Garioch Area Committee Round up

Today, the Garioch Area Committee met for the first time since the May elections in our home ground at Gordon House. Our last area committee meeting three weeks ago was held in Woodhill House because the chamber in Inverurie was being used for General Election work (what it really just three weeks ago??!).

Ward 13 (Westhill and District) items included an application for alterations and extension to the Milne Hall at Kirkton of Skene. After some discussion and hearing from hall committee member, Kenny Freeman, members agreed to defer the determination until a site visit which will take place on September 5th. You can view the report here.

I was delighted that we all agreed the recommendations to award £8,202 to Westhill District Amateur Swimming Club to purchase equipment which will enhance training across the district and a grant of £599.16 to Millbank & Tillyfourie Playing Field Committee to purchase an electricity generator. Millbank is one of the smaller communities in my ward who has a very active team of volunteers who don’t ask for much, so I was particularly pleased that Garioch Area Committee was able to agree this.

There was an application under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 to grant the extension of the hours of operation of a funfair at Echt Show from 1800 hrs – 2330 hrs on Friday 7th July, 2017 and from 1000 hrs – 0000 hrs on Saturday 8th July and this was duly granted.

Chief Inspector Murray Main presented us with a local area update with a verbal update on the local trends and issues. I was particularly pleased to hear that CI Main will be leading a Rural Crime working group to look at the incidents of crime unique to some of our more rural areas such as sheep-worrying, cattle rustling, theft of plant and hare coarsing; all crimes which have been reported in the press recently. I asked CI Main about how we can effectively report back to communities about the preventative work done in our area with regard to speeding and asked about the campaign targeting motorcycle safety. I was pleased to hear that the great work done by Police Scotland (and formerly Grampian Police) over a number of years on Operation Zenith is being carried forward.


RBS agree to further engagement with community

I was pleased to meet with the local CEO of Royal Bank of Scotland last week along with their senior management to discuss further the branch closure at Westhill. Also attending the meeting were local business and personal account holders, charity account holders, a Post Office representative as well as representatives from each of our three Ward 13 community councils; Westhill & Elrick, Echt & Skene and Cluny, Midmar & Monymusk.

I called for this meeting after RBS made a public announcement to close local branches including Westhill, Banchory and Stonehaven. The strength of feeling about the closure is clear by the amount of emails and calls we have received on this issue. A high number of residents have signed a petition against the closure, but we must not build up hopes of any reversal of the decision to close these branches and we must take a proactive stance to get the very best alternatives for local customers. At our meeting, it was reiterated by the bank that this is a commercial decision. What we did ask them to do is bring back more in-depth analysis of the figures they first presented to justify the closure and to produce a “Customer and Community Engagement” document in early course so that we can see clearly the statistics behind the closure and their plans for future engagement.

We were able to start a dialogue with them about the alternative banking methods they expect their customers to use. At our meeting, RBS agreed to consult further through community councils as well as other partners including Aberdeenshire Council. These discussions will shape when and where a mobile branch can be located in Westhill. There was a recognition that the mobile branches are not fit for purpose and we were assured that the vans will be upgraded with the technology required to serve customers.

We were also successful in our request that RBS sit down separately with local Post Office managers to ensure that they have the capacity to provide alternative banking facilities rather than take it for granted that all post offices will be able to accommodate the additional transactions.

Many customers are concerned about the lack of privacy at both the local post office and in a mobile branch and I am making enquiries about the possibility of RBS holding local surgeries.

All in all, this meeting was a useful starting point and I hope that we can explore all avenues to secure the very best alternatives over the coming months. When RBS and our community councils have arranged their next meeting, I will provide details here.

As an update, RBS have today provided the following:

  • An average of 49 active customers use the branch every week to undertake transactions
  • Of the 49 customers, 28 of them already use other branches
  • 13 of these customers are Personal/Private banking customers, 36 are Business customers of which many use alternative banking services e.g. online and mobile app.
  • This data has been derived from customer transactions over a 26 week period from October 2016 to January 2017.
  • Locations of free to use ATMs in and around Westhill include the two at the RBS location in the shopping centre, one at Costco, two at Tesco, one at TACO in the Westhill Business Park and one at Westhill Service Station.
  • For local Clubs and Society account holder enquiries, the Account Management Team can be contacted on 0345 600 2230. I know this is a concern for local account holders left with no local facility as residents who run groups such as brownies, guides and indeed community councils are volunteers and use their own time to keep their accounts in order. Any queries should be directed to the above number but we will endeavour to get more answers as questions crop up in further discussions.
  • The “Access to Banking” protocol which RBS adheres to requires them to publish the “Community & Engagement” documents a minimum of 4 weeks prior to closure and they currently work to get this live 6 weeks before closure. However, further to our discussions, the local CEO has requested that this can be looked at given the 6 months notice period.
  • A Business Growth Enabler along with a technical expert (TechXpert) will start to visit all outlying Post Offices in the area during May.

Local shopping centre issues discussed

I recently met with the agent (M J Mapp) for the privately-owned shopping centre in Westhill, along with representatives of the Westhill and Elrick Community Council; Audrey Findlay, acting Chair and Becky Ferguson, Secretary. For many months now, there have been issues raised at local meetings and this was an opportunity to bottom out some of these issues.

