Iona Community Council
Minute of the public meeting held in Iona Library on 04.09.17
Present: Jane Martin, Mark Jardine, Toben Lewis, John MacInnes, Rob MacManaway and Shiona Ruhemann (convening), and 16 members of the public.
Attending: Michael Marten
Apologies: Emily Wilkins
Minutes of the previous meeting: were not signed off as there had been a delay in them being published on the website. It was agreed to allow a week for anyone to comment or suggest amendments.
Minister and MSP visits: SR reported on recent visits by Humza Yousaf, Minister for Transport and Islands, on 12th of June and Mike Russell, MSP on 12th of July.
Some of the key matters raised included
The centrally funded Early Years Unit extension to the school building had been severely delayed in its completion with failure of the contractors to return to carry out work, a major gap in the stone wall and materials for reinstatement missing and other issues, MR’s help was requested in the process of trying to get the work finished. A huge amount of work had been done by MJD, the Iona PS Parent council and the Headteacher to conclude this. IPSPC to further follow up.
MR had indicated he would be willing to offer written support should Iona Village Hall Community Trust require it with new Hall project, to help with difficulties experienced including planning issues, and the search for funding.
Iona breakwater and Fionnphort overnight berthing studies currently being carried out for Argyll and Bute with local level input led by SWMID with ICC support were an opportunity to deliver considerable economic potential, social stability and sustainability as well as the obvious physical and service improvements, if the designs were done with a broader brief than just an infrastructure investment for the minimum required additional protection. MR had already been in correspondence with Cleland Sneddon and his support for this project and the local aspirations from an early stage is much appreciated.
Iona Renewables: MR had again helped in diplomatic intervention to resolve difficulties with one of the local organisations. Local councillor Mary Jean Devon has been a key figure in negotiations and also on the matter of Iona Vehicle Permits.
RET: the exclusion of haulage and carriage ferry fares from the RET scheme mean that the islands continue to suffer from crippling delivery overheads which affect every area of life domestic and business; in the case of agricultural businesses the island crofts and farms pay on imported feeding, fertilizer, straw etc and then again when they export their livestock. This had been brought up during both visits and MR had reinforced this by writing to HY to follow the matter up.
Health care: MR was aware of the ongoing unrest as this area continues to be an unresolved unsatisfactory situation and recent hopes pinned on Dr Adrian Ward formerly of Lochgilphead were dashed when he resigned at an early stage. Dr Frank continues in post for Ross of Mull and Iona in the model which generally is accepted locally as a good situation but this is only in place for another year. ICC participation in the Mull and Iona Locality Planning Group has been withdrawn after it became more and more obvious that the time and effort in attending these meetings for a year were seeing no meaningful discussion at all on commitments or action to address serious community concerns. The main need is for NHS and SAS to honour commitments on in-hours and out of hours care, and emergency response, and to engage with the community in a viable way that isn’t based on excessive open-ended unproductive time commitments. A PPG meeting is due on 26th September.
‘Additional Ferry sailings’: Cal Mac and Transport Scotland’s increasing challenging of sailings carried out by ferry crews, which were additional to the timetabled ones, risks creating long delays for vehicles arriving for a crossing on time but who were beyond the capacity of the vessel to shift in one embarkation. Not carrying out these additional sailings would lead to knock on effects impacting deliveries and ability of some operators to get back off Iona or Mull in time to complete their journey that day. MR had been unaware of the issue and offered to contact the Minister for Transport to explain the needs of the lifeline service and the minimal additional costs these sailings incur when the vessel is already crewed, powered up and there is no conflict with other services.
Brexit: there were concerns re Support Payments which if removed would have some indirect implications in addition to the obvious ones, wildlife set aside ground in particular would be under pressure. It was so far not known whether agriculture would be a fully devolved matter, and this would not be known for maybe a year. The Scottish government was committed to supporting each part of Scottish society where it had the authority and revenue to continue such support. MR suggested the possibility of briefing the island community next spring, as it will difficult to say anything concrete before then.
