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Caithness News Bulletins December 2003

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Council Recycles One Million Aluminium Cans 22 December 03
And urges public to recycle their festive carry-outs.

As Highland Council marks the recycling of the millionth aluminium can collected in the Highland area over the last 9 months, Councillor Bill Fulton the Depute Chairman of Waste Management for The Highland Council's Transport, Environmental and Community Services Committee urged everyone over the Christmas and New Year celebrations to continue to collect their aluminium cans for recycling.

The million cans collected over the 9 month period represents an increase of around 25% on recycling figures since the Council began operating the "Cash for Cans" scheme.

The Council operated Cash for Cans facility at Alness supports the extensive network of recycling facilities found in Highland. In addition to the 25 Tonnes of aluminium that will be recycled in the year 2003 - 2004 a further 15 Tonnes of steel will also be recycled through the Alness facility.

The number of cans collected from Council recycling centres is boosted by healthy contributions from community groups and schools through the Cash for Cans initiative, a payment of up to £0.40/Kg can be made to these groups and is used to fund a variety of projects.

Over the last year, Maggie's Highland has been working with The Highland Council's Transport, Environmental and Community Services, by recruiting support from businesses and individuals in the Highland Area to collect aluminium drinks cans which are uplifted and processed by the Council. This initiative raised almost £200 in the last year.

Steve McDermott, Highland Council's Waste Management Assistant urged others to get involved in recycling, he said: "The Christmas period is one of the best times to focus on the waste we produce. The recycling of aluminium is one of the many ways everyone can get involved in reducing the amount of waste going to landfill. In addition, further environmental benefits are gained due to the 95% energy savings which are made when aluminium is recycled. A drinks can given for recycling today may be back on the shelf as a new can within six weeks."

Further environmental benefits are being gained through recycling aluminium cans. The Highland Council and the Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation (Alupro) are challenging everybody to join in the "Get Recycling" campaign and to recycle more aluminium. In return the Council promises to plant a tree for each tonne of aluminium cans recycled during the next twelve months. This means that every aluminium can in the area will count towards the "Get Recycling" national appeal that plans to see at least 35,000 trees planted in parks and woodlands across the UK.

  • Recycling aluminium saves up to 95% of the energy used to make the metal from the raw material, bauxite

  • Aluminium can be recycled again and again without loss of properties

  • An aluminium drinks can given for recycling today can be back on the shelf packing a new drink within six weeks

  • "Get Recycling", National appeal - to plant 35,000 native trees across the UK

  •  A tree for every tonne of aluminium drinks cans and foil recycled between July 2003 and end-June 2004

  • Separate programme for schools, community groups and charities selling alucans and foil through 350 Cash for Cans centres across the UK: a tree for every 50 kilos sold, in addition to cash value of around 40p per kilo

  • Trees available are native species, available as two-year-old, cell-grown saplings sized between 45 and 60cm. Oak, ash, rowan, hazel, field maple and scots pine

The Get Recycling appeal is sponsored by the industry-backed Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation (Alupro) which is a not-for-profit company, limited by guarantee, tel: 01527 597757 fax: 01527 594140.  Visit the website for more information, www.alupro.org.uk

A car park in Wick will receive emergency repairs after the state of the facility was brought to the attention of The Highland Council's Convener, Mrs Alison Magee and Chief Executive Arthur McCourt at a recent meeting with Caithness Community Councillors, business leaders, Highland Council local members and staff.

The Council's Convener and Chief Executive heard at the meeting how Scalesburn Road and Camps car park in Wick were in need of urgent repairs and the Council's Transport, Environmental and Community Services have since authorised £30,000 worth of repairs to the car park.

Camps Car Park being undermined by the sea.  Heavy seas last winter opened up a huge hole underneath the car park

Additional repair works to Scalesburn Road are estimated at £150,000 and a report will be submitted to the Council's TEC Service Committee on 29 January about this issue.

£3M worth of repairs that were recently announced for the Wick, North Pier will help to protect the South Pier and Scalesburn Road area. Meanwhile, however, the situation at Scalesburn Road is being closely monitored.

Highland Council Caithness Area Convener, Councillor David Flear said: "I am pleased that the Council has acknowledged the urgent need to bring Camps car park up to standard and hopefully this major repair will mean that the car park will remain in operation for the foreseeable future.

"I am also pleased that Scalesburn Road is being looked at in what is a comprehensive assessment of the harbour and road facilities around the harbour area."

