Community Council Minutes

Iona Community Council


Minute of the public meeting held in Iona Library on 04.12.17

Present: Mark Jardine, Toben Lewis, John MacInnes, Rob MacManaway and Shiona Ruhemann (convening), and 18 members of the public.

Attending:  Kathy Galloway (IC), Emily Wilkins (NTS)

Apologies: Jane Martin, Stephen Glen Lee

Minutes of the previous meetings: were signed off without further amendments.

Matters Arising: No update from the School [due to illness?]

Iona Community: Kathy Galloway gave an update on works and plans at the Abbey.

Work had begun on Phase 1 of the refurbishments at the Abbey and were expected to continue until May. For the first time in 50years there would be no residential programme run during the season of 2018. During the year IC would be taking the chance to re-examine future patterns of operation; therefore only a small staff would be resident (in Dunsmeorach), however the welcome centre shop and weekly services would continue and some sessions would be run for folk staying on the island, at Easter and later on in the season some sessions would be run in conjunction with the St Columba Hotel.

SR asked if funding and work would be in place for 2019. KG replied that hopefully funding was in hand. In response to the question as to whether there would be a Christmas service she was not sure. Sharon Kyle would be on site, but during December and January only morning services and on Tuesdays prayers for the sick would be held.

Health: Dr Frank Teunisse has resigned as of 1st June 2018 which is several months earlier than his existing departure date. Although this was clearly a blow it might help focus the Health Board. Surgeries at Tobermory and Salen were currently staffed by Locum GPs.

In 2018 a new national GP contract is due to be rolled out across Scotland which includes a key component difference in that ‘out of hours’ service would be ‘opt in’ rather than ‘opt out’.

There is an opportunity here to review, which the Health board is possibly realising, and a meeting is due for December the 21st to agree a way forward for practices on Mull and Iona and the possibility of a move to an independent model rather than a Health board one. Before this Vicky Walker (Acting Local Area Manager) and Phil Cummins (Interim Locality Manager Oban, Lorn and the Isles) plan to meet the PPG and Iona Community Council.

Information: Nurse visits continue fortnightly by appointment. 

Harbours: A meeting was due on the 5th with Argyll and Bute and Cal Mac representatives which Finlay MacDonald and MJ would attend, for discussion on draft design drawings for the proposed Fionnphort overnight berth for the ferry and a breakwater to protect the landing at Iona.

Parish Church Vacancy:  This had now been filled and Jenny Earle would be taking up the post subject to Presbytery approval; members and concurrents can add their names.

Iona Village Hall: nothing further on Land Acquisition. Big Lottery Scotland funding decision due later this month. Discussion on funding is ongoing.

Upcoming events ‘Elf’ screening Sunday 10th ‘Dress appropriately’

Hogmanay party; ‘Greenstone Cowboys’ have agreed to play for the event.

Ferry service: MJ recapped on the prolonged disruption to the ferry service in November. There had been technical problems with our relief ferry’s fuel system, and new engine teething problems. The relief vessel’s inadequate lighting equipment for Bull Hole combined with relief skipper’s lower confidence levels to operate in hours of darkness and perform dinghy work compared to our usual experienced crews led to further disruption. Additionally Cal Mac not only had vessels away for overhaul but also experienced a technical problem with the Lismore vessel which limited ferry shuffle options for a while. When the Loch Riddon became incapable of running a service they then had the additional problem of not having the berth in Bull Hole available for a stand in vessel until they could get the Loch Riddon mobile enough to go away for solutions.

Communications and updates did not always go smoothly either, so passenger’s frustration is totally understandable. In some cases a desire to send out updates ASAP perhaps led to statements having to be revised or being out of date by the time they were due to come into force. Weather and compound problems are sometimes too fast developing to be accurately predicted and planned for. Finlay Macdonald commented that contingency planning was inadequate and communications were often wrong or they didn’t know the answer to enquiries.  Ricky Johnston had sent a detailed e-mail on the impact on his business which was unlucky enough to be piloting a longer season of opening at the St Columba Hotel. Iona Craft shop staff had been unable to attend a pre booked trade fair with loss of booking stall, orders and networking. School staff, bin lorry collection, commuting staff going both directions, delivery vehicles, agricultural movements and tradesmen had all been impacted, almost nobody on the island was completely unaffected. By good fortune no emergency medical, fire or other service was required during the interruptions.  

