Letters to the editor – 23.7.20

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Corpach Harbour – a success story

I write regarding the recent planning application by Boyd Bros. at Corpach Harbour.

When the Pulp Mill closed in the early eighties, huge unemployment brought despair. Covid-19 is with us and the full devastation, particularly in tourism, may not be clear until next winter and way beyond. How fortunate we are in this community to now have such a diversified local economy.

One of the great success stories to come out of the devastation from the pulp mill closure in the 1980s, has been the regeneration of the factory site and associated port. Corpach Boatyard started the renewal, both building and repairing boats. Other small businesses followed.

Boyd Bros. Haulage then had the vision to develop sea transport into remote areas and thereby taking many large timber lorries off small roads. This grew into Corpach Harbour as we know it today. Another local company, Great Glen Shipping, was then successfully established.

The main site is now home to one of the biggest and most advanced sawmills in Europe. Corpach Harbour is a very important part of that success. Ferguson Transport and Shipping relocated their main base to Corpach and the vision for an integrated Road, Rail and Sea Hub is becoming a reality, taking thousands of lorry trips off our roads and creating hundreds of local jobs.

This planning application is about ships docking on a Sunday. There are good safety and efficiency reasons for this. Noise of ships docking is not the issue. Historical issue of ‘flaunting operating rules’ should be dealt with objectively, constructively and fairly.

Things are going to be even harder for businesses after the Covid devastation. We need to support the diversity of our local economy and fully value the jobs that are so vital to the wider welfare of our community, our economy and the funding of our public services.

Corpach Harbour is a great success for the wider Fort William economy and Boyd Bros should be congratulated for making it happen. There should be reasonable debate on all the issues that this planning application has thrown up. However, we should be careful for what we wish. Supporting local business should not divide us but unite us in common sense – and good community solutions.

Finlay Finlayson, Corpach Resident

Barr River hydro scheme

Mr Iain Thornber’s letter, ‘Will community benefit from hydro scheme?’ paints a rather jaundiced picture of the Barr River Hydro Scheme. Perhaps I could offer a more positive view.

Morvern Community Development Company (MCDC) is building the first wholly community-owned hydro scheme in Morvern. As your correspondent knows, all the surpluses generated by the scheme will flow back to the community.

I would agree wholeheartedly with the need for ‘total transparency, openness, and frank engagement with local residents as to where the income, if any will go and just who will disburse it’. Fortunately, MCDC is a democratic organisation. It is, as your correspondent knows, a charity owned and controlled by its members. Membership is open to all the electors of Morvern. The community will continue to guide how MCDC operates and how the surplus income generated by the scheme is invested in the community.

I am somewhat surprised at your correspondent’s comment that information has been ‘woefully lacking’. As your correspondent knows, the membership agreed to the scheme going ahead after seven years of consultation. In a ballot of the residents in Morvern, conducted by Highland Council, 94.6 per cent of those who voted were in favour of building the hydro scheme. MCDC has held several public meetings where questions, including your correspondent’s, have been answered fully and frankly. MCDC will, of course, continue to keep the community updated on progress.

It is a shame that your correspondent uses your letters page to pour scorn on the hard work of volunteers within his own community. On the bright side, it has the unintended consequence of highlighting how many brilliant things are happening on the tiny Morvern peninsula (population around 320).

Nick Tordoff, elected director, 
Morvern Community Development Company,
Lochaline Harbour, Morvern

Endorsing Aires

As a person who has been motorhoming for the past 26 years, may I say that I fully endorse the letter from Linda Battison, marketing director, OLTA (Oban Times, July 9).

I have previously written to Argyll and Bute Council on more than one occasion, pointing out the value of aires, even making suggestions of possible sites.  I received very non-committal answers.

Aires can be found on the continent and in Ireland. They can be coin operated and provide facilities for fresh water, grey waste and black (toilet) water.  They also provide for litter disposal. This alleviates problems that could happen when there are no facilities.

The large majority of motorhomers are responsible people and appreciate their environment.  Motorhome owners spend money in the local shops, local attractions, cafes and pubs, thus boosting the income of the local area.

I do hope that Argyll and Bute Council will recognise the benefit of aires and will construct some in the near future. There has been a huge increase in the sales of campervan/motorhome this year.

Just don’t get me started on the subject of parking and height barriers!!

Ann Gillies, Hunters Quay, 
Dunoon

Forward thinking

Open letter to Highland Council members and residents of Fort William,

In light of so much infrastructure funds being made available from government, I would like to suggest forward moves concerning the future of our town.

  • Install temporary metered angled parking bays in the high street from October 1-May 1, some with charge points for electric vehicles. This would greatly improve winter foot fall.
  • Completely waterproof walkways in the high street with polycarbonate cantilever covers. This would create an all season west highland market town.
  • To revive our thriving port and historic pier, we should instigate an optional assessment for a new and extended town pier. One which reaches into deep water and includes a hammer head design to accept large cruising vessels. A break water should be installed on the north side, including additional town centre parking and a launch facility for boaters.  Berthing rights should be created for the world famous Crannog restaurant and cruises.
  • A pontoon system suggested in the past by Councillor Murphy and Tony Usher from Highland Council could be installed in the calm water area. This would serve the efficient highland ferries and possibly attract private investment for a water taxi service to the excellent Corpach marina which is currently under construction.

N. MacLean, Fort William

Reopening of schools

I note that when schools reopen next month, there will still be social distancing in schools. But the big question is what about the journey to and from school? Will Argyll and Bute Council provide a sufficient number of subsidised buses to make sure that they are not overcrowded?

It is no use at all having social distancing in schools if there is no social distancing on the journey to and from school. And it’s not only buses. What about those who use trains or ferries, for example those who live at Dalmally and take the train to school at Oban or those who use the Camusnagaul ferry at Fort William? That ferry is so small that social distancing will be impossible.

And what about those who stay at school hostels at Oban or Mallaig?

Argyll and Bute and and Highland Councils will need also need to make sure there is regular testing so they when children go home they do not take the virus to their parents and grandparents.

In some parts of Highland the council has contracts with taxi firms to take children
to school. Social distancing is impossible in a four-seater taxi.

David Gallant, Oban.

Comb back chair mystery

Could readers of the Oban Times assist in adding to the record of this West Highland type of chair.

Recorded at Auchendrain Township with Rachael Thomas, curator, a rather well made comb back chair was found when it became a museum, and is a particularly good example.

Lilias Noble of Dunderave Castle on Loch Fyne was recommended by architect Robert Lorimer to install such chairs made by a family known as Campbell’s of Bonawe in 1911.

Can this Campbell family be identified? Chairs of the type are often kept out of love.

It would be great to hear of other ‘cutty’ stools/chairs in private ownership, to add to the record of this unique Highland tradition.
Crissie White
Regional Furniture Society
crissiewhite@ntlworld.com

Train travel woes

For quite a few years I have been travelling from Yorkshire visiting a relative on Iona several times a year by public transport.

It was possible to leave home around 0630 and arrive on Iona around 12 hours later hoping that four trains, two ferries and one bus all connected successfully – which thankfully usually worked!

I now see that the usual 1600 ferry from Oban to Craignure leaves at 1530, so the connection of the 1528 Scotrail train arrival from Glasgow Queen Street is no longer viable.

Have other travellers drawn your attention to this fact?
David Leonard
Starbeck, Harrogate
North Yorkshire