THE ONGOING saga of Angus Council’s proposals to use the patent slipway at Arbroath harbour for launching trailer-borne boats for leisure users took an unexpected twist at the meeting of Angus Council on Thursday.
Harry Simpson, director of Mackay’s Boatbuilders, addressed members about his concerns regarding the proposals and how they would adversely affect his business.
He produced copies of the deed plan, taken from the lease Mackay’s has with the council, showing that there was an area of ground leased to his business which was not shown on the plan in the report.
Councillor Peter Nield objected to Mr Simpson being allowed to circulate his plans, suggesting that the council should only consider plans produced by officers of the council.
However, that plea fell on stony ground when the Provost realised that the plans being circulated by Mr Simpson were, in fact, photocopies of the original plan, contained as part of the legal lease document, which had actually been signed by the council’s head of law and administration.
A 10-minute recess followed during which the Alliance councillors discussed the new information and when the meeting reconvened the Provost announced that she was moving that the parts of the report relating to the use of the patent slipway for launching trailer mounted boats were to be deferred pending further consultations and a site visit by members from outside Arbroath.
Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Alex King said: “I, along with Councillor Bob Spink, referred this item to council for fuller consultation and I am delighted with the outcome as it is exactly what Bob and I were going to move had the item been debated.
“It appears that a majority of the Alliance councillors have now bowed to what is only common sense, and decided that further consultation is needed.”
He concluded: “This decision also means that the matter can be fully discussed by the next meeting of the Arbroath harbour consultative committee to accurately determine the views of the harbour users.”
Prior to the proposals on the slipway coming to full council, Arbroath East councillor Donald Morrison had sought a meeting between harbour user representatives and councillors to discuss the suitability of the slipway for public use but was left dismayed after the request was rejected.
He commented on Friday: “When the Provost confirmed that the slipway plans would be deferred again for site visits to the area, I asked for the matter to also be brought forward to the forthcoming harbour consultative committee at the end of May and this was agreed.
“I am delighted representatives of those who use the harbour day in day out, and who are members of the consultative committee, will now have the chance to express their views on the proposed slipway before the item comes back to Angus Council.
“There is absolutely no point in the existence of a consultative committee if that body, which includes those with first hand experience, is to be denied the opportunity to be consulted on matters prior to committee or council.”
Harry Simpson, managing director of Mackay Boatbuilders (Arbroath) Ltd., which leases the yard from Angus Council, commented: “If I had thought these proposals were useful or would have any benefit for leisure boat users I would have agreed right away. I believe that a slipway for leisure use in the town would be a good thing, but in the right place and properly controlled.
“The proposed placement is one of the most ridiculous sites as it is a working environment.
“Any workplace is an area where the public should not enter without prior permission. Public access would be detrimental to the working of the boatyard.”
He concluded: “The problem is that there has been no proper consultation on this matter.”
Councillor Nield said after the meeting: “The outcome from Thursday night was to authorise the safety improvement parts of the report, but defer the slipway because the diagram given to us was not correct and questions on parts of the lease were not able to be answered. It was unanimously agreed that councillors who do not know the harbour could visit (with the new diagram to hand), and a new report be brought back to a future meeting and that report also be put on the harbour committee agenda for comment.”
He concluded: “It was disappointing that a decision could not be made but it would have been unreasonable to expect councillors to vote on a flawed report. This matter is expected to come back to the next round of meetings.”
Councillor Bob Spink was pleased with the outcome of the meeting.
He stated: “After one of the most shambolic council meetings I have ever seen with bemused councillors and officials trying to make sense of maps which a senior official admitted contained an error relating to the extent of ground leased within the boatyard to Mackay Boatbuilders, a move to defer the matter to allow law and administration to reach agreement with Mackays was suggested by the Alliance.
“Harry Simpson of Mackays was present and after giving a presentation was questioned by some councillors. As the one who referred the matter to full council in the first place from the infrastructure services committee, supported by Councillor King as seconder, we were asked if we would agree to defer.
“Since this was exactly what we had intended to propose had the matter gone to debate, we were happy to agree.
“My amendment would have been that we defer the decision of the use of the patent slip at Arbroath for trailer launched boats to allow for a site visit by members of the council, and to allow full consultation with all interested parties, particularly the Arbroath Harbour Joint Consultancy Committee.
“We thus were happy that we had got what we wanted without having to fight the case and now look forward to the matter coming up again with perhaps this time, proper and fair procedures being correctly observed.”