Comment posted Councillors Freeman and Robb get unanimous council approval for urgent motion on Kilcreggan ferry by Councillor George Freeman.
The concerns of residents on the Rosneath Peninsula have continued to increase over the past two months at the apparent refusal of Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) to take their fears about the future of the Gourock – Kilcreggan ferry service seriously.
These concerns were again discussed at length at the meeting of Cove & Kilcreggan Community Council on 13 March that saw the hall packed with concerned residents. Those attending were told by me that contrary to the line that SPT and Clydelink had taken over the past two months that there would be a new-build vessel on the route as from April, it had now been admitted that there was no new vessel and that the service would be provided by the Island Princes which is approximately 16 years old.
Because of the real fears within the community that there may be no vessel with a Passenger Certificate to provide this service at the start of the new contract on 1 April, I decided to submit an urgent motion to the Council meeting on 15 March asking for Council support in seeking assurances from SPT that they have plans in place to ensure that there will be no break in service between the old contract ending and the new contract starting, even if this meant SPT agreeing to extend the current contract.
As this was an urgent motion, I was aware that I had to ensure that it was competent and that I could also persuade the Convener of the Council that the matter was urgent before the Council would consider it. Thankfully I managed to get over these two hurdles and, having explained to the Council the grave concerns of the community and the impact that any break in the service would have on those individuals who have to travel across the Clyde to get to work, college and to health services, the Council agreed unanimously to support my motion. I was able to inform the Council that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) at Greenock had confirmed to me just an hour before the Council meeting that the Island Princes did not have the appropriate Passenger Certificate that would allow it to operate on the Gourock to Kilcreggan route.
Because of the level of misinformation that we have received over the past two months on this issue, the community does not accept the statement from SPT that as it stands, they are confident that a service will run on 1 April. I am delighted at the number of people who have now come forward to campaign on behalf of the community. Locals are so frustrated by the dismissive attitude of SPT that a Facebook campaign “SAVE KILCREGGAN FERRY” has been set up by one of our dedicated campaigners which attracted almost 200 members in under 24 hours.
A protest is now planned to demonstrate the level of concern and show support for the pier staff who currently face the serious prospect of being made redundant as a result of the proposed new contract. Campaigners are confident of a good response from the community and ferry users who will meet at Kilcreggan Pier at 12pm on Saturday 24th of March.
I would encourage as many of your readers as possible to sign up to the Facebook cause / compaign PLEASE.
Councillor George Freeman also commented
- Bob, for your information, the Island Princes is not a new-build vessel as SPT and Clydelink have insisted over the past couple of months. She is now 16 years old.
Although we were told that she has a Passenger Certificate for Class IV operation for 96 passengers, it now transpires that she is only allowed to carry 74 passengers in the winter months. It has also been confirmed that all these passengers cannot be accommodated in the covered cabin. I certainly would not want to travel back and forward across the Clyde in the winter months without any shelter.
We do not know how many passengers the MCA at Greenock will approve for the Clyde which is a Class V Category C waters passenger route and is certainly not the sheltered waters of the Solent.
The Island Princess is also at least 2 knots slower than the existing vessel on the route. We are told that her sister vessel which is identical, cannot sail in a straight line but has to tack when underway. This will clearly add to the journey time.
The Island Princes is smaller that the current vessel on the route and only has a draft of 1.0 m, a beam of 5.0 m and is only 13.7 m long. MCA have confirmed that she currently does not have the relevant Passenger Certificate that would allow her to operate on the Gourock – Kilcreggan route at this time.
The new owner intends modifying the vessel prior to presenting her for certification. It is difficult to see how all this can be done prior to the contract start date on 1 April 2012.
Recent comments by Councillor George Freeman
- Castle Toward a gone deal
Firstly I should say that I agree with much of what John Semple and Integrity say above (but not all). I should also say that some of the comments from individuals above are totally misguided and/or misinformed. As far as yesterday’s Council meeting is concerned, I believe that it is worthwhile clarifying a few issues.
