Ganavan facing a summer ‘shambles’

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Nuisance campers will take over the car park at Ganavan Sands again because they remain ‘undeterred, uncharged and unchallenged,’ a meeting heard last night.

On Monday, members of Oban Community Council called for tougher action from site owners Argyll and Bute Council amid mounting concerns that last summer’s ‘frightening free for all’ will be repeated as travel restrictions lift from April 26.

Appearing at the virtual meeting, Jim Smith, head of amenity services at the unitary authority, told the 33-strong audience that the council had recruited four new seasonal parking wardens to its ranks following a new £850,000 budget commitment to tackle staycationing.

The council plans monitoring Ganavan this year backed by early morning and late evening swoops – including weekends. Its wardens will not be restricted to conventional council working hours, and more penalty charge notices are expected, he said.

But the reassurances failed to convince Oban Community Council who have previously pleaded for a new management plan.

Convenor Marri Molloy said: ‘Basically nothing has been done, nothing is changing – that’s what you’re telling us.

‘The campervans can come in and spend all day and they’ll spend all night because who’s going to stop them?’

‘It was a shambles last year and it’ll be a shambles this year again – only worse,’ said Ms Molloy, who called for dedicated spaces for local people.

Community council member Dougie Graham warned that ‘undesirables’ avoiding chargeable camping sites were being attracted to Ganavan and then took confidence from going ‘undeterred, uncharged and unchallenged’.

He said the car park was occupied for up to four days and nights with ‘spitting, urinating and defecating’ going on and a major mess left behind.

Andrew Spence, Bid4Oban chief executive, told the meeting there were claims last year of wardens feeling intimidated and being ‘unwilling’ to visit the site or issue tickets out of hours.

He suggested this be addressed with training, although Mr Smith replied he was not aware of such reports and if wardens were intimidated they would call police.

Councillor Roddy McCuish said the Ganavan area down to Gallanach now justified a dedicated member of staff. And member Gavin MacLean called for an out-of hours emergency telephone line to report problems. If fines were given out it would generate considerable income for the council, he said.

But Mr Smith said the council was not an ’emergency response service’ and its team had 117 cars parks to manage and could not be in every one, every day.

Nor could it ‘put a gate’ across Ganavan to stop motorists using it as the existing traffic regulation order (TRO) allowed caravans, live-in vans and motorhomes to freely park up – although not to occupy them overnight.

Community member Frank Roberts said without proper ‘enforcement’ the rules were meaningless and word would soon circulate that you can ‘get away’ with it at Ganavan.

He suggested council environmental wardens be trained to carry out enforcement.

Mr Smith added: ‘It really is worth stressing that we have got no ability to determine where people are coming from and no ability to reserve spaces (at the car park) for local people.’

A wave of staycationers are expected this summer due to overseas travel being off the cards as a third wave of the coronavirus strikes the continent.