Ganavan issue sees council favour town centre site

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Councillors have failed to unanimously agree on how to tackle the problem of overnight camping at Ganavan car park.

A special meeting of the Oban, Lorn and Isles area committee on October 14 saw members deadlocked on the way forward, three votes to three.

Three backed a motion by councillor Julie McKenzie while three supported an amendment by councillor Mary-Jean Devon.

Committee chairman, councillor Sir Jamie McGrigor, used his casting vote to back councillor Devon’s amendment.

Councillor Devon’s amendment, seconded by councillor Jim Lynch, called for the ‘bigger picture’ of campervans and caravans to be addressed across Oban, rather than take a piecemeal approach.

Officers would now carry out feasibility studies for potential sites and report back to the area committee, but the process may take some time, she said.

The Ganavan solution has been estimated to potentially cost the cash-strapped council up to £43,500 with no allocated budget for it.

‘This month it’s Ganavan, next time it will be the Gallanach Road and next time it will be somewhere else,’ said Councillor Devon. ‘We don’t have the money to look at each area separately.’

She suggested the existing traffic regulation order be updated, and that the overnight parking of caravans and campervans be ‘restricted’ to a designated area within Oban town centre.

Speaking afterwards, Councillor Devon said no formal site had yet been identified but may include Lochavullin or behind Atlantis Leisure.

Councillor Devon told the meeting that ward four councillors believed it would be more ‘beneficial’ to utilise land already in the ownership of Argyll and Bute Council to create a single area with dedicated facilities.

It would give campervanners and caravanners a better experience given Oban’s standing in the UK as a tourism destination and port.

The income generated from overnight stays would bring in the necessary revenue to cover the cost of providing a waste disposal facility and extra rubbish bins for campers, she said.

However, councillor McKenzie’s proposal – seconded by councillor Kieron Green – had suggested quicker measures including a temporary traffic regulation order spanning between Oban War Memorial and the entrance to the car park itself – subject to consultation.

Councillor McKenzie’s motion also called for reports from council officers for the December committee to examine both the costs of the proposed infrastructure plan at Ganavan and a potential site in the town centre, the installation of CCTV at Ganavan, and proposals on the ‘management and enforcement’ regime for the car park next summer.

Furthermore, Councillor McKenzie’s motion had suggested amending the charging hours at the car park to 24 hours but retaining the existing two-hour free parking – subject to a rigorous TRO consultation.

Of councillor Devon’s proposal, councillor Green commented that the aim was ‘very laudable’ but a town centre site such as Lochavullin would not take away the lure of Ganavan for campers due to its beach location.

‘Even if we provide services somewhere in the centre of town there would still be a natural draw out to Ganavan,’ said Councillor Green.

Councillor McKenzie said ‘time’ to do something is not on the council’s side and she feared the amendment would be equivalent to kicking the problem at Ganavan into the ‘long grass’.

After the meeting she said: ‘We have still got the status quo which was not acceptable to anybody and that’s why we have tried to take something forward. I’m not going to give up and we have to find a solution.’

Councillor Jim Lynch said he recognised that Ganavan was an ‘urgent’ matter but that councillors had to consider that any measures there would lead to a knock-on effect elsewhere across Oban.

‘That’s why I am supporting Mary-Jean’s motion in getting something set up in the town centre and then working from there,’ he said.