Row breaks out over new pontoons at Oban North Pier

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A public row has broken out over the financial impact of publicly-funded pontoons planned for Oban Bay.
Directors of privately-owned Dunstaffnage Marina say Argyll and Bute Council has shifted the goalposts for its planned Oban transit marina.
The directors claim that Oban Bay Marina will potentially be able to host upwards of 80 vessels, rather than the 36 previously proposed, and say the bigger marina threatens its business – putting permanent jobs at risk and is based on ‘childlike’ figures.
Two part-time jobs will be created by the Oban transit marina.
Funding for the Oban project is being borrowed through prudential borrowing and will be paid back over 25 years.
Argyll and Bute Council says the size and scale of the project has not changed since planning permission was granted in 2016.
The argument appears to be over the difference between 36 berths and 36 finger berths. Berths offer harbour to individual vessels, while finger berths can offer space to two boats.
Neil McLauchlan, of Dunstaffnage Marina, said: ‘Directors were never concerned about a 36-berth marina.
‘However, Dunstaffnage was never consulted at any time about any marina, far less this much bigger and more significant marina, which is just three miles from Dunstaffnage.
‘We have never had to turn boats away – even at the height of the season – so this certainly indicates a market that does not merit yet more berths. Dunstaffnage Marina has invested heavily into the marina market with infrastructure, local staff and training.
‘Therefore, to simply stand back and allow our business to be decimated because of some misjudged proposals and crude finances would be very wrong indeed.
‘The directors are very determined to follow this through to a satisfactory conclusion.’
Due to the risk to his business, Mr McLauchlan asked Argyll and Bute Council to raise the matter with the Scottish Government’s state aid unit, which will judge the right of the council to spend public money on a project that may displace business from a private company.
He said: ‘It seems on our insistence it was referred as late as the April 21, 2017. This was well after planning approval was granted in 2016 and the order for hardware to suppliers was placed at the start of 2017.’
Mr McLauchlan continued: ‘Once the underwater hardware is installed there is no jurisdiction for planners on its configuration as it is not on the land. It would be for the Crown Estate to decide.
‘The massive marina hardware shows a potential for a far bigger facility.’
A spokesman for Argyll and Bute Council said: ‘The investment in the transit berthing and associated maritime facilities has strong and widespread local support and will complement existing marine facilities in the area.
‘Other local facilities and industries will be able to take advantage of the increase in visitors and vessels that will come to the area.
‘We were directly petitioned by around 80 local businesses, including other local marinas, and consulted widely, including hosting a well-attended open day.
‘There has been no change in the size of the facilities and berthing numbers have not increased since the original planning consent, business case and marine licence were approved.
‘These first-class facilities will be a real asset to Oban and the surrounding area and help fulfil our ambition of making the town a focus for the West Coast marine tourism industry. This investment of more than £3 million will make it easier to welcome marine visitors to Oban and provide easy access to the town for kayakers, yachters, cruise ships and tour operators.
‘We are providing short-stay berths, bringing economic benefits to the town and surrounding area. The finger-berth pontoons and concrete floating breakwater will provide flexible short-stay capacity.
‘The facilities will contribute to the country’s marine tourism strategy, Awakening the Giant, which is backed by all main Scottish development agencies and which identified the need for more berthing facilities.
‘Due to the ongoing construction, car parking in the area of the North Pier may be limited at times and drivers are asked to park considerately and safely while the work is ongoing.’