The Scottish Executive is to be urged to reconsider plans to provide overtaking opportunities on two stretches of the A9 between Drumochter and Inverness at a cost of £5 million.

The Convener of The Highland Council Councillor Alison Magee has written to Scottish Transport Minister Nicol Stephen, MSP, expressing the Council's opposition to the introduction of a road lay out known as wide single carriageway (WS 2 + 1), which is aimed at guaranteeing overtaking opportunities by incorporating two lanes in one direction, with one lane in the opposite direction.

The stretches of road identified for widening early in the New Year are:-
* 2.1 km between Ralia Lodge and Nuide Farm (Southbound overtaking); and
* 1.5 km between Balavil and Meadowside House (northbound overtaking).

While welcoming improvements to overtaking opportunities on the A 9, Councillors would prefer the Executive to provide dual carriageway on these stretches of road.

They are also concerned at the lack of consultation on the proposals and the short notice given to an exhibition held in Aviemore on 11/12 December.

Convener Councillor Alison Magee stated in her letter to Mr Stephen that concerns had been expressed at the potential for drivers to disobey the road markings and to cross from the single lane on to the oncoming lane.

She said: "I feel that with good visibility and driver frustration arising from convoys there will be a tendency to do this, which will bring with it the potential for serious accidents. A more physical demarcation between the two overtaking lanes and the single non over-taking lane would help resolve this.

"The short lengths of overtaking proposed in your two schemes are unlikely to dissipate the convoys and will only add to the frustration felt by motorists. There is also concern that in winter a light covering of snow will obscure the road markings and again lead to a potential accident hazard."

She concluded that the two schemes, with a total value of £5 million, did not appear to offer good value for money. The Council had a clear preference for dual carriageways and these projects should be considered in the light of the Executive's overall strategy for the A 9.

She said: "The extension to the Crubenmore Dual Carriageway is the only major scheme in the programme for the A 9 between Drumochter and Inverness. The southbound overtaking section at Ralia is likely to interact with the proposed Crubenmore Dual Carriageway extension and will, therefore, not represent value for money due to the potential abortive nature of the work.

"It may therefore be more appropriate to have the two projects adjacent to one another in the vicinity of Loch Inch, mid-way between the existing dual carriageway sections and with the southbound and northbound overtaking sections adjacent to one another. The Council would therefore like reconsideration of the locations for your WS 2+1 improvements to ensure that they improve safety, dissipate convoys and fit in with your overall strategy for the route.

"I believe it is absolutely essential to achieve the safest solution to the problem of improving overtaking opportunities on the A9. I therefore seek your assurances that careful thought will be given to these matters prior to implementation of these schemes."

Highland Council agreed to a further tranche of funding assistance for a second year amounting to £40,000.  The council has however decided to restrict the funding to two 6 month periods during which time more information by way of management details and accounts must be produced to council officers.
the council heard how a business plan being funded by CASE from an outside consultant  would soon be available.  A number of developments about to happen are giving the Harbour Trust a breathing space.  A slight upturn in fish landing income and the imminent arrival of wind turbines destined for the Causeymire and deliveries in the New Year of 6500 tone so rock armour for the pier protection works will add to the income stream.
Longer term the harbour trust along with Elizabeth Marshall the economic development officer of the council is looking at ambitious power schemes from locating photovoltaic panels on the fish market roof supplying free power to the harbour and selling any spare capacity to the grid, a bio-mass heating scheme and even the possibility of a tidal breakwater development in Wick Bay.   Although ambitious, the schemes at varying levels could transform the fortunes of Wick Harbour and perhaps offer the possibility of cheaper heating costs to homes and businesses in part of Wick to start with.  From deriving income from the fish Wick might still use the sea as its most powerful ally once again to earn a living.  The solar panel project would be using already proven technology to harness the high light levels experienced in the north of Scotland even in winter.


The Highland Council has won a meeting with UK Ministers to highlight their concerns about shipping around coastal waters. They will join with representatives of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar for talks, which were confirmed by Transport Secretary Alistair Darling when he responded to the publication of a report by the Marine Accident Investigation Bureau into the sinking of the Cypriot-registered general cargo ship, the Jambo, in June.

