Oban Bay crunch meeting not quick enough, say Trust Port campaigners

North Pier Pontoon
North Pier Pontoons in Oban Bay

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Councillors have decided to bring forward a crunch meeting to determine the future direction of development plans for Oban Bay.

Members of the Argyll and Bute Harbour Board, which consists of eight councillors from across the area, were asked to agree that further talks on the best option for the harbour should take place in March.

The board instead agreed to hold a special meeting in December, with the councillors due to undertake a visit to the harbour site in advance, but Oban Community Harbour Development Association (OCHDA) says it is still being ‘unnecessarily slow’ over the matter, putting water users at risk at what is one of Scotland’s busiest harbours.

Officers recommended that with insufficient available information the board could not currently select a preferred option – councillors approved that unaninmously.

OCHDA responded to the meeting’s outcome saying residents and harbour users will be dismayed by the continued delays

Although the report to the council’s Harbour Board stated there were five options to be considered, OCHDA says in effect only three of them are under consideration.

They say the ‘do nothing’ option has already been ruled out and a Trust Port based somewhere other than the North Pier is not supported by evidence by OCHDA or by
Transport Scotland which only leaves a council-run Municipal Port option or a State Port run by CMAL to be considered – the third option would be OCHDA’s own proposal to see a joint enterprise with a community-led Trust Port based on council’s assets on the North Pier.

Council Officers were first asked to appraise the original options in 2016 and over the years OCHDA has carried out detailed work to support any appraisal of these options.

‘If it is clear what the criteria are by which these three will be judged, in
addition to safety, then OCHDA will be happy to support the process in order to move the matter on as rapidly and soundly as possible,’ said a spokesperson for OCHDA.

Concern over safety in Oban Bay has been an issue for many years with various organisations having responsibilities for different parts of it – rather than a single authority.

OCHDA believes it is clear that the control of traffic to and from the North Pier needs to be integrated with overall traffic management in the bay.

‘Instead of yet another appraisal of options for the new Oban Harbour Authority, Argyll and Bute Council should accept the evidence presented by OCHDA and grasp the opportunity to contribute to the enhancement of one of Argyll’s greatest assets while improving their own financial situation.

‘This is what the people of Oban have indicated is their best value solution. By continuing to prevaricate about their support for the Trust Port development
while not putting forward a satisfactory alternative Argyll and Bute Council, who currently are the responsible authority for most of the waters in the Bay, are risking one of the frequent near misses resulting in a fatal accident inquiry,’ said the OCHDA spokesperson.

Harbour Board members were told the papers made available for the meeting were the only ones that could be considered.

Recommendations in the report said the board should continue to engage with third parties, including OCHDA, to allow them to fully develop their proposals.

It was agreed  in principle, Argyll and Bute Council’s assets at North Pier could be made available for use by another party in operating the Bay.

Policy Lead for Roads and Infrastructure Services, Councillor Rory Colville’s motion that the report’s recommendations be adhered to was seconded by Oban Councillor Andrew Vennard and was unanimously backed. The only change was to call a special meeting in December.

Councillor Colville said it was about reaching the right option for Oban, its communities and businesses in the longer term. He added: ‘There are a number of possible routes for Oban Bay’s future. These decisions accelerate progress in establishing a single authority for the Bay, and allow for all options to be fully developed.’