Apr 282017

With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Citrus:Mix

Construction work has begun on a £16 million student accommodation development in Aberdeen.
Focused on sustainability and technology this next generation of student accommodation will meet the needs of the newest university generation.

The development, is located on the former tyre depot at the corner of Willowbank Road and Hardgate, will serve both Robert Gordon University (RGU) and the University of Aberdeen, benefiting from good public transport links and close proximity to the city centre.

Carlisle-based Northern Developments has started work on a 222 en-suite student bedroom scheme which received planning consent in 2016.

Northern Developments has delivered more than 1,000 student beds across the North of England and bring 32 years’ experience in design and build delivery. This experience is reflected in the focus on sustainability of the building and ensuring that the experience of the students living in it will be of the highest quality.

Aberdeenshire sub-contractor Andrew Cowie Ltd has started groundworks on the site and the project will be complete in the summer of 2018 for September arrivals.

Eddie Ward, commercial manager for Northern Developments, said:

“We are very pleased to have started work on the Willowbank Road site and look forward to delivering this exciting development.

“It will meet the demands of modern student living in every respect and will be very appealing to the millennial generation who quite rightly expect high standards and the latest technology to suit their technological and educational needs.

“As a business we strive to use a local supply chain to both deliver the best in class development but to also support a local economy such as that in Aberdeen.”

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Apr 282017

With thanks to Gemma Setter, PR Account Executive, Frasermedia.

Local businesses are being encouraged to get behind Aberdeenshire’s newest cycling event by showcasing the best of what the region has to offer.
Organisers of the Chapelton Bike Ride, which takes place on Sunday, 3 September, are looking to expand on last year’s event by increasing the number of stalls and activities on offer.

The inaugural Chapelton Bike Ride took place last year and welcomed hundreds of cyclists and spectators to the village of Chapelton, near Newtonhill.

The event featured stalls from local businesses such as Serenity Scented Candles, and local artist, Bee Struthers, as well as food and drink from The Bay Fish & Chips, Cav & Co and Bannerman Butchers.

Held in aid of North East Sensory Services (NESS), a charity that supports over 6,000 people with sensory impairments across the North-east, last year’s bike ride raised over £6,500 for the charity, enabling it to continue to provide life-enhancing services to people with sight and/or hearing loss. 

Alastair Struthers, sales executive at ZeroC Homes, an organiser of the event, said:

“The first ever Chapelton Bike Ride was a huge success, so we’re looking forward to making this year’s event even bigger and better, with more stalls, food stands and activities for everyone to get involved with.

“As well as raising money for NESS, we are committed to creating a sporting event for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy. Involving local businesses will help to establish the Chapelton Bike Ride as a real community event that people will continue to look forward to year after year.”

Neil Skene, fundraising co-ordinator at NESS, said:

“We’re very pleased to hear that there are plans to increase what is on offer at the next Chapelton Bike Ride, as it should encourage even more people to attend this year’s event.

“It looks set to be a very enjoyable day for all of the community and we’re very thankful to everyone who is participating and raising funds for NESS on the day.”

If you are interested in becoming a stallholder at this year’s Chapelton Bike Ride, please contact Alastair Struthers on a.struthers@zeroc.co.uk. More information about the bike ride can be found at www.chapeltonbikeride.co.uk.

Registration costs £15 per person for the 42-mile route, £5 per person for the 12-mile route, or £15 for a team of four for the 12-mile cycle. Register for the Chapelton Bike Ride at https://www.q-buster.co.uk/chapelton.

North East Sensory Services (NESS) promotes the needs of people with a sight or hearing loss.   

NESS supports people with serious sight or hearing loss to overcome practical and emotional challenges and achieve independence.   

Formerly Grampian Society for the Blind (GSB), North East Sensory Services (NESS) works with over 6,000 people with a sensory impairment in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Moray, Dundee, Angus and Perth & Kinross.   


2016: Winner, IIP Award Excellence in Third Sector   
Finalist Elevator Awards and Trend Awards   
2015: Winner, Elevator Award, Winner, Trend Award 

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Mar 172017

With thanks to Martin Ford.

In an initiative by Aberdeenshire’s Democratic Independent and Green councillors Councillor Martin Ford is asking Aberdeenshire Council to ‘give consideration to the feasibility of creating a significant visual arts, museum or other cultural facility as part of its redevelopment of the Harlaw Road site in Inverurie’.

Cllr Ford’s call comes in a notice of motion he has submitted for debate at the next meeting of Aberdeenshire’s Education and Children’s Services Committee on 23 March.

It has only been possible to submit notices of motion for debate at Aberdeenshire Council’s policy committees since 27 January this year when the Council’s new scheme of governance was introduced (previously notices of motion were restricted to Area Committees and full council).

Cllr Ford’s notice of motion says:

“Aberdeenshire Council shall give consideration to the feasibility of creating a significant visual arts, museum or other cultural facility as part of its redevelopment of the Harlaw Road site in Inverurie. The consideration process shall include seeking public views, establishing what external funding sources might be available and discussions with potential partners who may want to be involved (e.g. the local universities).”

Committee chair Cllr Alison Evison has confirmed Cllr Ford’s notice of motion will be included on the agenda for next week’s Education and Children’s Services Committee meeting.

