Aberdeenshire plant hire firm fined after hiring unlicensed asbestos removal contractor

Miller PlantMiller Plant Limited has been fined £15,000 over a health and safety breach which resulted in three contract workers being exposed to asbestos fibres.

The Inverurie-based plant contracting and hire service provider was handed the fine at Aberdeen Sheriff Court after admitting engaging an unlicensed asbestos contractor to carry out removal work from its piggery buildings, the Aberdeen Evening Express has reported.

The offence took place at Upper Lurg Farm, Midmar, a site which was purchased by the firm, between July 6 and 31, 2015.

A licensed company visited the site and was of the opinion the type of asbestos that needed removed was made from fibres, and estimated that the work would cost £27,100.

However, the contract was awarded to another firm for “substantially less”, whose director was of the opinion that a different type of asbestos was present.

The selected firm then chose to sub-contract the work out to an individual – neither had a licence to remove the type of asbestos found in the piggery buildings.

It was also stated that the director of the first firm contacted about the work had called Miller Plant to say the company the work had been awarded to “was not licensed to carry out this job”.

The following day an HSE inspector arrived on site, enforcement action was taken against the firm and the man the job had been sub-contracted to.

No one was injured as a result of the offence.

Ian Miller, one of the managing directors at the firm, said it had learned from mistakes following the incident and has taken steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

He told the Aberdeen Evening Express: “Post the incident we have reviewed our policies.

“We’ve put all our key staff in asbestos training. We’ve very much addressed the issue.”

Mr Miller added that it turned out the contractor selected was not qualified to remove that type asbestos. He said the firm did not realise this but was “culpable for not getting an asbestos survey done”.

Lakehouse wins £44m housing improvement deal with Aberdeenshire Council

Bob Holt

Bob Holt

Lakehouse has won a £44 million contract to carry out housing energy efficiency upgrades for Aberdeenshire Council.

The four-year deal will be delivered through the company’s Everwarm subsidiary up until late 2021.

Features include covering every facet of housing improvement upgrades in Aberdeenshire such as external upgrades, internal refurbishments, domestic heating programmes and renewable energy installations.

Elsewhere, the Group’s Energy Services division has won its first contract under the Excel energy efficiency framework, with a £4m award from Renfrewshire Council for external fabric improvements.

The Compliance division has also secured a number of contract wins, the most notable being a £600,000 water compliance contract with Homes For Haringey, a £500,000 commercial installations contract with Yorkshire Housing Association and winning two places on Sanctuary Housing’s commercial heating installations framework.

Bob Holt, executive chairman of Lakehouse, said: “We are delighted to announce today (02 October) the successful award of the significant landmark contract with Aberdeenshire Council, which endorses our strong reputation for delivering excellent service in local council residential property maintenance in Scotland.

“In addition, we are pleased to be able to update on the continued progress being made in our strategic growth divisions of Energy Services and Compliance. The new contract wins meet our stated objective of focusing on continuing to grow organically the Lakehouse Group.”

National planning review ‘unlikely to improve local situation’, say Aberdeenshire councillors

planning blueprint stockProposals to overhaul the planning system in Scotland are unlikely to have any positive effect in meeting the demands and aspirations of communities and the development industry, councillors have told the Scottish Government.

Aberdeenshire Council’s infrastructure services committee (ISC) has written to the country’s Chief Planner in response to a range of changes being proposed at a national level.

Councillors and planning officials believe the current approach to strategic and local planning in the area works well and the proposed changes take decision making further from local communities.

There is particular concern over a lack of detail around proposals to replace the role of the Strategic Development Plan (SDP), which currently provides a long term strategy for future growth.

It also guides the production of Aberdeenshire’s Local Development Plan, which provides a blueprint for the development of the area, ensuring a consistent approach to planning applications.

The government’s current intention is to replace Strategic Development Plans with Regional Partnerships and officers and councillors are concerned about the lack of detail so far.

Its Places, People and Planning consultation asked Scottish councils for their opinions on plans to bring forward a Planning Bill in the near future, which is part of a wider programme of work aimed at strengthening “planning’s contribution to inclusive growth and empowering our communities”.

Now ISC chairman, Peter Argyle, has written to the Scottish Government on behalf of the committee to set out the council’s thoughts on a Position Statement which outlines the changes the government is considering.

The Position Statement was published following an independent review of the planning system, published in May 2016, and a subsequent consultation on 20 proposals for improvement.

Aberdeenshire Council has already responded to the initial consultation, and has now given its opinion on proposals for changes which have emerged as a result.

There is particular concern around timing as the north-east needs, at the very least, a transitional arrangement to ensure up-to-date development plans are in place throughout any period of change.