Roads: Basically there was not enough funds to do much but A&B traffic development team were nonetheless requesting input on the state of the roads to try and adopt a more proactive approach to maintenance.
Michael Marten: delivered an update on latest Iona Community plans, including Abbey Refurbishment.
The Abbey accommodation required a major refurbishment particularly to meet with mobility provision however the Lottery funding application had not been successful so the work would now be carried out on a phased basis. 1st phase this coming winter.
More local community engagement and involvement was a conversation just getting under way.
The rooms formerly used by the Community in the cloister as offices would be handed over to HES and moved. A lift would be installed in the Abbey buildings to increase access. Contactors would be housed in the MacLeod Centre during the work.
The St Columba Hotel would be housing guests attending Abbey weeks during three weeks at the end of this season and again during Easter 2018 as the accommodation in the centres would be closed. The Abbey would be running a limited 2018 season, May-September.
The running of the centres would be changing; this was being looked into at present (with Dot Stewart’s involvement). Services in the Abbey or Michael chapel would continue but there would be no Christmas week this year. Service times were being reviewed and may be changed, the 7.30 for instance might be changed to 8.00 or 8.30.
Staffing model would also change. A move to all paid staff rather than the current mix with volunteers was being considered and the possibility of using more local staff, and part time or job share options also a possibility. International volunteers roles would still be available but fewer of them, with only one centre being open. Weeks might run Friday to Saturday or some from the Thursday. Some weeks would be open to folk staying outwith the Abbey. There would be no off road pilgrimage walk. Although the MacLeod Centre would be closed the craft room and some other facilities could still be used.
If the Village Hall project meant it would be closed for renewal the Mac’ could be available as a stand-in venue. In the longer term the building was likely to see changes of its use, as previous negotiations with UHI and HES and co-operation with community involvement continue. Toilet provision has been somewhat overwhelmed with public use and is also being reviewed.
MM then answered questions from the floor, Joyce Watson asked whether there would be Abbey guests in the Mac in future? MM ‘no, because it was losing money… particularly in the shoulder months’. Unfortunately the Mac had been built just when the Local authority stopped sending school groups.
SR asked about jobs? MM – intention to open jobs up to islanders to apply.
Breakwaters: Finlay MacDonald reported on visits by Byrne Looby representatives working on the design options. Studies into sediment movement and type, and a tender to do test bore holes were imminent.
Joan Le Morven asked if there would be changes to the service? FM said the expectation, based on Ferry Review comment, was that the service might be extended as a result of working hours gained from shorter start up and stop times when the practice of Bull Hole working ceased.
Ferries: The misunderstanding about ‘additional sailings’ seems to have been cleared at the meeting, so should be fine as before. The early ferry should be able to be booked online but this was still not definite, sign reporting was still somewhat sporadic but was not controlled from here unfortunately.
Iona Car Permits: Mhairi Killin reported that after the March meeting we had all assumed they would enforce as agreed however this did not prove to be the case so she had contacted the office again. Another meeting was held on 28th July with SR, Stuart Watson, Linda Davidson, and MJD all present. The consensus was that there would be no Green permits. The Council staff were themselves concerned about how open the category (i) ‘discretionary’ was, and all agreed it needed to be tied down. Valid grounds for that category would therefore be:
Weddings (up to two vehicles)
Arts and community events
Filming and Archaeological (evidenced).
Last green permit issued should be the 5th October.
It was suggested we invite Stuart and Linda to see the roads in the autumn, combined with a follow up meeting.
A Ruth Wishart article had put a positive spin on the Iona’s example of welcoming visitors but on its own terms to preserve its special atmosphere.
A few stats: since 2016 commercial vehicles are down but passengers are up 15% and cars by 23%.