Cllr Ford said:

“The motion doesn’t commit the Council to anything beyond an exploratory process. But it’s an exploratory process we should do, and we need to do it now before the site is master-planned.

“Essentially, the motion asks the Council to think about the possibilities, and have discussions with others. Why would it not do that?

“The motion is deliberately not prescriptive about the kind of facility. That needs to be discussed and a decision emerge from consultation and dialogue.

“Personally, I rather like the idea of an ‘Aberdeenshire Museum’, but that’s clearly just one possibility. I want to see what comes out of the discussion and consultation that I hope results from the motion I have tabled.

“The point is, who would have predicted the V&A going to Dundee? Someone had to suggest it, against all reasonable expectation, and it happened.

“There is certainly room on the Harlaw Road site.

“A major cultural facility would bring significant benefits for the Aberdeenshire economy and tourism. It would also contribute to the quality of life for residents and raise the profile of the area.

“Clearly, funding will be an issue – which is why the motion asks the Council to look at external funding possibilities and open discussions with potential partners as part of an initial exploratory process.”

Cllr Paul Johnston said:

“This is a good idea. At this stage, agreeing the motion does not commit the Council to expenditure, it only opens the door to exciting possibilities.

“The Council should be keen to hear the public’s views.”

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Oct 152016

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over recent events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryGreetings belatedly; sorry for the late-running of this service; I’ve been busy. For one thing – Result! TV Smith played Krakatoa on 8 October with Fred Wilkinson opening. Fred, or ‘Wilkinson’ as beloved LibDem Aileen HoMalone refers to him, played a lovely song about fashion called The Ghosts of Cable Street. I’m not really sure what it was about, but I think it had to do cable-knit jumpers and something about black shirts not being very popular at one time.

Fashions do have a way of coming around again, and I think there are more than a few blackshirt-lovers out there right now.

Smith played some old-fashioned, quaint ‘protest music’ – although heaven knows, we really have nothing to protest about, except maybe all those foreigners Amber Herd wanted named and shamed for taking British Jobs.

I wonder why she changed her mind? Could there be any link between the pound plunging to a new 31 year low, Brexit, and Amber’s anti-foreigner stance? I doubt it.

I am guilty of not being born in the UK. I am taking the unpaid job of some poor satirical British columnist who otherwise could be labouring for free. Yes, naming and shaming the companies that hire people from other countries seemed like the way forward. But I digress. Smith sang about modern poverty (no doubt caused by foreigners), state surveillance, and other such lefty concerns. Just as well we’ve nothing to protest about here in the Deen.

I understand Torry residents are planning a parade to celebrate all the jobs creation coming our way. We’re getting an incinerator – sorry – waste to energy plant! Result!

We’re going to get rid of the under-used Bay of Nigg so that cruise ships filled with rich visitors can stop by for a bet at Ladbroke’s and some Spar shopping. Result! Of course we’ll have to make a few sacrifices for creating these jobs.

A few protected wildlife species in the Bay, clean air (which we enjoy so greatly now thanks to the sewerage plant) and the wishes of local people – many of whom are foreign! – should not stand in the way of making the Harbour Board richer or getting a good old-fashioned British firm busy burning rubbish next to the school in Tullos. While the house prices here will plummet, a clear message is sent: Scotland is Open For Business.

We are open to taking American fracked gas; a great tanker sailed to Scotland filled with fracked gas, while some Americans in Pennsylvania begged Scotland not to take it.

If it will make us money, at least the considerable pollution will be happening far away – foreigners do have their uses. (The energy efficiency of creating fuel in the US leaving pollution in its wake and shipping resultant gas to Scotland is a little hard for me to understand, especially with gas here having been at considerably low prices for years. Still, if there’s money to be made, we can’t be seen to be closed can we?)

We’re also open for business at Marischal Square, where in keeping with the look of the city, Granite will be the main cladding material. That The Granite City is importing granite from China, where there are a few equal pay and workers’ rights issues is not an issue. We are Open For Business. The council says it’s not their business where the granite comes from – a huge comfort to the veritable slave labour that will be quarrying it.

John Forbes of Bon Accord Granite said:

“What people don’t understand is we haven’t built a major building out of north-east granite for the last 30 years, at least. It’s down to price. If I don’t supply Chinese granite, others will.” 

Thanks John for helping the project’s carbon footprint, Chinese workers’ rights, the government’s push to use UK labour forces – all while making a tidy profit. Nice one.

I get it – the position seems to be ‘if I don’t exploit unfair labour practices in China to supply material cheaply, someone else will’. Good code of ethics there then. So – foreigners = good source of labour to exploit as cheaply as possible – as long as the blighters don’t actually come to Old Blighty.

When the much-loved Marischal Square building is clad in Chinese granite, the much-loved Press & Journal is set to take a year’s free rent to grace us with its presence.

In order to figure out how this equates to being ‘Open for Business’ as opposed to, shall we say, giving the paper a bone so that it won’t unleash its investigative new hounds (if any left) onto juicy city council stories (not that there are any unless you count the cremation scandal, the Torry carve-up, Marischal Square..), Old Susannah lodged a freedom of information request.

We do know the key players at the Town House in this genius free rent scheme are the Head of Finance, Head of Land and Property Assets, Asset Management Manager. The city refuses to comment on these ‘commercial negotiations’ because:

“Release of the information at this stage would influence the negotiating position of parties wishing to occupy space in the development, to the obvious detriment of the Council’s commercial interests.