I have summarised some of the issues we spoke about and action points taken from our meeting:

  • concerns have been raised about the safety of the car park. We discussed the request from some residents to make the car park a one-way system. It was confirmed that the layout of the car park will not be changed but the agent agreed to get the car park arrows re-painted. We discussed how there used to be a zebra crossing in the old layout but this had been removed when the shopping centre expanded the car park. M J Mapp are to look at the options for providing a pedestrian crossing.
  • M J Mapp have allocated funds for new landscaping planting and will be speaking to the contractor as the work was felt to be falling below the standards expected.
  • We discussed community notice boards and WECC will update in due course.
  • We discussed the RBS closure and although the marketing and eventual new tenancy agreements would be a commercial decision between the parties involved, we did make it clear that we would like to see something that would enhance the shopping centre and retain the vibrancy of it.
  • colleagues had previously discussed concerns raised about the safety of the area at the back of the shops when exiting the archway on to the crossing on Westhill Drive across from the Holiday Inn. It was felt (and confirmed by Roads service) that the pavement on the shopping centre side of the road was of sufficient depth and coupled with tactile paving, there would be sufficient space to see the road ahead. It was felt there was more a problem with drivers rather than pedestrians. I have contacted Aberdeenshire Council Roads service again who have agreed to repaint the white lines on the crossing and look at the possibility of improving the visibility of the crossing by using illuminated columns, brighter lighting and improved signage.
  • I enquired about the possibility of community groups utilising the old vets building on a short term basis and although M J Mapp was positive towards this idea, we need more clarity from them about the terms and conditions of any proposal and I will keep you updated as we explore options.

Stagecoach confirm changes to local services

Following consultation and input by local residents and councillors, the council’s Public Transport Unit (PTU) have provided a summary of the Stagecoach revisions which will commence on 8th May 2017. They say “the company has implemented a small number of additional changes (highlighted in red) in response to comments and complaints received both at their own public consultation events and at the Council’s Area Bus Forums. Council officers have also requested minor changes to contracted journeys to improve connections for passengers and also respond to public requests. The PTU continues “However, overall, you will see that there are cuts to commercial services on the A947 (service 35), A96 (services 10/37), A944 (services X17/X18) and A90 (south) (services 7/7A/7B/7C) corridors and this is cause for concern. Stagecoach have confirmed that the changes are primarily to tailor levels of service with current passenger demand, which has been falling over the last 2 years, in order to ensure commercial viability, whilst improving service reliability by implementing more realistic journey/layover times.”

I have included all the service changes, not just our local ones, so the full range can be appreciated.

Summary of Stagecoach Bluebird Timetable Changes, 08 May 2017

4A/4C (currently 106)

Stonehaven Town Service

Replaces the hourly Monday to Saturday inter-peak Service 106 (Stonehaven Town Service), contracted to the Council.

  • New service is half-hourly Monday to Saturday inter-peak with alternate journeys (4A and 4C) operating in the opposite direction and it will connect with mainline services to/from Aberdeen at Barclay Street.
  • Aberdeenshire Council will continue to financially support 50% of the service.
  • Timing changes of up to 15 minutes.

7, 7A, 7B, 7C, X7

Aberdeen – Portlethen/Newtonhill/Stonehaven

Stonehaven – the mainline service will no longer serve areas to the west of the two railway bridges, with buses only serving the Thomson Terrace and Forest Park areas. To compensate for this, the Town service is enhanced as Service 4A/4C above, serving Farrochie and Edinview areas.

  • 0718 hours ex Spurryhillock – Barclay Street – Aberdeen (Monday – Friday) is re-instated in response to requests received at the Kincardine and Mearns Area Bus Forum.
  • Marywell Park will be served hourly instead of half-hourly.
  • Frequency reduced from 15 mins to 20 mins between Aberdeen and Portlethen, but there will be a consistent route with all buses serving Schoolhill, Asda, Portlethen Academy and Berrymuir Road.
  • Buses will operate hourly between Aberdeen and Newtonhill, instead of every half-hour.


Aberdeen – Inverurie – Huntly – Elgin – Inverness

0550 hours ex Aberdeen – Inverness (Monday to Saturday) is truncated to commence in Huntly.

  • 1730 hrs ex Aberdeen – Insch (Monday to Friday) is truncated to commence from Inverurie, A connection is available with Service 37 (Aberdeen – Inverurie).
  • 2220 hours ex Aberdeen – Elgin (Monday to Saturday) is withdrawn. There is a 2150 hours ex Aberdeen – Inverurie (Service 37).
  • 2300 hours last bus from Aberdeen to Elgin (Monday to Sunday) will also serve Blackburn, Kintore and Inverurie, compensating for the withdrawal of a Service 37 journey (see below).
  • 0539 hours ex Elgin – Aberdeen (Monday to Friday) is advanced by 32 minutes to depart at 0507 hours.
  • 1725 hours ex Inverness – Aberdeen (Monday to Saturday) is truncated to terminate in Huntly. There are alternative departures at 1625 hours and 1825 hours.
  • 2025 hours from Inverness – Aberdeen (Monday to Saturday) is withdrawn, meaning that the last southbound bus is at 1825 hours.
  • New Sunday journey: 0947 hours ex Elgin – Aberdeen.
  • Timing changes of up to 14 minutes.


Aberdeen – Westhill – Elrick

Reduced frequency from 12 minutes to 15 minutes Mon – Sat. Stagecoach advises that this will improve reliability with the same vehicle resources, the 12 minute frequency being impossible to maintain due to congestion. No change to Sunday service.


