Oban harbour concerns raised at council

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Concerns have been raised over the consultation process and governance plans for the future of Oban Bay.

But a local councillor has pledged careful planning ahead of Argyll and Bute Council becoming the harbour authority.

Members of Oban Community Harbour Development Association (OCHDA) attended a meeting of the Argyll and Bute Harbour Board on Thursday, August 4.

An informal consultation process is currently being run by the council, which is due to take over the running of the bay.

OCHDA secretary Phil Hamerton said: ‘OCHDA is fairly supportive of the council to bring this about, but there are two areas of concern relating to the current informal consultation and the early draft of the harbour order, and the later consultation prior to submission to the Scottish Government.

‘We also have concerns about the governance arrangements for the new harbour authority once it has been established.

‘The resources and skills of the council will be required for establishment of a new harbour authority before approval by Transport Scotland, and it is vital that community and stakeholder engagement is achieved before that.

‘We believe that these issues require to be addressed now. Much of the consultation document is supported by OCHDA but there are many areas where the information is too limited to comment on.

‘As such, consultees cannot give support and there is a very real risk that the draft harbour order does not command full support.

‘Recent communication from council officers has stated that these arrangements will be made clear to us by the end of this week, and we look forward to seeing them. We must avoid objections in the formal consultation.’

Mr Hamerton added: ‘We believe that future governance should be based on the existing good practice guidance. The current proposal suggests that the new harbour authority should fit into the existing arrangements applied to all other ports and harbours in Argyll and Bute.

‘But we do not think that Oban is like all other ports and harbours in Argyll and Bute. In addition to continuing and increasing ferry traffic to islands, cruise ships are now keen to visit Oban and an increasing number of sailing ships are visiting from other countries.

‘Different arrangements to elsewhere in Argyll and Bute are likely to be required and careful planning for the future is essential. It is important that local businesses and residents, as well as local water users, are able to influence future developments directly.

‘There is guidance available from the Department of Transport, which applies in Scotland. An advisory committee might comprise 50 per cent of elected representatives, as well as people with particular skills and knowledge.

‘We feel it is vital that governance arrangements for the new authority are set up appropriately and are consistent with government guidance from the outset.’

Oban South and the Isles Independent Councillor Andrew Kain, the board’s chair, responded: ‘There are some interesting elements to what you have previously talked of, and we need to go away and have a think.

‘What we can guarantee is careful planning for the future and local influence. The notion of a local advisory group falls in line with what we have discussed.

‘We will definitely talk again.’