Iona Community Council
Draft minutes of the public meeting held in Iona Library on Monday 11 March 2019 at 8.00pm
Present: Shiona Ruhemann (convening), Toben Lewis (minutes), Rob MacManaway, Mark Jardine, John MacInnes, 16 members of the public
Apologies: Jane Martin, Heinz Toller, Emily Wilkins
Minutes of the previous meeting: signed off without further amendments
Reports and updates
Iona Village Hall Committee
Joanne MacInnes: Since the turn of the year, and particularly in the past few weeks, things have been moving extremely fast and the Trustees have been busy managing the many different strands of the project.
We finally completed the land acquisition, securing the land from NTS that is required for the build to go ahead. We hope to be able to have a small celebration to mark this community ownership and, fingers crossed, should tie in with being a last hurrah in the old hall. In the coming weeks it will be fenced off, and the high road gate shifted back in alignment.
After tendering through Public Contracts Scotland, we received tenders significantly over budget by around £500k. However, having considered the tender report with the QS, we were fairly confident we could get the budget back down towards the target. Unfortunately, LEADER have flagged up a ‘potential’ conflict with their own tender compliance - not on our project but on a similar large scale project in the region, and have asked us to pause all tender communications until we can check that we won’t fall into the same hole. We hope to have this resolved, and to move to appointing our preferred bidder, in the next week or so.
The good news is that that LEADER may consider going a bit further with their grant funding, in light of the increased costs, as may BIG Lottery.
Once appointed, the contractors will want to be on site very quickly, ideally April. We will have a couple of weeks to remove all furniture, curtains, etc from the hall, and we are exploring the putting together a work party to remove the existing floor ahead of demolition (because we need to re-use as much as possible!).
We are finalising description for our Project Manager post which, subject also to funding and contractor go-ahead, we hope to fill very quickly. Anyone interested, or aware of suitable candidates, let us know.
Costs Savings & Fundraising
If we can proceed with Tender negotiations quite quickly, and if LEADER and BIG can provide an uplift on their grants, we expect to have a gap of around £250k to meet within weeks. This can be addressed by removing elements of the construction contract that we expect we could fund later in the year (such as the terraces or equipping the kitchen) as well as fundraising. We have funding bids of £260k submitted but we won’t know the outcomes of these for weeks or months.
The local community, through making, running, golfing, auctioning, collecting and everything else in between, raised £98k over the past year. We have set a target for £40k by June and Gordon & Anja have already taken on the first £5k of that. We will also be widely publicising the Donor Wall option, the Iona Book & Artwork, amongst other initiatives.
If you have an idea to raise funds, a company or trust that you can make an approach to, or any other way to attract funds, however small – WE NEED YOU! We are working through a list of funders and contacts as fast as we can, but this is it – all willing and able shoulders to the wheel!
Shiona Ruhemann asked the floor if there were any objections to ICC donating £5000 of it’s funds to the Village Hall. No objections.
Argyll and Bute Council proposed parking charges
Shiona Ruhemann: At last ICC meeting, Council responses to objections had begun to be issued and were causing serious dismay as they weren’t dealing at all with the substance of concerns.
We were experiencing similar evasion, e.g., on repeated requests to see the Council’s evidence base to demonstrate that they had carried out any diligence at all before promulgating a TRO.
We spoke at the ICC meeting about potentially making a formal complaint to the Council about the process and impacts of the TRO.
We submitted a follow up letter to the Council on 1 February setting out a mass of concerns – this was formally endorsed by Mull Community Council, Mull and Iona Ferry Committee, and Mull and Iona Community Trust.
We’ve had one of the Area Committee Councillors going on record in the Scotsman (22 Feb) saying no decision is yet made and he wants to work with the people of Mull to find a solution that works for everyone. We immediately contacted him and asked him to confirm it was understood by Councillors that the TRO has major ramifications for Iona too, and how exactly was he going to follow up on this welcome on the record commitment to work with the communities on these islands to find a solution before the formal decision. After stating he would come over any time, and efforts to arrange a meeting, he has gone silent.
We were so dissatisfied with the response to letter of 1 February that we submitted a formal stage 2 complaint on 1 March.
The Council CEO has responded on 7 March stating that he has considered carefully our complaints about the TRO process being flawed and has commissioned an independent Audit of the TRO process by the Chief Internal Auditor, which will consider the specific terms of our complaint and respond on Mull TRO 201, as well as providing information to the Council’s Audit and Scrutiny Committee to consider re the general TRO process.
