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1 September 2006

Anger growing over new road restrictions
Councillor calls for suspension of traffic orders

“There are far too many cars in the streets of Dunoon.” That quote from a council officer may go some way to explaining why a whole series of road restrictions have appeared in the town over the last week or so.
There is logic in many of them, since emergency services have long expressed concern about the fact that cars parked on both sides of narrow streets can obstruct vehicles trying to get to an incident.
However, there are other areas of the town where residents are furious over the new restrictions, and claim that they have been done without any consultation, and the ward councillor.
The main bone of of contention is Alexander Street, where a single yellow line has been painted down one side of the road, and most of the corners are now marked with double yellow lines for a considerable length.
“We knew nothing about this until it happened,” said one lady.
“The council put an advertisement in the paper saying that there were to be traffic restrictions in ‘various streets’ in Dunoon, and that the drawings were available for public viewing. As I understand it only four people went to see them, which is hardly surprising given the vague description of what they were planning to do.”
“It’s hard to work out the logic of what they’ve done. On the seaward side of Alexander Street, between Alfred Street they’ve painted a single yellow line, which means residents can no longer park there. But there’s no off-street parking on that side of the road- whereas on the landward side most of the houses have driveways.
‘There are no facilities whatsover for off-street parking in the area. This is going to cause all sorts of problems, with the potential for neighbour dispute over parking spaces.
“Emergency services vehicles have no problems getting through, to my knowledge there’s never been an accident involving pedestrians crossing the road.
“Apart from anything else, this is going to affect house prices - who is going to buy a house these days without the facility to park their car?”
Her upstairs neighbour was equally incensed. He said: “I’ve written to Councillor McKinven endeavouring to find the reasoning behind the imposition of parking restrictions in Alexander Street, a straight, wide road devoid of commercial buildings and without a history of accidents or obstructions.
“On telephoning the council I was advised that residents could park in the narrower side streets. It isn’t rocket science to envisage the outcome of the obstuctions and impediments to emergency vehicles etc. that will occur there.The outcome will of course result in those streets needing parking restictions.
“The compromise? You’ve guessed it ! residents can purchase from the council a permit to park one vehicle outside their home.” He concluded: “Democracy at work? - I don’t think so!”
Councillor Gordon McKinven, however, was supporting the angry residents in demanding the restrictions be removed.
Speaking to the Observer on Friday, he said: “I have asked the Council’s legal department to look urgently at the situation and to suspend these restrictions.
“I am fully supportive of the residents in their view that these parking restrictions are unnecessary. They have in fact created problems where none existed. It’s not an accident black spot, nor does parking cause an access problem.
He admitted that he had been unaware of the proposals for Alexander Street. “Like, I suspect, other councillors, I assumed that the restrictions to be applied would be to streets such as Hill Street and Royal Crescent, where there were obvious problems.
“With the benefit of hindsight I should have picked up on this.”
Councillor Dick Walsh said that he had a number of people at his door about the issue, particularly the section on Alexander Street. Concerns had been expressed about the lack of specific information on what was proposed, as a result of which people had not had the opportunity to put forward their views. There were also concerns that restricting parking would increase the incidence of speeding;
“In fact,” said Councillor Walsh,, “as I was discussing their concerns with one deputation, a young motorist -who could only be described as an idiot - came up Hill Street at speed and continued at the same pace down Alexander Street before turning into John Street.”
Addressing the issue of the press advertisements, Cllr Walsh pointed out that the order in question related to 56 streets in the town, and that in these circumstances the term ‘various streets’ was appropriate.
32 people had inspected the proposals at council offices, and of these four had lodged objections. A hearing had taken place on June 20, the order made on July 17, and became effective from September 4.
Cllr Walsh concluded by saying: “On the basis of the representations I’ve received, I have requested advice on ensuring that what has been done complies with what had been agreed, and that the process prior to the advertising of the order was legally compliant.”

