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

Councillor

Westhill

 

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.

SDPA CONSULTATION RESPONSE

PLANNING PROPOSAL

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

STRATEGIC PLANNING OBSERVATIONS

Context

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.

Accessibility

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.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS AND POLICY CONCLUSION

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!

 

 

The future of A2B bus service in Westhill – what do you think?

Following discussions at the recent Garioch Area Bus Forum meeting, the Council’s contract for Westhill A2B dial-a-bus currently operated by Stagecoach expires in August 2017. The service, which is open to the general public, operates door-to-door within Westhill and outlying areas as per the schematic map on the Council’s website – http://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/roads-and-travel/public-transport/a2b-dial-a-bus/westhill/ .

Officers are currently reviewing detailed usage of the service in order to determine whether the service specification should be revised prior to tendering in April.  Initial ideas include the following:

  • The Mon-Fri service currently operates 0900-1700 hrs.  We are considering bringing forward the last drop-off time to 1600 hrs as there is little use of the service between 1600 hrs and 1700 hrs.
  • The Sat service currently operates 0930-1400 hrs, primarily serving Echt and Westhill.  We are considering tendering a more fixed route/timetabled service based on current usage to try to reduce the operating costs.
  • Amend the operating area to “withdraw” from the Leylodge and Schoolhill areas – this will match what is happening on the ground as we have no transport requests from these areas.

If you wish to provide comments or suggestions for the council to consider please email a2bdialabus@aberdeenshire.gov.uk or call the A2B general enquiries number on 01224 664747 by Thursday 23 March.

 

Aberdeenshire to form final view on Kingsford stadium plans

On Thursday 16th March, Infrastructure Services Committee is recommended to note and consider the view provided by Garioch Area Committee last month that the application be refused for the reasons as detailed and to note and consider the responses already provided by consultees including the holding objections from Environmental Health & Transportation. The Committee is further recommended to agree a formal consultation response for submission to Aberdeen City Council on the stadium proposal at Kingsford. I hope that ISC will reiterate our comments made at Garioch Area to request that Aberdeenshire Council continue to be involved in the process as the plans progress. We fully respect the right of Aberdeen City councillors to make the final decision but as this plan is a significant departure from both the Local Development Plan and the Strategic Development Plan and affects Aberdeenshire residents, both authorities should be working in partnership to work through the issues raised. The report before ISC members can be seen here (item 8).

 

 

Places, people and planning – consultation events

As the period for responding to “Places, people and planning” draws to a close (4th April) there will be an opportunity to speak to the Scottish Government team over the next couple of weeks.

They are in Trinity Shopping Centre, Aberdeen on Wednesday 15th March from 9am-4pm.

The consultation can be found here and there is still time to send in your comments. If you have views about any of the main themes: making plans for the future, getting more people involved in local plans, building more high quality homes and associated infrastructure, stronger leadership and smarter resourcing, please respond to the consultation.

 

Scottish Liberal Democrats re-affirm support for Frank’s Law

The Scottish Liberal Democrat conference in Perth yesterday unanimously passed a motion re-affirming the party’s support for Franks Law.

The motion also went on to urge the Scottish Government and the SFA to examine what support can be given to ex-football players suffering from dementia. The commitment follows fresh calls from former professionals and their families, including from Liz McNeill, the wife of former Celtic captain Billy McNeill who suffers from dementia.

Frank’s Law is named after former Dundee midfielder Frank Kopel who was diagnosed with dementia at the age of 59. At present, anyone under the age of 65 who requires personal care for conditions such as dementia, motor neurone disease, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis has to fund the cost of the care themselves. However, for those over the age of 65, that personal care is free.

Commenting after closing the debate, North East MSP Mike Rumbles said:

“I am delighted that conference has unanimously voted in favour of re-affirming our support for Frank’s Law.

“While Liberal Democrats were instrumental in introducing free personal care for the elderly, it is absolutely essential that action is now taken to ensure people under the age of 65 with a degenerative illnesses have access to the personal care and support they need.