Councillor Argyle said: “This council’s most immediate concern is the lack of detail around measures to replace the role of the Strategic Development Plan and the means of engaging over regional spatial strategy and, in particular, housing requirement.

“The council welcomes change where benefits can be evidenced but, in the context of the north-east of Scotland the current arrangements have worked very well and there is not as yet sufficient evidence or detail around a replacement system to demonstrate that it will improve on the current system.

“One size does not fit all and there is a lack of evidence that the proposals will improve the process or performance of the system in delivering infrastructure and further housing.”

ISC vice chair, John Cox, added: “The current barriers to development, particularly housing, are the physical cost of development and the demand within the local markets, not the planning system or its processes.

“The changes being proposed would also remove political control from the local area, taking it to the centre, and would also potentially give developers the opportunity to renege on agreements made for contributions to improve infrastructure impacted upon by their developments, known as Developer Obligations.

“The committee wanted to reinforce the resource implications of the proposals for all councils and the need to improve trust in planning processes, which the current proposals do not assist.

“There is nothing that gives me confidence the process will be easier, quicker or more efficient, basically failing most of the objectives. Plain and simple, this would be a further erosion of the local democratic process and accountability, driven by lack of funding.”

Councillors have also expressed their concern about the fast pace of the consultation and the emerging legislation, fearing it may lead to errors.

The government’s Position Statement states no final decisions have been made on the content of any future legislation at this stage.

Planning granted for Moxon Architects’ new Scottish studio on disused quarry site

Moxon Scottish officeMoxon Architects is to develop a new build premises for its studio in Aberdeenshire to accommodate an increasing workforce and new high profile infrastructure projects.

The 400 sqm facility in Crathie has received planning permission with construction due to start in Q4 2017.

The studio will become the permanent base for the expanding Scottish arm of Moxon, which continues to grow its original London office; affording it a broad portfolio of work both internationally and across the breadth of the UK.

Moxon’s growth is partly a response to its involvement in major new infrastructure projects including the UK’s High-Speed rail network HS2, as well as bridge and highways projects in Scotland and overseas. Projects already under construction in Scotland include the Fife Arms Hotel in Braemar for Hauser & Wirth and the Cairngorms National Park Headquarters.

Projects elsewhere in the UK include the West End Theatre Ticket Office in Leicester Square and a range of conservation and arts projects in Somerset and the South West. The slimline Somers Town bridge on the Regents Canal in King’s Cross was unveiled earlier this summer.

On its new development, Moxon said: “The studio proposal comprises two low-lying buildings that sit at either side of an existing topographic barrier covered in mature birch, rowan and aspen. The purpose of splitting the office premises into two components is to reflect the twin roles of an architecture practice: focused design work and broad collaboration.

“The more privately positioned building houses the office premises for the practice – containing a studio, meeting rooms, offices and back-of-house facilities. Hidden from view and protected by the landscape from noise, it is a peaceful and concentrated area to work.

“Conversely, the road-facing building is designed to house social and flexible working spaces for the practice, including a small kitchen and staff dining area. A lounge also functions as an additional informal meeting area to welcome guests and clients.

“The two buildings are connected by a covered walk that provides all weather circulation and a sheltered space to enjoy the wooded surroundings.

“Principle walls of the proposal will be finished with a combination of concrete, glass and recycled shuttering. The difference between the finishes in weathering and texture as well as module will be apparent at close quarters, establishing a visual hierarchy where elemental concrete walls define the skeleton of the structure, around which the lightweight framed building enclosure is constructed.

“The building mass is positioned within the landscape in a deliberate attempt to nestle the studio into the contours and vegetation that define the area. This is further reinforced by the over sailing roofs, which are a combination of flat meadow planted areas and shallow, profiled metal pitches that reference agricultural buildings.”

Mabey helps deliver Aberdeen bypass

Photo - Aberdeen bypass 1The UK Hire business of bridge and engineering services specialist Mabey has highlighted its role in delivering the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route/Balmedie-Tipperty (AWPR/B-T), cutting journey times and reducing pollution in the UK’s third most congested city.

The 58km bypass project is being delivered by Transport Scotland in partnership with Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council. Aberdeen Roads Limited was awarded the contract to build the AWPR/B-T in December 2014 and has appointed AWPR Construction Joint Venture, comprising Balfour Beatty, Carillion and Galliford Try, to build the road.

Using experience from last year’s Mersey Gateway project, Mabey was brought on to the project to provide temporary support structures for the pre-cast concrete beams for a number of the 75 structures to be built across the project. These beams form the bridge decks as they are craned into position and while the permanent concrete cross head beams are constructed.

