Minutes, 09 December 2019

Minutes of meeting held on Monday, 9th December 2019 in Ardgay Hall at 7.00pm

Minutes approved 10/02/2020

Present: Betty Wright, Chair (BW), Silvia Muras, Vice Chair (SM), Marion Turner, Secretary (MT), John Denniston, Treasurer (JD), Rob Pope (RP), Andy Wright (AW), Buster Crabb (BC), Bill Knott (BK)

Apologies: None

Also present: Highland Councillor Kirsteen Currie (KC), Members of the public (list at end of Minutes), Gail Robertson and Amanda Ophof from Scottish Forestry

Police Scotland: No representative – report received by email during meeting            Minutes Secretary: Mary Goulder

Items 1. Introductions. Councillor Currie opened the inaugural meeting of the CC with congratulations to all members, both returning and newly elected.

Item 2. Election of Chair. KC called for nominations for Chair. Betty Wright was nominated by Andy Wright, seconded by Marion Turner. BW accepted and, after welcoming new members JD and BK, continued to the rest of the agenda.

Item 3. Election of office bearers. Vice Chair: Silvia Muras, proposed John Denniston, seconded Marion Turner.

Secretary: Marion Turner, proposed by Betty Wright, seconded by Andy Wright. MT accepted though with the proviso that during this four-year term someone else shadows her prior to a handover in due course. Treasurer: John Denniston, proposed by Silvia Muras, seconded by Bill Knott. JD accepted with MT agreeing to work with JD during a handover period. Minutes Secretary: Mary Goulder, proposed by Betty Wright, seconded by Marion Turner. It was agreed that the procedure for circulation of Minutes remains as before. Draft minutes are reviewed by BW and MT then circulated to all CC members, Highland Councillors, THC Ward Manager, Police Scotland, KoSDT Manager, Creich and Lairg CCs. A summary is submitted to the Northern Times Editor. Subsequently the draft Minutes are approved at the next meeting.

Item 4. Adoption of Constitution and Standing Orders. These were adopted, agreed by all present.

Item 5. Outstanding issues from outgoing Community Council. At this point the meeting moved on to the agenda prepared for the regular monthly meeting.

Item 1/2. Welcome/Apologies. As above.

Item 3. Minutes of last meeting. The minutes of the October meeting were approved by Betty Wright, seconded by Rob Pope.

Item 4. Matters arising. (1) Ardgay toilets. The facility is now closed for the winter. There is a balance in this fund of £86.68. It was agreed that a bonus of £50 be given to the caretaker with thanks for the work during the summer season. MT Action. A previous indication by Donna Manson, C.E.O. THC, intimated that there could be monies available in the coming year from a Tourist Infrastructure Fund. Although obviously appreciated by the public, the present facility is very worn and in need of refurbishment. Cllr Currie will keep CC informed of any THC decisions. KC Action. (2) Statement from the Chair. How does a CC discuss things? There would appear to be some confusion about how CCs discuss items and reach a consensus about what actions/ opinions to hold and present to various bodies that we interact with. CCllrs are representatives of their community and not delegates.  When we discuss an issue, we seek views of the community – by inviting them along to our meetings, via newsletter (we will continue to have pages in Kyle Chronicle), Facebook or through discussions as part of our daily lives. The role of the chairperson in these discussions is to ensure that everyone – outside speakers/ developers / members of the public – has a chance to express their views, including personal opinions of councillors and also the chairperson.  It is not a debating society where the chairperson retains a neutral stance. When the CC has considered all representations and reached a conclusion about an issue this becomes the considered opinion of the CC and is what will be communicated to others as appropriate.  It does not mean that any CCllrs, or indeed members of the public have to adopt this as their personal opinion, and they are still free to speak in a personal capacity.  What would be considered to be a breach of CC conduct would be if an individual expressed a contrary opinion as if it were the position of the CC.  When a decision is arrived at, usually by consensus, an individual C Cllr can request that their opposition to such a decision be recorded.  If a proposal from a developer is opposed by the CC and a revised proposal is subsequently submitted, the CC will treat this as a fresh proposal and the process repeated – i.e. when there is a revised proposal, there will be no ‘official’ CC position on the matter until the matter has been discussed.  We are all volunteers on the CC and do our best to carry out CC duties alongside our other work, activities or interests.  We do not have our letters scrutinised by lawyers – no doubt it would be possible to find loopholes in them on doing so. This statement was endorsed by CCs present. (3) Tree planting on Jubilee Hill. BK advised that he took the views of the community to THC Chief Forestry Officer, Nick Richards, and a compromise solution was discussed. As yet Balnagown Estate has not seen/commented on the proposal. Several residents on the hill explained their objections to the planting plans, noting that the Estate is not addressing the concerns which include the historical/cultural aspects of the land, important loss of light issues in many of the residences, loss of views both from and towards the hill, the nature of native regeneration and species of trees planted, fencing/access. In summary, the residents present wished to continue with their objection; signatures from residents aged from 16 – 90 years have been collected. Secretary will write to THC stating that the CC wishes to make the holding objection a full objection. Once an initial agreement is reached further talks can be held. BK will supply background information to Gail Robertson. MT/BK Action.

Item 11. Highland Council. (KC) As Cllr Currie had to leave to attend another meeting this item was brought forward.