As the CEO didn’t specify what “specific terms” would be considered or what are the ToRs of the Audit, we have written to him today asking to confirm that our understanding of the ToRs is correct, that it will address [quoting from our letter of 11 March]:
The integrity of the TRO process and how it has been implemented in this case – i.e., the robustness and legitimacy of proceeding with a budget decision in February 2018 and promulgation of a TRO in the absence of: prior consultation with the communities affected; any evidence informing the proposal or any provision of an evidence base in spite of requests and FOIs; any understanding of how the car parks are used or of the communities who use them; due diligence on different risks and impacts; or responses from the Council that either acknowledge or properly address the substance of objections.
A wider assessment of and recommendations to address the fitness for purpose of the Council's current TRO process, taking into account the depth, extent and uniformity of discontent across these fragile island communities regarding the TRO and the handling of it, and in the interests of avoiding this situation arising again, including ensuring:
- The Council has an evidence base which is relevant and applicable to an island (or, in this instance, islands), including quality empirical evidence such as needs assessment, specific equalities impact assessment, social and economic impact assessments, assessment of risks and mitigation, cost benefit analysis, review of year-round parking charges imposed so far etc;
- The Council can demonstrate it is fully aware of risks and impacts for the communities affected – economic, social, health and wellbeing, for example;
- In terms of the Council's Risk Management Manual, the Chief Internal Auditor addresses how the TRO, and future Council decisions, will deal with the Council's commitment to the Islands Act and thereby to 'island proofing' decision-making, including an on-the-record commitment to implement the spirit of the Act proactively;
- Models of good practice are considered and adopted that for instance: embed early and meaningful engagement with communities prior to a TRO being formally progressed (e.g., Highland Council); and take proper account of the specific issues related to car parks at Ferry Ports (a category that includes both Fionnphort and Craignure car parks) – our examples of car parks at mainland and, particularly, island ferry ports could be used to inform and be included within the Council’s Car Parking Policy framework.
The Chief Internal Auditor may conclude that the TRO process as it stands and as it was followed was robust – but we don’t see how that can be the case, and certainly not how it can be argued it is fit for purpose.
The TRO decision is delegated to the Area Committee, which meets on Weds 13 March but we’ve had confirmation that the Mull TRO isn’t on the agenda.
We await the outcome of the Audit; and of a complaint of the Council’s handling of FOI requests re the TRO.
We’re very grateful to Neil Bruce for his support with this issue.
Discussion ensued, covering if TRO would be delayed because of the audit (at least until the next area committee meeting, but no timescale is known at the moment), other options such as community buyout, and other parking options (none on Mull).
Shiona Ruhemann: Update on Iona Heat Network:
Project is continuing to progress and to address the funding gap.
Energy Redress Scheme funding:
Since the last ICC meeting in Dec, we’ve been awarded a £184K grant from the Energy Redress Scheme
Very competitive with only 5 new funded projects in Scotland, and funds derived from fines of energy companies for poor performance.
Energy Redress funding is particularly focused on addressing energy vulnerability.
Progress on other funding:
We’ve been through an enormous due diligence with another funder, which has already been through the funder’s Board. As of today, all products of the due diligence review are now submitted – very detailed technical due diligence (the 4th time we’ve been through tech DD) and very detailed financial due diligence, which includes eg cash flow projections through construction and for the first 10 years of the project. These exhaustive reviews are all positive and we hope for a positive funding decision shortly.
Other aspects continue to move and ready to sign and move with contract aiming for 1 September site start.
Locogen, incoming contractor, was here last week and met with various parties.
Ferry Committee and Sound of Iona piers
Finlay MacDonald: Byrne Looby have measured waves via satellite imaging rather than wave floats. Adam Cronin of Byrne Looby has offered dates when he would be available for a meeting on Iona: 18th and 19th or 26th and 27th March. Expect to hold a public drop-in session on the afternoon and early evening of the first day with a meeting on the Ross of Mull the next day. FM not sure of how much detail will be shared at the meeting. Byrne Looby have much more information now than they had in hand for previous potential designs. FM asked everyone to please come out to that meeting, as feedback will be very important and hopefully questions will be answered.
Discussion ensued, including queries on other parties such as cruise ships and tours being consulted (this is up to A+BC as client, but main priority is safe and reliable ferry service), and whether there were options for bigger development for pontoons etc on the Iona side (it will be up to the community to make a business case for larger option if A&BC opt for cheaper option), recognising that this is the first major re-work to be done on the pier since the 70’s and any works will need to be effective for the long term.
