Iona Community Council
Draft Minutes of the AGM held in Iona Village Hall Wednesday 7th June 2023 at 7.30pm
Present: Shiona Ruhemann (Chair), Katy Russon, Jane Martin, Rob MacManaway, Dot Stewart (minutes) and 18 members of the public.
Apologies: Emily Wilkins, Gordon MacCormick.
All 4 ward councillors were invited to the meeting but no responses were received.
Minutes of the previous meeting (7th March)
No amendments required. Proposed by Finlay MacDonald, seconded Rob MacManaway.
Iona Community Council Report and Finances
Jane Martin gave a report on the activities of ICC since the last AGM. The June 2022 meeting was the first in the new Iona Village Hall, and the first in-person meeting since March 2020.
The proposal for a new Mull School Campus has taken a lot of time over the last year, as did responding to the proposed Collective Leadership Model.
A positive thing from Argyll & Bute Council is that some funding was made available to provide equipment to Village Halls to improve digital connectivity and Iona was fortunate enough to receive some of this. We hope that everything will be in place to allow our September meeting to be hybrid (in-person and online).
We sent questions to candidates in advance of the local council elections then shared and scrutinised their responses.
Community Council elections were also held over this year (no election was required for Iona Community Council as the number of candidates was less than the number of spaces available). The inaugural meeting of the new Community Council was held in November.
Other topics/areas of work have included:
Covid resilience/ vaccination clinic
Ferries and other transport
Scottish Islands Passport
Local Development Plan
Highly Protected Marine Areas
Community Right to Buy
Marine Infrastructure and Transport Liaison Group
Official opening of Iona Village Hall
Meetings and correspondence with: Jenni Minto (MSP), Councillors, an author, National Trust for Scotland (NTS), press, and other Community Councils.
We have responded to requests for information on a number of topics: benches, burials, houses for sales, scattering of ashes, fencing, the history of the library, the Islands Bond scheme, an enquiry from someone writing a PhD, and lost & found items.
Looking forward we are thinking about representation - what do Community Councillors participate in, and what can other people help with (i.e. Finlay represents ICC on Mull and Iona Ferry Committee; Mhairi about vehicle permits)
Katy Russon gave a report on the Community Council finances.
As guidance from the Local Authority is that office bearers don’t stay in one role for more than 2 terms where possible, Rob MacManaway stood down as Treasurer and Katy has taken over this role. Many thanks to Rob for his work, and to Katy for being willing to take the role on.
Income during the last year was the grant which is received from A&B Council. There was no income from the noticeboard in this year as it required maintenance.
Expenditure included hire of the Village Hall for meetings, a donation to funds for defibrillators, labour and material costs for the notice board.
The annual accounts have been prepared and audited. They show a net loss of £220 for the year, but there are still funds available in the bank account.
Visit from Argyll and Bute Council Thursday 8th June
Following the experience with the proposed Traffic Regulation Order Mull and Iona Community Councils wrote jointly in 2019 to welcome Pippa Milne to the post of Chief Executive and invite her to meet with us.
The Covid pandemic delayed this and Pippa then met with Mull Community Council only.
ICC have been informed last week (31/05) that Pippa Milne will be visiting Iona this week (08/06) and invited to meet with her as part of her visit. No agenda has been provided but, when asked to clarify the purpose at this notice during peak-season working hours, we’ve been advised it’s “to engage with local groups face-to-face and to listen to what matters to the community”. ICC had requested a postponement due to short notice and unsuitable timing but we’ve been told there is a programme of events already planned so postponement isn’t possible.
In advance of meeting we have sent extracts from our December minutes and asked Pippa to read and reflect on these. An overarching issue is the urgent need for the council to operate in much more evidence based and consultative basis rather than springing proposals on us, without being based in consultation/ evidence, as is experienced repeatedly.
Another issue is the role of Mull and Iona Ferry Committee as representatives. MIFC were not directly invited to the recent meeting of the Marine Transport and Infrastructure Liaison Group, although we’ve confirmed that Joe/Finlay would represent ICC. Members of MIFC have also been told they should not contact council officers directly as all communication should go through councillors.
