Iona Community Council
Draft minutes of the quarterly meeting held in Iona Village Hall on Wednesday 6 December 2023 at 7.30pm
Present: Shiona Ruhemann (chair), Jane Martin, Katy Russon, Dot Stewart, Toben Lewis (minutes), and 12 members of the public.
Apologies: Jane Kindlen, Rob MacManaway, Harrie Burney, Bénédicte Scholefield
Minutes of the previous meeting: signed off without amendments
Iona Community Council Report
Have recorded and followed up the cling film episode of the bins at the pier. Arranged a bulk uplift at pier – bulk is there, uplift yet to happen. Have been in contact with Coll Community Council regarding their Spoke to Council about what can and cannot go into bins. Worked to get the immunisation clinic In Village Hall this winter. And worked with Council to get plans for breakwater on island, and to ensure there’s a socio-economic impact assessment carried out. Took part in National Islands Plan review. Engaged with Council about toilets and potential mooring area. Received a lot of correspondence on fish farms. Work with SWMID regularly. They are still seeking a board member from Iona. Lots of correspondence about ferries, and thanks to Finlay MacDonald for his ongoing work in that area. Mull Campus is back on the radar as well. Thanks to all who have been helping on all of these issues and more.
Reports from organisations:
Iona Village Hall Community Trust
Anja Jardine –
Been a busy summer with lots of bookings and weddings. Last two events (fireworks and craft fair) very well attended and raised funds. We need at least three or four events each year to meet costs of running the hall. Craft fair was a bit low on people able to help. Looking for volunteers to help at events without the commitment of being on the committee. Will have an AGM in February. Could do with another trustee or two. Have received funding for winter sessions in the hall, maybe cafe like last year, table tennis, films, keep an eye on noticeboard. Will not be organising a Hogmanay do, but are happy to help if anyone else wants to run one. Donor wall is up. Calendars have sold out. List of small jobs that need to be done this winter and spring, will be asking local contractors to do these. If you’d like to be on the list of suppliers please get in touch.
Shiona Ruhemann –
Have been through a protracted, very extensive and in depth due diligence for lead funder (the fourth time we’ve been through Ernst & Young due diligence), which has concluded positively. Continuing to work with the lead funder on administrative issues on their side.
Part funding in place to get all survey and design work completed by potential lead contractor, the rest is with lead funder.
AGM is on Monday 11 December, 7pm in the Hall, please come.
Iona Broadband Committee
Jane Martin read report from Gordon MacCormick –
The latest progress update for the North Lot, issued on 27th November, states that “Lismore is nearing completion, and the builds on Yell, Iona, and Fair Isle, are getting under way”.
Openreach have recently agreed a works programme, with Argyll & Bute Council’s Roads Department, for the build work on Iona and the Ross of Mull, and it is expected that those works will begin imminently.
The State Funding for R100 allows for the fibre network to be built out and terminated at the Connectorised Block Terminals (CBTs) – those are the junction boxes where individual premises are connected into the network – and they will be placed strategically around the island.
Normally, the connections, between those CBTs and the premises, are only built after customers have signed up with a Service Provider. On the islands this can lead to lengthy delays to service provision as engineers and plant need to make numerous return trips to build those connections, as the orders are placed.
On Lismore, Openreach are trialling a new system by creating an online facility where islanders can register for a service without commitment.
This new way of working allows their engineers to build the connection, between the premises and CBTs, while they are on the island for the original build, thereby minimising the time between an order being placed and a service going live.
If the Lismore trial proves a success, a similar approach may be taken on Iona and the other islands.
The engineering schedule for the fibre network remains unchanged. Connections should be available in Pennyghael, by the end of March 2024, and on the Ross of Mull and Iona, by the end of September 2024.
Landline Telephones – PSTN Switch off
The phased process of moving households over to the new broadband based VoIP landline telephone service – BT call it Digital Voice – is now underway in many parts of the UK. In Scotland, this process is scheduled to begin in the Summer of 2024.
Our telephone service provider will contact us, a couple of weeks before our service is due to be migrated, to explain what our options are, what we need to do, and when we need to do it.
