New pon­toons will ben­e­fit all of Oban

The Oban Times - - Letters -

Sir, There ap­pears to be a de­ter­mined cam­paign by one or two in­di­vid­u­als, on be­half of one out- of-town busi­ness, to de­stroy the most im­por­tant de­vel­op­ment for the ben­e­fit of the en­tire Oban com­mu­nity in many years - the pro­vi­sion of a town cen­tre berthing fa­cil­ity for vis­it­ing boats.

As some­one who helped to found Oban Bay Marine, the com­mu­nity com­pany which cam­paigned for 10 years to bring Oban in line with al­most all other har­bours large and small round the coast, by pro­vid­ing town cen­tre fa­cil­i­ties, can I make the fol­low­ing points.

In the past, com­mer­cial mari­nas ex­plored the op­tion of build­ing a ma­rina on the es­planade. They de­ter­mined that be­cause of the cost of in­stalling the very heavy duty at­ten­tu­a­tors, or float­ing break­wa­ters, nec­es­sary in the ex­posed bay, it was not com­mer­cially vi­able for them.

OBM did a great deal of the ini­tial work to or­gan­ise a short-stay fa­cil­ity, but ap­pre­ci­ated that only Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil could ad­dress the mar­ket fail­ure by tak­ing on the ma­jor con­trac­tual works in­volved, for the ben­e­fit of the whole com­mu­nity.

There is a very clear dif­fer­ence be­tween a ma­rina such as Dun­staffnage, which has ex­ten­sive shore fa­cil­i­ties, and has a core busi­ness of long-term berth hold­ers (with boats un­oc­cu­pied most of the time), to that of the tran­sit fa­cil­ity, which is lim­ited to short stays for vis­it­ing boats.

In crude terms, the lat­ter is the equiv­a­lent of a su­per­mar­ket car park for boats; something that makes Oban a trans­port hub; an ex­tremely con­ve­nient place for those vis­it­ing boats to tie up safely, shop, change crew, eat ashore, go to the hair­dresser, do laun­dry and gen­er­ally spread busi­ness across the whole town.

Should those short-stay vis­i­tors need work done on their boats or, find­ing Oban to their lik­ing, wish to come here for the fol­low­ing sea­son, then the ad­ja­cent mari­nas, in­clud­ing Dun­staffnage, will ben­e­fit from new busi­ness cre­ated. (In­ci­den­tally, the same ma­rina has al­ready had sev­eral months of busi­ness; the break­wa­ter units them­selves are be­ing con­structed at Dun­staffnage.)

The com­plaints are on the ba­sis of po­ten­tially losing busi­ness to the coun­cil, which has had the ben­e­fit of pub­lic fund­ing, or state aid.

My un­der­stand­ing of the sit­u­a­tion, as ex­plained at a pub­lic in­for­ma­tion meet­ing, is that once the fa­cil­ity is ac­tu­ally in the wa­ter, and has re­ceived all its of­fi­cial ap­provals, the right to op­er­ate it as a com­mer­cial en­ter­prise will be put out to pub­lic ten­der. Con­trary to the im­pres­sion be­ing given, the coun­cil will no more be in com­pe­ti­tion than if it were rent­ing one of its of­fices.

In sum­mary, the coun­cil has of­ten been crit­i­cised for not tak­ing ac­tion.

By con­trast, here in Oban the streetscape works at Stafford Street and along the front have given the town a real facelift. Tourism is at the core of Oban en­ter­prise. Marine tourism is the fastest growing el­e­ment of that.

The new fa­cil­ity will bring ex­tra busi­ness, and sus­tain jobs, right across Oban and Lorn. The coun­cil’s ini­tia­tive in con­struct­ing that fa­cil­ity is something that should be ap­plauded for the uni­ver­sal ben­e­fit that it brings to Oban. Mike Robert­son, Dun­gri­anach, Pul­pit Hill, Oban.

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