Oct 132017
 

With thanks to Martin Ford.

Two planning enforcement notices have been served by Aberdeenshire Council on Avant Homes in respect of the former Kingseat Hospital development near Newmachar.
The action by the Council’s planning service follows a report on Kingseat, instigated by East Garioch councillor Martin Ford, that went to the Garioch Area Committee in June.

Cllr Ford has welcomed the decision to serve enforcement notices. He said:

“I am very pleased by the response from the Council’s planning service to the Member Promoted Issue report on Kingseat discussed at the Garioch Area Committee in June. Actions are now being taken that will put real pressure on the main site owner to complete at least some of the outstanding planning requirements.”

The planning enforcement notices served relate to the storage of spoil and materials and failure to install a play park, required from the developers as part of the overall Kingseat planning permission. The developer has 12 weeks from 20 October to clear the spoil storage area and create a new open space including play equipment.

If the developer wishes to appeal the enforcement notices, it must do so by 19 October.

Cllr Martin Ford said:

“Under the Councillors’ Code of Conduct, councillors are not allowed to press for particular planning enforcement actions. Such decisions are for officers in the planning service. The decisions officers have now taken regarding Kingseat have my wholehearted support.

“I do think Aberdeenshire Council was far too passive for far too long in dealing with the stalled development at Kingseat. Of course, the Council cannot simply order the developers to complete the whole development, it doesn’t have that power. But the Council can proactively pursue obligations the developers have under the legal agreements associated with planning permissions, and take enforcement action over non-compliance with those permissions.

“There is clearly now a new determination to use the powers the Council does have to try to force the main site owner to undertake further work stipulated by the permissions granted and agreements signed. That has got to be very welcome.”

Aberdeenshire Council hopes Avant Homes will comply with the enforcement notices. In the event of non-compliance, officers in the Council’s planning service will decide what action to take. This could include the Council undertaking the work required and recovering costs from Avant Homes and reporting Avant Homes to the procurator fiscal for non-compliance.

The Council is also reviewing other options for action to get work progressed at Kingseat, including Avant Homes’ obligations under Section 75 legal agreements.

In order to preserve the historically important former hospital site, Aberdeenshire Council granted planning permission for a mixed use development at Kingseat in December 2004. The first new homes at Kingseat were completed on 21 February 2006 – so some residents have now been living in an unfinished development for over eleven years. The lack of a play park is just one very obvious failure by the main site developer.

The Council’s long-standing policy on preserving the historic buildings at Kingseat is reflected in the agreed development brief for the site.

Cllr Martin Ford said:

“The goal has to be to get the whole development finished and see the fine buildings that are currently derelict brought back into use.”

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Oct 062017
 

With thanks to Eoin Smith, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR

From channelling their inner squirrels to playing detective on the trail of secretive beasties, children from Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire required colourful imaginations as they took up the challenge to go ‘green’ at Castle Fraser.
The National Trust for Scotland property hosted a series of workshops for over 300 primary school youngsters as part of its annual environmental education event.

The historic castle near Inverurie has been hosting the Going Green initiative in partnership with Total E&P UK for the past eight years. The programme for this year’s event was one of the most diverse to date.

Castle Fraser property manager Paula Swan said:

“The workshops were designed to stimulate the imagination of children, helping them learn about important environmental issues in a fun and creative way.

“The workshops support the Curriculum for Excellence but show that learning about these topics – and promoting environmental responsibility both now and in the future – don’t have to take place in the classroom.

“Over the years that we have been hosting this event we have welcomed hundreds of school children through our doors. Who knows, Going Green may have even inspired some of our future conservationists, biologists and environmental experts.

“We are pleased that we once again hosted Going Green with the support of Total, continuing the very strong and successful partnership which sees us working together to raise environmental awareness at an early age.

“Total has been extremely dedicated to working with Castle Fraser and because of the company’s commitment to the project, thousands of primary school pupils have been able to learn about the importance of the natural world around them.”

Sandra McLennan, corporate social responsibility leader at Total E&P UK, added:

“TEPUK is thrilled to support the NTS in our combined effort to promote the benefits of outdoor learning in the beautiful setting of Castle Fraser. We are especially pleased that the NTS was able to extend Going Green from two days to three to capture the imagination of more children this year.” 