National Trust for Scotland
Jane Martin read report sent by Harrie Burney –
I plan to attend the meeting in person but have a meeting in Craignure that doesn’t finish until 1pm, looking at the forecast I’m not sure I’ll make it over. If I don’t, please accept my apologies and here is my report;
I’ve been busy working alongside Emily, familiarising myself with the role and getting up to speed. I’ve taken on the lease of Maol farmhouse and Dan and I have been busy at the weekends getting it cleaned, redecorated, installing a kitchen and furnished. We had hoped to move in for Christmas but we plan to be in, early in the new year. If there is anything anyone would like to discuss before I am moved over, please contact me by email.
We’ve been in contact with Elsa and the breakwater team. We asked for clarification on the works area planned as the area marked on the map is archeologically sensitive and not suitable for excavation. We are in the process of finding a solution between Elsa, SSE and ourselves and this shouldn’t hold up progress. We are generally supportive of the breakwater and have also requested that the toilet building design is reconsidered to meet modern demand and consider including storage space for bins to alleviate the current issues.
Preparing for 2024 Season
With the Treshnish islands joining the Trust, we are busy working with the NTS’s path building, seabirds and health and safety teams, planning for the season to come. Emily and I attended the NTS’s first seabird conference in Cromarty this month.
We are hoping to have full ranger cover for both Staffa and Lunga next year. Visitor engagement and safety will be a large part of the roles as well as growing the team to help meet our conservation goals.
I’ve been informed that mink sightings in Iona have been increasing which is concerning. I am in the process of organising a mink cull in the spring but in the meantime if anyone is interested in traps, please contact me. I appreciate that any work to eradicate mink on Iona is only effective if the same is happening in the Ross. Emily and I are in discussion with a possible eradication scheme for the Ross.
I had a meeting planned with Kate Payton from MICT to discuss the renovation of Maol Cottage and have a look around, unfortunately the weather meant Kate wasn’t able attend. We will reorganise and in the new year I will be doing some work to finish getting the cottage cleared out fully.
Finlay MacDonald requested that information and Harry’s email go on Iona Stuff for everyone to read.
Caro Penney –
Planning Christmas events, including an islander’s tea on 27 December. Will be posted on Iona Stuff. Services will also be posted there.
Breakwater and ferries
Finlay MacDonald –
Positive meeting with CMAL a few weeks ago about procurement process for Isle of Mull replacement. Have got the Royal Institute of Naval Architects involved. Transport Scotland seemed supportive.
Small vessel replacement scheme possibly delayed financially, but should not affect timeline.
AGM last night, Joe Reade still chair and Finlay still vice chair. New port manager introduced.
We are on Frisa only schedule at the moment due to issues elsewhere in the network. Other ferries being pulled in as available but very ad hoc and not bookable.
West Coast Motors revert to Frisa only schedule as soon as ferry is on Frisa only schedule but not able to respond to the ad hoc changes of the CalMac schedule. Often leaves passengers waiting for long periods.
WCM looking at if they can make a last minute change to midday bus so it meets Iona ferry, usually takes 60 days.
Checking to see if 10 minute check in for foot passengers can be changed to 5 minute, which will help with winter train connections.
Timetables for next winter already being looked at. Please bring forward any changes that are justified and cost neutral.
Issues with request sailings have been raised. Requests by email will not be taken after 2 January. Should be getting more staff which will have more availability to answer phones. Phones will also be diverted to Tobermory before Gourock.
New process: all sailings in e-booking system and require payment at time of booking. Will receive ticket to phone/email. Can email to request a callback if you are having trouble getting through by phone.
Looking into Monday morning school run ferry change to running during school term times instead of request only as now.
If the ferry is already requested you can still turn up and buy ticket on ferry, though that runs the risk of the person who requested it cancelling.
Islander Priority Pilot now back working. 10% of every sailing is not released until 72 hours before that sailing. Being extended into summer. It works for everyone, not just islanders, but it’s not being publicised.
Looks like CalMac will be direct rewarded the next contract for 10 years provision of services.
Summer timetable should be released soon.
Breakwater and piers
Jim Smith and Scott Reid from Council were also at AGM.
Craignure passenger access system beyond working life. Revision of design is finished and costs being assessed. Should be movable to new terminal/pier.