“Furthermore, disclosure of the requested information at this stage is likely to weaken ACC’s position in a competitive environment by revealing sensitive information of potential usefulness to competitors. ACC must maintain good working relationships with reputable companies to enable it to obtain value for money and so releasing commercially sensitive information could potentially damage ACC’s reputation with such third parties, dissuading the third parties from engaging with ACC.”

“The discussions in relation to the proposals for the AJL terms have involved the advice of external property agents, the Council’s development partner and a number of Council officers.” 

So if I understand correctly, the competition would get wind of us giving a years’ rent free in a new building to the press (normally expected to investigate just this kind of eventuality in some cities anyway), and they would give a better deal, or other people would want free rent like the P&J too.

Perhaps we should pay the P&J to grace the city centre, and breathing new life into the beating heart of the civic centre in a vibrant and dynamic manner.

The phrase ‘Value for Money’ worked its way into the FOI response. Older readers might remember when the previous administration sold property owned by the taxpayer for millions of pounds less than market value, and was investigated by Audit Scotland (the report was meant to be investigated by the police – but they didn’t do anything. When I asked for an update, it was explained the paperwork could not be found, and as it was only a few million pounds’ worth of potential fraud, it wasn’t really a big deal).

We also gifted Stewart Milne lots of land, at the same time he won a few sweet contracts totalling £10 million – he’d underbid the competition – possibly a feat made a bit easier by having a nice parcel of land as a handy asset. But again – I digress. Just as well though that the taxpayer isn’t propping up a hugely biased, outmoded pseudo-newspaper.

Not that there are any juicy city council stories of course, but in light of how the city’s officers are involved in a few slightly questionable activities, I set out to take a look at the register of officers’ interests. I was to meet someone from Legal and democratic services to take a look at the register. A few hours before the meeting, the legal team from the city decided that a FOI request was required.

Now in theory FOI requests should not have to be made to see information that is held – but they were apparently fearful that there might be ‘personal data’ in the register.

This register should be parallel to the register held on all the councillor’s interests and hospitality – which you can view right now on the website. It’s almost as if the officers had more power and influence than coucillors but surely not. The FOI service complains from time to time that it has too many requests to handle (which might be why it is late with a huge portion of responses).

If the other departments had this ‘transparency’ we’ve heard so much about, the FOI team wouldn’t have to suffer so greatly doing its job.

Democratic services? Transparency? Freedom of Information? Clearly not as important as being open for business. More on this soon.

While waiting for any of this information to ever get to me, liquid refreshment at BrewDog helps sustain me and pass the time. Old Dog (as I now call the Gallowgate bar, the first ever BrewDog bar) has been doing some wildly popular craft courses and a once-monthly fun event, Drink and Draw.

I have learned so very much from BrewDog. Did you know that it’s Robert Plant’s son Logan is behind the remarkable Beavertown Brewery? I hadn’t any idea. One of my favourite non-BD libations is Beavertown’s flavour packed Gamma Ray (American Pale Ale). And yes, I’m one of the 10,000 BrewDog shareholders, and still proud of it.

Finally, Anthony Baxter is making another film about ladies’ man Trump, although I can’t think of any recent news developments these past 12 months that would warrant any such documentary. However, the details are here for those who would like to chip in. Expected Aberdeen release 3 November at the Belmont. (And by way of disclosure, there is every chance I’ll be in it).

At this rate there won’t be time for definitions, so with no further hesitation, here are some career-related definitions for the wonderful people who bring so much to Aberdeen.

Spokeswoman: (Modern English noun) a female who undertakes public relations duties.

Sarah Malone has been enjoying a Trump salary these many years; this and husband Damian’s salary will no doubt be helping the Jimmy Choo purchase fund.

In order to get a paid gig dealing with the media as a spokeswoman for a multinational property developer, aspiring spokespersons would have to have style, flair, the ability to think quickly, analyse information and respond swiftly with tact and intelligence. This no doubt is why I toil for free. As a recent example illustrating the calibre of response such a professional spokeswoman would be expected to come up with, I offer the following recently issued by Sarah Malone-Bates, aka from now as Sarah Baloney:

“We have not seen the so-called film and have no interest in it.

“Anthony Baxter is not a credible journalist or filmmaker. He has no interest in the facts or the people of north east Scotland.

“He has propagated lies and nonsense about the company for years in an attempt to make a name for himself off the back of Trump.

“We operate a highly acclaimed, five-star golf resort and enjoy a great relationship with the local community and all of our neighbours with the exception of a few who have fought the project since its inception.”

Old Susannah can’t – however hard I try – write like this. For instance, if I had to use the compound-adjective ‘so-called’, I might have said ‘so-called journalist’. That would have opened up a debate on whether or not award-winning, acclaimed journalist Baxter is credible or not. Obviously we trust a Trump spokesperson’s word for what is and isn’t credible. However, ‘so-called film’ opens up the debate as to whether or not the film is a … film. I think even I could win that battle of wits with Sarah.

She is calling Baxter a liar – a daring PR move which of course could have legal consequences should Baxter want to sue Trump. I hope she’ll share the specific list of these lies with us; I promise I’ll ask for it.

