£90,000 funding earmarked for Oban’s Rockfield is put on hold

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A £90,000 grant that was set aside for Oban’s Rockfield Centre has been put on hold and councillors have asked officers to investigate the financial viability of the project.

The decision was taken at an impromptu meeting on Tuesday July 2 for Oban, Lorn and the Isles (OLI) area committee members to discuss the allocation of Scottish Government Town Centre Regeneration funding.

A report to a full meeting of Argyll and Bute Council on June 27 set out recommendations for spending the council’s £1.2 million share.

The recommendations for OLI included £44,000 for street signs in Oban, £150,000 to Tobermory Harbour, and £90,000 to The Rockfield Centre.

But OLI councillors asked for an extension to discuss using part of the money to upgrade Mossfield Stadium.

This comes after Oban Live organisers revealed that the festival was ‘taking a break’ next year due to a lack of improvements to the stadium.

Chairwoman of OLI area committee Councillor Elaine Robertson had put forward an amendment asking for more time to discuss the allocation of cash, with members voting in favour by 16 votes to 13.

The follow-up meeting took place on Tuesday, with OLI members saying: ‘Due to representation made over the past few days to councillors by fund applicants, members are placed in the unfortunate position today of having to instruct senior council officers to urgently investigate the financial viability of the third project [Rockfield] seeking funding.

‘Local councillors have a duty to ensure good governance and due diligence in regard to the allocation of any public funds.’

The statement adds that when clarification and information is received from senior council officers another meeting with delegated councillors will take place to decide the allocation.

The OLI councillors present at the meeting were: Elaine Robertson, Andrew Vennard, Mary-Jean Devon, Julie McKenzie and Jim Lynch. Councillor Roddy McCuish declared an interest at the full council meeting last Thursday and he could not take part in the decision-making process.

The day before the meeting took place, The Rockfield Centre issued an ‘urgent call for help’ to its members.

The centre said money still needs to be raised to fit out internal spaces.

‘Although the building works have started at Rockfield we are still fundraising,’ the plea read.

‘Please lobby your local councillors and see if we can get this vital money secured for The Rockfield Centre.’

Chairman of Oban Communities Trust, which runs The Rockfield Centre, Gordon McNab said: ‘I am very disappointed that we have heard this third hand and that the council has not had the courtesy to speak to us directly.

‘I have no concerns whatsoever about the viability of this project nor do any of our other funders, who have been entirely positive and supportive about this project and its development.’