Alford – Kemnay – Aberdeen

With the aim of commercially viability, whilst compensating for the reduced frequency on Service 37 (see below), Service X20 (Alford / Kemnay – Aberdeen) will operate via Kintore (School Road) & Blackburn, adding up to 8 minutes to journey times. The contracted Service X20 journeys in the evenings and Sundays will continue to operate direct to/from Kemnay.

  • New Service X20 journeys: 0815 ex Kemnay – Aberdeen (Monday to Friday); 1540 ex Kintore – Aberdeen (Monday to Friday); 1548 ex Blackburn – Aberdeen (Monday to Friday); 0719 ex Aberdeen – Kintore (Monday to Friday); 1410 ex Aberdeen – Kemnay (Monday to Friday).
  • Council officers to review the routeing of contracted Service 420 (Kemnay – Blackburn – Aberdeen) later this year in response to requests received at the Garioch Area Bus Forum for consideration to be given to by-passing Blackburn, to reduce overall journey times between Kemnay and Aberdeen, in view of Stagecoach’s decision to re-route Service X20 as above.
  • 1445 hours ex Aberdeen – Kemnay (Service 420) (Monday to Friday) is advanced by 5 minutes in response to concerns raised at the Marr Area Bus Forum regarding missed connections with Service 421 (Inverurie – Kemnay – Alford) in Kemnay (see also Service 421 below).  


Aberdeen – Oldmeldrum – Turriff – Macduff – Elgin

0825 hours ex Aberdeen – Banff (Monday to Friday) is truncated to commence from Oldmeldrum.

  • 2105 hours ex Aberdeen – Whitehills (Monday to Saturday) and 2215 hours ex Aberdeen – Banff (Monday to Saturday) are rationalised to form a 2135 hours ex Aberdeen – Whitehills (Monday to Saturday).
  • 1603 hours ex Turriff – Aberdeen (Monday to Friday) is withdrawn. There are alternatives at 1523 hours and 1623 hours.
  • 1623 hours ex Banff – Aberdeen (Saturday) is withdrawn. There are alternatives at 1550 hours and 1650 hours.
  • New journey 0528 hours ex Macduff – Aberdeen (Saturday).
  • In response to queries, it is confirmed that Service 35A (Oldmeldrum – Aberdeen) is unchanged.


Aberdeen – Inverurie

Reduced frequency from 20 minutes to 30 minutes (Service 10 continues to provide an additional bus per hour between Inverurie town centre and Aberdeen).

  • No longer operates via School Road in Kintore (covered by Service X20 above) with all buses operating via Hallforest Avenue.
  • New peak limited stop journeys numbered X37: 0635 hours ex Inverurie (Monday to Friday), 1710 hours ex Aberdeen (Monday to Friday) and 1931 hours ex Inverurie – Aberdeen (Saturday).
  • 2310 hours ex Aberdeen – Inverurie (Monday to Sunday) is withdrawn but will be covered by a Service 10B (Aberdeen – Elgin) departure at 2305 hours, serving Blackburn, Kintore and Inverurie.
  • 2125 hours ex Inverurie – Aberdeen (Monday to Friday) is withdrawn. The nearest alternative departures are at 2010 hours and 2210 hours. There is also a 2125 hours Service 10 departure from Inverurie (not via Kintore or Blackburn).
  • 2325 hours and 0025 hours ex Inverurie – Aberdeen (Monday to Saturday) are withdrawn. The last southbound departure is now at 2210 hours, though there are later Nightbird departures early Saturday and Sunday mornings.
  • 2355 hours ex Inverurie – Aberdeen (Sunday) is withdrawn. The last southbound departure is now at 2225 hours.
  • 2125 hours ex Inverurie – Aberdeen (Saturday) additional journey.
  • 1648 hours ex Inverurie – Aberdeen (Sunday) additional journey.
  • Service re-routed to serve Craibstone Park and Ride to provide a link to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
  • Timing changes of up to 20 minutes


Insch – Inverurie

0912 hours ex Insch – Inverurie (Monday to Friday) and 1012 hours ex Insch – Inverurie (Saturday) contracted journeys are extended to commence from Beechcroft Road, Insch, in response to requests received at Garioch Area Bus Forum.


Peterhead – Mintlaw – Stuartfield – Maud

1730 hours ex Peterhead – Stuartfield (Monday to Saturday) is extended to Maud, in response to requests received at Buchan Area Bus Forum.