As Cal Mac had already agreed to visit the island to apologise and listen to island views, a wide ranging discussion was opened up in an attempt to learn from events and come up with improvements, strategies and suggestions. 

Action point: Finlay MacDonald to prepare a brief to be sent to Cal Mac before their visit setting out priority actions that need to be addressed in order for this situation not to recur, so that all points could be responded to and discussed one at a time at the meeting.

Liz Fergusson asked if there would be any review of commercial fares.

Andrew Prentice had asked about being able to book without pre paying as he had had to do for sheep sales.

It was thought that Early and late ferries can now be requested by e-mail from Craignure directly.

Ricky Johnston thanked Graham Tindal and MJ for running relief passenger ferries.

Vehicles Permits: Mhairi Killin provided a further update.

Key points included

Green Permit had no legal standing in the Road Traffic Order, so the Council has removed that category with no Green Permits issued after October. ‘Exemption (i)’ allows for discretionary exemptions, and it was agreed with the Council that these exemptions needed to be specified and agreed rather than so open-ended and discretionary.

ie. Primary Care, Weddings, Community, Local Business, Arts, Filming, Archaeological. 

VPT will propose to A&B Council that for strong reasons including social care, category (i) includes the “Sons and Daughters of Iona”, that is a set list of adult children of permanent residents permitted to drive pier to family home only, as with second home owners, and we will be discussing this option with the council in the New Year, when we will be hosting a visit to Iona of Lyndis Davidson and her team. 

Everybody should apply for their permits after Christmas to get the full year’s validity benefit. This aspect may yet be revisited.

Alison Johnston asked whether there could be seasonal flexibility in winter months for second home owners located, e.g., at the Machair to use their vehicle in very bad weather (for instance, to the shop). Whilst acknowledging the value of the issue raised, VPT responded that it is taking enormous effort to have the RTO enforced, and introducing complex seasonal and geography variations would be too ambitious. 

Renewables: SR provided an update on developments.

There had been a good turnout at a public meeting on the Village Heat Network held on 7th November, thank you to all who attended. 

Direct updates were being sent to all signed up homes and businesses.

Ministers had given ‘Pathfinder’ (pilot) status to the Village Heat Network of Scotland’s Energy Efficiency Programme phase 2. Grant funding would therefore be available to assist with essential heating and energy efficiency works (allocated to the project on the basis of up to £5000 per residential household) to facilitate connection to the network.

Other funding awards were pending.  For The Scottish District Heating Loan Fund Application; the funding decision and conditions were known but the outcome awaited Ministerial announcement. One key requirement being a ‘Loan Guarantor’, which was currently unresolved.

Building Survey Reports were being completed, but slowly, as this work was being done unpaid by Ability Energy (during the unfunded pre-procurement phase). Reports for the businesses were being prioritised as they were needed for budget quotes for Resource Efficient Scotland loan applications (to assist internal works for businesses to connect to the network).

A planning application had been submitted for the network, with the bore holes either side of the village and for trench work to connect to buildings.

Next steps would include:-

Setting up the ‘Service Level Agreement’, working with Energy Savings Trust on draft contractual terms for heat supply agreements, this providing clarity in the light of updated system specs and budgets with agreed security provisions for customer and operator for participants to decide if they wish to move from ‘in principal’ to ‘contractual’ agreement.

Procurement; identify preferred bidder for the project, aimed at timeline being tendering in March construction from August.

Further establishing Iona Energy Limited, (very conscious of the need to get the correct model and be in line with all legal and good practice). 

IE ltd Directors would be John MacInnes, Phil Ruhemann, Jane Martin, Katy Russon and Rick Johnston which meant they had available a wide range of relevant skills and backgrounds particularly environmental, legal, business and engineering and an overlap with Iona Renewables which should assist them to meet the requirement to be up and running almost immediately. 

The Abbey; a meeting had been held in November with senior representatives from Historic Environment Scotland (HES) who are committed to a collaborative approach with the island community. Stakeholders including HES, IC, NTS, Iona Cathedral Trust, Local Energy Scotland and others had all participated in discussion. The main action point to come out this meeting was for HES to assess whether it would go down the road of being a customer of a community energy project or would be a supplier to itself and the IC. There had been strong requests for openness on the business case.

