New schools, leisure facilities and modern methods of providing care are all part of a major investment in the infrastructure of Aberdeenshire.
OVER the next four years the council will spend around £400m improving the quality of life for local communities and future generations in what has been described as one of the most ambitious capital investment programmes delivered in Scotland.
A £9.5m community and sports centre in Fraserburgh and an innovative care village in Stonehaven are among the major projects that have been completed in recent months. At the same time, the council has recognised the importance of a “robust” maintenance programme and the need to encourage contractors to engage with local suppliers and create apprenticeships where possible.
Council leader, Councillor Jim Gifford, explained: “From multi-million pound new-build complexes to minor upgrade works, these projects are part of our long-term asset management plan to ensure we provide top-quality facilities to the residents of Aberdeenshire. Over the next few years Aberdeenshire Council will deliver a series of important projects which will benefit the local economy and play an important role in our communities for decades to come.”
An Audit Scotland report on major capital investment in local authorities, published in March, twice highlighted Aberdeenshire Council as an example of good practice.
Opened in February, the £9.5m Fraserburgh Community and Sports Centre is the biggest of its kind in Aberdeenshire, built to replace a facility that will now be demolished. Facilities at the new complex include a competition-standard six-lane swimming pool, a three-court sports hall and 20-station fitness suite.
In the first month of its opening, the centre attracted more than 11,100 visitors and generated £32,000 in income, a 322% rise on income raised at the old facility during the same period last year.
Built to high environmental standards, it was constructed using a wide range of sustainable materials, high levels of insulation and a biomass boiler.
Elsewhere, planning has started on a £6m community sports complex at Hill of Banchory, which will incorporate a six-lane swimming pool and extended dry facilities. The project, being delivered in partnership with the North Banchory Company and Bandswim, aims to provide new facilities for the local community by autumn 2017.
Housing and Social Work
Extensive research and engagement has revealed that the campus-style care village concept is an attractive prospect to older people who require extra support.
The £7.6m Edenholme Care Village at Stonehaven opened late last year and the Inverurie Care Village, incorporating a 60-bed care home and eight associated bungalows, is currently in the planning stages. The £8m scheme will include specialist dementia, respite and complex care facilities and will replace the current Blythewood House Care Home.
One of the council’s priorities is an estate of environmentally-friendly schools and the development and improvement of its education properties estate is one of the biggest elements included in the Capital Works Programme over the next 12 years, at a cost of nearly £200m. Again, campus-style developments will be designed to benefit the wider community.
Construction on the Mearns Academy Community Campus began in September last year and first classes are due to begin in August 2014. The £24m facility will ultimately accommodate 840 pupils, games hall, public library, community rooms and a police office.
That project will be followed closely by the Ellon Academy Community Campus, with construction due to get under way this summer for completion May 2015. A planned £40m campus will provide schooling for 1,200 pupils, a swimming pool, community areas and will have provision for an NHS facility.
Plans are also under way for the £40m Alford Community Campus to begin in 2014. The site will contain a 640-pupil academy and a 355-pupil primary school. Primary schools will account for a further £50m of spending.
Short-term investment in the council’s core offices, along with improvements to working structures, will save the local authority money and help to reduce the number of business miles being clocked up by travelling employees.
A £5m investment in extending the Gordon House offices in Inverurie and a further £5m for new offices in Peterhead are part of a long-term investment and improvement to the efficiency of the council’s working practices.
Image – Inverurie Care Home is one of the projects in the social work programme.