Letters to The Buteman: March 28

Email your opinions to news@buteman.com - please include 'Letter to the Editor' in the subject line.
Email your opinions to news@buteman.com - please include 'Letter to the Editor' in the subject line.

The pick of the Letters to the Editor published in the March 28 edition of The Buteman.

Baton relay should not bypass Bute


With reference to your article ‘Baton relay to pass close by Bute’ [The Buteman, March 21], the Isle of Bute has, in fact, been by-passed by the organisers of the relay.

To add insult to injury you reveal: “On Sunday, July 13, the baton will travel through Argyll and Bute, visiting Appin, Benderloch, Dunbeg, Oban, Kilmartin, Lochgilphead, Furnace, Inverary, Strachur, Sandbank and Dunoon.” It will not, in fact, “travel through Argyll and Bute” as the above mentioned 11 places are all in Argyll; not one is in Bute!

The Isle of Bute has at its centre the town of Rothesay, a Royal Burgh since 1401, and the former residence of the Kings of Scotland. The organisers are perhaps ignorant too, of the fact that her Majesty the Queen’s son and heir, Prince Charles, is Duke of Rothesay - his principal Scottish title.

Is it too late to re-route the relay via the Colintraive-Rhubodach ferry, thence through Port Bannatyne, Ardbeg and Rothesay, then by our other ferry to “pass through Wemyss Bay on Tuesday, July 15”, as referred to in your article?

William Lavender, 63½ Ardbeg Road, Rothesay


Implications for farming of a No vote


Robert Macintyre [Letters, March 21] correctly says that it is untrue to claim that a Yes vote will mean that farmers lose LFA payments. Not only is it not true, but the opposite is likely. There are three distinct risks to LFA payments if there is a No vote.

Firstly, Scotland will remain in the EU in the event of a Yes vote in the this year’s referendum, but there is a real possibility that the UK will leave the EU in the next referendum, against the wishes of the majority of Scottish voters - assuming we are still in the UK.

Secondly, the present UK government aims to reduce the cost of the CAP so that they can reduce public expenditure and tax. Eighty-five per cent of Scotland’s agricultural area is LFA, compared to 16.5 per cent in England. Unlike most of the EU, Scotland’s farming is livestock-dependent and hill farms would not be viable but for EU subsidies. Subsidies are axiomatically bad in the view of Free Trade fundamentalists.

Thirdly, as I pointed out in The Buteman’s March 14 issue, ongoing trade negotiations are likely to result in a lowering of EU food safety and animal welfare standards to American levels.

Ian Paisley, MP (DUP, North Antrim) in a debate on the TTIP treaty on February 25, explained the consequences for UK beef production if prices were undercut by imported growth hormone beef with levels of antibiotics and pesticides currently unacceptable in Europe.

If the treaty has been finalised before independence, there will be an opportunity to obtain an opt-out as part of the overall arrangements for separate Scottish membership of the EU. Farm incomes are most at risk with a No vote. Land used for grazing for centuries could return to scrub and depopulation would follow.

John Dick, Glendaruel, Ardencraig Road, Rothesay


Windows saga is one Bute could do without


I have viewed the developing situation of the planning row over the installation of replacement windows at Bute House Hotel, Rothesay and also at the building owned by John Morrison in Battery Place, with increasing concern and dismay.

Having made an unpopular (and potentially unwise) decision to disallow the owners of the Bute House Hotel to proceed with the replacement of rotten and defective windows with heat efficient and low maintenance UPVC sashes, the planning department have now backed themselves into a corner from which there appears to be no escape.

I understand that the planners were most concerned to learn of the recent petition that attracted in excess of 1,200 signatures. Local public opinion of the planning department is now at an all-time low, since the petition appears to have been ignored. In contrast, one is reminded of the Ascog wind farm decision, also supported by a public petition which seems to have been taken into account when reaching decision time.

The article published in The Buteman’s February 21 edition, featuring a raft of defensive and patronising comments from Councillor David Kinniburgh, did nothing to defuse the situation. Although titled ‘The planning process explained in detail’, sadly this epistle did not convince any of the readers, since it contained little substance or new information. Councillor Kinniburgh may do well to remember that we are not idiots and do not respond well to patronising comments.

