Row breaks out over new berths at Oban North Pier

The Oban Times - - FRONT PAGE - LOUISE GLEN lglen@oban­

A PUB­LIC row has bro­ken out over the fi­nan­cial im­pact of pub­licly-funded pon­toons planned for Oban Bay.

Di­rec­tors of pri­vately-owned Dun­staffnage Ma­rina say Argyll and Bute Coun­cil has shifted the goal­posts for its planned Oban tran­sit ma­rina.

The di­rec­tors claim that Oban Bay Ma­rina will po­ten­tially be able to host up­wards of 80 ves­sels, rather than the 36 pre­vi­ously pro­posed, and say the big­ger ma­rina threat­ens its busi­ness – putting per­ma­nent jobs at risk and is based on ‘child­like’ fig­ures.

Two part-time jobs will be cre­ated by the Oban tran­sit ma­rina.

Funding for the Oban project is be­ing bor­rowed through pru­den­tial bor­row­ing and will be paid back over 25 years.

Argyll and Bute Coun­cil says the size and scale of the project has not changed since plan­ning per­mis­sion was granted in 2016.

The ar­gu­ment ap­pears to be over the dif­fer­ence be­tween 36 berths and 36 fin­ger berths. Berths of­fer har­bour to in­di­vid­ual ves­sels, while fin­ger berths can of­fer space to two boats.

Neil McLauch­lan, of Dun­staffnage Ma­rina, said: ‘Di­rec­tors were never con­cerned about a 36-berth ma­rina.

‘How­ever, Dun­staffnage was never con­sulted at any time about any ma­rina, far less this much big­ger and more sig­nif­i­cant ma­rina, which is just three miles from Dun­staffnage.

‘We have never had to turn boats away – even at the height of the sea­son – so this cer­tainly in­di­cates a mar­ket that does not merit yet more berths. Dun­staffnage Ma­rina has in­vested heav­ily into the ma­rina mar­ket with in­fra­struc­ture, lo­cal staff and train­ing.

‘There­fore, to sim­ply stand back and al­low our busi­ness to be dec­i­mated be­cause of some mis­judged pro­pos­als and crude fi­nances would be very wrong in­deed.

‘The di­rec­tors are very de­ter­mined to fol­low this through to a sat­is­fac­tory con­clu­sion.’

Due to the risk to his busi­ness, Mr McLauch­lan asked Argyll and Bute Coun­cil to raise the mat­ter with the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s state aid unit, which will judge the right of the coun­cil to spend pub­lic money on a project that may dis­place busi­ness from a pri­vate com­pany.

He said: ‘It seems on our in­sis­tence it was re­ferred as late as the April 21, 2017. This was well af­ter plan­ning ap­proval was granted in 2016 and the or­der for hard­ware to sup­pli­ers was placed at the start of 2017.’

Mr McLauch­lan con­tin­ued: ‘Once the un­der­wa­ter hard­ware is in­stalled there is no ju­ris­dic­tion for plan­ners on its con­fig­u­ra­tion as it is not on the land. It would be for the Crown Es­tate to de­cide.

‘The mas­sive ma­rina hard­ware shows a po­ten­tial for a far big­ger fa­cil­ity.’

A spokesman for Argyll and Bute Coun­cil said: ‘The in­vest­ment in the tran­sit berthing and as­so­ci­ated mar­itime fa­cil­i­ties has strong and wide­spread lo­cal sup­port and will com­ple­ment ex­ist­ing ma­rine fa­cil­i­ties in the area.

‘Other lo­cal fa­cil­i­ties and in­dus­tries will be able to take ad­van­tage of the in­crease in vis­i­tors and ves­sels that will come to the area.

‘We were di­rectly pe­ti­tioned by around 80 lo­cal busi­nesses, in­clud­ing other lo­cal mari­nas, and con­sulted widely, in­clud­ing host­ing a well-at­tended open day.

‘There has been no change in the size of the fa­cil­i­ties and berthing num­bers have not in­creased since the orig­i­nal plan­ning con­sent, busi­ness case and ma­rine li­cence were ap­proved.

‘These first-class fa­cil­i­ties will be a real as­set to Oban and the sur­round­ing area and help ful­fil our am­bi­tion of mak­ing the town a fo­cus for the West Coast ma­rine tourism in­dus­try. This in­vest­ment of more than £3 mil­lion will make it eas­ier to wel­come ma­rine vis­i­tors to Oban and pro­vide easy ac­cess to the town for kayak­ers, yachters, cruise ships and tour oper­a­tors.

‘We are pro­vid­ing short-stay berths, bring­ing eco­nomic ben­e­fits to the town and sur­round­ing area. The fin­ger-berth pon­toons and con­crete float­ing break­wa­ter will pro­vide flex­i­ble short-stay ca­pac­ity.

‘The fa­cil­i­ties will con­trib­ute to the coun­try’s ma­rine tourism strat­egy, Awak­en­ing the Gi­ant, which is backed by all main Scot­tish devel­op­ment agen­cies and which iden­ti­fied the need for more berthing fa­cil­i­ties.

‘Due to the on­go­ing con­struc­tion, car park­ing in the area of the North Pier may be lim­ited at times and driv­ers are asked to park con­sid­er­ately and safely while the work is on­go­ing.’

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