As to that ‘great relationship with the local community’ – well, obviously that’s as true as anything else this professional, well-paid spokesperson said. Just because protestors raise Mexican flags, 580,000 people sign a petition against her boss coming here, the local university rescinded his honorary degree and he’s no longer a global Scot is no reason to think Mr Drumpf is in any way unpopular. And no doubt the relationship with this community is unshakeable…

Star: (modern English term) someone of celebrity status, admired and well-known.

Donald Trump is a star. How do I know? He said so in a conversation about the perks of stardom.

To attain star status, having superior genes is important; modestly Drumpf admits what we already know – that he has superior genes. Somewhere, in some obscure history lesson, I almost remember some other political figure being interested in genetic superiority. Perhaps it’s fashionable to talk about this again?

Perks of stardom include ‘just start kissing’ beautiful women ‘doing anything (to women)’ and ‘grabbing them by the pussy’. Oh those lucky, beautiful young women. Something in the nature of 1 in 5 American women can expect to be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

And with that, I find the last satirical inclinations leaving me, and so I will sign off. Let’s hope nothing will dent that community appreciation Drumpf enjoys here in our little corner of Scotland.

Next week – more on other FOI requests, a look at the rosy future of Torry – and a DIY Investigating kit

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Oct 062016

With thanks to Kenneth Hutchison, Parliamentary Assistant to Dr. Eilidh Whiteford.


Dr Whiteford with four of the Banff pupils who will benefit from the Project.

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has lauded staff and organisers, following the official launch of the Chevron Boatbuilding Outreach Programme at the Portsoy Boatshed yesterday.

The Chevron Outreach Project, launched today, will provide 14 to 16 year-olds with an out-of-school opportunity to develop skills in boat building.

The Boatshed, part funded by Aberdeenshire Council, Portsoy’s Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS) and the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) has developed a formerly disused building on Shore Street into a purpose built facility for boat building to be enjoyed by the whole community.

The Boatshed was opened at the 2016 Scottish Traditional Boat Festival.

Speaking after the opening ceremony, Dr Whiteford said:

“The project is an absolutely fantastic resource which will give youngsters in the Banff area the kind of real, hands on training and life skills that employers really value. It builds on the good work done establishing the Boatshed, and credit is due to the staff and volunteers at Portsoy Community Enterprise, staff at Chevron and Banff Academy for bringing the project to fruition.”

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Sep 092016

With thanks to Gemma Setter, PR Account Executive, Frasermedia.


Aberdeenshire’s newest bike ride has been hailed as a huge success, after hundreds of cyclists and spectators attended the event on Sunday 4 September.

A total of 238 participants took part in the Chapelton Bike Ride, which took place in the new town of Chapelton, near Newtonhill. Hundreds of spectators flocked to the town’s Hume Square to watch as cyclists returned from the 12 and 42-mile routes.

The bike ride was held in aid of North East Sensory Services (NESS), a sensory impairment charity that supports over 4800 people in the North-east. Over £6000 was raised for NESS through the Chapelton Bike Ride, which will help the charity provide social work and life-enhancing services to people who have sight or hearing loss.

Also participating in the event were housebuilders from Chapelton developers ZeroC, A&J Stephen and AJC Homes, as well as David Carnegie, the Duke of Fife, from Elsick Development Company. After a friendly competition against one another, Alistair Gordon, Earl of Aboyne and managing director of AJC Homes, came out on top, as he crossed the finish line with a time of 2 hours 45 minutes across the 42-mile route.

Neil Skene, fundraising co-ordinator at NESS, said:

“All of us here at NESS are thrilled with the number of cyclists and spectators who attended the Chapelton Bike Ride. A lot of organisation and planning went into the event, as it’s only in its first year, so it’s great to see that all the hard work has paid off.

“It was a fantastic day and we received lots of positive feedback from the cyclists, who said that both the 12 and 42-mile routes were great fun to take on.

“The atmosphere in Chapelton was buzzing, as the square was packed full of residents and visitors who turned out to enjoy the wonderful local music and food and drink that was on offer – as well as cheering on the cyclists throughout the day.

“We’re extremely thankful to everyone who participated and raised vital funds for NESS, as well as the main sponsors, Savills and Burness Paull. Thanks to their support we can continue to help people with a sensory impairment achieve independence and overcome any challenges they may face in day-to-day life.”

Caroline Fife, the Duchess of Fife, director of Elsick Development company, the developer behind Chapelton, said:

“It was a great feeling welcoming everyone to Chapelton for our first ever major event. The day was a huge success and we’re proud to have worked alongside NESS to help raise funds for such a worthwhile cause.

“Chapelton’s sense of community was really evident on Sunday and the spectators did a brilliant job of cheering on the cyclists, which helped to significantly boost their morale.

“The live music, entertainment and delicious food available were all extremely well received and everyone who came along had a great day out.

“There was lots of healthy competition between the Chapelton housebuilders and they had a good laugh joking about who would finish first, so it was very entertaining watching Alistair from AJC Homes cross the finish line first.

“I’ve also been really impressed by everyone’s fundraising efforts for NESS and fully embracing this charity initiative within the community where they work.

“We’re also very thankful to the participants and spectators for all their support and we look forward to welcoming everyone back to Chapelton next year.”

