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Oban Airport has too many restrictions
May I congratulate Argyll and Bute Council on its investment in Oban Airport? It is without doubt one of the best equipped general aviation (GA) airports in the north-west of Scotland, with an excellent runway and terminal and the staff are extremely helpful.
I, like many of my acquaintances, fly small GA aircraft extensively for private business and leisure purposes. We use modern, well-equipped aircraft as a serious mode of transport in day/night under visual flight rules (VFR) and instrument flight rules (IFR) conditions.
Access to airports that are open to suit our personal schedules is essential to the effective use of our aircraft and this is where I need Argyll and Bute Council to review its operating procedures.
There is a common misconception about what general aviation is. Basically, it is all forms of aviation other than public transport (British Airways, Virgin, Ryanair etc). It is not just recreational flyers.
For Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), legal, insurance, safety and security purposes, it is not a requirement for an airport to be licensed. We do not need to have air traffic controllers or fire cover.
The CAA approves of pilot-controlled lighting so, again, night operations are perfectly legal, approved and safe. In the winter, airfield lighting is essential to be able to complete a full working day. The limitation preventing private GA night operations at Oban Airport is a limitation put on by Argyll and Bute Council rather than the CAA or insurers.
I understand the council has invested in excess of £10 million in the airport infrastructure and its running costs must exceed £1 million a year. I suggest it is incumbent on the council to maximise its return on its investment by doing all in its power to increase aircraft movements of all types.
Airfields tend not to be run for the benefit of aircraft owners/ pilots/operators but for the employees. There is a work-to-rule atmosphere. Opening hours are rigid and, to us users, arbitrary. Why close an airfield at 5pm on a weekday or noon at the weekend other than for the cost and convenience of the employees?
I have tried to apply for out-of-hours indemnity for Oban, a common procedure at many other airfields, only to be told that it is not available to aircraft that are owned by a limited company. This quite bizarre rule is unique to Oban.
You have in Oban Airport what could be a vital link to the local and national transport infrastructure. It could bring much-needed outside investment into the region if only it was operated on a more business-like and customer-friendly way.
I am not sure who is advising the council on CAA regulations but it is are in a position to write its own operating manual to make it as attractive as possible to GA. There is no legal or operational reason why GA aircraft owned by either a private individual or limited company should not be allowed to land at Oban day or night under VFR.
The council claims to wish to deliver prosperity by turning economic opportunity into economic growth and yet it is deterring vital relatively prosperous visitors from coming to Oban.
I implore the council to listen to its customers, and take a positive attitude to the practical ways the airport can increase movements for the benefit of all. Reduce the costs without limiting availability.
Banks and post office should share services
Given that Holyrood and Highlands and Islands Enterprise pontificate rather than act, we need to sort out bank access for rural communities now.
The decision of the banks is understandable as physical coins and notes will disappear by 2030 as contactless cards and phone technology provide an alternative. So how do we provide services to communities?
We need to start with an existing or new cyber café as communities are about people. Coffee sales will bring in some income, as will having a Link cash machine. The café also needs to be a post office two mornings a week. More income will come from the NHS paying Royal Mail for posties to check on isolated elderly residents.
The same premises need to be shared with bank tellers who will come in two mornings a week and will rotate between the three Scottish banks. Decisions on loans and other matters can be done via a secure video link. Cash takings by small businesses can be stored in a safe and collected by a security van.
Sharing services and multiple income streams make this solution workable for a social enterprise business.
Unfair penalty for parking infringement
I am 71 years old and have a mobility problem where I have to use a walking stick. I live on an island and so, when coming to the mainland, I usually get a large shop because there are lots of goods we cannot get here on Coll.
On November 20, I had been to Glasgow to see my cancer consultant and the journey back through roadworks and bad weather meant I got to Oban in the dark and arrived tired.
I parked at Aldi about 5.30pm to do a good shop, so I thought. The shelves in the store had changed since my last visit and finding things was not easy and the bill came to £164.51. I then proceeded to pack everything into my vehicle, which took me a good 20 minutes with the weather still against me.
Then on November 30 I received a parking charge notice from a company called Parking Eye for £70 for going over the one hour and 30 minutes you are allowed by 18 minutes. I have since found out that Lidl also has this policy for parking.
Perhaps these companies do not want customers, because I think one hour and 30 minutes is not enough time in a town where there are so many people coming from the islands to do their shopping.
Garden House, Isle of Coll.
Morar left behind on superfast broadband
When superfast broadband was proposed for this neighbourhood, the original plan was to have it installed by the end of 2016 for Morar.
Mallaig and Arisaig are further than Morar from the exchange but they had it installed by the end of 2016. It is now the end of 2017 and we have one cabinet in Morar, opposite the primary school.
The original plan included two cabinets to cover the whole village. Several weeks ago this plan was put on hold and re-examined but we don’t know why. The one cabinet, which was put there a year overdue, serves only part of the community.
Houses within range of this cabinet were already benefiting from speeds of above 12Mb/s while the upper part of the village had speeds of one to three Mb/s. While the cabinet can provide some people with speeds of up to 80 Mb/s, the rest of the village must still struggle with their old speeds.
The school curriculum requires children to use computers. At the moment a great number of the families live in the Bracara area, where speeds average 0.5 Mb/s. This can hardly be used for any form of work.
While we understand that some remote areas were able to establish local wireless networks (eg, Hebnet on Eigg), the difficulties posed by our topography in the Morar area prevent such solutions.
After examining multiple options and discussing it at the community council, we have concluded that the best solution would be to lead an optical cable all the way to Bracara. Several years ago all the phone cables were replaced to the end of Bracara, so what we propose is not impossible. Therefore we appeal to Highlands and Islands Enterprise to help our community.
We also wish to ask why there has been a delay in providing the second cabinet. This cabinet had been surveyed and approved but has not materialised.
We trust that Highlands and Islands Enterprise will respond to our concerns. The whole community eagerly await its response.
Morar Community Council.