  • 1155 hours ex Peterhead – Stuartfield (Monday to Friday) is withdrawn. The nearest alternative departures are at 1100 hours ex Peterhead – Mintlaw – Stuartfield and 1245 hours ex Peterhead – Mintlaw – Maud.
  • 1100 hours ex Peterhead – Stuartfield (Monday to Friday) will serve Torterston instead of Downiehills, in response to requests received at Buchan Area Bus Forum.
  • 0629 hours ex Stuartfield – Peterhead (Monday to Saturday) is extended to commence from Maud, in response to requests received at Buchan Area Bus Forum.
  • 1240 hours ex Stuartfield – Peterhead (Monday to Friday) is withdrawn. The nearest alternative departure is at 1144 hours
  • 1808 hours ex Stuartfield – Peterhead (Monday to Saturday) is re-routed to commence from Maud at 1816 hours and will not serve Stuartfield. There is an alternative departure from Stuartfield to Peterhead at 1852 hours (Council contract).
  • 1100 hours ex Peterhead – Stuartfield (Saturday) is withdrawn. The nearest alternative departures are at 1000 hours ex Peterhead – Mintlaw – Maud and 1200 hours ex Peterhead – Mintlaw – Stuartfield.
  • 1445 hours ex Peterhead – Stuartfield (Saturday) is withdrawn. The nearest alternative departures are at 1400 hours ex Peterhead – Mintlaw – Maud and 1600 hours ex Peterhead – Mintlaw – Stuartfield.
  • 1255 hours ex Peterhead – Mintlaw – Maud (Saturday) is retarded to depart at 1400 hours.
  • 1140 hours ex Stuartfield – Peterhead (Saturday) is withdrawn. The nearest alternative departure is at 1244 hours.
  • 1335 hours ex Maud – Mintlaw – Peterhead (Saturday) is retarded to depart at 1441 hours.
  • 1523 hours ex Stuartfield – Peterhead (Saturday) is withdrawn. The nearest alternative departure is at 1655 hours.
  • 0915 hours and 1725 hours ex Peterhead – Stuartfield – Peterhead (Sunday) return journeys are extended to operate as Peterhead – Mintlaw – Maud – Stuartfield – Peterhead.
  • Timing changes of up to 31 minutes.

217, 218 and 220 (currently X18)

Aberdeen – Westhill – Elrick/Alford

Service X18 is renumbered and split into three separate services as follows:

217: Echt – Elrick – (Aberdeen)

Peak hour weekday connecting service, operated under contract to Aberdeenshire Council.

218: Aberdeen – Westhill – Alford (via Lang Stracht)

The hourly daytime service (Monday to Saturday) which has been trialled since August 2015 will be reduced to 5 return journeys (Monday to Friday) and 3 return journeys (Saturday) on the basis of extremely limited passenger demand, effectively reverting to the Council’s contract specification which maintains peak and inter-peak provision and includes boarding/alighting restrictions between Elrick and Aberdeen to enable faster journeys. Connections with Service X17 (Elrick – Westhill – Aberdeen via Queens Road) are available at Kingswells Park and Ride.

First a.m. weekday peak journey from Alford to Aberdeen is advanced by 7 minutes to ensure workers arrive at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary in time for 0800 hours. This was in response to requests received at the Garioch Area Bus Forum.

220: Aberdeen – Westhill (Hillside and Broadshade)

Most journeys on this Aberdeenshire Council contract will commence/terminate at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, where connections are available with frequent services to/from the City Centre, with 3 return journeys per day going to/from Union Square. Operates via Kingswells Park and Ride (connections with Service X17 for Queens Road) and Kingswells Village.


Inverurie – Kemnay – Alford

1516 hours ex Inverurie – Alford (Monday to Friday) on this Council contract is retarded by 5 minutes in response to concerns raised at the Marr Area Bus Forum regarding missed connections with Service 420 (Aberdeen – Kemnay) in Kemnay (see also Service 420 above).


Insch – Alford

2356 hours ex Alford – Insch (Monday to Saturday), which is essentially a positional journey back to Insch depot, is re-routed via Whitehouse instead of Montgarrie.









Royal Bank of Scotland branch closure talks

Since the news last week that Royal Bank of Scotland were to close a number of branches, including Westhill, I have had many residents contact me. The issues being raised include the effect on footfall to other businesses in Westhill, customers wishing to retain face-to-face contact and the loss of excellent, knowledgeable staff. The loss of business banking is also a concern.

I was able to catch up today with a senior member of staff at RBS and go over some of the issues.

Royal Bank of Scotland are signed up to the “Access to Banking Protocol” published by the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills to provide guidelines for banks that are closing branches.

The guidelines states that while ensuring customers are treated fairly, decisions on branch closures are ultimately commercial decisions for banks to take. By the time customers like us are aware of an upcoming closure, the decision has already been made and affected staff and other key stakeholders will have been advised.

I was assured today that RBS have written to all their account holders. A number of issues have been addressed for alternative ways to bank and these include:

  • retaining the free ATMs at the shopping centre
  • partnership arrangements with the Post Office branch next door to enable business customers to pay in, withdraw and access coinage
  • setting up a mobile bank service

There will be further consultation with the community about the best location/day for a mobile bank to visit. I have asked if the senior member of staff would facilitate a local public meeting to go over customer concerns in detail and I will update you once this is confirmed. I note from the other locations which benefit from a mobile bank service such as Echt and Kintore that they get a 20 minute slot. It is important that RBS look at the size of the population of Westhill and allocate a longer time slot here. RBS is open to suggestions for sites suitable for the mobile bank to operate from taking in to account wifi access and land ownership.

I understand there will be help in the local branch for customers to set up online banking before the branch closes. This is great, but many customers just want to deal with humans and do not trust online banking. Apart from that, many rural residents do not have good access to broadband, so we must make sure that all these issues are addressed and our more vulnerable residents have suitable alternative banking arrangements in place before October.

I will update again as soon as I get confirmation of any public meeting. If you would be interested in attending a public meeting, please get in touch and I will add your name to my file.




Straik Place to close

Please note that due to EMERGENCY SEWER REPAIR WORKS to be carried out by NICOL OF SKENE Ltd it will be necessary in the interests of public safety to apply the following restriction to traffic.