The great outdoors was the classroom for the school pupils, with activities including:

  • Buzzing with the Bees – a chance for children to learn more about the important role that bees play in the eco-system with the Kemnay Beekeepers who have hives at the castle.
  • Minibeast Masterclass – a hunt for minibeasts during which the pupils will discover what all the different beasties eat at Castle Fraser…including other species.
  • Hidden Wildlife – playing detective and finding out what animals get up to at night by looking for tracks and signs.
  • Making Music – a workshop that will hit the right note with youngsters as it allows them to make instruments out of recyclable goods before learning how to play them.
  • Secret Life of Squirrels – pupils learn if they have what it takes to make a good squirrel in an interactive workshop in which they will make their own dreys, hide and store cones, and gather their own food.
  • Can You Survive? – Mar Lodge Estate Rangers give tips on the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, and give pointers on making dens and surviving in the wild.  

There were also workshops to show how to make dens and survive in the wild, and where pupils could learn how to plant flowers and vegetables, and then nurture them.

Castle Fraser – the ancestral home of the Fraser family – is a baronial castle dating back to the 15th century.

As well as its extensive grounds which include the secret woodland garden, walled garden and estate trails, there are many highlights inside the property, such as the Great Hall, an extensive library and a room packed full of 18th century embroideries.

The National Trust for Scotland is the charity that celebrates and protects Scotland’s heritage. It relies on the support of its members and donors to carry out its important work of caring for the natural and built heritage of Scotland for everyone to enjoy.

You can join the National Trust for Scotland for as little as £7.50 per month for a family. To become a member, visit http://www.nts.org.uk/Join/Benefits/.

You can make a difference and help protect everything in our care. Donate online at https://www.nts.org.uk/Donations/

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Oct 062017
 

With thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

A new exhibition of breath-taking contemporary Scottish photography explores our relationship with the ocean and the growing problem of marine pollution.
It highlights how this global problem impacts the environment right here in the N.E. of Scotland. Bibo Keeley’s exhibition takes inspiration from the oceans – and the worrying state they are in.

Bibo gives the background to her work:

An estimated 12.7 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year. Plastic does not bio-degrade, so it lingers in the ocean and it is killing animals and plants alike at an alarming rate. The natural order of things is seriously under threat.

The bad news is that our lives are closely connected with that of the ocean. For example: 50% of the oxygen we breathe and which regulates the climate is produced in the sea, mainly by plankton. However, according to The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society the plankton populations have been diminished by 40% since 1950. If the ocean dies, we all die.

Bibo said: ‘I have been visiting Aberdeen beach for about 20 years and I noticed that the amount of litter on the beach is on the increase. I started to document this with photography and I also travelled to other coastlines of Scotland to do the same. I found ocean litter on every single beach, no matter how remote – on the Isle of Lewis, on Skye, at Cape Wrath and on Orkney just to name a few.

The changes that the oceans make on our coastline are slow and almost imperceptible. In contrast, the negative impact on nature due to man’s interference is evident and happening with increasing speed. We – the population of planet earth – really need to slow down our negative impact on the environment.’

Bibo Keeley’s exhibition also includes:

– An installation of some of the beach litter which the artist collected from Aberdeen’s beaches.

– Videos (produced by artist Brian Keeley) showing Bibo Keeley’s personal connecting with the ocean; singing a love song to a dead seal , singing to a stranded oilrig,

– A video documenting Bibo Keeley’s recent participatory slow walking performance on Aberdeen Beach.

Bibo Keeley’s quote on the slow walking performance:

“When we slow down our breathing and our speed and manage to just be in the present moment, we can experience a shift in awareness – it’s a good way to connect with nature”

For Bibo’s slow walking performance, she was supported by Dr. Amy Bryzgel (art historian, author and senior lecturer in Film and Visual Culture at Aberdeen University) who participated in the walk along with the students of her Performance Art course. Dr. Bryzgel’s next lecture in Performance Art will take place in the exhibition space of Mother Ocean at Seventeen on Tuesday 3 October 2017 at 14.00.

Bibo invited the participants in her recent slow walking performance at Aberdeen Beach to have an inner dialogue with the ocean, or to think of ways in which they could reduce the use of unnecessary plastics in their lives; or to just relish the luxury of being allowed to take the time to slow down.

Imagine if every one of us felt so connected with the ocean that they made a conscious decision to help to save and restore the ocean”. – Bibo Keeley

 Dr. Bryzgel reflected on the performative walk on the gww (The George Washington Wilson Centre for Visual Culture) website about her experiences.

“it took us 90 minutes to walk what usually would have taken about 1-2 minutes at a normal pace ..… There was something really unifying about doing the performance together. For a brief moment, we became part of a community that shared something very unique.”