NESS supports people with serious sight or hearing loss to overcome practical and emotional challenges and achieve independence.

Formerly Grampian Society for the Blind (GSB), North East Sensory Services (NESS) works with over 4,500 people with a sensory impairment in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Moray, Dundee, Angus and Perth & Kinross.

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Jul 212016

With thanks to Gemma Setter, PR Account Executive, Frasermedia.

Chapelton Bike Ride

Chapelton builders are to swap hard hats for helmets as they gear up to raise money for local charity

Four housebuilding and development firms are gearing up to take part in the Chapelton Bike Ride on Sunday September 4 to raise money for North East Sensory Services (NESS).

Builders from ZeroC, AJC Homes, Elsick Development Company, and A&J Stephen, will be competing against one another at the Chapelton Bike Ride to raise funds for NESS.

North East Sensory Services (NESS), which has offices in Aberdeen, Dundee and Elgin, supports over 4800 people in the North-east who have sight or hearing loss. By providing both social work and life-enhancing services, NESS is able to help those with a sensory impairment overcome challenges and achieve independence.

All three of the teams are hoping raise a substantial amount of money for NESS by taking on the 42-mile bike ride, which will raise vital funds for the charity, which helps those with sight or hearing loss achieve independence.

This is the first year that the Chapelton Bike Ride, formerly the Great Stonehaven Bike Ride, has taken place in the new town, which is situated near Newtonhill.

Starting and finishing at Teacake coffee shop in Chapelton, the bike ride takes cyclists into the seaside town of Stonehaven, through Fetteresso and Durris Forests’, before leading them towards Maryculter and the picturesque banks of the River Dee, then looping back round towards Chapelton.

Caroline Fife, the Duchess of Fife, landowner and developer of Chapelton, said:

“All three housebuilders working on Chapelton are really committed to making the bike ride a big success and putting it on the map.

“Each is gathering a team together for a good-natured competition, so there will certainly be a great deal of secret training involved. There’s a lot of friendly banter between the groups, but it’s all in jest as the real reason they’re all taking part is to raise money for a worthwhile cause.

“Chapelton residents have also expressed an interest in registering for the ride to raise money for NESS. It’s great to see so many people getting involved in the bike ride to fundraise for such an important charity.

“The Chapelton Bike Ride is going to be the first in a long line of community events, so we’re all thrilled to see the housebuilders really taking an interest in the area by signing up for the event. They’ve all really risen to the challenge and it’s so inspiring to see building companies get involved with local communities and causes.”

Neil Skene, fundraising co-ordinator at NESS, said:

“We’re so thankful to the teams at Stephen, ZeroC, and AJC Homes for getting on their bikes to raise money for NESS. Their fundraising enables us to continue providing much-needed support and assistance to people with sight or hearing loss.

“All of us at NESS are really excited about the new route and all the events available on the day. There will be something for everyone, from cyclists and walkers, to foodies and music fans. We hope that lots of people come along to either participate in the bike ride, or help cheer the riders on and enjoy the variety of food and drink, crafts, and music on offer.”

The Chapelton Bike Ride takes place on Sunday, September 4. Cyclists have the choice of either a 42-mile or 12-mile bike route, whilst a three-mile walk is also available for those wishing to participate without having to get on their bikes.

Registration costs £15 per person for the 42-mile route, £5 per person for the 12-mile route, or £10 for a team of four for the 12-mile cycle.

Register for the Chapelton Bike Ride at www.chapeltonbikeride.co.uk.

  • North-east Sensory Services (NESS) promotes the needs of people with a sight or hearing loss.

NESS supports people with serious sight or hearing loss to overcome practical and emotional challenges and achieve independence.

Formerly Grampian Society for the Blind (GSB), North East Sensory Services (NESS) works with over 4,500 people with a sensory impairment in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Moray, Dundee, Angus and Perth & Kinross.

2016: Winner, IIP Award Excellence in Third Sector
Finalist Elevator Awards and Trend Awards.
2015: Winner, Elevator Award, Winner, Trend Award.

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Jun 302016

With thanks to Paul Smith, Citrus:Mix.

Plans for the next stage in an ambitious Aberdeen community project have taken another major step forward after a fundraiser in the city added £75,000 to the running total. The Alhikmah Foundation is the driving force behind the creation of the Masjid Alhikmah, which will feature community and youth facilities as well as prayer halls for north-east Muslims.

Made possible entirely through donations and the fundraising activities of supporters, already £1.2million has been donated and an Iftar dinner at the Hilton Treetops Hotel in Aberdeen on Friday, June 17, brought in £75,000 during an evening attended by more than 500 people.

The generous backing to date has enabled the Nelson Street project to make significant progress, with the main part of the construction programme concluded in January (2016).

The first phase incorporated all structural and external aspects and the foundation is pushing forward for plans for the second stage, which will involve the internal fit and finish of the three-storey building.

A spokesman for the Alhikmah Foundation said:

“The completion of the external elements of the  building was a significant milestone and a very proud moment for all who have been involved in the project. To see the site transformed and regenerated is very rewarding, with the feedback we have had from local residents extremely positive.

“None of this would have been possible without the support the foundation has received from donors and from fundraisers who have taken on an incredible array of challenges. To reach £1.2m is a wonderful achievement and we cannot thank those who have contributed enough.

