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Minutes June 2018

Minutes of the Dunnet and Canisbay Community Council

And Annual General Meeting


Freswick Village Hall


25 June 2018 at 7.30pm


  1. Those Present


                                    Councillors                    Eric Green                     Chair

                                                                        Bill Mowat                     Vice-Chair

                                                                        Thomas Meikle              Treasurer

                                                                        Mark Gibson                 Secretary

                                                                        Barry Butler

                                                                        Beatrice Farmer

                                                                        Henry Gunn

                                                                        Ann Shearer

                                                                        Carole Whittaker

                                    Highland Councillor       Andrew Sinclair



Business of the Annual General Meeting


Report of the Chair

It was noted that it had been an eventful year for the Community Council which had gone from being placed in abeyance due to lack of numbers to a full compliment of  councillors following elections. It was hoped that the coming year would see things start to move forward.


Report of the Treasurer

The Treasurer reported that the books were currently being audited and stood at the figures reported in the previous minutes.


Election of Officers

The following posts were elected unopposed:


Chair                 Eric Green                     (Nominated by Carole Whittaker / Seconded by Ann Shearer)

Treasurer           Thomas Meikle              (Nominated by Eric Green / Seconded by Henry Gunn)

Secretary          Mark Gibson                 (Nominated by Beatrice Farmer / Seconded by Barry Butler)


The proceedings of the Annual General Meeting were then closed.



Business of the Ordinary Meeting


1.  Minutes of the Previous Meeting held on 23 April 2018 at Canisbay Village Hall


1.1   Amendments to Minutes

Councillor Butler noted that Item 8.1 (Road Repairs) was raised by him on behalf of Councillor Shearer.  It was also to be noted that the road rolling equipment was on the back of the truck but not used. 

The amendments were agreed and Councillor Gibson would incorporate them into the minutes.  ACTION Mark Gibson

Agreed minutes are to be published on the website and a copy sent to the ward manager, Alex McManus.


1.2  Matters Arising

Defibrillator  (Item 3.1 on previous minutes)

Councillor Green reported that the defibrillator training had been completed with about a dozen attendees. There was good feedback from the training.  The equipment was now affixed to the outside of John o'Groats Village Hall and is available 24 hours per day.   RESOLVED

Councillors were asked to consider if further defibrillators would be needed in the Dunnet and Canisbay area, Gills, Mey Hall and Dunnet Head were identified.


Website (Item 3.2 on previous minutes)

Councillor Butler had agreed to manage the Community Council website website at a previous meeting.  He asked for details to enable him to access the page as an administrator.  Councillor Green agreed to obtain this information for him. Administration rights for Community Council Facebook page also to be passed on the Councillor Gibson.   ACTION Eric Green


Auditor to be identified (Item 5.3 on previous minutes)

Councillor Meikle has contacted an individual to audit the accounts and the audit is underway.  RESOLVED


Query on Road Repairs (Item 8.1 on previous minutes)

Councillor Green had received a reply in respect of the road repairs.  The road roller on the back of the truck was to be used for large patches, not small pothole filling.  It was pointed out that without a “square edge” it was unlikely the repair would be lasting and patching roads in this way was a false economy.  However it was recognised that the Highland Council did not have the resources to carry out proper repairs to all the damaged roads.

Councillor Butler observed that it would be more cost effective in the long run to properly repair half the problem roads in one year and then the other half in the next rather than trying to poorly repair all of them.

Councillors Whittaker and Shearer pointed out the grave danger to motorcyclists that the poor roads presented.

It was noted that roads across the Highlands were in a poor state of repair.  Highland Councillor Andrew Sinclair reiterated the difficulties faced in even keeping some roads usable at all.  He was asked by the Community Council to take up the matter of road repairs but the financial position of Highland Council was acknowledged.


2.  Chair's Report

Councillor Green had no specific report to make and that issues to be raised were be covered elsewhere on the agenda.


3.  Treasurers Report

Councillor Meikle referred to the AGM report.  No further report to make other than that Auckengill Hall Committee had imposed a late payment fee in respect of a previous Hall Rental.  This in spite of the fact it had been explained that a cheque had been sent for the money but not cashed (requiring the Community Council to later cancel the cheque). 


4 Secretary's Report


4.1 Local Access Forums

Correspondence had been received from Highland Council requesting nominations for Local Access Forums.  There was confusion regarding the closing date as it was stated incorrectly as Friday 25 June.  On the assumption the date was Friday 29 June Councillor Mowat was nominated as representative by Dunnet and Canisbay Community Council.  Councillor Gibson to forward details for Councillor Mowat to enable him to complete the application form.  ACTION: Bill Mowat


4.2 Local Democracy Reporter

A request from a Press and Journal and BBC reporter to attend a Community Council Meeting. RESOLVED.   Councillor Gibson to let the reporter know the dates of future meetings.  ACTION:  Mark Gibson


4.3 Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust

A request for nominations to this body had been received.  Councillor green reported that this was good organisation to be part of and work with.  Councillor Gibson to forward details to community Councillors and a decision on nominations to be taken at the next meeting.  ACTION: All


4.4 Scotways Small Grant Scheme

It was agreed that this would be relevant to the John o'Groats Development Trust


4.5  General

It was noted that Highland Council had established a website to provide a one stop shop for postal surcharge concerns.


