Divided Connel debates cafe plan

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A plan to build a cafe on a field in Connel, dividing the village into for and against, was debated at a tense meeting in Connel Village Hall.

The community council has 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.

Mr Sinclair, who called his own packed meeting in the village hall on May 9, urged Connel Community Council to rethink its objection, but members were unswerved.

At the debate, hosted by Connel Community Council on Wednesday June 1, its secretary Matt Smyth said: ‘A vote was taken and the result was six to one in favour of a letter of objection, due to the fact that the land was part of an OSPA (open, space, protection area), part of the local area development plan (LDP).

‘It is alleged that the community council is anti-development. That is unfair. The councillors are keen to stress they welcome new business to the village, and are hopeful if answers are to be found to the issues raised they can be supportive of the application.

‘It is alleged that the community council, by not withdrawing its letter, is not reflecting the views of the village. Competition and conflict are normal in any community.

‘Your community council will attempt to take a balanced view of our community’s needs and aspirations, and part of this process is giving a fair hearing to representatives from different interest groups in our community.’

Mr Sinclair said: ‘Open space protection is the only reason to go against this. Open space protection is not over. You are allowed to consider it. That is all I am asking.

‘What is better for the community? A field no one can use, or a cafe where residents can go?

‘The village is imploding. We all go back to our house at night, and not do anything. This is my chance to do something.’ Mr Sinclair’s speech drew a round of applause.

In support, a member of the public said the development would not take the view away from this agricultural field. ‘In this part of the world, we are not short of open space. We are short of facilities,’ he said.

In opposition, another member of the public said it would ‘eradicate the biodiverse habitat’ on that ground: ‘The applicant already has planning permission for a cafe just yards from the proposed location, but crucially this is within the LDP, and is a much more sustainable option as it seeks to restore a currently ruined building.

‘This repurposing of a brownfield site is therefore far preferable than removal of a green field site.’ She said these areas need to be protected for future visitors and villagers to enjoy.

Argyll and Bute planners have not made a decision yet.