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Aberdeenshire Infrastructure Programme Updates

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Aberdeenshire Council's Infrastructure Services Committee has published an update on a number of the local authority's roads assets, the adoption of new roads policies, the future of rural partnership funding and the Tour of Britain.

• Four Winds, Stuartfield – planning application

Councillors refused an application from Claymore Homes for two new houses at Plot 4, Four Winds, Stuartfield after the Planning Service said the proposed development was contrary to Policy R2 Housing in that it exceeded the maximum limit of up to 10 houses for organic growth around the village within the current Aberdeenshire Local Development Plan. The committee heard that the local Buchan Area Committee had voted in favour of the application being approved saying the development would complement the village. Members voted 9-5 in favour of the application being refused as per recommendations.

• Mid Hill Wind Farm – planning application

The committee objected to plans for ten new wind turbines being installed at the existing Mid Hill Wind Farm to the west of Stonehaven. The application has been submitted to the Scottish Government's Energy Consents Unit by Natural Power Consultants. Both the Marr and Kincardine and Mearns area committees recommended objections to the proposals. Members unanimously agreed with the Planning Service that the proposed development had the potential to significantly impact on the landscape and visual aspect of the area, lay within an area with no underlying capacity for new wind energy developments and that it had not been demonstrated that the proposed development would not have a detrimental impact upon aircraft and aviation as outlined by the objection from the Ministry of Defence.

• Roads Asset Management Update

Members were provided with a detailed report on the condition of the council's roads-related infrastructure assets across Aberdeenshire and the financial implications of various future scenarios over a 20-year period. Committee acknowledged the estimated annual costs needed to maintain roads infrastructure in its current condition and agreed to consider the contents of the Status and Options Report 2020 when making decisions relating to the future management of the road network. Requests to speak from three members of the public were also granted on the subject of Park Bridge.

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• Roads Policy Review

A detailed Roads Policy Review which addresses speed limits, pedestrian crossings and street trading and occupation of the road was approved. All six area committees were given the opportunity to contribute to the development of the proposed policies earlier this year. A recent public consultation process enjoyed a strong level of public participation - particularly with regards to the speed limit proposals - with more than 1,000 responses submitted. Under the policy the council will aim to introduce 20mph speed limits on all minor roads in built-up areas and within designated town centres. Widespread adoption of the 20mph limits is firmly aimed at reducing the number of vehicles exceeding the speed limit. The policy and associated 'manuals' for the introduction of measures also deals with crossings and street trading/occupation of the road.

Rural partnerships funding

Aberdeenshire Council remains committed to supporting the region's six rural partnerships over the next two years and will assist them to become financially self-financing in the longer-term. Councillors heard that the partnerships continue to play a key role in developing and engaging communities in their areas, providing advice and support services to third sector organisations. However, with the council facing significant financial pressures and challenges, the service has had to review the areas of activities which can be supported and reflect on the change of focus in response to Covid-19 and community resilience in the future. The ISC agreed that £22,500 be allocated to each partnership in 2021-22 and 2022-23.

Climate Change Declaration consultation

Members considered Aberdeenshire Council's Climate Change Declaration and provided comments for the Sustainability Committee and thereafter Full Council in May on how to work towards the declaration's targets and commitments. The council's Climate Change Declaration sets new targets of the authority reducing its own emissions by 75% by 2030 and becoming 'Net Zero' for carbon equivalent emissions by 2045, as well as the target to 'work with others across the region to ensure that Aberdeenshire reaches Net Zero by 2045'. The Declaration also reinforces existing commitments to community empowerment and fairness, promoting biodiversity, the circular economy and energy transition. Committee said it was vital the council continues its climate change dialogue with a range of partners including Opportunity North east, Nestrans and the oil and gas sector.

• Tour of Britain

Councillors have agreed that Aberdeenshire Council will still host the Final Stage of the Tour Britain Event in 2021 and the Grand Depart of the Tour of Britain in 2022 in association with Aberdeen City Council providing Covid-19 does not threaten staging of the event. The prestigious professional cycling race scheduled for September this year was postponed owing to the pandemic. If Covid-19 levels were to continue and seriously limit spectators or even result in an outright ban, it has been jointly agreed by organisers Sweet Spot and the hosts that the events will not proceed.

Other Matters:

• Councillors considered and welcomed Aberdeenshire's Digital Strategy as part of the consultation process into shaping the strategy

• Committee noted the revenue and capital budget monitoring update to September 30

• Acknowledged the progress made with strategic transportation projects, activities and developments taken forward by Nestrans, external agencies and other stakeholders

• Members agreed Aberdeenshire Council's response to a Scottish Government consultation on market restrictions on problematic single-use plastics.

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