Her report covered nine items which included being the opening speaker at the European Parliament’ Week of Regions and Cities regarding the impact of Brexit in this area and the role of young people in local democracy, fighting for better wages and conditions for ASN staff, the future of the mobile library service and the inadequate current arrangement, 1140 hours roll out for which no plans appear to be in place, inaccurate visitor figures published by NC500 and the need to create a serious plan to improve tourism, housing issues locally caused in part by the failure of Universal Credit, and convergence funding, paid to difficult to farm areas, which is not being appropriately distributed. CCs commented that proper research should be done into the needs of tourists and locals, real figures produced, facilities maintained/improved, waste disposal facilities for use by motor home users must be widely available, infrastructure improved. KC was asked if THC was acting on the big issue of recycling farm plastic waste. KC has information she will forward to AP though there is no action at present. Other points raised by CCs were the lack of contracts for teachers and a request to learn what action THC is taking having declared a climate emergency. KC will report back. KC Action.

Item 5. Police report. The report noted two road traffic incidents, one domestic, two lost dogs, one concern for person, and one threat. No further information given.

Item 6. Chairperson’s report. (BW) Covered elsewhere in the meeting.

Item 7. Secretary’s report. (MT) (1) All relevant correspondence has been circulated. (2) MT will contact the Police again regarding speeding, especially around the school. Initial response indicated that matter was being passed ‘higher up’ but no further contact has been received. MT Action.

Item 8. Treasurer’s report. (MT) The 12 November 2019 balance at the bank is £ 21,317.10 of which £ 20,878.09 are restricted funds. The CC Admin fund has a balance of £119.81 The Windfarm Admin fund has a balance of £319.20.

Toilet fund has finished the season with a balance of £86.68. A&D CC newsletter fund closed with a zero balance after a transfer of £238.76 was paid from the Beinn Tharsuinn Projects fund. A backdated payment of £3698.13 to the BNO fund has been received in respect of annual RPI payments. The balances of the restricted funds are: Toilet Caretaking  £ 86.68, BTWF Community Projects  £2,408.90, Newsletter  £ 00.00, BNO £ 18,212.11, EON Path  £170.40.

Item 9. Correspondence/matters raised by local residents. Thanks were expressed from the CC to all who worked on erecting the Christmas tree and lights recently and to Jamie Macrae who arranged the SSE volunteer day and brought along a mewp to help put up the lamppost lights.

Item10. Regular updates: (1) Planning issues. None raised.

(2) Broadband. Feedback from the community about Highland Wireless broadband is very positive. Secretary will write to Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust to see if there is anything the CC can do to help further the rollout of the Highland Wireless broadband in Strathcarron district. Residents are utilising provision by EE while others have access to Highland Wireless. AW will also raise the matter at the next KoSDT meeting. MT/AW Action.

(3) Windfarms. Currently proposed in the surrounding area include Sallachy, Braelangwell, Garvary, Meall Buidhe, Beinn Tharsuinn, Glen Cassley, Lairg 11, Coire na Cloiche, Beinn nan Oighrean, Strathrory. Braemore has been consented but there appear to be no plans for construction at present.

AP attended the meeting to express her personal concerns regarding the proliferation of proposals for windfarm developments in and around the local area and throughout Scotland. She fears that the country is being turned into a ‘windfarm park’. Such large-scale development brings some advantages but the majority of the benefits, financial or otherwise, go to landowners and multinational companies. While AP wholeheartedly supports renewable energy there seems to be little respect for the land, the countryside and the people. In line with the statement earlier, the Chair re-iterated that it is the duty of the CC to reflect community opinions and assess potential benefits when asked to comment as Statutory Consultees. It was also noted that the community benefit funds received have been put to good use in delivering many projects in the local area and that future funds could be used to address such issues as fuel poverty and community transport. The possibilities of developing a Smart Local Energy grid are being actively pursued with potential developers. This is a divisive issue; locally there is much debate with opposing opinions. The CC has to date taken a neutral stance when commenting but also has the responsibility of negotiating and administering community benefit to the best advantage of all. This was a lengthy discussion and AP expressed her thanks to the CC for the opportunity. It was noted that the Braelangwell developers will be holding public exhibitions on 29th January in Ardgay And Rosehall on 30th January 2020.

Item 12. Any other competent business. (1) AW advised that a report by the Trust Manager at KoSDT will be forwarded to CCs. AW commended the Trust for keeping the KAT and Community Café  running whilst awaiting news of continuing funding from Scottish Government. (2) Concerns expressed regarding the closure of the Strathy Ward at Migdale Hospital with questions asked as to whether the recent recruitment advertising had led to any improvement in staffing levels. It was also suggested that if the ward cannot be run as a Mental Health unit owing to lack of specialised staff it should be open for general nursing and care. BK commented that the current state of affairs requiring food banks, NHS closures, etc is and indictment of society which must be addressed both locally and nationally. (3) A report following AW and BW’s attendance at a recent Climate Emergency Conference will be available at the next meeting. (4) The CC will apply for the additional funding recently made available by THC Councillors. MT Action.

Item 13. Dates for future meetings. The next meeting will be held on 10th February, followed by 9th March with the AGM held on May 11th. All meetings will be held in the Ardgay Public Hall starting at 7pm.

Item 15. Beinn Tharsuinn/Beinn nan Oighrean Community Benefit awards. Beinn Tharsuinn. There were no applications to discuss.

Members of the public attending: Anna Patfield (AP), Mary Stobo, Helen Pollock, Chris Ladley.

Meeting closed 9.45pm.

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