Hillhead of Concraig one day road closure

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



At Hillhead of Concraig

For 1 day on 24 August 2017

Diversion via A96 to B994 Kintore, B977 to Lyne of Skene, B9126 to A944 Gairloch, B979 to Kirkton of Skene as shown on the attached plan

Access to Emergency Vehicles will be maintained at all times.

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

Pre-Determination Hearing date for Kingsford Stadium set

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

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

The Hearing on 13th September will follow this procedure:

Convenor: Opening remarks, purpose and procedures set out;

Case Officer: summarises the planning application and material considerations;

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

Applicant: presents proposal;

Community Council for the area: present their observations;

Objectors/supporters: state their case;

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

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

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


Westhill A2B dial-a-bus changes to service

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

Service Area

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

Monday-Friday Service

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

Saturday Service

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

Proposed Timetable

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

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

Echt                                    0945

Garlogie                              0955

Kirkton of Skene                 1005

Westhill Shopping Centre   1020

Westhill Tesco                    1030

Westhill Tesco                    1140

Westhill Shopping Centre   1150

Kirkton of Skene                 1205

Garlogie                              1215

Echt                                     1230

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


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

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

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

Communications with RBS continue

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

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

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

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

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

Places, people and planning

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

Some of the key proposals for the Planning Bill include:

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

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

“Use it or lose it” – Scottish farmers urged to make use of Tenants’ Improvements amnesty

Tonight (Thursday 13th July), I attended an event at Thainstone organised by the FAS (Farm Advisory Service) aimed to inform tenant farmers and landowners about important changes to tenancy legislation including the current Tenants’ Improvements Amnesty.

Agreed as part of the 2016 Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016, the amnesty allows for certain past improvements carried out by the tenant to be eligible for way-go (end of tenancy) compensation despite missing notices or consents. The amnesty opens on June 13 and will run for three years.

It was a very informative event and a chance to network with the farming community. I occasionally receive casework and queries about tenancy rights from farming constituents, so I took the chance to learn more about these important changes.

The main messages of the evening to tenant farmers and landowners were:

  • It is the tenant’s responsibilty to start the discussion with their landlord;
  • this is a time-limited process – don’t delay;
  • get professional advice

More information can be found in the Code of Practice – Amnesty on Tenants’ Improvements here.


5-day road closure from Auchronie Hill to Millbuie Farm

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




Commencing  7 August 2017 for 5 days.

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

The alternative route is B9126 to U98c Kirkton of Skene, B979 Kirkton of Skene to U100c, U100c to C99c Blackchambers, U102c to B9126


What’s behind the headlines as AFC ramps up stadium plans?

Love them or hate them, the No to Kingsford Group (NKS) continue to be painted the villains against the beloved Dandies as determination of AFC’s planning application for a new stadium looms nearer. The story paints a picture of the heroic Reds, struggling to score all things good against one dastardly group who don’t know what’s good for them. For those who don’t read beyond the headlines, any stadium built of course will be first-class if it is in the right location, but the story is a little more complicated than one lone group’s objection against “very localised issues”.

Back in May, the club submitted additional information to Aberdeen City Council to try to address some of the outstanding issues from their original submission some months earlier. Statutory consultees were invited to comment as well as representations being open for the public to comment on the new information. You can read all the new documents online at the AFC link on the right hand side of my page.

Aberdeen City Council’s Roads Development Management team have highlighted a host of outstanding issues not addressed in this second round of documents from the club. New information on trip generation, modal split and trip profiles of the proposed development has emerged with no new scoping details, nor has “the altered methodology been scoped with the Council and agreement has not been sought as would normally be expected.” Police Scotland has not confirmed in writing that they are willing to control the movement of vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists as required as part of the Traffic Management Plan nor to provide police officers in both east and westbound carriageways on the A944 to stop vehicles from entering the pedestrian crossing space.

Confirmation previously sought on the 600 spaces at the Arnhall Business Park being available during matches with an evening kick-off has not been forthcoming in the additional information either. Aberdeen City notes that these aspects have not been identified in the Transport Assessment Addendum and are requesting clarity in this regard. They also re-iterate that an off-site parking arrangement with a third party and out with the redline boundary of the site is not enforceable within the planning system. You will see many other issues on their response online; too many to document again.

Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services response is not available online at this minute, so I will not make comment on that here. Westhill & Elrick Community Council’s response is awaited too.

On reading the many documents submitted from the club this time around, not only have they thrown in some new quanderies over the Fanzone with no backing information on noise assessments, economic implications, but also a new supporters survey compiled by Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce.

After ploughing through these additional late papers, for me, and I know for many others, the fundamental planning issues remain. The greenbelt issue has not gone away. The site remains outwith the Local Development Plan. The stated preferred method of transport is by car, going against both councils’ sustainable travel policies. There is no direct route from the AWPR to the stadium; therefore the AWPR is not the magic bullet for this development. There remains no genuine community use available.

The “Dons executive” has a lot more talking up to do to satisfy not just the baddies of NKS, but the raft of statutory consultees including both councils, local community councils and members of the wider public who have read between the lines and have delved in to the reams of information to come forward with real, not perceived concerns. The plot will no doubt thicken as we turn the pages towards the pre-determination hearing and ultimate determination in October. And of course, what will the decision-makers make of it all?