Photo - Aberdeen bypass 2.pngThe scheme combines a number of Mabey’s industry-leading propping and jacking systems to provide a turnkey, cost-effective engineering solution. As a result, the company’s dedicated fabrication unit has produced around 200 tonnes of equipment specifically for this project.

Gordon MacDonald, CEO, Mabey Hire, said: “Aberdeen’s peak time traffic is so huge it eclipses that of London. To reduce this large-scale congestion and help limit pollution costs, our experienced delivery team has been working with Aberdeen Roads Limited to make sure this project is managed as quickly, safely and efficiently as possible. Since our involvement, we’ve completed seven structures, with one more in the pipeline.”

Contractor sought for Stonehaven Flood Protection Scheme

Stonehaven Flood Protection SchemeAberdeenshire Council is to start hunting for a contractor to deliver the £16 million Stonehaven Flood Protection Scheme.

Following the project’s legal confirmation, engineers can proceed to tender for the scheme which aims to reduce flood risk to 372 residential properties, two public utility sites, a school and an emergency service site.

Overall, the development comprises of a series of individual projects;

  • Alteration to five bridges along the River Carron; removing, replacing and raising the Red Bridge and Green Bridge; repositioning the Green Bridge; removing, refurbishing and reinstating the White Bridge in a raised position; replacing the Bridgefield Bridge parapet with a reinforced glass type material; and raising and widening the Beach Bridge
  • Construction of flood walls between the Red Bridge and the river mouth
  • The island downstream of the Green Bridge will be removed
  • Installation of two higher capacity culverts on the Glaslaw Burn

It is designed to provide a 0.5% chance of occurrence (1 in 200-year flood event) standard of protection, including an allowance for climate change (33% increase to 2080) and a safety margin catering for uncertainties.

Following a consultation 12 objections had been received to the scheme – four were resolved through negotiation but the others remained outstanding. Following publication of a formal notice, outstanding objectors had six weeks to apply for a judicial review of the scheme’s confirmation, but none took this opportunity.

With the scheme becoming operative on September 4, the council now has the power to enter properties and to build on land it does not own to complete the development.

Pre-construction preparation is expected to take place around the town from October, with the tender for construction to be issued at the end of the year. Main works are then scheduled to start around August 2018, with the project taking around two years to compete.

Plans to increase number of homes at proposed Stonehaven development refused

The proposed new layout for Carron Den

The proposed new layout for Carron Den

Councillors have turned down an application to build 142 homes in Stonehaven.

Stewart Milne Homes had already been granted planning approval to build 109 houses on the Carron Den site but moved to reduce the size of the homes from five bedrooms to two and three when new proposals were launched last year.

The developer said “changes in the housing market” were behind the alterations.

Objections to the proposals included concerns over the impact that the increased houses would have on traffic management, as well as the impact on education, leisure and medical facilities in Stonehaven. Other concerns were raised about the overall revised design and layout of the settlement.

Aberdeenshire Council planning officers had recommended that the plans be approved, arguing that amenities in Stonehaven can cope with an extra 42 homes, saying that the overall impact of the increase would be “fairly minor”.

Stephen Archer, director of infrastructure services at Aberdeenshire Council, said: “The site currently has planning consent for 109 residential units.

“To date only 13 properties have been built where the access road enters the development and along the northern boundary of the site along the ridge above the Carron Water.

“The proposed 142 dwellings, in addition to the 13 already constructed, would increase the total number of dwellings to 155, 46 more than the 109 already approved.

“The development would include 43 affordable units amounting to 27.7% affordable housing provision. The initial proposal was for the erection of 147 dwellings in addition to the 13 constructed but this was reduced to 142 to accommodate an amended road layout.

“The applicant removed five open market units but retained the proposed number of affordable units.”

The previously approved development at the site

The previously approved development at the site

Mr Archer added planners felt due to the level of engagement carried out by the developer they were happy to accept the policy departure.

He said: “The proposal does not fully comply with the Local Development Plan (LDP) and the Planning Service is recommending approval of the application as a departure from LDP Policies H1: Housing land and P1: Layout siting and design, both of which require a masterplan which has gone through appropriate public consultation.

“The Planning Service consider it acceptable to depart from these policies in this regard, due to this requirement not being in place at the time of submission of the application, and that the level of engagement, consideration and consultation on the finalised content during consideration of this and previous applications is tantamount to a robust masterplan for the site.”

However, councillors voted eight to three to refuse the application, on the grounds that a 40% increase of houses was a significant departure from the original application, traffic issues, and concerns about the new design and layout.

