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Councillor Gains Assurances Over Kintore Station Timescales

>> 21 June 2019

SNP Councillor for East Garioch, Councillor Glen Reid, expressed concerns over the Kintore Railway Station delivery arrangements at yesterday’s meeting of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee, but welcomed assurances which were offered at the meeting over holding Network Rail to their revised timescale for the project.

At a meeting of the Infrastructure Services Committee on Thursday 20th June, Cllr Reid - who as well as being a councillor for Kintore is the Opposition’s Deputy Spokesperson on Infrastructure Services, sought assurances that the Kintore Station would be open and operating no later than May 2020.

He said,

“Whilst I welcome this paper and the progress made so far, I seek assurances from officers that they use all of their powers to pressurise Network Rail to ensure that the programme date does not slip any further. We have a community who have been waiting for this station, are looking forward to it and it will be transformational for Kintore.

“However, we had been told all along by Network Rail that the station would be opening in December of this year. This date was quoted by Nestrans, appeared in Aberdeenshire Council’s papers, in the local and national press, but earlier this year Network Rail denied this date had ever been set. They soon backtracked, but said that it was only aspirational.

“I note that in today’s committee paper it says that the delivery programme date of May 2020 will be kept under review. This cannot be allowed to slip any further.”

Aberdeenshire Council officers assured Councillor Reid that they will continue to reinforce the point that the May 2020 is an absolute requirement.

Speaking after the meeting Councillor Reid said,

“I am pleased that this May delivery date is a priority for the Council. I will continue to monitor and press on this matter as it means so much to the local community.”

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Peterhead Councillor Anne Allan Backs Retention of Free Parking Period

>> 15 June 2019

Peterhead North SNP councillor Anne Allan has described plans to end free parking periods in the town’s ‘Pay and Display’ council car parks as a “backward step” and “detrimental to Peterhead town centre”, ahead of a crunch council vote on Thursday.

In a bid to start making a profit from Aberdeenshire’s loss-making car parks, Conservative and Lib-Dem members of the council’s Infrastructure Services Committee tried to begin the process of removing free parking periods from council ‘Pay and Display’ car parks last November.

A counter-proposal from opposition councillors – which would instead have balanced the car parking budget while retaining a half-hour free parking period in all towns was defeated by 9 votes to 5, with Conservative and Lib Dem committee members voting against.

However, the Conservative and Lib Dem bid to scrap the free period was thwarted after opposition councillors insisted that any decision on the change be taken instead by all 70 councillors at a meeting of January’s full Aberdeenshire Council.

Speaking ahead of Thursday’s meeting of the Full Council, Cllr Anne Allan said:

“Introducing a free parking period was a key pledge made by SNP councillors standing for election in 2012 and we campaigned strongly on this issue, working across party lines with other councillors get it introduced.

“Having a free parking period removes one of the major disincentives for people who perhaps have only one or two items they need to get but don’t want to fork out to pay for parking when they are only going to need a parking space for maybe 10 minutes. It encourages people back into the town centre and that is a good thing.

“The proposal to remove free parking from our car parks just doesn’t make sense and is a backward step. If shoppers are forced to pay for making even a brief stop-off, many customers will choose to go instead to the supermarkets.

“All the feedback suggests that having this short free parking period has helped sustain town centres. Removing it will be detrimental to the town centre and I will be voting to support local shoppers and local businesses and retain a free parking period when this is debated next week.”

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Aberdeenshire Opposition Welcomes Public Engagement Commitment

>> 13 June 2019

Aberdeenshire Council’s Opposition group has welcomed a commitment given today by council officers to improve the authority’s efforts to inform the public about their right to be involved in shaping public services.

Opposition Leader Cllr Richard Thomson (SNP) challenged officers at today’s meeting of the council’s Business Services Committee to step up efforts to improve public awareness of the ‘Participation Request’ process after hearing that just one request had been made in Aberdeenshire under the new powers given by the Community Empowerment Act.

Cllr Thomson’s request – which received unanimous cross-party support – will now see further efforts made by the council to raise public awareness of the process. Committee members also agreed that they should receive an update report in six months time to outline the progress which has been made.

Challenging suggestions that the limited number of Participation Requests ‘may be reflective of the good standard of engagement and participation in Aberdeenshire’ which exists currently, Opposition Leader Cllr Richard Thomson (SNP) said:

“Right now, the low uptake probably has more to do with people not knowing this is something they can do than it has with anything else.

“While this is not the only way that communities and groups of individuals can get involved in decisions over services delivery, it’s still an important tool for influence, especially as a way of opening up dialogue where communities find it difficult to be heard.”

“Today’s cross-party agreement that we should do more to promote awareness of this mechanism is a positive step which, if used well, can help open up the council to new ideas and approaches and allow different voices to be heard more clearly.”

Participation Requests set on a statutory footing the ability of community groups or members of the public to request to have involvement in, and influence over, decisions and services which affect communities.

The single participation request received by the council over the past twelve months - up from zero in the previous period - came from Mearns Community Council and Stonehaven & District Community Council, seeking an improved and more equitable public involvement in participatory budgeting.

The Scottish Government introduced Participation Requests as one tool within a wide range of reforms and changes to community engagement and involvement in local decision-making. Taking account of recommendations from the Christie Commission, the Act introduced this new right to strengthen community voices in shaping local services.

The procedure and further information can be found on the Council’s website at: https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/communityempowerment/.

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Opposition Partnership Secure Review into Fitness Room Usage for Young People

>> 6 June 2019

At a meeting of the Communities Committee on Thursday 6th June, opposition Councillors at Aberdeenshire Council sought and received an assurance that Aberdeenshire Council would review its policy in respect of under 16’s using fitness rooms throughout the area.

Current arrangements mean that under 16s cannot use the fitness rooms unaccompanied in Aberdeenshire, despite this being allowed in a number of local authorities. Officers also confirmed that under 16’s who follow a National Governing Body Programme for fitness can currently request usage of fitness suites, but this would need to be agreed by the local authority.

Commenting, Opposition Spokesperson for Communities, Cllr Gwyneth Petrie (SNP) said:

“This issue was recently brought to our attention, and I am delighted that officers have agreed to review this over the Summer period.

“Physical wellbeing has been well linked to mental wellbeing, and allowing more access to our fitness suites can only be beneficial for the young people of Aberdeenshire. It will also mean that young people are not having to travel outwith Aberdeenshire to use such facilities – making it easier for them, and promoting usage of our own fitness suites."

Cllr Glen Reid (SNP) added:

“I only recently discovered that 14 year-olds were unable to use the gym unaccompanied when my son was refused and had to use a gym in Aberdeen. This is a ridiculous situation whereby young adults need to organise travel to another local authority area to participate in healthy activities.

I welcome the review as we have excellent facilities within Aberdeenshire Council’s control, and we need to remove any barriers preventing people from accessing fitness, starting with young adults.”

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