Finlay MacDonald: Mull and Iona Ferry Committee (MIFC) have been discussing commutable ferry service with CalMac and Transport Scotland. There’s a new and sympathetic minister in place and good people in Transport Scotland. Various options that would enable a commutable service for Mull without impacting Iona service drastically have run into issues with longevity and capabilities of Craignure pier. CalMac have come up with a timetable with a very short approval turnaround for winter next year. If it’s rejected it will be status quo, and if it goes ahead we will lose mid-day services from Craignure. It would mean that the earliest we could get to Oban would be 11, and would render the early bookable ferry from Iona pointless as it won’t get you anywhere. MIFC would like to put the timetable to Mull for feedback; there’s a potential it will be exactly what some business owners are looking for, though it may not be amenable to many other Mull residents. The proposed Saturday timetable, for example, would mean many teams and groups would not be able to get on and off island for their games/meetings. Additionally there would be issues with Royal Mail delivery not connecting with the new timetable; this will also affect delivery of medicines. Chair of MIFC has suggested that if Mull is in favour of the timetable, that she go back to CalMac/Transport Scotland with that but ask what they are then going to do to accommodate Iona. There will be issues of working hours for the Iona ferry crew if days are extended. There is potential for a funding increase next year, in which case a better timetable may be possible. This proposed timetable would be a step backwards for Iona, but would potentially benefit large Mull businesses and anyone on Mull commuting for work.
Coruisk will likely be our second vessel for the foreseeable future, as the new vessels that will allow other ferries to shift around are behind schedule.
Finlay MacDonald: There is an MCC-led consultation ongoing with a two question questionnaire going around Mull at the moment. We’re going to find out on 28 March on what A+BC plan to do with the STAG proposal. At this time we are of the view that we need to wait to see what the STAG proposal comes out with, and wait for the factual consultation that is scheduled for the spring to feed in.
Discussion ensued, seeking clarification of the 'three ferry’ question being asked on the MCC questionnaire (what is being referred to as small ferries is in fact the Isle of Mull and not something the size of the Coruisk), and a note that the STAG appraisal was on the A+BC website and was quite interesting.
Finlay MacDonald: The issue of unscheduled runs on the Iona run has reared its head again, but is being dealt with.
Iona Broadband Committee
Scotland R-100 – Reaching 100%
The R100 Programme is in the final stages of the procurement process. The first contracts are expected to be awarded in late Spring or early Summer.
The Ross of Mull and Iona is one of eleven mandated areas within the R-100 intervention area. In a mandated area at least 25% of broadband connections must be Fibre to the Premises (FTTP).
The reason for the mandate is to ensure that a full fibre backhaul is put in place, in those areas, to future proof the broadband network and to facilitate the introduction of 4G and 5G services.
Argyll & Bute Council's digital liaison officer, Iain MacInnes, is having discussions with the R-100 Team, and others, to investigate additional sources of funding that might be used to add benefit to the R-100 network.
Since Mull Fibre held their public meeting on Iona in December, we have been working to ensure that they did nothing to jeopardise the position of our communities within the R-100 process.
We also worked with Dean (Iona's member on the Steering Group) to ensure that all members of the Steering Group had accurate information about what the R-100 project would accomplish for our broadband network.
Mull Fibre's own feasibility studies proved that financing the build of their full fibre network, by way of the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme, was not viable.
Due to a combination of the results of their feasibility studies, the correct information about R-100, which was further clarified by a meeting held with Argyll & Bute Council's digital liaison officer, Mull Fibre has now abandoned their plans for a community led Full Fibre network, and instead, are fully behind the R-100 project.
We continue to work with them in order to improve the accuracy of the information on their website, and to work towards achieving the best possible broadband network for our communities through the R-100 project.
21st Century Network
BT still have around one hundred small exchanges to upgrade to their 21st Century Network. Their engineers are still working to find a technological solution to enable them to upgrade Fionnphort and Iona exchanges.
The problem appears to be a combination of the microwave link and the fact that, although our telephone switching gear is in the Fionnphort exchange, our Broadband equipment is in the Iona exchange. Normally both lots of equipment are in the same exchange.
4G – EE
EE tell us that they have no immediate plans to introduce a commercial 4G service from the Fionnphort mast. Although they have not told us officially, we understand the reason is the lack of a suitable fibre backhaul to take the increased amount of data back to their main network.
EE's 4G Emergency Services Network (ESN) is operating from the Fionnphort mast, but it is using a V- Sat (Satellite) solution to provide the required backhaul. Latency is not as much of an issue for the ESN as it is for domestic broadband and it is expensive.