The latest twist in this saga, as reported in the on-line edition of The Buteman, details the arrival of two officers of the court at 6.25pm on a Friday night to serve an interim interdict. Is this a sledgehammer to crack a nut? It seems a disproportionate and heavy handed response to the actions of the building owners.

Maybe this is an indication of the desperation of the planning department to be seen to enforcing their ruling? It seems amazing that they can get a court order so quickly in this case and yet spend months processing applications for other works.

A local elected member expressed the view to me that this was the first time in some 15 years that such swift action had been taken by the planning department. This unusually rapid response might be construed as a reflection of the disquiet within the department caused by the significant support for the petition and also an indicator of the immense sensitivity of the planners to some well-deserved public criticism.

The enforcement action by the planners must be presumed lawful, and in their view justifiable, but it demonstrates bullying tactics of the most reprehensible quality. It shows the sheer desperation of the council’s planning department, who seem intent on preventing any improvements to this property.

Where was this determination when shop premises in Rothesay were being used illegally as food retail premises without change of use being obtained? Despite formal complaints being made to the planners, they were unwilling or incapable of enforcing their own rules and may be not fit for purpose.

The basis of the present dilemma appears to be the historical inconsistent application of the local planning policy on windows. For example, in 2008, a retrospective application was approved in respect of the installation of UPVC windows in a guest house in Battery Place. Presumably the owners made their application well after fitting the new windows in their C listed property. Bute House Hotel also carries C Listing status, the only difference being its location.

A report in The Buteman’s February 7 issue described the dispute over the installation of UPVC windows in a formerly derelict building in Battery Place. There are in excess of two hundred plastic or metal framed windows within a one hundred metre radius of this locus, which is a clear indicator of the muddled application of the outdated, non-statutory Rothesay Windows Policy, now apparently some 18 years old. Undoubtedly, all the property owners wished to improve the quality and comfort of their premises to allow guests and residents a more restful and quiet experience.

Several departments within Argyll and Bute Council are working in a positive way to encourage improvements to properties. We are urged to insulate and maintain, to save money on fuel costs and develop the infrastructure of Bute to encourage more tourists to visit our island. It is becoming increasingly clear that the planning department are intent on hindering this process.

The early application of some common sense would have assisted in in this case, instead of hiding behind a plethora of complex regulations that only they have access to or understand. The situation has now developed into a most unsatisfactory scenario.

However, planners seem happy to victimise the owners of a property which desperately needs improvement to provide additional bed spaces. It should be remembered that our planners are also responsible for recommending approval of applications for change of use of hotels and guest houses into private accommodation which further depletes the stock of letting bed spaces on the island, which are vital if we are to accommodate visitors and increase tourism.

Our planners seem intent on strangling our tourist economy. Visitors have higher expectation for their accommodation and will not book rooms if they are draughty, cold or affected by unavoidable external noise at night.

I urge elected councillors to get the outdated windows policy revoked immediately. The people in this town are sick and tired of the shenanigans caused by this farcical decision. Now the planners have threatened normally law abiding citizens and contractors with arrest and dire consequences if further improvement works take place - and yet seem content to have allowed the Royal Hotel to fall into disrepair, now expending vast sums of public money on saving a wreck of a building which is a blot on the townscape and probably should have been demolished years ago.

All that Harry and Hazel Greene are trying to do is bring yet another building up to a standard which will encourage visitors to stay and return again, which will be good for the fragile economy of the Island. I fail to see what the problem is.

Planners have historically allowed a vast number of buildings in Rothesay to have UPVC windows fitted to replace rotten and draughty wooden sashes. Most people cannot tell the difference between a wooden sash and a plastic one from street level. There has been so much inconsistency in the past in the way that decisions have been taken that this affair starts to smell of a vendetta being pursued against the applicants.

I despair at the sheer lunacy that has gripped this situation. This appears to be a case of the tail wagging the dog since the elected councillors seem paralysed with fear in dealing with the planning department, since recent regulations might make elected members personally responsible for the financial outcomes of any planning decision which goes against the advice of officers.

In conclusion, it appears that this story is now to feature in the national press. We already have a scandal brewing in the recently reported row regarding the berthing of a vessel in Rothesay Harbour. The current windows saga has the potential to be yet another piece of negative publicity which the council and residents of Bute could well do without.

Tim Saul, 40 Ardmory Road, Rothesay