I have produced many motions and amendments for Council and Committee meetings over the years, both as an opposition councillor and as an administration councillor. Many of these were straight forward and did not require advice from Council officers. Where an issue is even slightly complicated, sensitive or very important such as the Castle Toward issue, I would always take advice from Council officers on the competency of my draft motion/amendment well in advance of the meeting. Officers are always willing to give such advice to any councillor, be they part of the administration or not. I would never take the risk of turning up at a meeting with a motion or amendment that could be ruled incompetent. That would be a waste of everybody’s time and would not help me to achieve the result I was looking for.
It should be remembered that it is the Provost who rules on the competency of any motion or amendment. Advice will always be provided by the appropriate officers but the final decision is the Provosts. As far as yesterday is concerned, the view of the Legal Manager was provided before officers gave final advice on the competency of Cllr Breslin’s amendment to the Provost. Clear reasons were given as to why officers considered that the amendment was not competent. The Provost is in a no win situation whatever his decision. It would be a brave Provost or Chair of a Committee who would go against the advice of officers as they would have difficulty in justifying their decision.
I was most surprised to discover that Cllr Breslin had not taken advice from officers on the competency of his proposed amendment long before yesterday’s meeting. That is a massive risk to take, especially on such an important and controversial issue. Personally, I would never have taken that risk and would have obtained advice from officers so that I was confident that my motion / amendment was not going to be ruled as incompetent at the Council meeting. Even if I was to lose the vote, it would ensure that the issue was debated and that I managed to get my views across in public. If Cllr Breslin did consider seeking advice from officers, I can appreciate why he may have decided not to do that.
As Alan Stewart of SCCDC and many councillors (including Cllr Breslin) and Council officers will be aware, I spent a great deal of time working on Business Plans and valuations in the lead up to yesterday’s meeting and had prepared a wide range of questions/comments that I intended raising at the meeting. Unfortunately, because there was no competent amendment, I did not get the opportunity to raise any of these issues.
After the Provost had ruled Cllr Breslin’s amendment not to be competent, he asked if there were any other amendments. I was surprised that at that stage, none of those councillors (such as Cllr Marshall, Cllr Blair, Cllr Strong, Cllr Dance or Cllr Breslin), some with years of experience, who had clearly expressed support in the past for the sale of Castle Toward to SCCDC at the reduced price, did not bring forward another amendment. There was no need for them to provide a detailed amendment. All they had to do was to move that the matter be continued to another day. Although they may still have lost the vote, that would have allowed the matter to be debated in public and would have given them the opportunity to have a roll call vote which would have recorded the names of every councillor and how they voted. Unfortunately, they did not take that opportunity.
My understanding is that the record will now show that the decision taken by the Council yesterday on Castle Toward was a unanimous decision of the Council.
I hope that this helps to clarify a number of issues with regards to yesterday’s Council meeting.
- Castle Toward: the smoking gun
Newsroom states in her report that: “It is being said that members of the council’s administration were told by senior officers only last week that they had no option but to sell at the District Valuer’s price”.
For the avoidance of any doubt, as a current member of the Council’s Administration, I can categorically state that no such statement has ever been made by any Council officer or Member of the Council at any meeting that I have attended.
- Council Planning Committee meeting on 21st January promises to be lively – as 2 MSPs call for postponement
Integrity, I agree. When dealing with any planning application, especially those such as wind farms, fish farms and nuclear facilities that tend to attract a large number of representations (often from out with the UK), councillors are reminded that it is up to them to decide how much weight they apply to individual representations.
I would normally give much more weight to an objection or letter of support from someone who lives next to a proposed development and will see it on a daily basis than one from someone living at the other end of the country or in another country who is unlikely ever to see the development. I can only speak for myself but I am sure that the same applies with most councillors.
