Strategic Development Plan : Main Issues Report Consultation

Please don't go to sleep.  This is important.

The Strategic Plan sets out in outline what the Local Development Plans have to say.  And they determine whether planning applications are granted.  It you do - or don't - want development in that field near you.   THIS IS YOUR BEST OPPORTUNITY TO INFLUENCE.

The new plan is not greatly different to the old except it takes development out to 2035 with, for example, in the Ellon-Blackdog corridor, in addition to sites for 825 houses already in the pipeline (I guess mainly Castle Meadows and Trump/Menie), another 800 are planned up to 2016 with a further 1,500 to 2026 and 1,500 to 2035.     That is roughly equivalent to a whole extra Ellon.   

The plan claims to be concerned about climate change and economic development and contains an interesting section on waste with the Ellon-Blackdog corridor identified as an area of search for new waste processing facilities.   

Please look at the documents at  

I'll comment more here once I have digested all the documents but I am happy to answer your queries here.

Housing Allocation Information

A short while ago, I worried about proposed changes to Council House Allocation Policy.

Part of the justification given for the charges is

"the reasons behind the proposed changes are primarily to ensure the Council makes best use of
its stock and to give applicants realistic housing options. If you look at the attached spreadsheet for Formartine it shows that out of the 24 settlement 5 have a stock of 3 or less houses; 9 had no turnover in 2010/2011 and a further 8 had turnover of only 1 or 2 houses. While allowing applicants to chose from 24 settlement may appear to offer choice, in reality it is misleading in that there is either no or very little turnover in many of these settlements."

But over 40% give the reason for refusal in Formartine as Not Area Desired.  Just how does forcing people to specify a larger area help this?

Garden unsuitable
No longer require housing
No reason given
No response within 5 working days
Not area desired
Not ready to move
Property type unsuitable
Property unsuitable

Wouldn't it be better to be honest with people about the (lack of) houses available across the area:

Formartine  1 bed 2 bed 3 bed 4 bed
CUMINESTOWN 11 21 14 1
DAVIOT 3 2 4
ELLON 134 92 51
FYVIE 32 20 11
METHLICK 20 17 4
NEWBURGH 12 10 13
OLDMELDRUM 50 56 10 4
PITMEDDEN 14 25 22
TARVES 29 14 6 5
TURRIFF 99 130 66 2

and ask them to pick enough areas where they would accept a house as possible, pointing out that the total turnover last year was only 82 houses against a waiting list of 951.

Or does the council think that prospective council house tenants are too stupid to figure out that where houses are in short supply, their odds of getting offered anything is close to snowball in hell - but that if they choose places with some stock, there is a better chance?

North East Scotalnd Credit Union - coming to Ellon?

While at the RGU Fresher's Fair with the Scottish Young Greens yesterday, I got into conversation with John McCrank of the North East Scotland Credit Union. They have early stage plans of expanding their operations into Ellon and we discussed a few possibilities for where they could set-up a couple of times each week.

So if there is anyone you would like to be a local volunteer in Ellon, please get in touch with John at

More cuts and more straightjackets for local government.

Today I was at a Scrutiny and Audit Committee meeting where it was clear that over £400,000 of this years budget cuts would not be achieved ... And because some of this was primary school closures with the saving in futures years being over £2 million next year and a further £1 million in subsequent years, the consequences for future years are significant. Apart from the lack of a robust educational case for the planned closures, the stopper was the Scottish Government deciding that no rural primaries would be allowed to close.

Now John Swinney is saying that councils will again not be allowed to raise council tax ...

With the Council Tax freeze, councillors were left to decide what to cut. When ministers decided that some areas for saving were off limits, they then directed the cuts to other areas. And now the cuts will continue deeper than ever.

When I first stood a friend said "remember, Debra, that councils really can only do what government tells them to do and then it is compulsory'. She was only a quarter joking - the freedom to do things for the benefit of the citizen has always been limited.

Now the room to manoeuvre is being limited for as much as the next 5 years.   It's not an attractive prospect for Councillors doing little more than decide where the axe shall fall.  Fred Macauley on Radio Scotland this morning joked that perhaps the current 32 councils should be merged into one.  If the Scottish Government does not increase the independence of councils both in terms of what they are allowed to do and how they raise the funds to do it, then maybe Fred is right.

Local Transport Strategy - consultation

Aberdeenshire Council is now consulting on the next version of the Local Transport Strategy.  The draft is better than the old strategy in that it at least thinks that walking and cycling is a transport option rather than a leisure activity but I am sure we can improve it further.