Reports from Organisations
Iona Village Hall Community Trust
Fiona Kyle (Hall Development Manager) sent the following report:
The extended snagging period is almost complete with only the external lights and sliding doors yet to resolve. The electricians visited last month to remediate a fault on the hot water and to attempt to resolve the external lighting problem. They wanted to leave us with a flexible option as it is increasingly challenging and costly to have repeated visits from Ireland but they also were reluctant to leave us with fittings which look likely to fail again. The temporary solution is that they have fitted cables & sockets to the (most) problematic fittings which we can then use to install an above-ground solution, and we are negotiating what % of the retention funds we get to keep to resolve that.
Funding & Awards
We were delighted to secure the BIG Lottery Fund which has enabled us to extend the Hall Manager post. We are also amazed and delighted to be Commended in the Scottish Civic Trust MY PLACE Awards, which featured many excellent community-led projects from across Scotland - that recognition is testament to the island-wide support and involvement so should be enjoyed and reflected on by the whole island. We have also been short-listed for the Argyll & Bute Design Awards, which will be decided on 21st June.
Argyll & Bute Council secured funding to create 4 digital hubs across Argyll & Bute. This has included the provision of AV equipment and training, with a view to 'future-proofing' the building and building digital resilience within the community. The equipment includes an enhanced video/ hybrid conferencing setup in the Large Meeting Room, a mobile promethean board, and additional devices (iPad/macbook/windows laptop) which should support simplified, accessible use of all of the equipment. There is still some setting-up to do but the potential that it brings is excellent - meetings, Near Me appointments, interviews, etc.
The hall has been well used between Jan and the end of May with 217 bookings covering 615 hours. Local groups using the hall regularly include playgroup, badminton, kids sports club & football, Tai Chi, Pilates, book group, mindfulness, writing group and Ladies group. On top of these there have been a variety of other events from plays, Spin!, Mendelssohn on Mull, films, birthday parties, a wedding, school fundraiser as well as private groups using the space for meetings. The St Columba Hotel organised a golfing weekend raising money for the hall and Scottish Autism. This event was a great success and raised an amazing amount just under £5600. A huge thank you to everyone involved.
Upcoming events -
14th June concert with Cameron Newell and New York singer Michelle Willis
The hall is available for anyone to hire for parties, get-togethers, dinner, meetings, badminton or table tennis to name but a few. Please get in touch with Fiona if you would like more information.
Shiona Ruhemann gave a report:
The context is still one of big cost increases across the economy. IR/ Iona Energy Ltd are working with leads on ground source installation, which is also helping to define the real updated capital costs.
A main challenge is the final proportion of funding (scale depending on conclusions about the updated real world costs) and IR/ IEL are working with the Scottish Government on the full funding package (including providing feedback on the challenges from the community experience).
Energy Efficiency: IR are working with a lead contact from Home Energy Scotland and the new lead on A&BC’s HEEPS:ABS programme. Pre-Covid IR had separate funding for the energy efficiency work but are now working through these other channels, which takes pressure off the project budget. Both Home Energy Scotland and A&BC are doing everything they can to help us on Iona and there is significant funding available for households. Phil will be following up through the Iona Stuff! Facebook Group as well as directly with individuals/households. He has been made a ‘super user’ by Home Energy Scotland to facilitate the support.
Iona Renewables were congratulated and thanked for their tenacity and persistence.
Mull and Iona Ferry Committee
Finlay reported that it has been a difficult time but we are hopefully seeing light at the end of the tunnel now. We finally have the timetable on Oban-Craignure that we were supposed to have from 20th March, but are at the mercy of another ferry breaking down.
The MV Hebridean Isles has been out of commission since January with no timescale for return as yet.
The MV Alfred has started on the Arran run and has been successful so far (caveat - there has been no really testing weather yet).
There is currently no Transport Minister in Scottish Government. Joe Reade and Finlay had met Kevin Stewart the previous Minister a few weeks ago and made points about the current terrible situation and the need to step up procurement of new vessels.
There are currently 4 boats being built in Turkey which are possibly 2 years away. MV Glen Sannox possibly ready by end of the year.
