedule. The earliest possible pick-up time will be 0930 hrs and the latest possible drop-off time will be 1245 hrs.

Echt                                    0945

Garlogie                              0955

Kirkton of Skene                 1005

Westhill Shopping Centre   1020

Westhill Tesco                    1030

Westhill Tesco                    1140

Westhill Shopping Centre   1150

Kirkton of Skene                 1205

Garlogie                              1215

Echt                                     1230

Passengers will be provided with an estimated pick-up time when they book.


The main route is: from Echt on  B9119 via Garlogie to Carnie roundabout; then B979, A944 and B979 to Kirkton of Skene; then Old Skene Road to Westhill (Shopping Centre); then Westhill Drive, Prospect Road and Endeavour Drive to Westhill (Tesco). Return via outward route in reverse.

The route may be truncated or varied in accordance with the passenger pick-ups on the schedule. (For example, if there are no bookings for Kirkton of Skene the bus can operate from Garlogie to Westhill via the most direct route taking in to account any pick-ups en route).

The service aims to provide door-to-door transport so, in accordance with the schedule, it will divert off the main route by up to half a mile to pick up and drop off passengers as close as possible to the door.

Communications with RBS continue

I realise it is some time now since our original meeting at the Library with RBS representatives and I just wanted to update you on what has been happening since then.

At the end of June, as requested at the first meeting, RBS agreed to meet with representatives of our three local community councils: Westhill & Elrick, Echt & Skene and Cluny & Midmar. Here is a brief summary of the issues addressed:

15 local managers of Post Office branches will be contacted throughout July (this includes the Stonehaven and Banchory ones as well as Westhill, as they have RBS branches closing as well). The aim is to find out what support they require moving forward and how best to support them in meeting alternative banking needs.

  • A schedule has been drawn up for provision of a mobile branch service. The mobile van will stop at Trinity Church twice a week (to be confirmed). The vans will be upgraded before October.
  • Some charities have not yet received a letter about the branch closure. There is a direct number for clubs and societies accounts – 0345 600 2230 – and individual clubs are advised to make contact
  • Discussions are ongoing between RBS head office and the landlord of the unit at Westhill Shopping Centre over leases. Until these discussions are concluded, confirmation of whether the ATMs will remain in the same location cannot be given.
  • Tech-xperts are in the branch 2 days one week, 3 days the next, available to help customers with their digital questions
  • The Banking Protocol document which we requested will be available in the branch mid to end of August

I will endeavour to give you further updates as they are available but I hope this is helpful in the meantime and grateful thanks to the community council chairs and secretary who attended the meeting to gather this further information.

Places, people and planning

The Scottish Government have now issued a Position Statement following the last round of consultations on review of the Scottish Planning system which closed in April 2017. This statement describes the key changes that Scottish Ministers are now considering taking forward through the forthcoming Planning Bill. Further responses on this Position Statement can be lodged up until 11th August 2017.

Some of the key proposals for the Planning Bill include:

  • The ability for communities to product Local Place Plans for incorporation in to the Local Development Plan
  • Introduction of a statutory link between development planning and community planning
  • Overhaul of the Local Development Plan process – the Main Issues Report stage will be replaced by early engagement and a ‘gate check’ followed by formal consultation on the draft Plan. LDPs will have a 10 year timescale with the opportunity for updates between full review cycles
  • Requirement for enhanced public engagement on planning applications for sites that are not allocated in the Local Development Plan and more proportionate pre-application consultation for allocated sites
  • Measures to strenghten enforcement against breaches of planning control
  • Mandatory training for Councillors serving on Planning Committes or Local Review Bodies
  • Proposals for nationally set housing land supply targets appear to have been rejected
  • Developers to include information on viability of sites and development delivery as part of the development plan process

Local authority planners, councillors as well as community councils and residents input greatly to the various consultation processes previously and it is good to see some of the issues raised being included in this Position Statement. The Statement can be accessed here along with the link for further comment on any of the proposals.