Many of the objections that were received against this planning application were clearly “political comment” and were highlighted as such by Planning Officers in their report to Committee and were certainly not material to the determination of the application. All the objections and the Planning Officer’s report are available on the Council website for anyone to view.
- Council Planning Committee meeting on 21st January promises to be lively – as 2 MSPs call for postponement
As a member of the Planning, Protective Services and Licensing Comittee (PPSLC), I can confirm that what Integrity says is correct. This planning application was approved today.
Looking at the comments from Michael Russell above, I have to laugh. He said: “I call on Argyll and Bute Council to postpone the meeting to allow objectors to be present, given the strong feelings in my constituency that further nuclear development at Faslane is unacceptable”. What he does not say is that Faslane is NOT in his constituency. It is in Jackie Baillie’s constituency which includes over 30% of the Argyll & Bute population. It is also clear from the report that approximately 90% of those making representations do not live within Michael Russell’s constituency and are therefore not his constituents.
Michael Russell also says that: “One week is simply not enough time for substantial representations to be made”. He does not appear to realise that this planning application has been available for the public to make representations on since October last year. Over 700 representations were made on this application and all of these representations were submitted last year. It is clear from this that the public had months to make representations on this application and not just one week as Michael Russell puts it.
If Michael Russell felt so strongly about this issue or shared the concerns he says his constituents have, why did he NOT bother to submit any representations himself?
Michael Russell called on “Argyll and Bute Council to postpone the meeting to allow objectors to be present”. If Michael Russell believes that the “objectors” felt so strongly about this application, he may wish to say why no “objectors” bothered to turn up? One person was sitting in the public area of the Council Chambers throughout the whole of the PPSLC meeting and, although I may be wrong, they appeared to be a local reporter.
It is also noted that Stuart McMillan, who is a list MSP and not a constituency MSP, called on the “local authority to postpone the meeting to allow the time for those concerned to play their part in the decision making process”. He also said that he had “been contacted by constituents who are angry and frustrated at this lack of transparency by Argyll and Bute Council”. It should be pointed out that this planning application was treated in exactly the same way as any other planning application. Given that over 700 people made representations, it is clear that all those concerned DID play their part in the decision making process. It is also clear from the level of representations that, as with any other planning application, the Council was fully transparent and that the public had (and took) the opportunity to play their part by making their views known to the Council.
Like Michael Russell MSP, Stuart McMillan MSP obviously did not feel strongly enough about this application to bother making any representations.
Michael Russell states that this is “further nuclear development” at Faslane as if this was an escalation of the local nuclear facilities. Although not a planning consideration, this proposal is to provide one modern facility to replace the current two aging facilities that deal with waste materials and is a welcome modernisation.
- Save Castle Toward campaign brings it on home to Walsh and MacQueen
Isla, from your comments, it certainly appears that you are on the inside and probably a councillor. I can assure you that there is no fight between Cllr McCuish and me to take over the position held by Cllr Dance. As far as I am aware, there certainly has been no suggestion that Cllr Dance will be removed from her position and, as far as I am concerned, such a change has never been mentioned or considered.
Why should such a change be considered? Councillors within the Administration are free to vote as they wish but would be expected to give warning to the Group / Administration if they were going to vote against the Group / Administration. I have repeated on a number of occasions that I would not be part of any political Group / Administration where a whip was applied.
If you can find one person who has said that I want to take on the position held by Cllr Dance then you should name them as, to put it bluntly, they are a liar.
It should be clear to anyone who knows my history that I, as an Independent councillor, do not “do as I am told by Morton, Mulvaney, Walsh, or Kelly” as you put it or any of the other 31 councillors. I try to work with all councillors and seek consencus but, if there is an issue that I feel strongly about, I will not toe anyone’s line as was clear 4 years ago during the schools closure debate. At that time I stuck to my guns and was thrown out of the Administration that was in place at that time for doing so and lost the extra responsibility allowance that went with my position. My reputation is more important to me than money.
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