MIFC have a meeting with CMAL next week.
The first step to a ‘Samso’ style ticketing system should be in place by July. ‘Samso’ is an islander priority bookings system and by July 10% of every sailing should be saved until 3 days before sailing. No further information available at present but seems that when these bookings open it will be a ‘free for all’ rather than prioritising islanders.
Ticketing: the new booking system is up and running. Can now buy a 10 ticket book (same price as buying individually). Recommended to buy 2 singles rather than a return to prevent issues with return sailing being cancelled if outgoing part not used. Can book up to 10 journeys at once.
Medical protocol: if you have a medical appointment made within last 3 weeks and cannot get a booking then CalMac will refund you for a taxi. Best to contact the local office first to see if they can get you onto a sailing and then if not request the Medical Protocol.
In response to a question Finlay reported that a Community Ferry Company would be difficult currently due to the way the contract is (i.e. all the routes are in one contract).
Good news that the Corran Ferry is back, but it is still just the smaller boat. The larger boat should be back by end of June.
CMAL have been assisting Highland Council with future vessels. They want to make 2 electric ferries in the same style as others in the Small Vessel Replacement Plan so that in dry-docking or breakdown CalMac could provide a vessel. However it will mean huge landside infrastructure changes because of the strong tidal conditions.
No news yet of winter 2023/24 timetables. The dry docking from winter 2022/23 isn’t finished so plans not yet finalised. MIFC and ICC have written to request that there are no periods this winter with a MV Loch Frisa only timetable.
There is a slight change to the last ferry Craignure to Oban and vice versa on Sundays for the rest of the summer timetable. Will fit better with day-trippers using West Coast Motors/Staffa Tours.
National Trust for Scotland
Emily Wilkins (Ranger) sent the following report:
2 out of 3 surveys completed so far this year show the population is stable (at least 12 territories occupied) but still only half of what it was before numbers crashed in 2017. We continue to encourage corncrake-friendly cutting methods in fields, and in private gardens you can help too by having areas of tall vegetation particularly in spring and autumn.
Building surveyor visit:
Marie and Lauren the regional building surveyors will be on Iona week of 19th June to check on repairs at all NTS-owned housing and other buildings. If anyone has an issue they particularly need looked at do get in touch via the usual channels.
New roof is now complete. A specialist firm removed all the asbestos, and said there was a higher concentration of it than usually seen in a small building, this has meant stripping the inside back to a shell exposing historical stonework and timbers. NTS will collaborate with the expertise of the housing officers at MICT to help find funding to renovate the cottage back into a family home.
New NTS manager role:
A second round of recruitment is about to start for someone with a background in both agriculture and conservation, look out for adverts and help us share them far and wide. This investment will mean a more senior decision-maker is based on the islands and improve capacity to take a number of projects forward more quickly. The role will oversee Staffa, Burg and MacQuarie's Mausoleum as well as Iona but Maol Farmhouse will be offered as accommodation if required.
The farmhouse is currently being used for seasonal staff accommodation. If not required for new manager it will continue to be available for local rent. The land is temporarily being farmed through grazing agreements with neighbours, providing extra space to an existing farm and croft, and also continues to meet conservation aims for corncrake habitat. It will always support conservation and food production, but the new manager will consider options for how to facilitate this going forwards, including all the suggestions provided through last year's consultation event. As an example: Aosdana, Oran Crafts and the two hotel vegetable gardens already support multiple livelihoods through land and buildings made available by NTS - there may be opportunities for others within Maol.
Ranger work with primary school:
It has been a real pleasure working with the children recently on a number of afterschool nature club sessions and a field trip to the marble quarry in support of their class topic on geology.
Shearwater have carried out repairs to walkway into Fingal's Cave. Still expecting them to start work on the jetty mid to late August which will mean non-landing visits only for a number of weeks. We'll update further as soon as there is a more definite timetable in place as it depends on many complex logistics including waiting for all nearby seabird chicks to have fledged and an exact date isn't possible to predict very far in advance.
It was asked whether the new NTS job will have an impact on Emily’s job? Understanding is that the new role is more managerial/strategic and so should have a positive impact for Emily.
