MINUTES OCTOBER 2019
Minutes of the Dunnet and Canisbay Community Council
John o’Groats Village Hall
21 October 2019 at 7.30pm
Councillors Eric Green Chair
Bill Mowat Vice-Chair
Barry Butler Treasurer
Mark Gibson Secretary
Apologies Ann Shearer
There were five members of the public in attendance.
Meeting with Stagecoach Manager John Gunn
Stage coach manager John Gunn attended the first part of the meeting in the place of Stagecoach MD David Beaton. There was an open session with the Community Council and members of the public. The following points were made:
a) There was considerable dismay at the lack of services provided to John o’Groats and Gills Harbour both in terms of bus timings, connections and availability on weekends
b) The Community Council wished to be constructive and helpful in providing rational and and workable alternatives to the current services.
c) The Community Council had taken considerable time to consult with the community, to fight proposed reductions in services which threatened jobs, mobility and wellbeing.
d) The community Council had submitted a document to Stagecoach following the summer timetable consultations proposing helpful changes and a possible new route. Other than acknowledging its recieot no further reply had been received.
e) The Community Council wished some feedback on the document and why its proposals were not acted upon.
f) The Community Council were also prepared to acknowledge that other agencies, including Highland council, had responsibilities to support local communities in terms of transport. If Stagecoach were being prevented from introducing some new services or improving current ones by any of these other agencies then the Community Council would bring pressure to bear to help move things along.
g) Depopulation in Caithness was moving to critical levels in the next few years and transport was a key driver in preventing this. But the current services seem to make no attempt to help people get to work or to attend after school clubs or social events or even make essential onward connections.
h) Arguments about lack of usage held no water when the design of current service itself and connections and reliability issues were one of the main reasons people had stopped using it.
Mr Gunn took a copy of the consultation document and promised that he would impress upon his managers the need to give us a proper reply on the points we had raised.
1. Minutes of the Previous Meeting
These were agreed (Henry Gunn, Carole Whittaker)
2. Chair's Report
2.1 The Chair noted that in terms of superfast broadband BT were now rolling out some options for communities further from an exchange. However he noted that some good deals were also available from 4G providers and grants for antennae (if necessary) were also available from the Scottish Government.
3. Treasurer's Report
3.1 Councillor Butler reported that the account balance stood at just over £1416.
4 Secretary's Report
4.1 Councillor Gibson reminded members that the timetable for community council elections had been extended. He noted that should there be an election the current community council would dissolve at the end of November. However if an election was not needed than it would dissolve at the end of October and the new council form on 1 November.
4.2 The next meeting would be arranged by Highland Council and all current office bearers would cease to hold their positions until the next convened meeting when a new election of office bearers would take place.
5. Infrastructure and Transport
5.1 Councillor Green asked that members consider what areas capital expenditure might be made.
5.2 There were a number of suggestions. A lively debate ensued over the road to the Ness of Duncansby. It was eventually suggested that the road needed considerably more funding that the Community Council should give and other avenues should be explored.
5.3 It was agreed that some small upgrades to village halls be considered and that the John o’Groats Hall desperately needed a new cooker. This was agreed along with a grant to repair and remount the village war memorial plaque.
5.4 Councillors were asked to bring other ideas to the next meeting.
8.1 Car Park Fund. Andrew Mowat updated Councillors on the position regarding the car park fund. To date and only counting the part year the machines were installed there had been gross takings of over £21k which (setting aside funds for installation and maintenance and the payment of VAT left £16.5k to spend in John o’Groats. It was agreed that the money should be spent on play equipment for children at the end of the road, a clean up and refurbishment of the signpost (with sticker proof paint) and other general enhancements including creating more of a sense of arrival and departure.
8.2 Councillors noted that local objection to the car parking had been muted and that a key element to this had been making it free to all residents of Caithness. Despite this free parking for Caithness residents the income into the fund had been considerable and looked set (with a full rather than part year of income in 2020) to be greater than expectations. Tourists seemed content to pay the small charge and locals would soon start to see a difference to John o'Groats as a result. Other developments were in planning to benefit locals and visitors alike, including enhancements to the show-ground.
8.3 It was noted that on 6th December a memorial service would be held at in John o’Groats for lives lost locally at sea. A permanent memorial was currently in planning stages.
8.4 Councillor Mowat noted that there was currently only a voluntary reporting procedure for large ships passing through the Firth. It was agreed he would draft a letter calling for a compulsory reporting procedure.
The next meeting would be called by Highland Council. However Councillor Gibson agreed to explore the possibility of booking Freswick Hall on 25th November 2019.
The Final meeting of the current term of this Community Council closed. Thanks to all Councillors who have served throughout the last four years.
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