From No. 32 to No. 38

From 28 March 2017 for 4 days

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.

Westhill is not for moving!

As previously commented on here, the UK Parliament constituencies are being redrawn. Scotland as well as the rest of the UK will have less constituencies (therefore less MPs). The Boundary Commission for Scotland has made recommendations and these are open to public consultation at the link here. There’s still time for you to send in your comments – you have until Monday 27th March.

I have sent the following submission to the Boundary Commission consultation on the back of suggestions by Lord McInnes of Kilwinning to pluck Westhill and District out of its natural habitat and move it in to the Kincardine and Angus East constituency. Please make your views known over the next few days and send a strong message to the Commission that we’re not for moving!

I wish to record my strong opposition to the suggestion made by Lord McInnes of Kilwinning that the Commission examine whether an alternative solution is available by replacing Banchory with Westhill in the new Kincardine and Angus East constituency.

The council wards are numbered to coincide with their location within the local map and their proximity to each other. It makes no sense whatsoever to group Westhill and District (Ward 13) in with wards 17, 18, and 19 in the new Kincardine and Angus East and have Banchory (ward 16) in with wards 8,9,10,11,12 and 14 in the new Gordon and Deeside constituency.

Ward 13 has a strong historic link with Gordon and West Aberdeenshire. My Westhill and District ward is surrounded by wards 10, 12, 14, 15 and 16. To remove ward 13 would be like picking out the middle piece of a jigsaw puzzle to leave a gaping hole rather than have wards flowing through constituencies logically.

Please resist Lord McInnes’ proposal and ensure that Westhill and District remains with its rightful close family in the Gordon and Deeside constituency.

Iris Walker




City and Shire SDPA response to stadium proposal

The “Strategic Development Planning Authority” (SDPA) was designated by Scottish Ministers on 25 June 2008 under the Planning etc. (Scotland) Act 2006. The Aberdeen City and Shire SDPA have 12 members with six being appointed by both Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Councils.

Their observations and policy conclusions on the AFC stadium proposal are documented below. Although the response has been online for some weeks, it was before SDPA members yesterday for noting. With so many documents online, it can be time-consuming to find the statutory consultee responses.



Local planning authority: Aberdeen City Council

Proposal: Proposed Community and Sports Facilities, Football Academy, (comprising outdoor pitches, pavilion, ancillary buildings), Stadium (20,000 capacity), ancillary uses, formation of access roads, parking and associated landscaping and engineering works | Land At West Kingsford (North Of The A944 Road) Skene Road Aberdeen AB15 8QR

Reference No: 170021/DPP Date received: 16 January 2017

Case Officer: Garfield Prentice Target date: 27 February 2017



An application for detailed planning permission has been submitted on behalf of Aberdeen Football Club. The application seeks approval for a football stadium and campus development on an unallocated site forming part of the Aberdeen City Greenbelt to the west of the AWPR junction between Kingswells and Westhill. The proposed development would comprise:

20,000 seater football stadium

  • A football academy
  • Training pitches
  • Car parking for 1,600 cars
  • Ancillary retail (merchandising and match day concessions)

The stadium capacity is similar in scale to the current stadium (Pittodrie) and that for a community stadium allocated at OP59 in Loirston in the Aberdeen Local Development Plan 2012 (and 2017) on which Aberdeen City Council were minded to grant consent until the application was withdrawn.

Strategic Development Plan

The Aberdeen City and Shire Strategic Development Plan (SDP) was approved by Scottish Ministers on 28 March 2014, replacing the Aberdeen City and Shire Structure Plan (2009). The Aberdeen Local Development Plan (2017) was adopted on 20 January 2017. The development plan for Aberdeen City is therefore fully up-to-date. The plan 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. The purpose of the SDP is to focus the right development in the right places and to prevent inappropriate and poorly located development. The SDP is ambitious in its strategy for change, facilitating growth in focused places in order to deliver the significant and properly planned infrastructure required for this growth (SDP paras 3.5 and 3.9), while enhancing quality of life. In terms of the plan’s spatial strategy (p8- 23), the proposed stadium falls within the outer edge of the Aberdeen City “Strategic Growth

Area” (p12-14). 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” (para 3.24, Diagram – p13 and Schedule 2). 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.

It is recognised that the development proposal is attractive to and tries to meet the needs of the football community of the region. However, it is the principle of a new, single-purpose stadium (for football use and surrounded by ancillary football facilities), on an unallocated site, in the greenbelt which on the edge of the city that is the primary focus of this response.

Spatial Strategy

The SDP acknowledges the importance of Aberdeen City Centre as being vital to the economic future of the area (SDP para 3.21). The regeneration of the City Centre and a number of city communities is vital to reduce inequality (paras 3.47 and 3.48). A key facet of this is acknowledging that a varied mix of uses must be maintained and expanded in order to have a successful city which is attractive to business, residents and tourists. The importance of reducing travel distances and making walking, cycling and public transport more attractive is also highlighted as vital for the future (para 3.16). This again focuses attention on the City Centre or sites that are well connected to existing or planned communities.