Bénédicte reported that there is a new sound system in the Abbey church. This is good for the regular services, but also for weddings, concerts, etc. It is working well so far.
A reminder was given that the pilgrimage walk on Tuesdays is now only for Iona Community Guests. It was previously open to others - that had to be stopped but still get people turning up.
It was pointed out that there may still be incorrect information on some external websites about this.
The Abbey church is open only for worship on Sunday mornings, so not open for tours, etc. until 12noon.
South West Mull and Iona Development
Celia Compton (General Manager) sent the following report:
At our EGM it was agreed that we would amend our Articles of Association so that we remain compliant with the ever-changing Community Right to Buy legislation. Without those changes we could still purchase land on behalf of the community, but now we have additional powers to submit an expression of interest to have the first option to buy land/buildings when the registered property is offered for sale. There are conditions around this – it’s not straightforward (of course). There are also two compulsory purchase options:- (i) Abandoned, neglected or detrimental land, and (ii) furthering of sustainable development. Both are VERY difficult to prove, so not the most likely avenue for future developments!
Separately from this, as we are currently developing a housing project in Bunessan (that has been in the pipeline for years!) we are also likely to become a registered private landlord to manage the properties. This is an alternative to becoming a registered social landlord. We can still set allocations that meet community needs and offer affordable rents etc. Just a more flexible option. This is how MICT manage their housing stock.
Representation and membership - apply online via website or collect a paper copy.
ICC would be keen to have more representation on SWMID so if there is anyone who would like to get involved please get in touch.
Mull and Iona Community Trust
Rob MacManaway gave a report:
MICT is engaged with a number of ongoing projects and taking on some new ones at present.
There is a building being constructed for provision of shore facilities to visiting yachts and local boat owners at Uva Ferry, an extension to the light industrial park at Tobermory, a woodland school being organized for Ardura forest and all the defibrillators around Mull and Iona, amongst others.
Currently there is an Iona linked project to identify sites to create, or refurbish, accommodation suitable for key workers. In practice this would mean anyone living on Iona who is need of accommodation and is working on the island. This would support some businesses, currently without this facility, to be sustainable and others to retain long term employees who want to make their home here.
Another aspect of MICT’s mission is to safeguard buildings for the community. This is done by securing the right to buy, meaning that if a building comes up for sale then the community has first refusal on it rather than it going to the highest bidder. One example is Ulva island. With this in mind, should any building on Iona be identified by the community as desirable for this then MICT can act as the organization to enact the right to buy, having the relevant legal standing. Support from 10% of MICT members would be needed to make this happen, so the more folk who are members of MICT the more likely it is that this would happen.
To support MICT and help them help the community the fee is £5 for life membership and I have forms if anyone would like to join. There is also the opportunity to be more involved if anyone wanted to help steer the organization as a board member.
Please let me know or be in touch with MICT directly if this is of interest.
Rob added that a group looking at the issue of keyworker accommodation had met for the first time a few weeks previously including the Chief Executive of West Highland Housing Association, a high level housing officer from A&BC, representative of the NTS. There are plans for the group to come to Iona to have a look and discussion. For example, the land between the hall and Dalantober is designated for development, and they would also look at existing buildings (i.e. Maol Cottage and barns, Heritage Centre bothy).
Katy Russon added that the MICT are looking at these issues on Mull as well and recently carried out the housing needs survey. Iona Housing Partnership still exists and would be welcome to join the steering group if they wish.
Alison Johnston pointed out that just because land is designated as suitable for development in the Local Plan it does’t mean the owners will want to give the land up. On this point it is positive that NTS were represented at the steering meeting.
Joss asked whether a compulsory purchase on Maol cottage might be an option?
It was felt that hopefully there wouldn’t be a need for this as NTS are working on this with MICT, however it could be something to consider in future if necessary.
Finlay pointed out that there were issues with planning previously when houses were suggested near the hall and perhaps the land on the other side of Dalantober wold be better.
