Community council unmoved over café objection

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Community councillors who objected to plans for a café in Connel are staying unswerved – for now.

The community council has already sent in an objection to businessman Shaun Sinclair’s plans to build a shoreside café on land west of Inverlusragan with a viewpoint, seating, interpretive sign and play park.

Argyll and Bute planners have not made a decision yet.

Out of 58 comments to Mr Sinclair’s application on the council’s planning portal, 49 are in support.

Mr Sinclair, who called his own meeting in the village hall on May 9,  has now urged Connel Community Council to rethink its objection.

But community councillors made their decision on grounds that the land is designated in Argyll and Bute Council’s local development plan as an open space protection area.

Community council convener Sandy Dunlop told The Oban Times that ‘at present’ its view was exactly the same as stated in its objection.

Its objection said the local development plan was the result of a long consultation that the council, Connel Community Council and the public were involved in.

‘In effect the designated open space protection areas were agreed and as such the decision to reverse this for the financial benefit of an individual landowner is not one that can  be made.

‘The time to dispute/discuss its designation was in the consultation stage of the local development plan – which has now elapsed.

‘The piece of land in question, has the same designation as the Connel bay seafront, the woodland along Shore Road and the Achaleven playing field, of which it is our view, that none of us want to lose to development.

‘On this basis, it is clear that if this planning application was successful it would seriously undermine the local development plan going forward.’

Last year permission was granted to Mr Sinclair to transform a ruinous building – with just walls and no windows, roof or door – into a café.

The scheme, off Connel’s Main Street, that received five expressions of support and six against, was planned to be used for the provision of soup, sandwiches, cakes, tea and coffee, as well as breakfast rolls and other items.

The next Connel Community Council meeting will be on May 31.

Mr Sinclair said he will be attending the meeting to carry on the discussion.

‘I was amazed at the turnout and all the support at the public meeting that I advertised on Facebook and social media – especially the support from young families.

‘Connel is turning into a ghost village. No one fought to keep our village school, the playgroup went, the shop is still open but it’s just getting depressing when you pass through.

‘I do believe the café would be a positive thing for the village and community, giving the community a place to meet.

‘We still hope to change the community council’s mind about objecting but I think they’ll refuse,’ he said.

Mr Sinclair added the café’s design had kept the open space protection area status in mind – keeping it a low build and on a corner so it would not spoil the view over Loch Etive.