Craignure terminal requires full marine license, which is at least 14 week process. New pier estimated to be at least 8 years away.
Iona breakwater out to tender until end of January for completion in summer 2025. Will include toilets and wee pier.
Remedial work to the wee pier was raised but not committed to.
Fionnphort breakwater aiming to tender in summer of 2024 if all licenses approved.
Only been three public comments on the breakwater, which is positive compared to number of comments received on the first (higher) iteration.
Anja Jardine asked about making a request if you already have a ticket. FM: that ticket should have a number on it, so should be transferrable to new sailing rather than buying a new ticket. Katy Russon: what’s the cancellation policy for those pre-booked sailing requests? FM: if they cancel the ferry, the ticket is still valid. If you cancel it technically falls under their cancellation policy which may mean you lose it though they’re often quite flexible about moving it to a different sailing. Jane Martin: ICC have written in a letter of support for breakwater but with a fair few questions including toilets, landscaping, mooring area. Still time to put in your own responses. Shiona Ruhemann: we’ve also raised these with Pippa Milne and Kirsty Flanagan in Oct but still awaiting response. Neil Bruce: asked why A+B Council can’t direct contractors to use Glen Sanda as the most obvious quarry. FM: Glen Sanda may not be able to provide what’s needed, ultimately rock could come from more than one quarry.
Jane Martin –
A+B Council agreed toilets need to be replaced, but only on a like for like basis. ICC pressing them to build fit for purpose – to meet present day let alone future needs – rather than the spec used in 1960s for current building.
Finlay MacDonald: recommended speaking to Amanda Hampsey.
Katy Russon –
Positive meeting with A+BC at the bins a few months ago. They agreed new bins in black cabinets are not fit for purpose. Would not agree to go back to old larger bins. Proposed we will get a number of single wheely bins on metal stands to anchor them. Council going to work on marking bins to denote which were for public use, and more bins on island with maps pointing to other available bins. Also agreed the bulk uplift as mentioned before. Site for uplift had to be decided very quickly, open to better sites if there are suggestions. Likely not to continue in the summer but will hopefully repeat again next winter. A+BC suggested a local organisation having a locked double size bin in order to empty overflowing bins between pickups. Drivers have been told to reverse down village street and ask post office to remove the post van if needed. A+BC quite focused on making sure that commercial properties have an appropriate bin, and will probably be following up with businesses. Cited in particular takeaway businesses and self catering properties.
Mark Jardine: pile for bulk uplift proves need for the service. Finlay MacDonald: the bins at the crossroads, being the larger ones at the island right now, seem to be getting more use now the big ones at the pier are gone.
Shiona Ruhemann –
SG announced on 30 October that A+BC has been successful in their bid for part-funding from Learning Estate Investment Programme for new Mull Campus. Need information on next steps and timeline; noting earlier experience with the bid, the process and handling will be critical. Very time pressured: has to be completed (or SG money spent) by mid-2027. Important to see a project plan and how process will be overseen. Site identification will obviously be a major issue. We’ve not had clarity on implications for Iona/ enrolment at Oban High School. Choice is a critical issue.
Katy Russon: they have said they will be coming to Iona to consult with the community. They have mentioned that option to send kids to Oban will remain regardless, but have not confirmed whether it will continue to be a funded option. Mark Jardine: there could be effects ??
Housing meeting date TBC
Katy Russon –
A small steering group of people on Iona, MICT housing officer, A+BC housing officer, WHHA. Have tried to have meeting on Iona twice now to meet people, look at sites, etc. Cancelled due to weather and ferries. No new date yet.
Phil Ruhemann –
Ione Renewables AGM next Monday. Christmas Eve candlelit carols will be 5pm in the Parish Church.
Neil Jardine –
Domestic smart meters have been installed on the island, but apparently don’t work as the radio signal does’t reach here. There are ones coming out that work through wifi but not available yet. Rick Johnston: the hotel has them and not sure if they work to full extent but they were able to restart them from afar. Phil Ruhemann: signal varies by building; has visit scheduled in Jan to find out more.
Finlay MacDonald –
Volunteered to organise New Year ceilidh.
Date of next meeting: 6 March 2024