Speaking at the Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee meeting this week, Councillor Sarah Dickinson said: “I don’t consider a near 50% increase as a “minor departure” from the original application. It is a significant increase. These developments have a cumulative impact on Stonehaven and it is unacceptable without us seeing a change in what is provided in the town in terms of leisure facilities, as well as other facilities.”

Councillor Colin Pike added: “We have to include an element of common sense here. We have a developer who has approval for 109 houses. The houses aren’t selling, as they are too expensive. The officers claim these new houses meet current needs – we are an ageing population, but there are no bungalows in these plans. The developer has got it wrong. We cannot absorb 142 new houses here. We are being asked to approve something that is wrong and the planning department is not here to get developers out of trouble.”

Committee chair Wendy Agnew agreed: “This is 32 more houses. It puts increased pressure on the medical centre, dentist, and leisure centre. I feel that 142 is too many for the town. With the added housing this will no longer be an award winning designed hamlet, there will be too many houses crammed in to the space.”

Green light for 231 Turriff affordable homes

Springfield Properties TurriffPlans to create a new neighbourhood of 231 affordable homes in Turriff have been given unanimous approval by councillors.

A decision on the Springfield Properties scheme was deferred by Aberdeenshire Council’s Formartine area committee last month after concerns were raised about the viability of the plans.

But yesterday, the committee met in Ellon to reconsider the planning application and voted unanimously to back the project.

Located on an agricultural site at Meadowbank Road, the proposals had been recommended for approval by council planners, however, with all the proposed homes classed as affordable, some councillors questioned whether the project could be delivered as it might not be commercially viable and instead asked for a commitment of only 25% with the remainder left to the developer’s discretion.

Despite the concerns, local councillor Iain Taylor said: “The provision of affordable housing is good.”

Speaking on behalf of Springfield, Joe Geoghegan said: “The delivery of affordable houses is a key part of our business. We’ve delivered 1,500 since 2004 and that’s been on a range of sites from 25% affordable up to 100%.”

Aberdeenshire business park approved in principle

Northwoods Eco Business ParkPlanning permission in principle has been granted for the formation of an Aberdeenshire business park.

Members of Aberdeenshire Council’s Buchan Area Committee this week considered plans for the Northwoods Eco Business Park on the northern boundary of Mintlaw.

The scheme includes land for a new council roads department and recycling centre as well as a new headquarters for applicants Colaren Homes.

The firm, which is currently based in Fraserburgh, is proposing to build a timber house-kit manufacturing facility at the Balring Road site – an operation which could create 10 new full-time staff.

Northwoods Eco Business Park siteSeveral smaller industrial units will also be made available for firms to rent. In total, as many as 70 people could be employed at the business park.

Addressing the committee at Buchan House in Peterhead, Colaren’s land manager, Gary Purves, said: “I think we have got unique circumstances for this development. The two end users – Aberdeenshire Council and Colaren Homes – have said Northwoods is the only suitable site.

“It’s good for Aberdeenshire Council, it has the potential to create jobs and is a significant investment in Mintlaw.”

The committee unanimously gave its backing to the scheme, which will now be referred to the local authority’s infrastructure committee for a final decision.

Green light for Aberdeenshire hotel revamp

Udny ArmsCouncillors have backed plans to redevelop an Aberdeenshire hotel.

The Udny Arms in Newburgh will reopen with 12 en-suite rooms and manager’s flat, while an existing annexe would be demolished to make way for five terraced townhouses.

The proposals had been deferred to establish how neighbours would be affected by the new development. Planning permission was delayed in June while council officers investigated whether the three-storey townhouses would cast any significant shadows in the area.

But this week members of Aberdeenshire Council’s Formartine area committee agreed with planners recommendations and gave the project their approval.

A report by Stephen Archer, the director of infrastructure services at Aberdeenshire Council, recommended the councillors allow planners to grant the approval under delegated powers.

He said: “The Udny Arms Hotel has been a long established facility within the centre of Newburgh and its retention and refurbishment to reopen as a hotel and eatery are support by policy and welcomed by the planning service. The redevelopment of this site for a mixed use development will allow this site to become a positive attribute to the centre of Newburgh, regenerating this site.

“This proposed development not only allows for an existing business and local facility to reopen, but contributes to the variety of house types that could be on offer within the village.”

The hotel closed in 2013 for significant renovation work. The bar and restaurant reopened in late 2013 and the hotel in February 2014, but the function suite remained closed.

The premises, including the bar and restaurant, were put up for sale in September 2014, before being sold to ECS Investments Ltd in March last year.

A statement from ECS said: “The proposals would reduce the scale of the hotel and refurbish the original buildings, in order to provide a five-star boutique hotel.”