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There appears to be a determined campaign by one or two individuals, on behalf of one out-of-town business, to destroy the most important development for the benefit of the entire Oban community in many years – the provision of a town centre berthing facility for visiting boats.
As someone who helped to found Oban Bay Marine, the community company which campaigned for 10 years to bring Oban in line with almost all other harbours large and small round the coast, by providing town centre facilities, can I make the following points.
In the past, commercial marinas explored the option of building a marina on the esplanade. They determined that because of the cost of installing the very heavy duty attentuators, or floating breakwaters, necessary in the exposed bay, it was not commercially viable for them.
OBM did a great deal of the initial work to organise a short-stay facility, but appreciated that only Argyll and Bute Council could address the market failure by taking on the major contractual works involved, for the benefit of the whole community.
There is a very clear difference between a marina such as Dunstaffnage, which has extensive shore facilities, and has a core business of long-term berth holders (with boats unoccupied most of the time), to that of the transit facility, which is limited to short stays for visiting boats.
In crude terms, the latter is the equivalent of a supermarket car park for boats; something that makes Oban a transport hub; an extremely convenient place for those visiting boats to tie up safely, shop, change crew, eat ashore, go to the hairdresser, do laundry and generally spread business across the whole town.
Should those short-stay visitors need work done on their boats or, finding Oban to their liking, wish to come here for the following season, then the adjacent marinas, including Dunstaffnage, will benefit from new business created. (Incidentally, the same marina has already had several months of business; the breakwater units themselves are being constructed at Dunstaffnage.)
The complaints are on the basis of potentially losing business to the council, which has had the benefit of public funding, or state aid. My understanding of the situation, as explained at a public information meeting, is that once the facility is actually in the water, and has received all its official approvals, the right to operate it as a commercial enterprise will be put out to public tender.
Contrary to the impression being given, the council will no more be in competition than if it were renting one of its offices.
In summary, the council has often been criticised for not taking action. By contrast, here in Oban the streetscape works at Stafford Street and along the front have given the town a real facelift. Tourism is at the core of Oban enterprise. Marine tourism is the fastest growing element of that.
The new facility will bring extra business, and sustain jobs, right across Oban and Lorn. The council’s initiative in constructing that facility is something that should be applauded for the universal benefit that it brings to Oban.
Dungrianach, Pulpit Hill, Oban.