“Frank’s widow, Amanda Kopel deserves great credit for forcing this issue on to the political agenda and keeping pressure on the Scottish Government to act.”

Mr Rumbles, who represents the North East, added:

“What’s more, today party members recognised the number of ex-footballers who go on to suffer from dementia in later life.

“That is why Scottish Liberal Democrats are urging the Scottish Government and the SFA to examine what support can be given to ex-football players suffering from dementia and support research into the potential link between brain injuries, dementia and football.”

What do you think of proposed bus timetable changes?

Stagecoach have issued the following information and are seeking your views:

“Ahead of registering our new timetables for 1st May 2017 we’d like to hear from you! Our proposed timetables to commence 1st May are available here. Services will be revised in Aberdeen, Buchan, Stonehaven, Inverurie, Kemnay and Moray from this date.

Proposed timetables for bus services are all available online now at stagecoachbus.com. We’d love if you could review the proposals and share your thoughts, whether in support of the revisions, highlighting any concerns or sharing any other ideas you have on the services we operate.

Proposals include –

  •  Improvements to bus connections between Aberdeen and Stonehaven. Service X6 will be replaced with new X7 journeys, operated by Stagecoach Bluebird.  These will be offered in addition to the X7 journeys operated by Stagecoach East Scotland.  Service 7A/7B/7C will be replaced with a simplified 7/7B service – as part of this change the route in Portlethen and Stonehaven will be modified to be more consistent.
  • Westhill – Aberdeen service X17 will become a 15 minute frequency at peak times, and a diversion to Prime Four Business Park will be introduced in the peaks.
  • Some early morning and late evening journeys on services 10 and 35 to be withdrawn in response to low passenger use currently.
  • Service X18 will be replaced by service 217, 218 and 220.
  • Inverurie – Aberdeen service 37 will be revised to a frequency of every 30 mins Monday – Friday. There are two proposals for this service – option A operates on the current route and Option B operates via Craibstone Park & Ride. Customers are encouraged to provide feedback on their preferred timetable.
  • Alford – Kemnay – Aberdeen service X20 will see some minor timing revisions. Like with service 37, there are two proposals for this service – option A operates on the current route and Option B operates via Craibstone Park & Ride. Customers are encouraged to provide feedback on their preferred timetable.
  • Aberdeen Airport service 727 will be revised and will no longer serve Craibstone Park and Ride. There are two proposals for this service – one operates on the current route and the other details the timetable for when Broad Street will close for redevelopment.
  • Service 80 – Kirkhill Industrial Estate to Aberdeen Airport will be withdrawn due to low passenger use.
  • Service 66 – Peterhead – Stuartfield will reduce in frequency.
  •  Service 11/11A will be revised to operate every 30 minutes.
  •  Service 30 will be withdrawn due to extremely low passenger use.
  •  Service 31 will be withdrawn and replaced by service 33.
  •  Service 32 will be withdrawn and replaced by a revised service 36 allowing customers to connect to the New Elgin retail area.
  • Service 33 will be revised to operate a 20 minute frequency from Lossiemouth to Pinefield and New Elgin via Elgin. The section of route from Lesmurdie Road to Newmill Road will be withdrawn due to low passenger use.
  • Service 36 will operate to a revised route to replace part of withdrawn service 32. The section between Elgin and Forres will be withdrawn. Bus travel between Elgin and Forres can be made on services 10/11/11A.
  • Service 34 and 38 will not be revised from 1st May.

We are also holding holding information events throughout Aberdeenshire and Moray, to let you view the timetables or speak to local staff about the proposals. Events are planned to take place in Aberdeen, Westhill, Elgin, Portlethen and Inverurie.

Aberdeen St Nicholas Square, Aberdeen 2nd March, 10am – 4pm

Garioch Area Bus Forum Westhill Academy, Westhill 2nd March, 7.30pm – 9pm

Elgin St Giles Shopping Centre, Elgin 7th March, 9am – 5pm Portlethen/Inverurie Date and Venue TBC but event will take place week commencing 6th March.