A free ‘Eco Driving’ course would be held on Iona, available  Thurs-Saturday.

Local Development Plan 2: MJ outlined the background and purpose of the LDP previously put together by A&B Council as a framework to guide planning applications and aspirations and its role in the Council’s strategy for realisation of its policies and aims. The plans are revised at regular intervals and so LDP2 is now at first consultation stages. Principle challenges that the new LDP is meant to address would seem to be:-

Difficulty in delivering development in allocated areas with the majority of the successful applications actually being ‘Windfall’ (permissions for planning being sought or granted on areas not designated for that purpose), additionally some areas designated for development have proven to be undeliverable in practice.

Overly prescriptive policy that can discourage investment and start ups.

Growth in marine related industries and the need to support them in a suitable process.

The previous LDP’s housing land requirement based on the ten year strategy is now judged as unrealistic and should be revised downwards.

The consultation is in the form of a ‘Main Issues Report’ and questions. ICC has been active with a working group looking at responses to the MIR and the set questions.

Initial conclusions are that the MIR is flawed and that the questions also need questioned!

The following issues were being flagged up:-

Questions need improved as they are unclear and many of the questions need questioning themselves.

The maps are unclear and the definition of the designated areas is unclear or unexplained and there is no comparison of old and new LDP plan maps.

There are suggested amended designations to some areas of land, some of which look alarmingly like changes from protected status to ‘undesignated’, which under the suggested new guidelines would be treated with a ‘simplified’ and ‘flexible approach’. There is no supporting ‘Landscape Capacity’ data for Iona and areas of formerly designated Panoramic Quality, Sensitive Countryside etc. seem to have been redefined to make them easier to develop even where this would be clearly against the spirit of the previous LDP’s attempts to preserve the landscape and coastlines.

The vision and objectives section is poorly argued and stated.

Two currently designated development areas on Iona (next to the Fire station, and south west of the village Hall and South East of Cnoc Mor (house)) are not suitable and could be removed from the LDP in line with the MIR suggestion that ‘failing to deliver sites’ be removed.

Seafood and Marine industries; ICC would propose the existing process should not be watered down, to ensure the sector continues to be regulated with scrutiny.

A proposal for a Marine National Park appears to be driven by funding, branding and economic reasoning and to misappropriate the concept; such a designation is locally seen to be another layer of regulation for little benefit, Marine Protected Areas might be a more genuine way of trying to achieve the protection and sustainability which the area deserves.

Delivering Carbon Reductions; in line with current initiatives on the island we would strongly support proposals to make provision of on-site renewable generation part of all new developments.

In summary the ICC will submit a detailed response to the MIR and will update as and when things progress.

Council budget proposals - JM had provided feedback on proposed savings (e.g., not feasible that the roads budget could be cut even further, and even less roads maintenance provided).

Broadband: Phil Ruhemann had experienced a significant drop in the speed and capacity of his broadband provision which was impacting his work, this was not an isolated problem. The general view was that the lines were largely okay but the exchange was inadequate and that an upgrade was urgently required from Bunessan west in terms of the exchanges. Changing your hub was often not an improvement (and version 4 seemed to better than 5).

The more complaints the better in terms of lobbying pressure, screenshots can be sent to your MP.

NTS: EW reported that restructuring within the Trust was continuing and that Chris Cassel’s enlarged role had now been divided into two more realistic posts. This would mean that Chris was no longer our main contact as his remit would be chiefly elsewhere and a new ‘Islands’ post would be interviewed tomorrow with a start in February and a couple of months to hand-over.


Water: Neil Bruce expressed concerns over recent flooding and threatened flooding of properties particularly in the village street. A meeting of interested parties at the Argyll hotel had been hosted and a paper produced. 

JMacI described some of the drainage networks and work done in the area concerned and discussion followed. 

The community council generally felt that the past conclusion when this had been raised, that it was not directly a CC matter still held true, but MJ proposed that a group of those concerned be formed to pursue the matter and that they could report to the ICC and could expect it to support any lobbying where appropriate, with RM as link person as member of both. NTS had also offered support particularly where archaeological considerations might be required.

Date for the next meeting would be Monday 5th March.