Consult with the community now, urges harbour campaigners

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Supporters of developing a future community harbour for Oban made plans to lobby this week’s Oban, Lorn and the Isles Area Committee.

Members of Oban Community Harbour Development Association (OCHDA) were surprised to see the development of a new harbour authority was not on Wednesday’s agenda so made a bid to go as a group and flag it up.

The first meeting of the new Oban, Lorn and the Isles Area Committee was due to be chaired by newly-elected councillor Andrew Kain who will also be chairman of the Harbour Board.

Plans recently published by Argyll and Bute Council regarding the proposed development of a municipal port for Oban have been broadly welcomed by OCHDA.

But OCHDA wants to see Argyll and Bute Council engaging with the community as soon as possible.

According to the website, Argyll and Bute Council proposes to engage widely with
communities and stakeholders once they have submitted their draft proposals to the
Scottish Government at the end of the year. This will be followed by six weeks of public
consultation before consideration by the government.

OCHDA is urging Argyll and Bute Council to engage now with the stakeholders and affected communities so that the early planning reflects local needs.

OCHDA chairman Ross Wilson said: ‘This is far too important to get wrong. We all want to see the new harbour authority in place as soon as possible and it’s essential Argyll and Bute Council talk to harbour users and all those who depend on the harbour now so that the council’s plans reflect local needs and views.

‘If they don’t produce plans which have solid local support there is a risk the process will be held up leading to more risk of an accident, adversely impacting the local economy and further delaying much-needed infrastructure improvements.’

OCHDA has already expressed concern that the proposed limits of the new harbour have been the subject of small group, confidential discussions rather than being publicly shared.

The group says it has also asked Argyll and Bute Council repeatedly how it proposes to involve harbour users and other stakeholders in the long-term planning for the harbour.

Since 1974, development planning for Oban Harbour has not included local representatives and now is a great opportunity to bring local expertise and interests to bear, with government guidance specifically encouraging local advisory committees with specified powers, according to OCHDA which is proposing to submit detailed recommendations to Argyll and Bute Council on both these issues and to raise the matter at the next meetings of the Oban Bay Management Group and the Harbour Board.

Caption: Cruise ships are just some of the many water users in Oban Bay.