21 September 2023

Infrastructure Services Committee August round-up

During its meeting on Thursday, August 24, Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee discussed supplementary guidance around developer obligations and affordable housing, a proposed extension to a speed limit on the A93 near the Inchmarlo Retirement Estate and the work required to tackle ash dieback disease within the region’s woodland.


Council to develop prioritised action plan to tackle Ash Dieback Disease

Councillors agreed that officers need to develop a prioritised action plan to tackle the growing issue of Ash Dieback Disease. It is now regarded as the most significant tree disease to affect broadleaved trees in the UK in recent years, damaging the tree’s internal structure and, in most cases, ultimately proving fatal. Research by the Tree Council has estimated that the disease will lead to the decline and death of 50-75% of ash trees in Scotland within the next 20 years. Ash trees are found across Aberdeenshire growing either planted or self-seeded on most types of land owned and managed by the council, from woodlands and parks to school and housing grounds and are found on road verges and vacant land. Committee heard that although the full extent of tree numbers in the region is currently unknown, the removal of affected ash on council land alone is likely to be in the region of £500,000, with replacement planting incurring significant additional costs. They were told that the greatest challenge in responding to the impacts of the disease is likely to be in relation to roadside ash trees. There are an estimated 15,000 ash trees within falling distance of Aberdeenshire roads, many of which are mature or over-mature and would be costly to remove. In the vast majority of cases these trees are growing within private ownership and, while the responsibility for management of these privately-owned trees remains firmly with the landowner, their location and the resultant potential risk to road users may result in the requirement for council intervention. Aberdeenshire is not alone in being affected by the impact of this disease, with local authorities across Scotland now having to take action to respond to the challenge. Due to the unique effects of the disease, infected and dead trees cannot safely be left as standing deadwood and the more pronounced the infection, the greater the health and safety risk and the more limited and costly removal options become.


Councillors adhere to policy after Inchmarlo speed limit petition

Councillors considered a request for the introduction of a 40mph speed limit along a section of the A93 near the Inchmarlo Retirement Estate. Members heard about an investigation and recommendations from the Roads Service following a request from the council’s Marr Area Committee to deviate from policy which would begin the formal process to extend the existing speed limit. It followed the submission of a petition by the Inchmarlo, Brathens and Glassel Community Council requesting that the council consider changing the current speed limit of 60mph to 40mph on the A93 in the area of Inchmarlo Retirement Estate through to West Lodge. Both general speed limits for restricted roads and the national speed limit are set by the Scottish Government and these apply by default across the country. As these defaults may not be appropriate for all sections of a route, local traffic authorities are permitted to set local speed limits suited to local conditions and circumstances. To ensure a strategic approach adopted in the use of this power, the Infrastructure Services Committee agreed the current Speed Limit Policy back in 2020. Councillors heard that results from a database search indicated that the section of road from Bridge of Canny to Banchory was not a location with a significant history of accidents and that the small number of listed accidents did not indicate that speed was a main contributory factor. The conclusion of the review was that the section of road considered did not meet the criteria for a reduced speed limit as set out in the current policy. After a lengthy, considered debate and having heard from two local residents, ISC chair Cllr Alan Turner moved the recommendations and raised a motion to add an additional recommendation to instruct officers to accelerate the review of the current speed limit policy, currently due for review in 2025 with an exact timetable for the review to be agreed once the guidance for the national urban 20mph roll out is confirmed. Officers would also be tasked with reporting back with the detailed timeline in due course. Cllr Ann Ross raised an amendment to instruct officers to examine a speed limit of 40mph within the confines of the entrance and exit to the Inchmarlo Retirement Village, as a precedent had previously been set for a departure from policy for a 40mph limit at Glassel. Committee voted 11-3 in support of the motion.


Strategic transport updates welcomed

Councillors welcomed the latest updates on projects associated with the local, regional and national transport strategy work across Aberdeenshire. Among the updates provided were on the forthcoming launch of the second e-bike hire scheme complementing the Formartine and Buchan Way project, details on the launch of the peak time traffic restriction at Fraserburgh South Park School and an update on a Nestrans report in response to the Scottish Government’s target to reduce car travel by 20% by 2030. Committee also received an update on the A90/A952 Transport Corridor Evidence Review led by Nestrans and an update on the Electric Vehicle Charging Network Pathfinder Project following completion of market engagement through a Prior Information Notice.


Praise for ongoing efforts in regeneration towns

The ongoing work focusing on regeneration efforts in the four northern towns of Banff, Macduff, Fraserburgh, and Peterhead have again been praised by councillors. Committee heard that each of the regeneration plans contain ambitious output and outcome indicators and targets to aim to achieve over the lifetime of the plans. Officers said it was credit to all the partners involved in regeneration efforts - particularly in light of the disruption caused by the pandemic and more recent economic events - that most of the outcomes across the plans have now been achieved or exceeded. Looking ahead, with engagement continuing on the council’s new Place Strategy, it is expected that the regeneration programme will transition into a wider Place approach. The Fraserburgh Regeneration Development Partnership has agreed that the focus for the remainder of the plan period in Fraserburgh should be on the Beach Vision and Masterplan work. The Banff and Macduff Action Plans have all been reviewed over the past year with local members and many of the actions are now reported either into the Area Plan, the Community Planning Partnership or the Economic Development Service Plan. Work is continuing to develop Macduff Harbour, which is a major asset across both towns including an investment prospectus which is currently at the design phase and officers are continuing to review external funding opportunities for investment. In Peterhead, meanwhile, the objectives and actions from the existing Vision and Action Plan will be re-tested against Peterhead 2040 with the appropriate objectives and actions developed through a new masterplan. Committee also called for a meeting of the Banff Development Partnership to be arranged as soon as possible to continue to address local objectives.


Developer obligations and affordable housing guidance approved

New guidance setting out Aberdeenshire Council’s approach to meeting the policy requirement to provide developer obligations and affordable housing have been approved. Councillors were advised that the purpose of the planning guidance is to provide clear information on the process for developer obligations and affordable housing as required in the Aberdeenshire Local Development Plan (LDP) 2023. Councillors heard that based on information available during the preparation of the LDP and up to the first quarter of 2023, the council had anticipated where the need for developer obligations will arise, but accepted that it is not possible to identify this in every case. Decisions on whether developer obligations are required will be based on the Settlement Statements and other relevant documentation linked to the adopted LDP. Councillors asked that clear messaging on developer obligations be provided in an easily accessible form to ensure clarity during engagement with communities.


Other matters:

Food and Drink - Peter Cook of Opportunity North East gave members an overview of ONE’s efforts to promote and support the region’s food and drink industry. Committee was given a summary of the activity provided to support the food and drink sector in partnership with Aberdeenshire Council which 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 contributed project costs for food and drink activity of £360,000. Mr Cook said food, drink and agriculture in the north-east of Scotland provided 22,000 jobs, enjoyed a £2.4 billion turnover and was growing at 4% per year. It’s the second largest sector after energy and provides 20% of the national sector output. ONE aims to reach a 5% growth in turnover per annum and double exports by 2030, while increasing productivity by 25% by 2025.

A947 Update – Eight councillors are to be appointed to a Member Officer Working Group to develop the A947 Route Improvement Strategy. The group will monitor the progress of the agreed Action Plan and receive regular reports and provide any comments and/feedback on these reports. It will also provide feedback and comments throughout the project and ultimately make recommendations to the Infrastructure Services Committee.

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