5.  Bus Services – Termination of Stagecoach Service 77 at Keiss


5.1 General Debate

There was a full and lively debate on this matter.

It was noted that there had been anger and concern raised at the proposed changes to this service at the public meetings held, and press coverage in the local papers and the Press and Journal.

Councillor Green reported that he had spoken with Stagecoach and it was very likely that the service between Keiss and John o'Groats/Gills would be withdrawn.  The reason given is lack of ticket sales.  It was noted that this decision was a disgrace and that Highland Council should be lobbied to impose a public service obligation on the route.

Councillor Mowat pointed out that through ticketing from Inverness to Gills had not been available for some time despite it being possible to take a bus there.  Ferry passengers to Orkney were therefore only offered through tickets for the Scrabster option by Stagecoach and not the two other ferries (Pentland Ferries and John o'Groats Ferries).

Councillor Green pointed out that there were two issues.  The first was the loss of a valuable amenity for local people and for employees at companies in John o'Groats and Gills.  This would severely limit the travel to work area, hit local employment, potentially affect the jobs of those who lives in Wick and worked in John o'Groats (or vice versa) and severely effect schoolchildren who would now find it very difficult to attend any extra curricular activities in Wick.

The Second Issue was the blow to tourism and the missed opportunity for a really good integrated transport solution for the area at a time when tourism in the area was increasing.  Councillor Gibson reported that he had often been asked by visitors to John o'Groats about buses to Wick.  Other Councillors pointed out that it would be soon not possible to attend successful and popular events such as the John o'Groats Book Festival, Mey Highland Games, Canisbay Show on the bus direct from Wick.  Nor (in the other direction) for local people or those travelling from Orkney on the local ferries to attend the Caithness show or other events in Wick directly.

It was noted generally that the route could have been marketed more effectively and that this might well have raised user numbers.


5.2 Route 77 Actions Planned

Councillor Whittaker shared a petition she had drafted calling for the service to be retained and developed as “circular” connecting Thurso, John o'Groats and Wick directly.  Councillor Whittaker asked for endorsement of this by the Community Council.  The petition to be organised online and also as paper copies in local businesses and at events from John o'Groats to Wick.  Councillor Whittaker to take forward.  With some minor amendments this was RESOLVED.  ACTION Councillor Whittaker

Councillors also reported that they had written to elected representatives, other senior figures and Stagecoach on this issue.  Some positive publicity in the local press had also been generated.  It was also agreed to engage with social media as this could be seriously influential.

Councillor Green and Councillor Gibson to prepare a letter to Highland Council highlighting the arguments in favour of designating the service as a Public Service Obligation.  ACTION Eric Green and Mark Gibson


6.  Association of Community Councils

Councillor Butler noted that due to diary mix ups the scheduled meeting in Halkirk had not gone ahead.  He was waiting for a further date to be arranged.


7. Health Service Redesign


7.1 Current Position

Councillor Green reported that the options appraisal process had been completed and that preferred options had been identified.  These included a refurbishment of Caithness General Hospital and a care village at the Dunbar and at Pulteney House.  Highland Councillor Andrew Sinclair noted that it seemed things were in a far more positive place than they were a year earlier.


7.2 Next Stages

A full public consultation on the preferred options would not commence.  The consultation would begin in August and run for three months.  During this period there would be more than one local drop in session.  Councillors were asked to suggest groups that could be consulted and to consider any improvements that could be made in the Community Council area.  As this was service design meant to last for several years into the future then it was very important that young people were engaged in the process as their voice is often absent from such consultations.


8. Seismic Surveys

In light of the national debate on Fracking, Councillor Mowat wished to alert councillors to the fact that a seismic survey was carried out in the 1980s in the area.  This found that oil and gas did exist but at the time it was judged to be uneconomical to extract.  Councillor Mowat agreed to keep the Council informed should there be any developments.


9 Any Other Business


9.1  Councillor Farmer asked if the Community Council should have an information point or stall at the Mey Games.  It was agreed that the basis for any information would be the local plan and it was agreed to look at this issue the following year in conjunction perhaps with the John o'Groats Development Trust. It would certainly be important to develop interest in local projects which could be add value to the community and be considered for support and funding by grant giving bodies.  RESOLVED


9.2 Councillor Butler asked for an update on Community Broadband.  Councillor Green stated that discussions with local landholders on the siting of masts was underway.


9.3 Councillor Butler suggested that the Caithness County show would be a good place to gather names for the bus petition.  This was agreed.  Councillors Gunn, Whittaker and Butler to consider.


9.4  Councillor Mowat reported that he will work on the list of information boards for locals and tourists hopefully to be placed on sites around the Community Council area.


There was no further business.



Pencilled in for  23 July 2018 at 7.30 pm.   Britannia Hall Dunnet  (Councillor Gunn to make the booking)


The meeting closed










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