Update from the Lorn and Isles Hospital Estates Officer: Iona Surgery
We have instructed a contractor to go to site and give us costs for the remedial repairs. When we get that, we'll do a quick value-for-money exercise and if the costs are reasonable, we'll give them the go-ahead. I don't anticipate any issues or delays on that side of things.
We don't have a huge pool of contractors who we can call on I'm afraid, as the NHS demands a lot of paperwork hoops to be jumped through. As soon as I have a timescale for the remedials, I'll update you further.
Rona Muckart-Lilley would appreciate some help and support on health care issues if anyone is interested in helping please get in touch.
A pre-consultation meeting was held here on Iona on 26th April. This is required as part of the process and was originally going to be held in Bunessan.
The scoping report for the Environmental Impact Assessment has previously been sent to everyone on the ICC emailing list. Thanks are due to Neil Bruce for his analysis on the scoping report and the gaps within it.
It was good to have the team from A&BC here, including Lead Engineer Elsa Siloes who has been working on this project in different capacities for a number of years.
Representatives from ICC met the team at the jetty initially for a discussion in situ.
There will be no effect on area available for parking during construction as a barge will be used as a compound with everything coming by sea. There will be a crane at Martyrs Bay.
The septic tank for the public toilets will be impacted by the works but the Council have a plan for this. ICC raised the state of the public toilets and asked if improvements could be included in the project.
ICC clarified that, contrary to the EIA, people actually live by the site and asked about noise impact. Contractors will have to follow WHO guidelines on this and will have noise barriers in place.
Moorings: they will hopefully be drilling around the north of the breakwater where needed. ICC had requested some dredging to the south of the jetty to allow for future possibilities (i.e. space for moorings or pontoon) but that rock is part of the jetty structure so can’t be blasted. It would have to be drilled and that needs to be investigated and costed.
Mark J is still awaiting a reply to an email regarding current moorings.
Appearance: the Breakwater will be granite. Elsa was able to confirm crucial details that weren’t in the report and it was a reassuring discussion. The lead Council team are also responsible for ensuring coastal protection, and the breakwater will incorporate revetment (structural design to absorb impact and reduce erosion). The breakwater will comprise rocks of differing sizes between 3-6 tonnes, dropped into place to settle. (The rocks outside Dunara currently are around 1 ton.) The granite will be profiled to match with our shoreline, including some pink granite which will be held back for the top to get the most value/best effect. Elsa said the appearance should profile, e.g. the various rocks visible in the wall of the Nunnery and shoreline, and it will all be landscaped to fit with the setting.
Elsa confirmed that the structure will be a straight shape to keep it as low as possible. If there was a varied shape it would have to be bigger as the height it’s at now is the minimum height possible.
ICC understands that there isn’t going to be a gate. It will be open access.
The next step is planning - engaging with Crown Estate and NTS.
A consultative Social Economic Impact Assessment should have been done but hasn’t as yet. ICC have raised this. We don’t want any delays to the project, but this is something that Government Ministers have said must happen as part of the process.
ICC will go back to Elsa to confirm everything that was said in person. It felt like a positive meeting; we appreciate Elsa’s hard work and determination to complete this project.
If no delays, potentially the project might be out to tender in January and on site next spring.
Finlay pointed out that the plans for the Fionnphort side have changed quite a lot. There was some mocked up ‘drone’ footage which shows it is quite different. He’s not sure if CalMac have given final approval just yet.
The team should provide some close up diagrams/mock ups as well as the further away ones. They have committed to doing this.
8th July. Treshnish are playing. will be on social media and poster etc.
Benches - plastic?
There have been a couple of requests so if anyone is interested in hosting a bench let Jane know.
One person mentioned the possibility of plastic benches which require less on-going maintenance. There are already some on the island (i.e. outside hall, 2 round tables in Argyll garden are recycled plastic).
Jane Martin reported that there is a new Police Officer -Tara Watt. She is based in Bunessan although not currently living in the Police House as it is having work done to it.
There were 17 calls in May and 1 crime.
Bénédicte: didn’t realise until saw accounts that all of ICC’s work is done entirely voluntarily, and is amazed by the amount of work that goes in. She compared it to France where every little town has a mayor who is paid by the state and expressed her gratitude for all the work that is done.