Arisaig and District Community Council: chairman’s report

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Arisaig and District Community Council held its annual general meeting recently with the chairman’s annual report covering April 2017 to March 2018.

Iain Macniven said: ‘The community council had another busy year, with work advanced or completed on various projects.

‘Throughout the year the council held the full complement of one AGM and nine ordinary meetings, with no meetings scheduled in July, August or December any year.’

Mr Macinven’s report discussed the following issues:

School footpath/cemetery

I am pleased to report work was completed shortly after my last annual report was issued, as were final work at the cemetery.

War memorial

The council has been working hard on this project, with our secretary to the fore. Arrangements for memorial repairs and access improvements were discussed with Highland Council, the War Memorials Trust, the landowner and others.

The project was widened to involve local primary and high schools in educational aspects of the project and linked to the display of the Arisaig and South Morar Record of Service 1920 in the Land, Sea and Islands Centre.

Arisaig Community Trust partnered the council in the final stages of the project. Following extensive discussions with contractors, the Highland Council, funding sources and others, an application for funding was submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund on May 15 and a result is awaited.

Seasonal pressures

Factors including the introduction of the Road Equivalent Tariff, fine weather, increasing tourism number and increased use of campervans, brought greater income to the area and greater problems.

While tourists are part of the life blood of the area and are to be welcomed, it was clear the area was becoming a victim of its own success.

During the year, the council, along with neighbouring community councils in Morar and Mallaig, collaborated on a paper entitled Seasonal Pressures identifying the issues, including the current failures on the part of CalMac, and discussed them with local and national politicians to seek solutions.

The issues covered included more parking and toilets, possible use of traffic managers and other matters. That work continues but in the meantime an application for funding for some of these elements was made to the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund, again shortly after the period covered by this report, and the result is awaited.

Fireworks and Christmas lights

The annual fireworks display was a great success, with an enormous amount of work going into the preparations and on the day itself. A significant sum of money was raised on the night.

An even greater effort than usual was required this year as Highland Council required a public entertainment licence be issued for the community displays even if, as was not previously the case, there is no admission charge.

Thanks to the secretary and treasurer for their work on this. The licence cost £432 and is valid for three years. Thanks also to the Gower Trust, which granted the council’s request for reimbursement of that sum. Thanks, as ever, to our vice chairman for taking on a lot of the other management of the event and for his work on the Christmas lights.

Defibrillator

I reported last year on plans to acquire and install defibrillators in the area. The intention initially was to fund at least one defibrillator but, thanks to massive local fundraising efforts and generous contributions from visitors, £5,000 was raised, including £3,500 from a hugely successful Big Hearted Lunch in Astley Hall at the end of August. This meant the community had raised enough for three defibrillators with a little money to spare.

Training on the use of defibrillators was given at the event and subsequently and thanks go to Nikola Thomson and Trossachs Search and Rescue for that. One defibrillator has been installed at the Land, Sea and Islands Centre and one at Traigh Golf Club. The third will be installed at Arisaig Hotel.

Gower Trust

I reported last year that the principal role in managing Gower Trust funds  was transferred from the council to Arisaig Community Trust as that body has the necessary charitable status to manage the funds.

The council continues to play a key role in the distribution of funds, with the council’s treasurer participating in any Arisaig Community Trust agenda discussion items relating to Gower Trust applications.

Arisaig Nova Scotia

On the back of a proposed trip to Maritime Canada in September, I made some casual contact with the community in Arisaig, Nova Scotia, and arranged to meet one or two locals.

Little did we expect to be the centrepiece of an organised event which virtually filled the local community hall. There was lots of good chat, with many locals recounting tales of their ancestry, of visits to Arisaig, Scotland, or of planned trips.

We were presented with an Arisaig NS tartan, which we brought back and is now installed at the Land, Sea and Islands Centre.

Miscellaneous

During the past year, the council supported the local primary school in relation to Highland Council’s new ‘clustering’ proposal for amalgamation of school resources. There were regular meetings, including public events, and a solution was eventually achieved.

The council also supported to the local medical practice over continuing issues with funding Highland practices and attracting doctors to the area.

Members of the  council have also attended meetings of various groups, including the Transport Users Forum. Morag Keenan helped with this and played an important role in representing the interests of Lochailort and surrounding areas at council meetings.

Conclusion

I would to thank council members for their support and commitment to the work of the council throughout the year. We have also strengthened our relationship with neighbouring community councils in Morar and Mallaig. We also benefit significantly from support and guidance from ward manager Dot Ferguson.

I must also thank members of the public for their input throughout the year. The council is always receptive to new ideas and fresh input. We are always particularly keen to receive input from younger members of the community, some of whom might wish to be considered for associate membership on the council.