Clarity needed over ‘updated’ harbour report

Safety should be the key priority in Oban Bay, the town's community councillors were told at their meeting this week. KG_T17_Obanharbour

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A report supposedly updating councillors on plans for the future management of Oban harbour is ‘nothing of the sort,’ the town’s community council has heard.

Phil Hamerton from OCHDA (Oban Community Harbour Development Association) told community councillors at their Zoom meeting on Monday that officers from Argyll and Bute Council had submitted a report to Wednesday’s Oban, Lorn and the Isles Community Planning Group, but while it looked as if it was a detailed update on progress so far to run the  harbour as a municipal port – it was nothing of the sort.

Mr Hamerton said the only people officers have been talking to has been CMAL, CalMac and the Northern Lighthouse Board rather than other stakeholders and users of Oban bay and its approaches.

‘It appears we’re being kept completely in the dark,’ he said.

He asked: ‘Do you trust Argyll and Bute Council to deliver on the project that they said four years ago they did not have the skills to do?’

Oban Community Council convener Marri Malloy said: ‘No, absolutely not. We don’t trust the council to deliver.’

Mrs Malloy reiterated the community council’s full support of OCHDA.

Mr Hamerton said the report that was due to go before the community planning group earlier this week ‘as usual lacks any specific details but is full of positive – and unverifiable – assertions!’

OCHDA wants more clarity and answers to questions, including will the limits of the new harbour authority include the North entrance to the bay and will the existing vessel safety regulations be kept?

Members of OCHDA also want to know what the expected cost-benefits could be to council tax payers.

‘The fear is that Oban as a community will lose out on potential benefits or there will be no effective management of the bay. We will end up with a jet ski piling into a paddleboarder round the back of a ferry one day,’ added Mr Hamerton.

Safety of the bay users should be the key priority, the community council heard.

And OCHDA wants to know if the council’s given timeline is really achievable. Argyll and Bute Council has set itself a target of having a new harbour authority ready for the start of  next year’s sailing season.

Councillor Roddy McCuish told the meeting: ‘It’s by no mistake that this report is going to the community planning partnership and not to the area committee. The community planning partnership is not a decision making body. I bet the report recommends its contents are noted. It’s a Yes Minister move in my opinion.’

The meeting received confirmation the report was indeed recommended to be just noted on Wednesday.

Councillor Elaine Robertson said the harbour’s future had ‘not been well handled’ so far and added: ‘We should’ve had the sort of meetings that the Craignure Development Partnership have had. It was a contentious issue but by working together it came to a reasonable outcome.’

Frank Robertson who was at the community council meeting said: ‘Argyll and Bute Council seems to have sent Oban to Coventry compared to other areas. It’s as though they’ve pulled down the shutters and ignore us. That’s no way to behave.’