“Without them the vision for Masjid Alhikmah could not have become a reality and the latest event is another demonstration of the strength of support there is – the £75,000 total from the Iftar dinner exceeded our expectations and we thank all who attended and made the evening such a success.”

Iftar is part of the month of Ramadan and marks the breaking of the daily fast between dawn and sunset. The foundation dinner was an opportunity for the north-east Muslim community to join together for Iftar whilst supporting a fundraising cause close to their heart.

The campaign will continue as the project progresses, with the target of raising an additional £425,000 to pay for the internal aspects of the new facility. The full annual report for 2015 has been published and is available to download online, outlining the financial performance of the foundation for the year and also detailing key aspects of the project.

The spokesman added:

“The annual report is an opportunity to look back over a very productive year but also look forward to what is ahead. We know there are a number of community fundraising events in the pipeline and it is very important that the momentum that we have built is carried forward.

“It has been a wonderful effort to get to this stage, particularly given the challenging economic climate facing the north-east at present, and we are grateful to everyone who has contributed so far or who plans to in the weeks and months ahead. Every penny spent on the project will continue to come from fundraising by our supporters.”

Masjid Alhikmah will feature space for worship, funeral preparations, dedicated women’s facilities and a family community centre. There is an active Muslim community living in and around the city of Aberdeen and the facility is designed to help create unity and foster a sense of harmony between Muslims and fellow north-east residents.

The name chosen for the new centre stems from Arabic. Masjid translates as “a place of congregational worship” and Alhikmah as “wisdom”.


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Jul 022015

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryTally ho! Aberdeen Voice is now five years old. There might not be any cutest baby competitions, advertisements selling everything from trouser presses to holidays to Gdansk, but I dare say there have been a few interesting pieces over the years. We’ve lost comrades along the way.

The poetry mannie Bob Smith passed away, as did one of our editors, Mairi. But here’s to all of its contributors and founder and editor Fred Wilkinson who really is the glue.

He might not have a former beauty queen wife working for Donald Trump, but he makes up for this failing in other ways.

But mostly here’s to all the contributors, the readers, and the donors.

People have tried to tell us what we can and can’t publish. People have threatened us with lawsuits (and even with being reported to the Scottish Football Association – which was really terrifying). But we are still here.

Over the years a few mysteries have warranted investigation, be it by the police or governments local and national. This column will be a round-up of some of these, and the stellar detective work that’s been employed. Or not. Before that though, the career changes of a few high flyers demand some attention.

It’s congratulations to Doctor Maggie Bochel, planning supremo at Aberdeen City Council.

We owe much to her for all the brilliant planning decisions (too numerous to mention) that have made our city centre what it is today. It brings a tear to the eye to think what else she could have accomplished had we been able to persuade her to stay. Alas! She is joining the private sector.

As well as insisting that people use her doctoral title, Doctor Maggie was also Head of Sustainable Development. Sustainability must have something to do with building on any green space you can get your hands on.

I suppose that since her close friend former Councillor Scott Cassie left the council for a career change as a guest of Her Majesty’s Prisons Services, there was little to keep Doctor Maggie at ACC. (Cassie had found what must have looked like a sustainable source of income by borrowing bits here and there from the taxpayer; but the police managed to find fault with his methods. The money was just resting in his account, I am told).

At any rate, Dr Maggie is, by coincidence, joining the private sector in planning, where she will happily have lots of former council pals as contacts. I wonder whether she made any private sector contacts and pals when she was dealing with planners in her role at ACC? It all sounds very cosy, convenient and friendly.

I will always remember Doctor B for her role in helping to turn Loirston Loch and surrounds from protected greenbelt area to a development opportunity. Let’s never forget this huge favour she did us, and let’s hope she is suitably rewarded one day. Looks like that day may have arrived.

It helps to spend some time courting your new employers, and Maggie seems to understand this. Back in 2014 she is quoted on the Burness Paull website in a lovely piece called ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Work for us – sorry – Coming to Dinner’:

“Aberdeen city centre has come under increasing pressure as the economy has boomed – and has failed to keep pace. That was the honest appraisal from Maggie Bochel, Aberdeen City Council Head of Planning and Sustainable Development at Burness Paull’s event on city regeneration – but she insisted the council was doing everything possible to be more “bold, ambitious and aggressive” to make improvements. [Aggressive indeed – Old Susannah]

“One delegate… suggested the relationship between the public and private sectors in Aberdeen was broken. Not so, said Bochel, stressing that the council would work with as many “unlikely partners” as it could to secure a positive future for the city. She laid down a challenge based on the title of the event, Look Who’s Coming To Dinner – all those who wanted a place at the decision-making table had to step up to the plate.

Malcolm Fraser stepped up to the plate with relish and laid down a smorgasbord of ideas for the future of Aberdeen. Suggestions from the chairman of the Scottish Government’s Town Centre Review included giant umbrellas to enliven Castlegate and colony-style housing for Aberdeen harbour, which he described as “one of the great urban dramas”.

Stephen Phillips of Burness Paull agreed, saying all the elements were there to make real progress – a booming economy, a civic master plan and a council willing to build new partnerships for the good of the city.