The investigators found that the accident was caused by the chief officer falling asleep while alone on the bridge missing his intended change of course off Rubha Reidh. He was aloken, standing at the engine controls, by the impact of the vessel grounding off the Summer Isles, at the entrance to Loch Broom. Wester Ross. The German-owned boat, built in 1990, was carrying 3,300 tonnes of zinc concentrate from Dublin to Odda in Norway. The grounding and subsequent sinking prompted fears of serious environmental damage and the Council was critical of the effectiveness of the salvage and clean up operation. The vessel is unlikely to be salvaged.

Mr Darling has announced a study into vessel traffic in the Minch to identify any safety, and or other measures, that should be taken and to ensure that they are put in place as quickly as possible.

He said the Maritime and Coastguard Agency also planned to conduct a survey of the deep-water route west of the Hebrides to give a comparison between the Minch and the outer deep-water route. This, he said, would give a complete picture of ship movements in the area and allow the MCA to review the risks associated with shipping in the Minch.

The MCA is also being recommended to take forward with the International Maritime Organisation the compulsory fitting of watchkeeper alarms to all vessels when there is an intention to operate with a sole person on watch.

He added: “Ministers will also be meeting with representatives from Councils in the area in the New Year to consider any suggestions they may have.”

Council Convener Councillor Alison Magee has welcomed the opportunity the Council is being given to present its concerns about shipping movements in the Minch and in coastal waters around the Highlands. Recently, she wrote to Mr Darling to express the Council’s concern at the length of time it had taken to organise the salvage operation; the lack of consultation about the environmental impact which might be caused by the sunken vessel and its cargo of zinc concentrate; and the lack of consultation when determining the most suitable site for returning excess water to the sea.

Highland Councillor Bill Fulton recently spoke at a maritime safety seminar in Nantes, France, when he highlighted the dangers that exist daily around the shores of Europe and the need for action across the international community.

He told the conference that a number of measures were needed, including the removal of the Right of Innocent Passage, the mandatory reporting of vessels using coastal waters and the installation of transponders on all vessels. Success to date had been limited to the berthing of a tug at Stornoway.

He also believed that nothing would change until all vessels were required to carry an all risks insurance policy and a European Coastguard Service was created.


Members of The Highland Council have agreed not to open up the A9 to the possibility of commercial development.

By 44 votes to 27 they supported the findings of the A9 Services Working Group, and their conclusions on an economic impact assessment which will shape the future A9 Services Policy. The Working Group outcomes favour small-scale community-led local developments.

In doing so they overturned a decision of the Planning, Development Europe and Tourism Committee to open up the A 9 to the possibility of commercial development, in the interests of road safety, road users and tourism.

Councillors endorsed the conclusions of the A9 Services Policy Working Group which recommend that:

·       Existing settlements should provide a full range of service including where viable 24 hour provision (including HGV’s), together with a strategy to enhance the signing and promotion of the by-passed communities including within lay-bys.

·       South of Inverness, Ralia and Blackmount (Carrbridge) should be the focus for promoting the by-passed communities in badenoch and Strathspey with information, toilets and light refreshments and picnic facilities for north and southbound traffic respectively. Catering facilities would be taken forward in consultion with local communities although it was acknowledged that only one of these locations may support a commercial opportunity.

·       Enhanced picnic, information, rest and toilet facilities should generally be provided at 25 mile intervals, embracing the exisiting facilities at Drumossie and North Kessock.

The Council will explore with other partner agencies, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Cairngorms National park and the Scottish Executive how the proposals can be implemented.


The Highland Council has declined an offer from ASDA Stores Ltd to purchase or lease land at North Longman for a retail development. ASDA offered £17.35 million for the land, which is owned by the Council, through the Inverness Common Good Fund, and sits to the south of Caledonian Stadium, covering  the Gypsy/Travellers’ Site and the Council's salt store as well as the car park used by away supporters attending matches at the stadium.

The offer was subject to a considerable number of pre-conditions including the grant of outline planning permission for a 50,000 sq ft store with conditions acceptable to ASDA along with planning permission for a three-storey office block, pub and hotel, fast food restaurant, park and ride facility and an area for leisure and recreation.

It was also subject to receiving vacant possession of the gypsy/traveller and salt store sites and surrender of part of the land currently leased to Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC Trust.  It would be for the Council to improve access to the North and East Longman site to the satisfaction of the Scottish Executive, via their trunk road division.  Payment for this new road lay-out would come out of the offer price.

A report from senior officials said the Council should not accept the offer nor should the Council indicate any inclination to accept it at this stage.

