How Argyll & Bute Works: Dunoon’s Historic Pier

It’s often said that Dunoon has a very run down appearance and the state of Dunoon Pier is often cited as an example of this. On Saturday I happened to meet Brian Wilson and his son in The Argyll Hotel and we had a brief chat about things. Brian hadn’t been back in Dunoon for a while and he said he thought the place looked “grim”. He mentioned the pier, the lodge house in the Castle Gardens, the Queen’s Hall and the empty shops, much as anyone might do.

Some months ago a small group of people in the town wanted to form an organisation to do something about the pier and bring it back into some kind of productive use. They felt that their views were not being taken into account so after discussion with them we agreed that we would try and get them more formally involved. They are in the process of forming a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) to be called Dunoon Community Pier Trust. Charities sometimes are able to access grant funds that the council can’t and while the council has allocated money to a first phase of works on the pier, I do not believe funds are allocated for any further development at this stage.

After discussion we agreed I would try and see if the council would form a sub committee of the area committee with members of the new Trust on this sub committee. This was a half way house between the present position and a possible future community buy out of the pier and seemed a reasonable compromise. I sought the views of some members of the area committee and they supported this proposal. I was advised, though, that only the full council could form such a sub committee so the area committee could only pass a motion requesting such a group be formed. This motion came up at the April area committee meeting and the motion was as follows:

The Bute and Cowal Area Committee wishes to work in partnership with the Dunoon Community Pier Trust to ensure that the historic Dunoon Pier is refurbished and brought back into use in a manner that reflects the community’s views on what the pier should be used for. The Bute and Cowal area committee recommends to the full council that a new subcommittee of the area committee is created for this purpose. The sub-committee will have responsibility for the refurbishment and future use of the pier and officers will report to this sub-committee. The sub-committee will in turn report to the area committee. The proposal is that the sub-committee comprises 3 elected members from the Dunoon and Cowal wards and 3 members of the board of Dunoon Community Pier Trust. The 3 elected members from these 2 wards will be determined by a decision of the area committee for Bute and Cowal. The 3 members of the SCIO board will be determined by that board. The sub-committee will elect a chair and vice chair at its first meeting if the creation of the sub-committee is agreed by the full council.

This motion was proposed by myself and seconded by Cllr Bruce Marshall. As expected, the reaction of Cllr Walsh was to submit an amendment, worded as followed:

That the Bute and Cowal Area Committee does not agree to recommend to the full Council the establishment of a sub-committee for the purposes as set down in the Notice of Motion. The Bute and Cowal Area Committee instead agrees to recommend the establishment of a partnership arrangement between the Area Committee and the Board of Dunoon Community Pier Trust supported by appropriate Council Officers. The purpose of the partnership is to consider the future use of the pier and it’s buildings and how additional funds can be generated that can be used to enhance the structure and add value to the current works proposed by the Council. The minute of the partnership meetings will be presented to the Bute and Cowal Area Committee.

The amendment would have created an informal partnership,  with the council remaining in full control. Cllr Walsh actually said in defence of his amendment that the partnership would get “periodic updates” letting it know what the council was doing about the pier. A more dismissive, top down approach would be hard to imagine. This amendment from Cllr Walsh was seconded by you know who, Cllr Jimmy McQueen.

It went to a vote and our motion won by 5 votes to 4 with Cllrs McNaughton and Scoular voting with Cllrs Walsh and McQueen. Supporting our motion were Cllrs Blair, Strong and McIntyre.

What is it about Cllr Walsh and his supporters that they seem to resent any participation by the community? They all were against the Castle Toward buy out (read here) and they were against giving a formal say to the new Trust. They are clearly the fount of all knowledge and wisdom, or so they think.

The motion agreed at the area committee will come to the June council meeting. I thought I would ask Cllr Walsh if he will support this. As usual, he dodged the question which is what he did time after time over Castle Toward. The correspondence is pasted below.

From: Breslin, Michael Sent: 20 May 2015 12:42 To: Walsh, Dick Cc: Hendry, Douglas Subject: Bute and Cowal Area Committee

Cllr Walsh, will the recommendation on setting up a sub-committee of the area committee relating to Dunoon Pier be on the agenda of the June council meeting please?

Will  you and your administration be supporting this?

Thank you

Michael Breslin

From: Walsh, Dick Sent: 20 May 2015 17:16 To: Breslin, Michael Cc: Hendry, Douglas Subject: RE: Bute and Cowal Area Committee [OFFICIAL]

Classification: OFFICIAL

I anticipate that the June Council meeting will feature this recommendation.

To: Walsh, Dick Cc: Hendry, Douglas Subject: RE: Bute and Cowal Area Committee [OFFICIAL]

Thank you. What about the 2nd part of my query?

Michael Breslin

From: Walsh, Dick Sent: 21 May 2015 12:00 To: Breslin, Michael Cc: Hendry, Douglas Subject: RE: Bute and Cowal Area Committee [OFFICIAL]

Classification: OFFICIAL

As always we will be considering our options.

From: Breslin, Michael Sent: 23 May 2015 14:45 To: Walsh, Dick Cc: Hendry, Douglas Subject: RE: Bute and Cowal Area Committee [OFFICIAL]

Classic avoidance of a reply Cllr Walsh so I think I can assume you won’t support this.

Author: Michael Breslin

I am no longer a councillor with Argyll & Bute Council but given the appalling treatment I got from the senior officers and a few elected members, I plan to continue keeping an eye on what the council is doing.