The exhibition ‘MOTHER OCEAN’ runs at Aberdeen’s Gallery Seventeen (Lower Gallery) from 3-7 October 2017.

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Aug 112017
 

A report on waste infrastructure by consultants Eunomia released this week, highlight a “major risk of financial failure” of Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire councils’ multi million pound incinerator project. This is according to leading Aberdeenshire Councillor, Paul Johnston.

Aberdeenshire Councillor, Paul Johnston.

“The report indicates that under likely scenarios the plant will be at risk of being surplus to requirements with increasing recycling rates even before it is fully working.” Said the leader of the council’s Democratic Independent and Green Group.

“Eunomia as respected researchers indicate that too much capacity could either reduce recycling rates or make surplus capacity incinerators go bust.

“The councils , if they decide to legally commit to such a major project, face a major risk of financial failure”

“This should be a signal for Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Council to stop, take a deep breath and to go back and take a long hard look at the alternatives before they waste as much as £180 million on a white elephant. “

“Each new report such as this from Eunomia or the chartered institute of Waste Management and even from advice out of the European Union waste directorate is adding more and more evidence that the city and Shire have they got it wrong in opting for incineration. It is financially too risky as well as being environmentally unsound.”

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Aug 042017
 

Suzanne Kelly got involved in coastal ecology issues when she moved to Aberdeen. She was a community councillor who was on the East Grampian Coastal Partnership, and undertook several campaigns to protect green belt land, animals and she campaigned against the Trump golf course. After recent news stories from around the world, Suzanne talked to some animal experts about the growing problem of people taking selfies with wildlife including Lee Watson of Ythan Seal Watch who supplied the photos and John Robins of Animal Concern Advice Line and Save Our Seals Fund.

Selfie hunters disturb wildlife. Courtesy of Lee Watson Ythan Seal Watch

Scotland’s wildlife is suffering because of loss of habitat, pollution, dwindling food supplies and poaching in Scotland. 
In Aberdeen evidence of poaching was found on Tullos Hill in the summer of 2014. The city has some of Scotland’ most polluted streets. 
In Torry, protected species are going to lose shelter, food and water as Nigg Bay becomes industrialised. 

In the shire seal populations are supposed to be protected by signs, fences, and warning flags in the sand, but these deterrents are being ignored.

Seals need to ‘haul out’ or rest on the sands for many hours before they take to sea for food again. People are legally bound to leave them alone, yet these seals are bombarded by overhead drones, dogs off leashes, and people finding it amusing to frighten the resting seals back into the water to take videos. This behaviour is prohibited, the signs are clear, and yet people persist. 

John Robins of the charities Animal Concern Advice Line and Save Our Seals Fund said:

“People stupid enough to take selfies with wild animals probably don’t care if their idiocy ends in the death of the animal. They are not concerned that their actions cause stress and suffering to animals and the abandonment of young animals by their parents.

“Perhaps they will be more concerned to learn that disturbing animals can lead to the selfie taker ending up in a police cell, a hospital bed or on a slab at the local mortuary. Unless you have a special licence, it is illegal to take photographs of many protected species of animal and bird. Get caught doing that and you will be carted off to the police station.

“Seals, even cute and cuddly pups, have a nasty bite which carries a high risk of very dangerous infections which can lead to long term debility and even death. Many other animals and birds carry zoonosis, diseases including salmonella, e-coli and even rabies which can infect humans. My advice is to use your brain before your camera.”

Animals can be exhausted and in need of rest, frightened, injured, and must be left alone at a large distance. When visiting wildlife habitats, remember to find out the rules in advance, obey any signs, and listen to any directions you are given by any rangers or wildlife officials. Our wildlife is having a hard time – don’t make it harder.

Lee Watson of Ythan Seal Watch has been raising awareness and challenging illegal behaviour for several seasons now. A group of volunteers formed the Ythan Seal Watch and try to safeguard seals and nesting birds. Their Facebook page reads:

 “The Ythan Seal haul-out is now designated and the Seals are legally protected from harassment. We will work with the relevant wildlife and law enforcement agencies in support of this and we will continue to film and monitor the Seal haul-out and any irresponsible behaviour.”

If you are aware of any wildlife crime in the UK – illegal hunting, poaching, snaring – anything – please don’t let it go without calling 999 if it is happening now, or 101 for anything else.

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Jul 142017
 

European beaver (Castor fiber) swimming at dawn, Knapdale Forest, Argyll, Scotland.

With thanks to Chris Aldridge.

