Letters – week 27

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Sewage saga

Sir,

Thank you for your recent coverage (June 14) of matters relating to Nether Lochaber Community Council’s objection to Loch Leven Hotel’s Camping Pods being connected to the mains sewerage.

Unfortunately, you have missed the point and the principle behind our arguments, or chosen not to relate them.

In 2009, against a backdrop of mass objection from residents, NLCC, HC Planning Committee and the Scottish Executive Reporter, Scottish Water and SEPA proceeded to build a giant, subterranean ‘treatment works’ at North Ballachulish, into which were redirected the sewage outflows from Glencoe and Ballachulish villages. These previously had outflowed into Loch Leven.

At the same time, the mains sewerage system was extended through Nether Lochaber, but only as far west as Onich Bay.

There are two main issues for us.

1. SEPA says it would oppose any private onsite treatment facility for Loch Levens Pods, a commercial enterprise, because there is a mains sewerage system at hand.

Fair enough.

However, in between Onich Bay and Inchree, two miles away in the same parish, we have 75 residential properties dependent on private septic systems, many of them 50 years old or more. These drain into fields, streams, areas of woodland, or are part of conjoined systems with pipes running to the low tide mark in Loch Linnhe.

From where the tide can, over time, wash the detritus back into the EU protected shellfish waters of Loch Leven, or spread coliforms along the beaches at North Ballachulish, below the treatment works.

An additional five houses are currently in the planning system, also with private systems, and yet SEPA seems consistent in offering no comment on these.

In total, Nether Lochaber is home to approximately 265 houses, almost a third of which are unconnected to the mains, whilst hosting the North Ballachulish Wastewater Treatment Works that receives the Glencoe and Ballachulish outflows pumped from up to six miles away.

Since 2009, neither Scottish Water or SEPA have made any effort to extend the mains further west through Onich, Cuilcheanna and Keppanach to actually meet their own modern aspirations for sewerage in the National Scenic Area.

2. The Association of South Lochaber Community Councils submitted comments to the recent Local Development Plan, detailing the contradiction of capacity figures at North Ballachulish between Scottish Water’s 2009 planning application and an FOI request we submitted to them in 2016.

In effect, SW omitted any unit capacity relating to tourism from their 2016 analysis (detailed in the attachment), to present a picture of burgeoning spare domestic capacity that allows our villages to expand their housing stock.

We would appear not to have any hotels, guesthouses or B&Bs.

And if this spare capacity does exist, why does NL still have 75 unconnected properties, and Ballachulish seven unconnected properties within 50m of the main, consequently emptying into Loch Leven?

There is a far bigger picture here than the one being publicly discussed by Scottish Water, SEPA, HC Planning Officers, or the Lochaber Times.

Yours sincerely,

Iain Jenner

Chair, Nether Lochaber Community Council.

Puffin colony

Sir,

I hope you don’t mind me writing to you about the following but I feel compelled to do so.

On a recent sailing to Staffa I was dismayed at the treatment of the puffin colony by a significant number of visitors.

Notwithstanding the fact that the majority of people were too close to the birds’ nests that they prevented them from landing/feeding young naturally – forcing the birds to turn back to sea in mid-flight etc, it was with despair that I watched:

People sitting/standing on top of, sitting at the entrance to and poking mobile phones inside burrows. Some were actually taking ‘selfies’ at one particular nest while a distressed bird could clearly be heard within.

A loud argument break out between visitors, each accusing the other of ‘hogging’ a burrow.

A dog let off the leash and sniffing around the burrows.

A confrontation between two elderly American tourists (part of a large group) and three Scots teenagers and an adult (the Americans, visibly upset had called the teens’ behaviour imbecilic, whereby they were sworn at by one of the males in the group. This continued on the return sailing. Several of the Americans told me all of the aforementioned behaviour  had spoilt their trip.

It is quite well-known that puffin numbers are in decline due to various reasons. People behaving like this does not help.

After witnessing all of these incidents, it is my opinion that trip operators should show greater responsibility for the welfare of these birds, like on the Isle of May in the Firth of Forth, for example, where a number of safeguards are in place. I am well aware tour operators are not responsible for individuals’ actions but I, and others on the trip, felt that it was a free-for-all once people set foot on the island.

On approach to Staffa it was pointed out that a large, brightly-coloured buoy marked the colony’s location. No advice was given on how to treat the birds except for ‘don’t go too close’. No one from the boat was ashore to monitor what was happening.

I hope that in someway you may be able to highlight these concerns because after some investigating I’ve discovered this is an on-going issue, with the RSPB and other agencies aware of the situation.

Obviously I don’t need to tell you how beautiful Mull and its surrounding islands are. It would be such a shame if this situation was allowed to spoil the enjoyment of the area for the many visitors from across the globe.

John Dewar
Kilmaurs
Ayrshire

Monkey memorial

Sir,

There are very few plaques or memorials to any local dignitaries or founding fathers in Oban – one obelisk within Argyll Square to a local MD and one on the council offices, but none for McCaig and his famous landmark tower which looms over the town and is the main town emblem.

Almost half of Oban and  most of its grand, prestigious buildings, were  built  by the very industrious gentleman, Mr William Menzies, as your description of him in your article in January of  this year states. But the only mention of him is in a street name that links George street and the Esplanade.

So to suggest that a memorial now is to be erected to a deceased monkey at the base of this road is, I feel is an insult  to a once great employer and regarded  benefactor of Oban,  and rather than lament the poor monkey’s demise, albeit a  tragic event, a collection should be started, or applications made to the council or common good fund so a tribute can be build to honour the ‘father’  builders  of Oban.

This would hopefully be crafted locally and positioned fittingly, proudly  in Argyll  or Station Square.

Stephen Jones
Millpark
Oban

Education

Sir,

Once again we see how Nicola Sturgeon’s grandstanding on the constitution leads to failure in education.

The SNP are rigging the figures to make up for their own shortcomings in education.

It used to be the case that a pupil would have to pass a course in order to obtain a literacy and numeracy achievement. Now a child can be marked as hitting the standard by only succeeding in a single unit and the SNP scrapped the highly-respected Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy that used to be a robust measure.

Ms Sturgeon keeps telling us she wants to boost standards but, instead, the SNP has cancelled surveys and lowered the bar for literacy and numeracy.

It’s no wonder parents don’t trust the system. Sturgeon needs to end her IndyRef2 obsession and get back to the day job.

Councillor Alastair Redman

Islay