Stakeholders say why central Seil is best for waste water site

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Stakeholders on Seil have produced handouts explaining why they unanimously agreed to support a hillside site as the ‘best solution’ for Scottish Water’s new £5.6 million water waste treatment plant.

The handouts for Clachan Seil and Balvicar residents were distributed at a lively community council meeting last week where Scottish Water officials faced a grilling of 29 questions from councillors and the public.

There are now plans to make the handouts available at other places in the community, including Balvicar shop at the time the planning bid goes in so more people can hear how the choice was finally made after 18 months of consultation, scientific research and meetings.

The handout concludes: ‘We as local stakeholders believe that using a small part of grazing land in the centre of the island is a small price to pay for the proper treatment of your sewage and the avoidance of further pollution of Balvicar Bay.’

It also encourages people, if they agree, to support Scottish Water’s planning application and warns if it is rejected there would be further delays with Balvicar Bay continuing to be polluted.

Scottish Water’s original solution was to pump sewage and rainwater over to Seaview and discharge it, only partially treated, into the protected waters of the Firth of Lorne. That solution was opposed at a public meeting in 2015 and by a petition of 265 residents.

If Scottish Water submits its new plans by May to build the new treatment works opposite its current plant, a decision could be made by November with work starting in spring next year.

Anne-Marie Robin from the stakeholders’ group told The Oban Times: ‘I think most of the community think it’s all been resolved and we now have to go forward as positively as possible.’

About 40 people were at last week’s meeting, including a number of Save Our Seil campaigners who oppose the decided option.

Views have been split over the location of the new treatment works.

During last week’s question time, Scottish Water’s head of public affairs, Alan Thomson, said Scottish Water knew from the start that the stakeholders’ group would never be representative of all views but felt everything had been done ‘with the best intentions’.

People were put forward for the group after being nominated by the community council. Two people living near the current plant were allowed onto the group by MSP Michael Russell, who chaired its first meeting.

Ronnie Robinson from Save Our Seil asked Mr Thomson at the meeting: ‘So no particular guidance or legislation?’ Mr Thomson replied: ‘No.’

Mr Robinson later told The Oban Times: ‘It’s my understanding there are guidelines on how stakeholder groups operated by public bodies should be carried out and that quite clearly was not the case as Mr Thomson confirmed.’ Mr Robinson said campaigners were ‘very disappointed’.

Mr Thomson was also asked by the community council chairperson why Scottish Water had decided to come to a meeting only now when the community council had been requesting it for two years.

Mr Thomson said there had been ‘no plot’ and the company had been doing lots to engage with the public. Scottish Water says it will continue to keep the community up to date.

Mrs Ferris said the main thrust of the meeting had been very positive. ‘All the community groups, whatever their viewpoint, are working towards the same goal and that is to protect the beautiful environment we live in,’ she said.