22 March 2023

Infrastructure Services Committee March round-up

During its meeting on Thursday, March 16, Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee discussed its Historic Asset Management Project, regeneration progress across the region and activity supporting Aberdeenshire’s food and drink sector.


Food and drink activity

Committee was given a summary of the activity provided to support the food and drink sector, between April and September last year by Opportunity North East in partnership with Aberdeenshire Council. Activities included programmes covering Business Growth, Leadership Development Programme, Mentoring, Seafood Future Leader, North East Scotland Food and Drink Awards and the North East Scotland Food Network.

Last year the council agreed a contribution of up to £51,000 towards total project costs for food and drink activity of £373,000. Councillors heard that food and drink is the UK's largest manufacturing sector, and the industry has long been important to the region. There are 22,000 people employed in the industry in north-east Scotland and the region accounts for more than 20% of

Scotland's food and drink output. The area leads on the production of Scotland's quality primary produce from land and sea and is home to some of the country's most iconic brands.

The industry ambition is to grow north-east Scotland's food, drink, agriculture and seafood sector turnover by 5% per annum, double output and exports by 2030, and increase productivity by 25% by 2025. During discussion there was an ask from councillors that representatives of ONE be invited to a future meeting to make a presentation on its activity to support the food and drink sector, in partnership with the council.


Historic Asset Management Project

Securing the long-term stability of St. Brandon’s Churchyard at Inverboyndie is this year’s priority for Aberdeenshire Council’s Historic Asset Management Project (HAMP). The project outlined its plans for the year ahead at committee, reminding councillors that Aberdeenshire Council has a statutory duty under health and safety and heritage legislation to keep historic structures in its ownership safe and in good condition.

Since 2013, HAMP has been carrying out vital works at many of the region’s 500-plus non-operational historic assets in Council ownership including church ruins, historic churchyards, commemorative towers and fountains, war memorials, Pictish carved stones, stone circles, and castle ruins.

Assets were first surveyed between 2014 and 2015 with a repair prioritisation plan drawn up to focus the limited financial resources on critical repairs and maintenance. Councillors were united in their praise and thanks for the “phenomenal” efforts of this small, but dedicated team.


Developing Excellence in our North Coast Communities

A detailed update on the council’s regeneration strategy ‘Developing Excellence in our North Coast Communities for Banff, Macduff and Fraserburgh and Peterhead’ highlighted the progress achieved since the last update in June last year.

Highlights included completion of The Vinery, Banff which is now operational and in the first 5 months of operation has delivered strong outcomes with excellent community involvement. No 30, The Square, Huntly, delivered by Huntly Development Trust is currently in mid-build and is seeking additional funding has had challenges on increased inflationary costs and time to completion. Councillors heard that the Trust has secured additional funding for some of these costs and will continue to seek additional funds to complete the building.

In terms of other projects, committee was advised that the Loves Local Aberdeenshire Gift card is gaining traction with more than 260 businesses now registered retailers of the card. Committee was also advised that the Friends of Tarlair are working with council officers to finalise an application by March 31 to the Scottish Government to safeguard funds for the development of the pavilion.

The meeting also heard that project works are already underway on the Levelling Up bids for Macduff Marine Aquarium and Peterhead Cultural Quarter, with LLA, Area Management, Property and Economic Development services developing the proposals. Councillors were told that these were significant projects which will undoubtedly be challenging, but equally rewarding in the long-term as they deliver “economic, cultural, educational and social outcomes across our most vulnerable communities”.


Invest Aberdeen Report and Partnership Review

Councillors were given an update on the work of Invest Aberdeen – the Aberdeen City Region Inward Investment Hub established in 2018 between Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Councils. Invest Aberdeen promotes the Aberdeen City Region as a location for inward investment, promotes the particular regional opportunities and supports investors and companies looking to move into the North East.

It forms an integral part of the Economic Development services – in terms of supporting the realisation of investment opportunities – of both Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City councils, but also works with other regional and national partners and takes a lead from relevant regional and national strategy and policy as it works out its objectives and determines priorities. In a similar vein to the committee’s discussion around the food and drink sector, councillors sought a far more detailed breakdown of the organisation’s work to demonstrate its successes.

Committee instructed the Head of Planning & Economy to identify key performance indicators relating to inward investment in Aberdeenshire and thereafter report on an annual basis to ISC on the progress made by Invest Aberdeen towards meeting those performance measures.

Councillors also agreed that the council participate in the Invest Aberdeen partnership for a further year and indicatively a second year subject to a presentation or workshop being made by Invest Aberdeen to ISC on its role and remit and the approval by committee of the first annual progress and performance report presented to it.


Speeding and Road Safety Interventions

Councillors discussed the ongoing work undertaken by the Roads and Infrastructure Service with regards to speeding and road-safety interventions. Aberdeenshire Council’s new Road Safety Plan and Action Plan emphasises the Scottish Government’s approach of embedding a Safe System across the road network.

The committee was reminded that the council is continuing with work to introduce 20mph speed restrictions in urban areas, while maintaining a network of strategic routes with 30mph speed restrictions. There was specific discussion around the operation of speed-indicator devices (SIDs) - a type of vehicle-activated sign which measures the speed of approaching vehicles and displays either the real-time measured speed or a relevant symbol or message – and whether community groups could be allowed to operate them.

Current policy seeks to avoid overuse and unnecessary sign clutter by restricting the use of SIDs to locations where they are most needed and will be effective. To this end, it sets out criteria for the use of these signs and limits those authorised to operate SIDs to the traffic authority and Police Scotland only.

Councillors were advised that while the deployment of community-operated SID devices may appear attractive for numerous reasons, there are potential negative impacts that should be considered, including use of signs at locations where they are not justified in terms of road safety, overuse reducing effectiveness and that facilitating and managing community operation of SIDs will place additional pressures on the finite capacity of the service.

Committee agreed that the Head of Roads and Infrastructure will provide ISC with links to more recent data on the use of speed indicator devices, that it will circulate information to community councils on the pop-up ‘Bobby’ trials and provide information to local councillors on timescales for undertaking assessments on vehicle speeds and signage on the A947.


Other matters:

Outdoor Access Trust Cllr Gordon Laing was appointed to the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland to represent Aberdeenshire Council in a decision-making capacity

Financial Performance Councillors discussed the Revenue forecast over-budget position and commented on the capital budget position before endorsing budget movements

Policy Register Annual Review – Committee agreed the proposed plans for a review of those policies which have expired as well as those that are approaching their review date, to be considered at future committees


The full agenda, documents and links to the recording of the webcast can be found here: