Letters to the editor – 20.8.20

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Call for urgent action on A83

Open letter sent by email to Nicola Sturgeon MSP, First Minister and Michael Matheson MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Islands and Connectivity

Dear Nicola and Michael,
The issue that never fails to unite politicians at all levels of government and of all party persuasions is the need to ensure Argyll and Bute stays connected and open for business through a permanent, robust solution for the A83 Rest and Be Thankful – a solution that works.

Last week’s landslip continues to close the Rest and the Old Military Road, which itself was out of action for a period, will be shut again tonight (August 10) at 9pm due to weather conditions. This continuing impact is why all of Argyll and Bute’s elected representatives have been united in pressing, once again, for urgent action.

Our local Members of the Scottish Parliament, Michael Russell, Jackie Baillie and Donald Cameron, have been swift to engage with us and to add their own voices to these calls. They join us in writing to you to reinforce that request for action on behalf of the people of Argyll and Bute.

We are asking you to convene an urgent special meeting of the A83 Taskforce – on a virtual basis if needs be – as soon as possible to focus specifically on outline options for a permanent solution and for that meeting to consider and agree the following timescale for the same:

a) Nature of permanent solution to be identified and confirmed by March 31, 2021
b) Contract to construct permanent solution to be awarded by December 31, 2021
c) Work to start as soon as possible thereafter with completion by December 31, 2023, at the latest.

We know this requires a tremendous effort from everyone involved, including Transport Scotland which would have to start work on this immediately for it to succeed.

Argyll and Bute Council will do all it can in this to co-operate and to encourage all other partners, from all sectors, to do likewise. We believe if the will is there, on all counts, to deliver a permanent solution, this can be achieved – because the risk of failing to do so is far too great and there is evidence of innovative, viable solutions of similar scale being established in other regions with similar geography and rurality.

The threats to Argyll and Bute’s economic success and to the contribution it makes to the national economy are well-known, as are the various personal impacts on those who live and work in our communities and who find their business, social and health-related activities disrupted without warning when landslips close the Rest.

Our biggest concern now, though, given the scale of last week’s incident, is continued public safety. It is a miracle no one has been seriously injured or killed to date. We simply cannot afford to wait any longer – the risks are too great.

We stand ready to do anything we can to ensure Argyll and Bute and its communities finally get the solution they deserve for the Rest and be Thankful.
Aileen Morton, Argyll and Bute Council Leader; Gary Mulvaney, Depute Leader; Sandy Taylor, SNP Group Leader; Dougie Philand, Argyll First Group Leader; Michael Russell, MSP; Jackie Baillie MSP and Donald Cameron MSP.

Rest and be Thankful

Soil creep or debris flow  at The Rest and Thankful will continue until the mountain is cleared of all loose material. Geotechnical engineers cannot stop such massive forces of nature with protective bunds or channels, and  canopies would eventually be drowned with debris.  An elevated approach road in the valley leading to a short tunnel at the top would permanently solve the problem and commuted cost calculations would show long-term financial benefits.

Mike Rayworth, Invercreran.

Oban Aire at Ganavan?

There is never any excuse for vandalism. There is never any excuse for leaving litter behind. There is never an excuse for punishing everyone because of the actions of a few… and especially when you cannot tell exactly who was responsible.

Therefore I was was disappointed to read that a barrier was being proposed for Ganavan Sands when all of the facilities to easily create a Motorhome Aire are already on site – and would pay back the investment along with securing the future of the public toilet.

Aires are overnight parking spots for motorhomes- with or without water and waste disposal facilities – and usually paid for. They are very common on the continent.

Readers only have to look a few miles south of Oban to see a dedicated motorhome facility that’s been created to cater for the demand for overnight parking at Ellenabeich – directly to take pressure off locals.

Before Councillors make a knee-jerk reaction to unsubstantiated claims against tourists – maybe providing paid-for facilities would stop any inconvenience and bring much needed revenue into the council.

Donald Macdonald
Founder of Campaign for Real Aires.

jagh

Letter sent to Councillor Roddy McCuish

I read the article n the Oban Times and your comments as regards irresponsible motorhomes and camper vans using the Ganavan car park and damaging a water tap.
Instead of erecting a height barrier, why don’t you consider making the location formal motorhome aire for a limited number of motorhomes. Provide them with a drive over drain for grey waste, a drain for the chemical toilet and fresh water tap. The payments made by the motorhomes would more than cover the cost after a short period of time. It will also encourage tourists to the area and the spend potential associated with it. You just need to look at Europe to see how they tap into this business.