Para 3.24 of the SDP details two possible locations for a Community Stadiums to support the growing sporting infrastructure of the city. This is further illustrated in the indicative diagram 5, p13. The careful consideration of the location of a community stadium was part of not only the SDP development process but the Aberdeen LDP. The SDP aims for the development of a Community Stadium which would facilitate more than one use on site and as such co-locate multiple uses at one facility that would be better connected to existing or proposed infrastructure than the single use and isolated proposed development. Specific sites have been allocated for this use within the spatial framework and to locate a stadium of this size and singular use on an unallocated site in the greenbelt, on the outer fringes of planned development corridors would be contrary to both the SDP and Aberdeen LDP. It is noted in the supporting Environmental Statement (ES) that the previously considered

Loirston and Bellfield Farm sites were located in areas designated as Greenbelt at the time of determination. However, this is misleading as the Loirston site was part of a new community coming through the Aberdeen Local Development Plan (2012) and Bellfield farm was considered under a specific policy in the 2001 Structure Plan relating to the SFA’s bid for Euro 2008. The policy context for the current application is therefore very different. It is also claimed that the AWPR would facilitate development at this location. The purpose of the AWPR is not to facilitate development rather alleviate traffic congestion in the greater Aberdeen area. A 20,000 plus capacity stadium on the periphery of Aberdeen City’s road network and public transportation routes is unlikely to make the best use of existing and planned transportation infrastructure. In a similar vein the ES states the stadium would be designed to the highest sustainability standards yet fails to mention given its location how heavily car dependent it would be, thus neutralising any gains made through greener technologies on site. The ES asserts the stadium would improve quality of life. Again this is debatable given the level of traffic that would be generated on match days and at peak commuting times placing increased pressure on the immediate area’s infrastructure. In addition to that it would only be accessible for pedestrians from Westhill given the AWPR forming a barrier to pedestrian and cyclist movement from Kingswells which is the only other adjacent neighbouring community.

Economic Growth

With regard to economic growth the SDP seeks to grow and diversify the economy. However, the applicant’s claim that the development of a football stadium at this location would help to provide a new range of employment that would also help to diversify the regional economy, moving it away from the oil and gas sector, is unfounded. The vast majority of job creation would be in construction, and therefore temporary. While additional employment is welcome, 30 jobs is difficult to class as a shift in employment base. It is also unclear from the supporting Economic Statement as to whether these jobs would be a net gain or a shift from the existing stadium at Pittodrie to the new stadium at Kingsford. However, no account appears to have been taken of either the fact that jobs will be transferring from one of the most economically disadvantaged parts of the City to a significantly more affluent one, or of pre and post-match revenue spent in the vicinity of Pittodrie or the wider city centre – with very limited opportunities for such expenditure in the vicinity of the application site. The issue of ‘Net Economic Benefit’ is covered in more detail below.

Sustainable Mixed Communities

It would appear that the proposal is for a football stadium rather than a community stadium as envisaged at the time of the preparation of the SDP (and previous structure plan) which identified potential stadium locations (SDP para 3.24) as a component of a broader mixed community. While it is recognised that there will be community access to some of the football facilities, the uses proposed are not integrated in a sustainable fashion into the community given the scale of the development and its proximity to established or planned developments.

Quality of the Environment

The Greenbelt around Aberdeen plays a vital role in protecting the character and landscape setting of the city and adjoining communities (para 4.31). Development of this site would remove the protection afforded by the designation and lead to coalescence between Westhill and Kingswells.


While the application sits on the edge of one of the plan’s ‘Strategic Growth Areas’, it is not within or adjacent to either the City Centre or other defined town or neighbourhood centres and has the potential to impact on the City Centre which is afforded significant protection within the plan. This issue will be considered in more detail below in terms of sequential site selection.

The objective of the SDP is to ensure all new development contributes towards reducing the need to travel by car and encourage walking, cycling and public transport – a target of the plan being that walking, cycling and public transport should be attractive options. This location will be a significant traffic generating use in a location only served by public transport between the City Centre and Westhill. It will have a limited residential walk-in catchment and would create further danger on the Aberdeen-west cycle route (with three entry points to the site), which needs to be further upgraded (although it is recognised that there are proposals to upgrade this).

The accompanying Transport Assessment (TA) proposes a number of measures to manage the potential traffic congestion such as overflow parking being accommodated within the Arnhall Business Park. However, it is difficult to see how the development could mitigate its impact in this location when (according to the TA) over 20% of supporters currently travel to the stadium on foot and this is likely to fall dramatically at the Kingsford site. If thousands of cars were to be parked at the nearby employment areas this would give rise to thousands of pedestrians trying to cross the A944 dual carriageway immediately before and after matches. The proposal would create a car dependant development in an area served by limited public transport and an almost non-existent walking catchment. As such it would not be in keeping with the objectives and targets of the SDP.

Scottish Planning Policy (SPP)

Uses that attract a significant number of visitors should generally be located in town and city centres and paragraphs 58 and 59 of SPP place a strong emphasis on the health and vibrancy of town centres, placing the right development in the right places. As such a town centre first approach is taken by the SDP and the Aberdeen LDP. A mix of uses is important in order to attract visitors and should be encouraged in order to have a variety of uses resulting in a more resilient centre. Furthermore the sequential town centre first approach of SPP para 68 would place developments which generate significant footfall firstly in established areas and require justification as to the lack of suitable locations for a similar development in these locations.