Women in Farming and the Agriculture Sector

I wrote previously about the Scottish Government’s research project, the aim of which is to investigate the role of women in farming and the agriculture sector in Scotland under five headings: daily life, aspirations, career paths, leadership and comparative analysis with women in other family businesses. During the research, the importance of inheritance, training and farm safety also emerged as important issues. I have copied the findings below.

Executive Summary

In 2016, the Scottish Government’s Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services Division (RESAS) commissioned research on ‘Women in Farming and the Agriculture Sector’. The overall purpose of this research was to establish a baseline position on women in farming and the agriculture sector, which then will inform future policies to enhance the role of women in these sectors.

The specific aim of this research project is to investigate the role of women in farming and the agriculture sector in Scotland under five headings: daily life, aspirations, career paths, leadership and comparative analysis with women in other family businesses. During the research, the importance of inheritance, training and farm safety also emerged as important issues.

The research was comprised of literature review, 9 focus groups, 30 interviews and two on-line surveys: in total, over 1300 women and 12 men from across Scotland participated. The research was undertaken from June 2016 to March 2017.

Key Messages:

Women play a major role in Scottish agriculture, participating in the full range of farming activities.

The cultural practice of passing on large farms intact to one son is the single biggest barrier to women’s entry into agriculture. This means land transfer is institutionalised culturally (i.e. it is a hegemonic practice) but not legally (i.e. there is no legal restriction against multiple inheritance or bequeaths to daughters).

Women are very under-represented amongst the elected leadership of national-level farming organisations (e.g. although over 1/3 of farm operators are women, the NFUS has no women amongst its national office holders, regional board chairmen or committee chairmen.

However, about half of NFUS staff are women). Women have more proportionate elected representation in the Scottish Crofting Federation (where 3/9 board members are women).

Most survey respondents would like to see more women involved in leadership of farming organisations, but only about 1/3 were personally interested in becoming more involved in leadership themselves.

Lack of time is a major barrier to advancing women’s roles on-farm and in farming organisations, and to accessing training (including continuing professional development, knowledge sharing, farm visits and industry events). Women in agriculture are very busy, juggling family responsibilities, farm work, housework, off-farm employment and volunteer work.

Some respondents reported exclusionary practices that take place in farming organisations (e.g. the unlikeliness of women being elected to committee positions; women being asked to leave meetings once the social elements were finished).

Approximately 18% of main survey respondents identified ‘Not welcome by existing male leaders’ as a barrier to their participation in leadership of farming organisations.

The Scottish Association of Young Farmer Clubs (SAYFC) was the most common provider of leadership experience to women in Scottish agriculture.

There is a clear need for more access to, and uptake of, vocational, practical training for women entering agriculture, across a range of topics.

Enabling new entrants to establish farms also enables more egalitarian gender relations. This and other research shows that when men and women enter agriculture together (through buying/ renting together at the outset) more equal gender relations exist.

Approximately 29% of survey participants expressed an interest in developing farm diversification activities in the next five years. This interest was particularly marked amongst crofting respondents (38% expressed interest in developing diversification activities).

Women and men engage in many unsafe farm behaviours as a result of different demands and activities not accounted for in recommendations on safe practices.

Women in family businesses outside of agriculture face far fewer barriers to business involvement and leadership.

Scottish Government’s concerns about recognising the role of women in agriculture are similar to those shared by the European Union and national governments (e.g. Australia, Northern Ireland).

Key Recommendations:

The cultural practice of passing on large farms intact to one son needs to be challenged. Other models should be explored (e.g. in the rest of Europe it is not possible to disinherit other children). Increasing the discourse on inheritance practice (e.g. in farming organisations and the farming press) can lead to change in practices.

Succession planning is poor and families are reluctant to discuss it together. Access to professional advice on succession planning, as well as awareness raising and support, should be offered to all members of farm families.

The practice of only having one named tenant on a croft should be revisited to critically evaluate the gender implications. In an instance of divorce, spouses can lose access to the family home on the croft.

Conscious and unconscious bias needs to be addressed in farming organisations. A programme of measures is necessary and the following are recommended:

  • A 30% quota system for farming organisation boards and committees
  • Mechanisms to enable progression from the SAYFC to the National Farmers Union of Scotland Council (e.g. mentorship, establishment of a ‘young farmer’ or ‘new entrant’ council position).
  • Establishment of a ‘talent bank’ of suitably qualified women for farming positions (identifying their skills and interests, offering training opportunities, and encouraging farming organisations to recruit from this pool when positions became available).
  • Identifying women mentors to support male and female apprentices

If women-only networks and activities are supported, this should be through mainstream farming organisations, and not as separate fringe events.

Practical, hands-on training programmes need to be developed and made accessible to women through flexible scheduling, childcare availability and on-line components. Topics of primary interest to study participants included: livestock husbandry, animal health, accounting, business entrepreneurship, large vehicle driving, environmental protection and legal compliance.

Women should be supported to pursue a range of farm diversification opportunities, at a variety of scales.

More land should be made available for new entrants (e.g. on Crown Estate Scotland land, from large estates (of all ownership types), and through a ‘matching service’ with older farmers).

To increase farm safety, financial incentives, for farmers to purchase equipment appropriate for women and to encourage the use of childcare facilities, should be developed. Further research is needed to consider how to plan a farmyard for women and ageing farmers.