You can read the draft here.

If you wish to comment on the draft LTS, you can use the online survey at or you can email details comments to - or both!

The closing date for responding is 31 October 2011.

Empty Home

Housing standing empty for long periods are a problem and could make a contribution to the housing stock if they were brought back into use.  The first step is to know about them.
If you know of an empty home, please use Report Empty Homes.

Council housing allocation policy

I'm worried.

The Council is currently consulting on changing many aspects of its housing allocation policies but is trying to fast track some changes (see the full report here).

The proposals that worry me are

1. to reduce the number of reasonable offer from 2 to 1 and reduce the suspension period for refusal of a reasonable offer from 12 months to 6 months.

2. combine the existing letting areas (basically settlements) into larger units and ask people to select at least 2 of these bigger units rather than 5 settlements.

In Formartine, people would then be required to select 2 from:

Fyvie/Auchterless/Rothienorman/Meikle Wartle
Oldmeldrum/Barravale/Pitmedden/Tarves/Udny Green/Udny Station

Any 2 of those 5 would cover a big area.  If people have places of work, family and friends who provide essential social support (taking care of the kids after school, etc), maybe it is simply not possible to live in Methlick rather than Potterton (16.5 miles away) : and the definition of reasonable is based on the housing need not wider social needs.

Council officers told us that the average number of people who are offered a council house before accepting it is 2.4 - or to put it another way, there is a 60% chance of someone turning down a house that is offered to them.  Locally we were told that the reason is rarely the quality of the house - so it must be location.  We are under pressure to let houses faster and reduce the housing waiting list.  But forcing people to select a large area and then saying "take it or suspend you from the waiting list for 6 months" doesn't seen to me to be very helpful.

People understand that if they pick a very small high demand area, they will wait a long time.  But surely that is their look out.  Offering people houses that they are even less likely to take because it is in a location they don't want, doesn't seem helpful to me.

Wouldn't we be better to tell people how many houses there are in each area and, if possible, the turnover?  The people who can be flexible will get a better chance of a house.   But if the need is specific, then that is just the way it is.  Offering houses in the wrong place will help no-one - except perhaps a statistician, looking to reduce the length of the waiting list.

I'd like to hear your views on this.

Offshore Wind Consultation

The public are invited to view detailed plans for the offshore wind project in Aberdeen Bay

Vattenfall, Technip and Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG), the joint
venture (JV) partners behind the 11-wind turbine European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) off Aberdeen Bay – have announced dates for forthcoming public consultation events.

David Hodkinson, UK Country Manager of Vattenfall, said: “The public
information events for the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre are an
important part of the formal consultation and decision making process and
they follow on from our recent submission of a consent application to
Marine Scotland. We believe we have made a strong case for the
environmental and economic benefits of the EOWDC. I would like to
encourage people to make their own judgment after viewing the information
that we will present at the events and speaking to members of the project

Consultation events take place as follows:-

29th August Peterhead, Palace Hotel 2-8pm
30th August Newburgh, Udny Arms 2-8pm
31st August Ellon, Kirk Centre 2-8pm
1st September Balmedie, Whitehorse Inn 2-8pm
2nd September Aberdeen, Doubletree Hilton (Beach) 2-8pm

EOWDC submitted an application for consent on 1 August, 2011 and the formal
consultation process ends on 16th September 2011. Any representations to
the application should be made to The Scottish Government, Marine Scotland
Licensing Operations Team no later than this date.

To find out more, please visit

March of the Menie

This March was in support of the Menie residents.

Trump's bullying them continues
  • trees planted to block the Milne's views from the escarpment
  • Milne's sent a near £3000 bill for a very cheap fence Trump erected round their property without consulting them
  • a 5m high bund built in front of the Munro's house
  • vegetation stripped in front of and behind the Munro's left as bare sand - you can imagine the effects of the sandstorm in the recent high winds.
  • Constant surveillance by Trump's goons

If you would like to know more, please contact Tripping up Trump or come and see the Scottish Premiere of feature length documentary You've been Trumped at the Belmont, Aberdeen, 7pm Friday 17th June

Energy Monitoring

I have joined the Macauley Land Use Research Institute's North East Scotland Energy Monitoring Project.  They have provided one of those nifty little devices that display current energy use and the kit to link this to the internet so that a continuous track of our electricity use and house temperature is displayed.