The supporting ES chapter 4 (as required in para 73 of SPP), discusses why the out-of-centreproposed location is considered acceptable. Analysis has been undertaken of alternative sites but restricted to those within the Aberdeen City Council boundary, despite the SDP explicitly seeing the ‘Community Stadium’ as a regional facility (SDP Schedule 2). Such an artificial restriction on potential sites in the sequential assessment is inappropriate. All allocated sites, those with previous permissions and possible alternatives have been discounted in the assessment. Multiple reasons have been given with a reoccurring issue being site size, due to the area required for the ancillary components of the proposal the applicant believes it is difficult to find a non-greenfield site within Aberdeen City with sufficient space. In the analysis of the Loirston site (15ha) it is claimed that there is insufficient space on site for training facilities when in fact the site (before the application was withdrawn) was minded to be granted consent by Aberdeen City Council for a stadium and training facilities. It has not been articulated sufficiently as to why such a scale of facilities is required and also the need for it to be co-located with a stadium. Redeveloping Pittodrie is viewed as in conflict with the existing residential use of the area even though the stadium has been in existence for over 100 years. Reasons against developing Kings Links are the loss of the golf course and land being Common Good. All development will encounter issues that required solutions and negotiation, many more complex than the above.

The analysis does not sufficiently justify why the co-location of the stadium and training facilities is necessary and that a standalone stadium could not be accommodate on a sequentially preferable site. Training facilities could be located on an alternative site within the City or Shire. This would negate the need for such a large site and the need to develop within the greenbelt detached from the built-up area of the city. Indeed, the strategy of developing separate sites was being pursued by Aberdeen Football Club until very recently.

In summary, the justification for the current proposal is particularly weak. The Scottish Government has issued draft guidance in order to assess a potential development’s net economic benefit. Para 29 of SPP requires due consideration be given to net economic benefit of a proposed development. The Scottish planning system supports economically, environmentally and socially sustainable places and achieving the right development in the right place. The applicant’s supporting Socio-Economic Impact Statement focuses on the proposal’s employment creation, gross and net, in the Kingsford area. It concludes that there would be a net generation of 30 jobs post construction and over a 25 year period that the net additional GVA generated could equate to £14m at the Kingsford level and £108m at the Aberdeen City level (including construction costs). While the document discusses the net gain to the Kingsford area it doesn’t address displacement of jobs from the Seaton area which is in the 20% most deprived areas in Scotland (Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation). In addition, Seaton is subject to a Community Locality Plan (a component of the Community Planning system) in order to promote regeneration in the area. The impact of the relocation on the area around the current stadium is not addressed. Added to this, there is also likely to be a loss of match day revenue from this area and the wider City Centre which is not directly considered in the economic assessment. As a consequence, the economic assessment does not present a realistic picture of the impact of stadium relocation to this site.


Improving and modernising the facilities of Aberdeen Football Club are supported by the SDP, as is the provision of community facilities. However, this application is contrary to the Aberdeen City and Shire Strategic Development Plan (2014), which is up-to-date and relevant to this application. The proposal will result in the loss of greenbelt land, the coalescence of urban areas, inappropriately located development giving rise to unsustainable travel patterns and have a negative impact on the City Centre in terms of its mix of uses and lost revenue. The applicant has not adequately justified why the stadium and training pitches etc need to be co-located or why sequentially preferable sites have been dismissed as unsuitable. The applicant claims that the net economic benefit of the proposal is a material consideration.

However, the attempt to demonstrate what the net economic benefit would be seem to neglect the loss of jobs in a deprived area. Various gross and net figures are quoted in the economic assessment but without stating the loss to the existing community of Seaton or of match-day expenditure in the city. Draft guidance on assessing net economic benefit in the planning system was issued in early 2016 by the Scottish Government, but no account appears to have been taken of this. Without a proper assessment, it is not clear what the net economic impact of the proposal might be. The strong framework for investment decisions set by the SDP (SDP Aims, p6) requires strong decision-making on applications which clearly contradict the strategy of the plan. The application is in an unsustainable location in that it will have a very small catchment in terms of access by walking, cycling and public transport compared to other sequentially preferable sites. It does not follow the sequential town centre first approach of SPP or accord with the aims and objectives of the SDP.

Sports Hub continues to inspire an active community

Westhill & District Community Sports and Leisure Hub held its first AGM last night since being recognised as a registered charity. WDCSH is a volunteer-led community organisation and part of Sportscotland Community Sports Hub network. The Hub keeps going from strength to strength and has grown its membership over the last year to 15 member clubs. The role of the hub is to bring local sport and the wider community together. They are actively working to establish a youth presence within the hub to ensure their voices are heard. They have run courses in First Aid, Safeguarding and Protecting Children and Social Media Training, training over 45 local volunteers in total from a variety of clubs and groups.

The hub has supported local clubs, donating money towards the purchase of a community use defibrillator and supporting local charity SensationALL.

The inaugural Westhill 10k run last June was a great success and the group are in the midst of planning the 2017 run. Entry is open now and you can secure your place by clicking on the link here.

Members of the hub also masterminded the Wellbeing in Westhill event which saw over 30 local clubs, groups, businesses and organisations promote an active lifestyle to some 250 members of the public who visited on the day.

With new officer bearers and committee members set in place last night under the continuing chairmanship of Grant Coull, the group are on a sound footing to do even greater things in 2017.


“Stadium so far out of town, it’s in another town!”