Renewables: SR spoke of
Village Heat Network, following feasibility work the project had now secured funding in principle for internal works to connect to the heat supply through the Scottish Government’s SEEP phase 2 programme as a pathfinder project, with A&B as applicant, and also a partner providing funding in principle through its HEEPS3 programme for eligible households. 32 buildings have signed up. On funding for the heat supply side, a ‘due diligence’ scrutiny was carried out by Parsons Brinkerhoff and a recommendation will be presented on 11th September for panel consideration to secure Scottish District Heating Loan Funding.
A Guarantor would need to be found because Iona Renewables is considered ‘start-up’ at present. MICT will be considering this role.
Next steps would be engineers coming to do room by room assessments next week for heat loss calculations, ‘Iona Energy Ltd’ to be registered as a company, a visit by Chris Davidson (Geo-thermal specialist) to do a briefing session and answer questions. Work will not be commenced this year (aiming at next July).
Iona Renewables became a SCIO in June (similar model to the Village Hall Trust), in order to meet due diligence and immediate serious responsibilities this had to move fairly quickly. Trustees are TL, and Phil R (IR), Neil Jardine, J MacI (all three environmental background), JM, and Katy Russon (legal background).
Turbines, a small startup grant is being discussed with Local Energy Scotland. This is a standalone very technical piece of work on potential to supply electricity directly on the island, including private wire and regulatory issues. Many thanks were expressed to Emily Wilkins and Joyce Watson for their bird survey work, and to the people who helped them enormously including Alan and Liz Foulkes (present in the meeting). An interest in the results was expressed however this data had been sent on to the ornithologist for assessment.
Climate Challenge Fund: support to energy efficiency works has been held up as Council was going through procurement exercise for contractor. Cameron Anson as CCF Community Devt Officer is following up with people which should move things forward. Cameron is in touch with people re:
carbon saving actions/ follow up,
applying for another phase of funding complementing MICT’s project – including: support energy efficiency works in the village next summer/autumn, and in Fionnphort, looking into sustainable woodfuel supply,
the ‘Greenest Village Hall’ – working with Hall technical team to make it as energy efficient as possible, far beyond minimum required,
low carbon cooking classes and online menus,
Iona Shuttle to support reduction of cars (carbon saving) coming onto the island whilst ensuring we’re open, welcoming and accessible.
Abbey: discussing next phase of funding with Local Energy Scotland; Historic Environment Scotland reconfirmed keen to engage positively – still some work to do including on legal issues; ideally Village and Abbey geothermal installation and possibly management could combine.
Iona Village Hall: Gordon Bruce gave an update based on Joanne MacInnes’s latest report.
Land acquisition was progressing, (a section of the Maol Farm field adjacent to the existing hall), although the donation of narrow strip of land from owners adjacent to the Library was now in doubt; confirmation of this was awaited in writing.
The Stage 2 Lottery Funding application would be decided in October. This could fund up to £1M out of a £2.4M project cost if successful. Other funding would obviously have to be applied for and around a £100K would probably be left to be raised.
Thanks were expressed to all who worked hard to achieve another successful IVH Music Festival which ran at the start of July. Monies raised will go into future events. However there will be a break from the Music Festival in 2018.
Future 2017 events still include a series of Film Nights (suggestions for titles welcomed), and the ‘Greenstone cowboys’ had been engaged for a planned Hogmanay party.
Iona Primary School: ICC had asked Stephen Glen Lee if we could defer his report until the December meeting.
JM drew attention to the Archaeological Report by Glasgow University; to access this run a google search for ‘Iona Research group’.
Three trenches had been dug, previous finds had been dated by more modern technical means and media interest in published results had been significant. An update was due in October and a Data structure report will follow. Glasgow University hope to return.
HES Gaelic Officer?
Another enquiry had been received re Memorial Benches via EW, this was referred to previous decisions on the matter at ICC past meetings.
Date of the next meeting, Monday December 4th, as usual in the Library.