A family of beavers found living on a river in the Beauly area in the Scottish Highlands are to be trapped and put into captivity following a decision by Scottish Government Ministers.
Trees for Life, the charity which discovered the group, says the family should either stay where they are or be relocated locally.

Film from camera traps set by the conservation experts from the charity in mid-June clearly show the presence of a mother and at least two young kits swimming and playing with their mum.

Trees for Life shared news of the discovery with Scottish Natural Heritage and made a case to Scottish Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham that the family be allowed to stay.

Alan McDonnell, Conservation Projects Manager at Trees for Life said:

“It is disappointing that government is already starting the process of trapping this family without considering other options. Whilst we understand that the Minister wants to address the concerns of landowners in Tayside, the situation here is very different and we think it is possible to consult and negotiate with landowners in the immediate vicinity of the family and upstream to find an alternative outcome for the animals.”

Beavers have sparked controversy and concern from landowners in parts of Tayside where there is intensive arable farming. In contrast, much of the land neighbouring the newly confirmed beaver home in the Highlands is used for livestock farming.

Alan McDonnell said:

“We think these beavers have been active at this site for at least five years without any local concerns being raised. Which just goes to show that in the right location, beavers and other land use interests can co-exist successfully.”

Richard Hartland, local resident added:

“Many people in the local community have no idea the beavers are there and they’re having very little impact on their surroundings. Why can’t they be left alone?”

Shortly after finding the family, Trees for Life wrote to the Scottish Environment Minister to ask that they be left where they are, or failing that, moved upstream into Glen Affric, above the Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhoin hydro dam on the basis that they would have minimal impact on land use.

(Beaver photo image. Copyright – Peter Cairns, SCOTLAND: The Big Picture.)

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Jun 232017
 

Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) in autumn colours, Scotland

With thanks to Chris Aldridge.

A new book, The Red Squirrel: A Future in the Forest, by award-winning wildlife photographer Neil McIntyre and author Polly Pullar, is helping to support the return of one of Scotland’s best loved animals to the Highlands of Scotland.

The book’s publisher, Highlands-based social enterprise SCOTLAND: The Big Picture, has pledged to donate £10 from books purchased with a special code to Trees for Life’s work to re-introduce red squirrels to the western Highlands. 

Peter Cairns of SCOTLAND: The Big Picture hopes the book will raise fresh awareness about the plight of the reds as well as cash to help save them.

He said:

“Neil’s beautiful images and Polly’s words have helped to highlight how important the wild forest is to squirrels. We love what Trees for Life is doing to bring back both the forest and the squirrels and are pleased to be able to support them in this way.”

Trees for Life is an award-winning charity working to restore the native Caledonian Forest and its unique wildlife to the Highlands of Scotland. Conservation experts at the charity have been carefully relocating red squirrels from healthy populations in Inverness-shire and Moray to forests in northwest Scotland, where the species is currently absent despite suitable habitat. The Red Squirrel Reintroduction 

Project has so far established four new populations in the northwest Highlands, significantly increasing both the numbers and range of the red squirrel in the UK.

Becky Priestly, Wildlife Officer with Trees for Life, said:

“We’re hugely thankful to SCOTLAND: The Big Picture for its generous offer to donate to our Red Squirrel Appeal from sales of the book. These donations will help us continue our work to reintroduce this much-loved animal. Local communities are monitoring the introduced squirrels and are now reporting sightings of young squirrels for the second year running, so we know they’re doing well.” 

To obtain a copy of The Red Squirrel: A Future in the Forest and help support Trees for Life, order online at Scotlandbigpicture.com. Use the special code STBPTFL10 to have £10 donated to Trees for Life and to save 10 percent. Alternatively, you can donate to the appeal directly at Treesforlife.org.uk/donate  

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Jun 162017
 

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

Primary school pupils have been working to add their own splash of colour in Aberdeen by sowing seeds for a city centre wildflower meadow. Alongside representatives from Aberdeen Inspired, a class of 22 P6 pupils from Hanover Street School have planted wildflower seeds on the grassy area where Bridge Street becomes College Street.

The aim of the session was to create greater biodiversity in the area while also encouraging community involvement in city centre activities.

Last year, children from Hanover Street Nursery also planted crocuses at the St Nicholas Centre rooftop garden.

Following the seed sowing, it is hoped that the school will take over looking after the wildflower meadow as part of Aberdeen Inspired’s ‘Adopt an Area’ initiative.

The organisation has played a key role in identifying areas within the city centre which could benefit from a refresh with the hope of making them more visually attractive and appealing to use.

