The annual report from Arran Community Council

The Annual General Meeting was held on Tuesday October 29th 2019. The following is the Chairman’s report, listing the committee achievements and contacts during the past year. All of the existing officers were re-appointed unanimously. Secretary J.Henderson.

Arran Community Council: Chairman’s report October 2019

Time has come for another annual report which will be the penultimate summary for this membership term.

2018/19 has been another busy year in which we have met 11 times and participated in countless other forums/ discussions and consultations.

I acknowledge the commitment from each and everyone throughout the year to enable the Community Council to continue to discuss and represent the islands views on a wide range of key topics. Our Officers and Peter for his diligent work on Planning matters.

Another individual who supports or meetings with total professionalism is Jim Nichols, who has continued to provide his usual professional approach to fulfilling the Minutes Secretary’s role.

A further note or recognition is also due to our local Police (Sgt) Dougie Robertson and his officers who attend in his absence, and also Hugh Boag who regularly attends and reflects our various concerns as appropriate in the local press and Cllr Billings for his support when other duties allow.

We continue to support various local organisations around the island including:

  • ACVS
  • Arran Ferry Committee
  • Elderly Forum
  • Arran Economic Group
  • COAST Arran
  • Youth Group
  • Scottish Islands Federation
  • PSUG

Indirectly we are aligned with other groups such as “Eco Savvy” and “Think about Plastic” and the recent Transport discussions with Arran 2030 in mind. Our members also feed-in to the respective village improvement associations.

Our website has attracted approx. 4400 hits in the year which is an increase of approx. 25% over the previous year. We have achieved almost 28000 hits since it was first introduced. This continues to attract a mix of both local, national and international messages.
These continue to include interface with Glasgow and Strathclyde universities, press and other media.

Matters covered over the year include:
Addressing NAC cost cutting decisions
Variety of Planning applications
Licensing applications
Roads, (condition, quality of repairs and white lining) Environment
Housing at Brathwic terrace.
Proposed parking restrictions and changes to enforcement responsibility
Extensions to wind farms in Kintyre

Over the past year we have also been contacted by various local groups looking to update the CC and seek support from us including:
Tree preservation orders
Promoting PB opportunities
Islands Bill consultation
Various student surveys and appeals for info.
Tracing lost relatives etc and advice for housing, jobs, and “plastic free” are some of the issues we have been contacted on.
Arran Flag proposal which didn’t attract too much support at this time.

Significant success has been noted on several actions:
• Assisting the eventual establishment of a Community based mobile network service for the south end which will provide a much-needed service to the residents and also a small income to the local community group to assist their efforts supporting the projects they have undertaken. Our MP supported our case on several occasions at the highest level.
• We have also assisted in the establishment of Arran as the first “No Cold Calling” island. This was initially suggested by a resident and the supported by the local Police staff and together the CC have worked with Trading Standards to bring this to a belated introduction.
There is still work to do but the concept has been widely recognised and we have received interest from other islands and rural communities.
• NAC road repairs and improvements continue with the south end benefiting as proposed by us as part of our collaborations in establishing timing and arrangements.
• We are also pleased to be communicating tonight that the long running concerns voiced from residents at Lamlash are to be addressed with a solution from NAC which can be implemented quicker than having to follow a protracted process to establish parking restriction. This initiative was also supported by our Police and Cllr Billings.

We have continued to represent these situations in the best interest for Arran and this has also brought the usual negative minority voices who wish their personal views to be adopted rather than the wider community, however we have continued to base our actions on facts and comply with procedures rather than react to the volume of the alternatives views. It is worth noting that all this work is handled by our members who all provide their services voluntarily and attend meetings in their own time.

As reported last year we receive minimum support or direct resource from NAC and our costs (including insurance, Website, membership costs and travel) receive less than £1000 in grants from NAC

Our previous report for 2018 highlighted the frustration from our members and the wider community at the unwillingness for NAC to recognise the contribution that Community Councils make, and they have failed to respond to our claims. CC’s still have no place at the Community Planning Partnership process other than a name on a distribution list.

The last year has continued to provide examples where “local views” have not been supported and in some cases total over-ruled by NAC official process. eg. McLaren Hotel planning and Parking management.

The “Locality” structure continues to be promoted with limited local inclusion in agendas etc. Our recent message to the “Communities Director” explaining the CC member’s apprehension in continuing to support a structure which has a questionable value is still unanswered.

Rather than repeat the points from last year we would simply ask one question, which is:

Given the alleged resource pressures on NAC staffing and financial restrictions being considered to meet the budget, how do they balance continuing to promote a forum which meets quarterly with very limited “local” input and representation requiring the support by a wide range of NAC officers who incur travel and sometime accommodation costs supporting a body with no clear deliverables quantified, against a voluntary group who meet 11 times per year, have clear deliverables and a proven interaction with the locality at a cost of less than £1000 per year?

Perhaps NAC have considered the cost benefit of continuing to pursue what in some areas has been referred to as a “dysfunctional” process but this is not clear and we would welcome information on such a study.

As we head into our last year of this term of service we encourage NAC once again to engage in meaningful discussions to define an appropriate structure which gives a voice to our residents to shape the islands future or confirm what they see as the role of the Community Council as a “statutory body” in an effective representative structure to manage local needs.
At this time with the Islands Bill foremost in most folks considerations, we believe that the facts suggest that the current structures gives an obvious opportunity for improvement in all aspects of “local democracy” and value for money. If we are to fulfil the service which our community expects, the current dysfunctional “Locality” approach needs to change!

I want to conclude with a positive outlook as we enter into more planning challenges, forestry proposals and discussions for further improvements to roads and island infrastructure going into 2020 and recognise the work we have achieved and pass on a big “Thank You” to all members and hope that our communities continue to view our work in a positive and informed manner.

Hope this gives an overview of the CC’s activities and a personal thanks to everyone for their support.
Our next term looks to be just as challenging as ever!

Bill Calderwood, ACC Chairman.