Part of the intent of the research is to see how energy feedback measures help households monitor and manage their energy.  I am sure the effect will wear off, but we have already learnt just how much energy different devices around the house use.  And Gordon has started to fill the kettle only half way and switch off lights.  

Meanwhile we will keep on visiting the on-line trace, slightly fascinated by the data.

Democracy fails in Aberdeenshire: Unnecessary cuts forced through

LibDem Council Leader Anne Robertson and
"opposition" SNP leader Joanna Strathdee
discussing the days business in the Council
Chamber as the meeting starts.
Aberdeenshire SNP, Liberal Democrat and Conservative councillors have again behaved undemocratically and dictatorially after voting to prevent debate on a proposal by my group on the Council not to make planned cuts in the budget for primary school classroom assistants and visiting specialist teachers.  

The stifling of debate prompted the entire Democratic Independent Group of councillors to walk out of today's Aberdeenshire Council full council meeting.

Rather than debate the DIGs fully costed proposals, the ConDemNats seemed to be determined to squash even discussing alternatives to cutting school assistants. Proposals to make cuts deeper were accepted with no problem. Discussion on avoiding cuts was not allowed, even through it could easily have been done.

The Council was debating setting its revenue budget for 2011/12. Cuts totalling £27 million had been voted through at the full council meeting on 25 November 2010. The Council's Liberal Democrat, Conservative and SNP councillors moved motions to increase the cut to the primary classroom assistant budget.

When Cllr Martin Ford, on behalf of the Democratic Independent Group, rose to propose that the classroom assistant budget be spared from cuts, it was ruled he could not make the proposal unless two-thirds of councillors agreed to suspend Standing Orders.

Democratic Independent Group councillors Mark Cullen, Martin Ford,
Paul Johnston, Debra Storr and Sam Coull were disgusted that the Council
refused to  even listen to their proposals to reduce damaging education cuts

Cllr Ford moved the suspension of Standing Orders, appealing to the council to allow an open and democratic debate on this important issue. Only six councillors voted to allow the issue to even be discussed.

At that point the Democratic Independent Group expressed their disgust at the councils undemocratic behaviour and walked out.

The Democratic Independent Group wanted to substitute a cut in the unadopted roads budget, which is little used, for the cut in the primary school budgets.

Commenting Cllr Martin Ford said “I am appalled at the council's refusal to allow open debate. Apparently it is perfectly acceptable to propose further cuts in classroom assistants – but seeking to stop the cuts is now allowed.  This is completely one-sided.  These school staff cuts could and should have been stopped today.

Cllr Paul Johnston said “Aberdeenshire Council sank to a new low today. They made a cut in primary education that they did not need to make. They had the money and will now not reverse their decision.”

Cllr Sam Coull added “Teaching and education in the primary schools just got a whole lot more difficult today.”

When a consultation means nothing

Yesterday, the consultation period for Aberdeen City's new Local Development Plan finished and I know that lots of people, concerned about proposed developments to fill in Union Terrace Gardens, force a new road through Berryden and Tillydrone to connect to a 3rd Don Crossing and build 1500 houses and a Stadium at Loirston Loch will have made representations.  I just hope that City councillors treat their efforts with more respect than I saw today at Aberdeenshire's Formartine Area Committee.

Now under the new planning regime, the Council can't itself make changes to the Plan at this late stage.  But it is open to the Council to indicate to the Reporter which suggested modifications it really dislikes (and why), which it could live with if necessary and which it really doesn't mind at all.  If the Reporter then finds that changes are necessary, consequential changes can then be in accordance with the Councils wishes.  Without this "red, amber, green" signposting, the Reporter just has to assume that the Council doesn't care.

Now it was clear that at least three of the four Ellon councillors, including me, were relaxed about letting the proposed development at Foveran happen earlier.   The argument made in the representations was that the larger development was needed to build the necessary infrastructure, especially sewerage.   So we will now find that this development which is modest in total scale and therefore might actually be deliverable in the current economic climate, will be delayed until the larger project is permitted.  Crazy.

For information, the majority of my colleagues voted to "Instruct officers to defend the proposed plan against all other unresolved objections at the forthcoming examination".

I, seconded by my colleague Paul Johnston wanted to recognise that the proposed plan was the settled will of the council but ask officers to note the following comments in framing the Council's response to the representations.  We were, of course, defeated.

We wished to have comments in regard to Foveran, Oldmeldrum, Tarves, Balmedie West and Blackdog noted.  (PJ - have I missed anything?)