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said:

“We were delighted to invite children from Hanover Street Primary School to help us plant a wildflower meadow beside College Street which will brighten up the space in the coming weeks.

“As well as teaching them a bit about nature, this session was important to introduce a variety of wild flowers to the area. Increasing biodiversity in the city centre is very important and we are keen to encourage more projects like this.

“We are passionate about creating a more vibrant and appealing city centre and believe efforts like this, which involve working with school children, are hugely important in achieving that.”

Aberdeen Inspired is the banner under which the Aberdeen BID (Business Improvement District) operates. It is a business-led initiative within the city centre in which levy payers within the BID zone contribute.

Proceeds are used to fund projects designed to improve the business district and drive increased footfall to the area.

More information about Aberdeen Inspired is available online at: www.aberdeeninspired.com

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May 122017
 

With thanks to Martin Ford.

Long-serving councillor Martin Ford was re-elected last Thursday (4 May) for a fifth term as a member of Aberdeenshire Council.

With 18 years on Aberdeenshire Council, Martin Ford is now the longest serving councillor in the Garioch Area.

Cllr Ford represented the Newmachar and Fintray ward from 1999 to 2007.

With the introduction of the single transferable vote system and multi-member wards in 2007, Martin Ford became one of the three councillors representing the East Garioch ward.

Further changes to electoral arrangements this time were down to a revision of council ward boundaries undertaken since the 2012 election by The Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland. As of 4 May, the East Garioch ward (which includes Newmachar, Fintray, Blackburn and Kintore) is now larger than it was before.

The ward has been extended to the west by moving its boundary much closer to Kemnay and Inverurie. Reflecting the increase in population, the number of councillors representing the East Garioch ward has also been increased – from three to four.

Cllr Martin Ford said:

“I would like to thank all 4,559 residents of East Garioch who voted in the election last Thursday.

“I am tremendously pleased to be starting my fifth term on Aberdeenshire Council. It’s a great privilege to have been re-elected again after 18 years as a councillor. So I would like to express my special thanks to those who put their confidence in me to continue as one of their local representatives.

“Locally, there are a range of priorities within the East Garioch ward. The Council has a key role to play in the delivery of the planned rail station in Kintore. Decisions are required about additional school capacity in Newmachar. The new school in Blackburn is due to open in August 2018.

“With the election last week, there has been a considerable change in the membership of the Council. Moving forward, I hope the Council as a whole will have effective working relationships between councillors of different colours, so there is a preparedness to accept suggestions and good ideas from all sides. There are undoubtedly going to be some tough choices during the next five years, so we need a Council that takes its decisions on the basis of evidence and in the public interest.”

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Apr 282017
 

With thanks to Martin Ford.

Aberdeenshire Greens have launched their manifesto for the 2017 council election.

The manifesto sets out the priorities and approach for Green councillors elected to Aberdeenshire Council this May.

The Scottish Green Party is contesting five of the nineteen council wards in Aberdeenshire. There is currently one Green councillor on Aberdeenshire Council.

Rachel Shanks, Green candidate for Stonehaven and Lower Deeside, said:

“The more Green councillors elected to Aberdeenshire Council this May, the more influence they will have. We want to prioritise investment in education, better local public transport and protecting Aberdeenshire’s special environment.

“Inevitably, Aberdeenshire Council is going to face some tough challenges in the years ahead. Green voices need to be heard in the council chamber when the Council decides how to respond. The last five years have shown a Green presence has made for a better Council. We want to build on that this May.”

West Garioch Green candidate Richard Openshaw said:

“The election on 4 May is a local election. It’s about local issues, not national ones.

“We’re proud of the Green successes on Aberdeenshire Council since 2012, like funding for youth work, traffic calming, cycling and walking. Our manifesto for the next five years sets out what we will prioritise going forward.

“The forecast rise in pupil numbers in Aberdeenshire schools means additional resources for education are essential. I was appalled at the education cuts advocated by the Lib Dems and Conservatives in their proposed 2017/18 Council budget. Green councillors will give priority to spending on schools and resist education cuts.”

Mearns candidate Karen Allan said:

“I particularly welcome the manifesto commitments on road safety and tackling climate change.”

East Garioch councillor and Green candidate Martin Ford said:

“A significant number of proposals from the 2012 Aberdeenshire Green manifesto have been agreed by the Council and have become Council policy. Greens elected to Aberdeenshire Council this May will similarly seek cross-party support to get Green proposals adopted.”

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