4G – O2
Telefónica UK, O2, now have the necessary access and permissions to upgrade the Fionnphort mast to 4G. However, they say that the transmission solution required is not commercially viable. That's another way of saying that they don't have access to a suitable fibre backhaul at present.
4G – On Iona
A 4G service is available on Iona from one of EE's masts on Mull. However, the mast that the service is coming from is only transmitting the 800Mhz signal, which is the 4G, or LTE, service.
Most mobile phones only use 4G for data, and revert to 3G, or 2G, for voice calls. So access to the 800Mhz signal is restricted to mobiles that are 4G Calling enabled, and using a contract SIM.
4G Calling is technology that enables voice calls to be made over the 4G data network.
BT Mobile also transmits over the EE network. So to receive a 4G service on the island at present, a 4G Calling enabled mobile and a contract SIM, with either EE, or BT Mobile, is required.
Data download speed in centre of the island is around 8Mbps, indoors and outside.
Discussion ensued, including the question of what does Mull Fibre see as it’s purpose now that they are not pursuing their own option (to encourage and assist R-100), and if there would be opportunity for the community to feed back on their preferred options for R-100 (this would be up to the contractor, but fibre under the Sound is a good possibility anyway), as R-100 only specifies 25% coverage what will the other 75% get (likely to be fibre to cabinet, but we don’t have a cabinet here; chances are good with at least 2 of the 3 remaining bidders, that it will be fibre to premises anyway as that’s what they specialise in).
Health Care Provision
Shiona Ruhemann: Advert is out (approx. 2 weeks ago) for independent practice comprising three surgeries on Mull.
We understand there’s no expectation of a lead practitioner – and therefore junior practitioners, which would seriously concern us in terms of attracting and retaining GPs; and we understand there’s expectation that GPs would be attached to practices rather than commuting around Mull; and that they’d have enough financial and decision making autonomy to make the posts attract and retain quality GPs. But we’re not certain about these fundamental considerations, which are likely to depend on what applicants put in their Business Case.
Discussion ensued regarding whether weekend out of hours cover would be locally or Craignure based (unknown).
National Trust for Scotland
Toben Lewis (from email sent in by Emily Wilkins): NTS are recruiting for a Visitor Services Assistant on Staffa for 4 months this summer. Thistle Camp work parties are coming to Iona from June 22–29 and August 24–31.
John Dale: Abbey building works — Works proceed at a reasonable pace. There have been additional problems with seas and mortar and water penetration in the East walls. The problem was resolved after negotiation with Historic Environment Scotland (HES). Boarding will go up and will come down eventually over 10 years as the pointing is replaced. There is both internal and external work needed. External work will have both a short term and a long term fix. A sprinkler system is likely to be installed by HES at a later date, for now an automatic fire system is in place and will remain when the building re-opens.
2019 programme — will be distributed to accommodation providers shortly, and will list services and available talks/walks that the Community will be running.
Macleod Centre — the Iona Community has agreed the Community Room can be used by Village Hall user groups and the school while the Hall is being rebuilt, subject to paying for additional insurance, and giving adequate notice. It should be noted that there is only 1 or possibly 2 toilets available and there is no adequate heating system making winter use difficult; further, staff will be using that room at lunchtime and 6.30 for their meals. The kitchen will not be available for cooking food.
Long term situation of Macleod Centre — as some of you know we have started a review to see how this site can best be used for it is clear that is cannot continue to be used as in the past. All options are to be looked at. We have an external consultant, Chris Hart, guiding this. He is open to receive comments and suggestions from anyone. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Abbey church — everything emptied from the church by the IC and HES for the installation of a new heating system. Unfortunately it later became apparent the contractor couldn’t deliver the radiators on time, so everything is to go back in with the work to recommence at a later date. The Abbey will be open for Easter and the summer.
Shiona Ruhemann asked when heating system will go in. JD: Either November/December or January/February. IC preference is for November/December.
Rob MacManaway: We’ve had 2 people across from NTS to discuss options for moving surface water from the Glebe field area. Had hoped that some of the trenching could be shared with current works so could be done this year, but more likely to be next year. Sheelagh Dornan has also supplied information regarding water around the back of the Heritage Centre.
Discussion ensued regarding cost for a whole village ‘protection’ system (probably 3 to 4 times the partial quote of £8,500), drainage on the Maol track (unknown by the village drainage group), suggestions of various broken drains that could/should be remedied as a starting point that would make a big impact on the problem, and historical flooding issues.
John Poynter has requested for public paper bin at jetty. Rob MacManaway following up.