At the events you can give us your feedback and or ask any questions regarding the proposed schedules.

For those unable to attend the above events, the proposed timetables and network maps are now available to view here, all feedback is welcomed to nscotmarketing@stagecoachbus.com or simply reply to this email.  All feedback should be submitted no later than Friday 10th March 2017.

Garioch councillors oppose stadium site

At Garioch Area Committee today (Tuesday 21st February), councillors were asked to note the contents of their planner’s report here (item 7) to provide a view to Infrastructure Services Committee (ISC) later next month on the Aberdeen City application 170021/DPP and request that Aberdeenshire Council be consulted on any relevant additional information or addendums to the Transport Assessment and Environmental Statement in order that the Council can fully consider any changes to the proposal and assess impacts upon Aberdeenshire.

Westhill and Elrick Community Council as a statutory body requested to speak at the meeting. There were further requests to speak from the “No to Kingsford” group, the “Westhill for Kingford” group and George Yule for AFC. This allowed councillors to hear a range of views and ask questions as required. We were also able to get clarification on particular issues from our own planner and Transport officer.

The full Minutes of this meeting will be available as a public document in about three weeks time but to summarise, after a long discussion, councillors had a number of issues to put forward to ISC. A motion was put forward to recommend to oppose the application due to multiple breaches of policy. An amendment was offered to put forward the concerns highlighted in the report with a view to getting more information. The motion carried 6-5. ISC will now consider in March, Garioch Area Committee’s recommendation to oppose the application. I voted for the motion and I give my reasons for this below.

This has been a very frustrating application for local councillors. We have a major proposal on our doorstep which is going to impact on Westhill and District but we are really at the mercy of Aberdeen City councillors.

We’ve had a huge amount of letters, emails and phone calls from residents about the stadium proposal. We’ve sat through dozens of meetings listening to the local debate. I circulated my own survey some months ago to gauge local views with a 60/40 split against out of 500 responses.

I have also taken time to speak to local businesses in the more rural areas who are in favour as they see business opportunities. I have also spoken to businesses who can see their trade being adversely affected by the development.

I do think that AFC have been a bit unfair to their fans and shareholders by portraying this as a done deal. They should have emphasised more that there is a planning process to go through and planning policies to consider. It’s not a numbers game.

The Garioch Area Committee’s job is to look at planning policy without influence of big business and without being swayed by the popularity of an organisation.

The main planning issues for me are:

Loss of greenbelt, particularly leading to coalescence of Kingswells and Westhill. We love our City neighbours but we are two separate identities. The purpose of the greenbelt is to direct planned growth to the most appropriate locations and protect and give access to open space within and around towns and cities. There have been many references made by supporters of the fact that most residential and business land in Westhill was greenbelt at one point. Not technically so; some was agricultural land, some greenfield, but nearly all planned and consulted on – see comments about the Local Development Plan below.

Traffic issues – the traffic issues have been well documented in the planner’s report. The proximity to the AWPR being used as a positive point by the applicant is actually a myth. The AWPR will take cars from the north and the south on to the A944 which Transport Scotland has reported will see only a 1% reduction of traffic after the AWPR is completed. There is no direct link from the AWPR to the stadium. Some 55.5% of fans according to the Traffic Assessment will travel from Aberdeen City – most using the A944, not the AWPR. For residents as far up as Strathdon, their main route in to Aberdeen is via the A944.

At this stage there are a lot of unanswered questions over traffic management and parking.

The Kingsford site is not in the Local Development Plan. Developers are well aware of the LDP process which allows councils to work with developers and local communities at an early stage to set out a land use plan which everybody should have confidence in.

The reason I voted for the motion to oppose rather than wait for further information about the traffic and parking issues was that the main breach of policy, i.e. greenbelt, cannot be mitigated against unless we pick up Westhill and move it further west. I have real concerns about the traffic management and parking issues but we’ll see what they come up with.

I have no doubt AFC need a new stadium and I really do wish them well, but Kingsford is not the right site.