Jonathan Heaney, banking partner at Burness Paull, said finding significant sums of money to fund public projects was increasingly difficult and conceded the existing financial models to raise money were complex and challenging.

Maggie Bochel stressed that Aberdeen was a poorly-funded council and said the way forward had to be through creativity and innovative partnership working. Throwing down the gauntlet, she effectively said this (to paraphrase a President): “Ask not what Aberdeen can do for you – but what you can do for Aberdeen.””

We wish Maggie – sorry Doctor Bochel much luck in her new job, and hope she makes friends there quickly. The evidence says this may be easy.

Another jobseeker is our American neighbour, Donald Trump.

He’s seeking the job as United States President. In a bid to win hearts and minds, he’s pointed out some of America’s top problems. These are Mexican rapists and Mexican drug dealers. Trump’s not an unreasonable man as we’ve seen time and time again, so he does say that some Mexican people are acceptable. However, in order to protect America, he wants to build a great big wall between Mexico and America.

Well, he does like his walls. Over at the Menie Estate he built a lovely wall of earth between Leyton Cottage and the views over the land to the sea.

His environmental people did a report, and said this was beneficial to the people living in the cottage. I guess in some quarters having dirt blow into your house, garden and car engines is a bonus, and not having to be bothered by sunlight is another plus. The environmentalists didn’t bother to get an opinion from the residents.

I guess this was a combination of just being thoughtful and not wanting to bother them, and having the expertise to know the bund of earth topped with dying trees is just what any home owner would want.

Alas! I do hope Trump gets this presidential job, particularly now that he’s sadly and cruelly lost his NBC television programme The Apprentice and his Miss Universe won’t air on the network either. Macy’s department stores have somehow decided to break their arrangements with The Donald as well. I understand NBC’s statement read in part:

“Due to the recent derogatory statements by Donald Trump regarding immigrants, NBC Universal is ending its business relationship with Mr. Trump” 

I hope that some form of justice will be forthcoming: NBC have violated Trump’s right to free speech. No doubt he will still be welcome to do business here in the UK; it’s not as if we have any laws against hate speech or have ever barred people from entering the UK who have stirred up prejudicial hatred.

But at this rate there won’t be time for all the mysteries that I’d like to cover, so moving swiftly along, here are some cases.

Case of the missing Jewels:

One morning when leaving for an early flight, my bus pass and a bag of jewellery fell out of my handbag in front of my house. When I realised they were gone and what must have happened, I immediately emailed the police to report my bus pass (with name and photo) was lost on such and such date and time, and sent precise details of the jewellery. The email I got in reply said no such property had been handed in. Expecting as much, I let the matter drop.

Meanwhile, a wonderful neighbourhood man had found the items. Rather than keeping them, he had immediately handed them into… the police.

Somewhere in a police office, an officer or two must have spent hours pouring over the jewellery and the bus pass. ‘If there were only some way to find out who owned these items’ they must have thought. If only there were some kind of lead, or maybe someone was looking for the items. How to narrow down which Suzanne Kelly in the United Kingdom had this numbered First Bus pass and looked like the person in the photo, who lived on Victoria Road. Alas, the items went to the lost and found office at Queen Street.

I ran into this Good Samaritan, and he asked me if I’d got my things back. After a brief discussion, I decided to visit the police. Explaining how I could demonstrate a link between this Suzanne Kelly, the Suzanne Kelly whose face looked up from the bus pass and the Suzanne Kelly who had emailed them with details of the lost goods.

For the police, things were starting to fall into place. Could there be a connection? Was this just coincidence? I assume they must have put their brightest and best on the job, because fairly quickly I was reunited with my goods. Perhaps it was a crack team of people in the Inspector Morse mode, or a modern day Poirot, but Police Scotland eventually solved this one (Thank you police, and thank you Good Samaritan).

Mystery of The Carden House Caper:

Back in the bad old days, the City very generously sold property to developers for slightly less than it was worth. Audit Scotland made a big fuss out of this paltry £5,000,000 loss to the taxpayer, and did an investigation.

“Following preliminary enquiries by external auditors into the sale of Carden House, senior officers at Aberdeen City Council requested internal audit to carry out a wider review of property transactions instigated between 2001 and early 2006.

“2. The investigation identified: evidence of procedural and administrative deficiencies and poor record keeping; cases where accurate and relevant information was not reported to elected members; a lack of evidence to support the valuation at which properties were sold; and cases where the Council may have achieved a better price. Overall, it appears that there is a potential loss of capital receipts which may be more than £5 million.

“3. The Council responded quickly when these concerns emerged [sure they did – Old Susannah] …The Council is also taking action through its disciplinary procedures and I understand that Grampian Police are making enquiries.” – Audit report 22 April 2008

This investigation concluded that it was hard to tell if these sales went ahead just as a slight error in judgment, or if something more sinister was afoot. Heaven forfend! Audit Scotland recommended a Grampian Police Investigation. At the time our Chief Executive swore he wouldn’t resign over this. I guess he resigned over something else, for he scarpered shortly afterwards.

The paperwork for this £5,000,000 case was sent to Grampian Police to investigate.

The investigation must have had every senior detective on the case. Time went by, and yet the papers carried no report of a conclusion being reached.

Old Susannah wrote to the police for copies of the documents. You might think that documents pertaining to crimes of this level would be carefully stored, documented and filed. In fact, there is a police document schedule from the time indicating that potential evidence of crimes over a certain amount of money should be retained.