I note comments on how they should all use campsites, but sadly, not all campsites are open, particularly this year with the Covid pandemic, or are completely full, meaning these vans have nowhere to go except rural places. Not all campsites allow a facility refresh either. So please, tap into that market, see it as an opportunity, not a threat.

I can fully understand how the council have their hands full with the current “wild camping” behaviour. It astonishes and horrifies me that there seem to be a significant subset of the UK population that thinks it acceptable to destroy the countryside they go to visit, leaving huge amounts of litter and human waste around for local communities to deal with.  The thought is that these are usually renters that haven’t had proper handovers on how to deal with their waste, or perhaps foreign visitors who are more used to the ready available motorhome service point that exist on the continent.

If small communities such as North Harris Trust and Kinlochbervie can do it, then surely Argyll and Bute Council should be able to? Or maybe it is easier for small communities that don’t have to deal with the bureaucracy that exists in councils?  Fisherrow in Musselburgh has also just initiated as similar proposal.  I myself was at Portmahomack last weekend in our van conversion. The community was extremely welcoming. There is a donation box in the car park. That money will go straight back to the community. They also maintain the toilets that are open 24/7 and ask for a donation when you use them. We shopped at the local shop and visited the local cafe twice in the two days we were there, plus a visiting fish and chip van. They have no other facilities, but still, I wouldn’t hesitate to go back there. You need that kind of welcome for visitors to Oban and the surrounding area.

Can I signpost you to this group I am a member of, where you can ind a wealth of information on motorhome aires. www.facebook.com/groups/campra.uk

Louise Cunningham, sent by email

No longer feel welcome

As a keen motorhomer and ex-Oban area resident, I was saddened to read the article regarding the suggestion to ban campervans from Mull by councillor Mary-Jean Devon.

Yes, there will be the occasional ‘rogue’ camper, in the same way that there will be the occasional motorist who dumps litter, or the occasional trucker who urinates (or even worse) in a lay-by, but please, please do not tar us all with the same brush.

The proposal that campers should be banned unless they can produce evidence of a booked campsite is not realistic. These days many campsites are expensive, and/or insist on a minimum stay. Unlike caravanners, who tend to stay in one place for a period and use their car to tour around, most motorhomers tend to tour and wish to stay perhaps just one night. We are self-sufficient and carry our own water and toilet facilities, needing a ‘service point’ perhaps every two to three days.

Unfortunately, the UK is currently a very unfriendly and unwelcoming place for motorhomers with many parking restrictions, height barriers and a general misconception that motorhomes are a nuisance who contribute nothing.

The majority of us will shop locally, and eat/drink in local establishments too. This must all add to your local economy.

What we really need are facilities such as are provided abroad. In France, there are over 4,000 motorhome and campervan specific stopovers (known as Aires) in cities, towns and villages across the country which are owned by the relevant council. Some are just designated free parking spots, others are at a charge and provide services including fresh water, waste disposal and electrical points. A similar system – Stellplatz – exists in Germany, and other European countries too. You may be also interested to know that many potential foreign motorhome tourists now actively avoid the UK due to the lack of facilities!

We are not looking for ‘something for nothing’. Your councillor mentions the Ledaig car park – so why not make a small overnight charge for the facilities already provided. This could go a way toward maintaining the facility and perhaps improving it further by providing a chemical waste disposal point, etc.

We spent eight very pleasant years in the Oban area and would love to come back and tour round your beautiful area, but having read your article we no longer feel very welcome.

There are around 250,000 registered motorhome owners in the UK alone, and there really is potential to encourage tourism and boost the local economy. Working with them instead of against them, it is a win win situation for both sides.

Spike Haward, Brixham

Motorhomers are too easy to blame

I have just read Kathie Griffiths’ article on campervans and wild camping on Mull.

Firstly , I and many others in the campervans/motorhome community (at least 250,000) are extremely saddened at the bad behaviour of a few.

One point I’d like to put to the councillors is: where do I put a pallet in my campervan or motorhome to go burn in the woods ?

Most of us are over 50 with money to spend in your communities, all we need is somewhere fill with water and dump our waste. It works in Hawick, go check their attitude towards us.

Most camp sites want minimum of four night stay, which is fine for caravan owners, but the very nature of motorhome/campervans is that we are more mobile and will only stay in one place for one or two nights

Have a look at the CAMPRA website as well, speak to one of the organisers and publish our side of the story.

Once again, there is no excuse for dumping any kind of waste and I’m sorry if it was a genuine motorhome/campervan user but we are too easily targeted and I wouldn’t be surprised if it came from other sources.

Trevor Skinns, by email.