As the offer was subject to planning permission, the Council's position as planning authority would be compromised.  The development would be contrary to the adopted local plan, as well as the draft local plan.  Other retail interests were objectors to the draft local plan and the Council could not commit to, or be seen to favour, an ASDA store at North Longman without jeopardising the validity of the local plan process.  The Council would be exposed to challenge by Judicial Review.

Councillors were told any opportunity to develop land in the Council's ownership, particularly having regard to the status of the North Longman land as a Common Good asset, must be exposed to open market competition to ensure that the Council achieves the best return.

The issue of retailing at North Longman would be explored at the local plan inquiry and only after that issue was decided and the new plan adopted could the Council be free to consider offers.

The Highlands and Islands can look forward to significantly improved air services in the near future as the result of a campaign mounted by the strategic transport partnership for the area.

HITRANS Chairman, Councillor Charlie King, who is Chairman of The Highland Council’s TEC Services Committee, is delighted that the UK Government’s White Paper on the future of air transport includes a commitment to enhancing rural air services, via the use of Public Service Obligations, and infrastructure improvements to some airports.

Over the coming months, HITRANS will be working closely with the Scottish Executive to finalise the case for a sustainable and integrated network of services to hub destinations at a frequency, timing and cost that will double air movement through the area’s island and rural airports.

Councillor King said: "This is excellent news for the area.  Our case is now enshrined in the UK Government’s transport policy and there is now a real commitment to deliver a better deal for people travelling to and from the Highlands and Islands to hub Scottish destinations. We believe that improved air travel will act as a catalyst for economic development in our remote area.

”We are delighted with the progress we have made and now we must get down to the hard work of putting meat on the bone of our proposals. With the Executive, we have commissioned work to clearly demonstrate the economic benefits of the integrated service; ensure that the costs we have forecast are accurate and determine the number of Public Service Obligations (PSOs) we will require to provide the network of services.

"By the late spring of next year we would hope that a formal application can make the formal application to Brussels via the Department for Transport in London. And our fingers are crossed that the new network can get off the ground by 2005."

He said the reasons for a lack of growth of air passenger demand in the Highlands and Islands were high fares and the limited availability of discount fares absence of frequent services.

The White Paper recognises that air links greatly enhance accessibility for people living, working and doing business in the Highlands and Islands, and for tourists wishing to visit the area. Direct services reduce the need to rely on connections at other airports to reach key destinations – such as Scotland’s major cities, London and key European business cities – and reduce overall journey times. They also open up the opportunity to attract visitors to the area.

It says the Scottish Executive and its agencies will work with the airport operator and airlines to help deliver an air transport network in the Highlands and Islands which:

      ·       is sustainable in the long term;
      ·       serves social and economic needs;
      ·       enhances internal and external business links;
      ·       develops opportunities for the promotion of inbound tourism; and
      respects the unique environmental heritage of each location.

At Inverness, the revised forecasts suggest the airport may have the potential to grow to beyond 1million passengers per annum, and there are no local environmental or other constraints that should prevent this. An extension of the runway may be required to cater for larger planes and longer sector lengths. Additional terminal capacity will also be required, probably before 2015. Any consequential surface access improvements are likely to be local rather than strategic in nature.

Potential enhancements at the other main Highlands and Islands airports include:

  • an extension to the length of the runway at;

  • runway rehabilitation and improvements to the Instrument Sumburgh Landing System and runway lighting (already underway) at Kirkwall; and

  • new runway lighting, improvements to the taxiway and development of new heliport facilities at Stornoway.

The White Paper adds: “With the exception of Scatsta, these are the largest airports in the Highlands and Islands after Inverness. They are likely to see much of the future traffic growth outside Inverness and consequently have the greatest potential to attract jet operations, which will improve both the quality of service and journey times. A programme has been developed for small-scale improvements at their other airports to 2009, and the operator will consider the possible development of Oban and Broadford airports to meet local needs in conjunction with the Scottish Executive and other stakeholders.”

HITRANS is a voluntary partnership between the Local Authorities; Highlands and Islands Enterprise; and the Scottish Council Development and Industry. Its intention is to work together to pursue improvements to the regionally strategic transport services and infrastructure in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Its vision is for a regional transport system which provides cost effective access to all regional transport services in pursuit of social inclusion and optimum growth of the regional economy, whilst being safe to use and environmentally sustainable.