A freedom of information request failed to turn up any documents, but did turn up this summary of the affair (in this case the redacted/blacked out text is my own doing)

“On 22 April 2008, DI XXXXX and T/DI XXXXX met with Area PF XXXXXXX, to discuss the findings of the various audits and our enquiries to date. As a result of the meeting, she undertook to submit a report to Crown Office for guidance.

“No further update.

“The next document for the meeting on 22/09/09 has no mention of the enquiry.

“I’ve spoken to XXXXXXXX who was the fraud DI at the time and he had this enquiry. No Police report or CF was ever raised however there were some subject reports to and from the PF’s office. Unfortunately we can’t find any trace of them.”

And there you have it; there is no trace of this paperwork, or what was done about it. At the same time the city was selling off property for a pittance, including land at Westhills to one Mr S Milne, builder, it was saving money by axing benefits. I guess you have to balance the books somehow.

Data retention is of course important to the police. Fingerprint records taken from school children will likely be on file forever. DNA from renegade journalists Richard Phinney and Anthony Baxter is retained and might hopefully help solve future investigative journalism (the pair was famously arrested on the Menie Estate when working on a story).

The police and the information commissioner concluded that it was all too long ago for anyone to have kept papers relating to a potential criminal £5,000,000 loss to the taxpayer. Fair enough. If only – if only there were someone involved in Aberdeen’s planning department who was there at the time.

If only such a person had a fairly high position, and would have had responsibility for making sure things were all above board, and that the taxpayer got value for money. If only such a person existed, they may be able to answer some tough questions on what was going on. But who could be such a person and may the remember anything at all about this?

Maggie May. Or should that be Dr Maggie May.

Alas! This is not the only instance of the police not being able to find documentation, evidence or retain crucial video footage.

Next week: The George Copland Affair: how the police lost bail papers, destroyed (accidentally of course) custody CCTV footage, and were unable to locate the person Copland wanted contacted on his recent arrest. That was one Fred Wilkinson of Aberdeen. If anyone out there knows how to find out who Fred Wilkinson is, where he might be found, or how to start looking for someone named Fred Wilkinson, please contact Old Susannah.

PS – not confidential to Hugh Thomson of Inverurie, driving drunk while banned

Hi there Hugh. I hear lots of people tried to stop you from driving home from the pub, but you were adamant – you were going to drive. The police stopped you, and found you were well over the limit. Your lawyer says you’ve a terminal illness. I am genuinely sorry for you about your health. I sympathise; life’s full of unfair things.

I thought it was pretty unfair when my teenage boyfriend was hit and run by some drunk, and left on the side of the road with a broken arm. It was also unfair when the same thing happened to my sister, only it was her head that was injured.

When I was a little girl, something else unfair happened to me. My grandmother and her sister were hit and killed in a residential street by a drunk driver. They meant the whole world to me, and let’s just say my life wound up differently because of their absence. One died straight away; the other after a few hours’ suffering and shock.

It also seemed unfair to me that the man I was planning on spending a lot of my future with got killed in an accident days before we were supposed to be getting together. I spent a fair amount of time after that thinking about what was fair and unfair.

So on the whole, life is not always fair, you and I can agree on that. But here’s the thing. There are some unfair things that are avoidable; some aren’t. Your terminal illness is not something you could have avoided. You could have avoided driving – in fact the law said you had to. Maybe you didn’think that was fair. You could have taken a taxi, or got a friend to drive you home. You could have stayed home if you want to drink. Driving that car was avoidable.

I’m sorry you’re ill. I’m sorry life’s not fair. I’m sorry about a whole hell of a lot of things. But as unfair as it may seem to you, please just stop drinking and driving. Thanks.

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Jun 052015

With thanks to Rhonda Reekie.

Strathcona House Facebook

“A little like Hogwarts” – Under revised plans, Strathcona will now be demolished.

Strathcona House is the large, red sandstone building sited on the A96 just before the airport roundabout. Recent plans to relocate the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre will see the demolition of the Rowett Institute site at Bucksburn. We were led to believe that Strathcona House would be spared and integrated in to the plans thus leaving us with some history intact, but under the revised plan this is not the case and the building will now be demolished.

The Rowett Institute has a proud history dating back over 90 years the legacy of this history such as devising food rationing in WWII and producing several Nobel prize winners.

No doubt many folks have passed by Strathcona House, some may have even been inside and admired its grand stairwell, 100ft oak clad hall and six large stained glass windows. Folk describe it as ‘a little like Hogwarts’.

The House was built in 1930 as a centre for visiting scientists from the commonwealth and as a dining room for staff. In the war years it was used as a base for serving RAF personnel stationed at Dyce airport. Latterly it is still used as a canteen for Rowett staff but is much appreciated as a function hall, for local pipe band practice and even the sees the odd wedding.

It would be a tragedy to lose such an iconic building and an important piece of our local history forever. With a bit of foresight and imagination Strathcona could provide a wonderful venue for all sorts of events and be the real ‘jewel in the crown’ of any development.

The new plans now require the house it to be flattened to make way for a service yard for the AECC!

If you would like to help persuade the council that this may not be the best course of action please join us on Facebook.

View photos here.

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