Infrastructure Services Committee met today, as planned, to discuss (amongst other things) their response as consultees to Aberdeen City Council regarding the AFC stadium proposals for Kingsford. I sat in as an observer at the public meeting and share notes of my observations here. Please note that this is my take on the meeting and I’m happy to be corrected on any glaring mistakes by those who were there.

If you don’t want to know the score without reading the summary, look away now. 7 councillors voted to agree with the views of the Garioch Area Committee in February, i.e. to lodge an objection and 7 councillors voted to place a holding objection on the consultation on the grounds that further technical information be sought. The Chair had the casting vote and agreed that the views of ISC were aligned to those of the Garioch Area Committee. The formal view of Aberdeenshire Council is now to oppose this application.

The planners firstly outlined the application for members as well as summarising the consultation process so far. Councillors asked an array of questions about parking, pedestrians, traffic flow and economic impact. No-one at the meeting including the applicant could offer any definitive information about a proposed Controlled Parking Zone. This is a very integral part of the traffic assessment and surely both councils should be aware of what is planned. As parking has yet to be decriminalised in Aberdeenshire, who would foot the bill for policing of it and who would administer the permit system? It is likely that with the CPZ now being extended to a 30 minute walking radius, a large part of Westhill and Elrick could be included.

George Yule, AFC and Ally Prockter from the Community Trust addressed the committee and gave a brief timeline on why the application was lodged and made reference to having worked with Aberdeen City Council previously to find a site for the club with Loirston being acceptable and within the Local Development Plan (LDP) but now Kingsford was their plan C. When asked about the arrangements with Arnhall Park businesses for extra parking, George explained that the club now have 3 companies agreeing in principle. There will be a cost for parking at Arnhall and it has been said before by AFC that this would be reflected in the match ticket price. Today we were told that any funds raised from parking would go to the Community Trust.

Mike Forbes spoke next to the committee. Mike is a Westhill resident supporting the stadium. From speaking to his friends he feels there is a groundswell of support although he said this was difficult to quantify. He has spoken to people who are not football supporters but who welcomed the stadium. He spoke about the economic impact on local shops and restaurants. This conflicted with other views of local businesses who feared that rogue parking would keep their customer base away on match days. He mentioned that the stadium would be an inspiration for children. I cannot disagree with his point per say but children would be inspired wherever the stadium was built.

The No for Kingsford group were up next to refute some of these claims. John Simpson and John Thornton spoke about their independently-commissioned Transport Assessment from Waterman’s which concluded that this application does not comply with policy and is unsustainable. The TA from the applicant underestimates car travel. They said there will be little economic benefit to the local area and certainly would not mitigate the downtown in oil and gas as suggested. Concerns were raised about the impact on the Seaton area by removing the stadium from Pittodrie. Scottish Planning Policy states that a major development such as this should be close to the city centre and this application ignores the Strategic Development Plan. The applicant was accused of riding roughshod over planning policy.

Last but not least, Audrey Findlay, Acting Chair of Westhill & Elrick Community Council addressed committee saying that her group took time to form their opinion, poring over the some 160 pages which accompanied the application, basing their representation on planning policy and practical issues. Greenbelt is one of the main concerns with a huge building planted on the Kingsford site changing the landscape forever. The community does not want coalescence with Kingswells. She said planning policy is there for a reason and this breaks too many policies. She also highlighted recent articles in the press about congestion hot spots being likely after the AWPR is complete – without any new development and the A944/Kingswells junction being one such hot spot.

The planning policy concerns are well documented in reports from both councils so I won’t reiterate them – all are available on Aberdeen City planning website.

The recurring theme today at ISC was “great idea, wrong site” with AFC being applauded for their vision of the stadium (not the location). David Aitchison, the Chair, who is also a Westhill councillor summed up by saying that no-one can deny AFC need a new stadium but it will affect Westhill forever and ultimately people live here. He was not impressed by the transportation assessment  and said the proposal was so far out of town it’s in another town!

Now it’s over to Aberdeen City councillors in the summer to consider whatever report comes in front of them from their planners, based on planning policy and taking consideration of the many consultees’ responses, including Aberdeenshire Council. It won’t be a numbers game or a popularity contest which brings me to Mark McDonald, MSP’s very recent statement in the press where he urges the council to provide planning training to newly elected councillors and cited the AFC stadium application. The vote is expected to take place in June – a few short weeks after the local government elections. Although Mark has openly supported the proposals he says “It is absolutely vital that our city council’s planning processes are respected and newly elected councillors make that vote, adhering to the regulations and rules which govern the planning system.” He added that new members must be “absolutely clear on declaring any interest in the project”. As an ex-councillor himself, Mark will be very much aware that councillors must stick to planning policy when determining an application. I’ve had calls from residents to break planning policy for this one application. I am sure we would see a deluge of legal claims if we did! I am disappointed to see some online comments from supporters who have no regard or insight of the planning system dismiss those who have taken the time and made the effort to study the proposals so that they can at least make an informed representation based on planning considerations. “Get it built” and “COYR” are not material considerations and online letters of support left blank giving no material reasons for that support count for very little. I’ve spoken many times about the need for residents to get involved in the planning system earlier and this is a perfect example of why. We all have work to do to make this happen. Councillors have work to do to explain to their constituents what our roles are in the planning process if only to counteract the reactive “nugget”, “dinosaur”, “NIMBY” etc labels when we vote the “wrong” way!