Call for public meeting on anti-social behaviour problems
LAST week’s lead story about anti-social behaviour in Cowal Place has stirred up the proverbial hornet’s nest.
There have been a number of calls in support of the views expressed in both the article and the comment column.
Coming in for particular criticism were the council for failing to enforce tenancy conditions, the police for failing to respond quickly enough (in fairness to local police, most of the concern was about time being wasted due to calls being directed to a call centre rather than the local station).
Most of the criticism, however, was directed at the HELP Project. Callers felt that once homeless youngsters were allocated a house they were left to get on with it, and the project was washing its hands of the problems being caused by its proteges once they had been given accommodation.
And the problems faced by the folk in Cowal Place are not unique. Mrs A (identity concealed to prevent repercussions) living on Tom-a-Mhoid Road came into the Observer office on Monday with a similar tale of woe.
“We’ve been living in a flat in Tom-a-Mhoid Road for a number of years,” she said. “and it was fine until the HELP project moved a young girl into the property.
Since then it’s been bedlam. Twice the house has been on fire, and this in itself has been a cause for concern. There’s fighting and screaming at all hours of the night, and it’s a very intimidating situation. One elderly lady who complained got a stream of abuse from one of the ‘visitors’ to the house.
“I’m all for social inclusion and helping the disadvantaged,” said Mrs A. “But we pay our rent and council tax, and we shouldn’t have to put up with this. If the people allocating these properties were living with the consequences as we’re doing then they’d be a lot more careful about how they go about it.”
She went on: “ There’s a further issue with housing youngsters. If there’s an argument with the parents all they have to do is walk out and declare themselves homeless. So in many respects the policy of housing young people is actually contributing to the break-up of families.
Shc concluded by saying: “This is a growing problem in the area and it’s time the agencies in charge started paying heed to the concerns of we who are suffering because of their policies.
“Perhaps a public meeting in the Queen’s Hall might allow them to give some answers on how they intend to start addressing these issues with the interests of the wider public in mind.”

“It’s treatment and it works”
SCOTTISH Water are taking very seriously the petition with over 700 signatures generated by the “Innellan Three’ against the water company’s plans for the village’s sewage treatment.
Jim Duncanson, Jimmy Duncan and Gibert Pyke have been waging a high-profile - and by any standards a highly effective - campaign against Scottish Water since the company announced that the village’s sewage needs would be met by three new septic tanks.
Their campaign has attracted a great deal of support and has been backed by MSPs of all persuasions in the area.
The other two tanks are in place, but planning permission for the site three tank was refused by councillors. The refusal was, however, overturned on appeal.
Last Friday, senior Scottish Water representatives came to the Observer Office to outline the company’s position.
Customer Service Director, Cheryl Black and the man who has been at the sharp end of the development from day one, Project Manager Brian Martins, had visited all three septic tank sites before speaking to the Observer.
Ms Black said that they were very concerned about the public’s perception of what was planned for Innellan.
“Of course we are taking this seriously,” she said. “When over 700 people sign a petition it’s pretty obvious that there are real worries about what we are planning to do.
“However,” she added, “the petition states that we will be putting raw sewage into the sea, and it’s important that villagers realise that this is simply not the case.
“It’s an allegation that’s being made all the time, and it needs to be put to bed once and for all.”
She said that the septic tanks planned for Innellan were a well-proven design. “These are tried and tested systems which are used in more than 2000 communities throughout Scotland. Coastal villages such as Cove and Kilcreggan, parts of Arran and Bute, and other sites around the country use these systems which are an approved form of treatment by SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency). They do an excellent job everywhere else and there’s no reason to believe that they won’t do the same in Innellan.
Mr Martins explained: “A septic tank works as a simple waste water treatment works and offers a robust and effective treatment system for thousands of communities across Scotland.
“Septic tanks are in effect horizontal-flow settlement tanks designed to separate solids which are retained as sludge until such time as this is removed by tanker. Sludge is generally removed from the tanks twice a year.
Waste material (sludge) is allowed to settle in the tank and is digested by natural bacteria which breed in the tank. This anaerobic action effectively treats the waste within the tank, together with the biological treatment it receives as a result of the period of retention within the tanks.
He went on: “The treated waste water drains from the tank’s outlet pipe by gravity to a point that is pre-determined by a hydraulic modelling exercise. At this point it receives further dilution and is dispersed by the natural flow of the receiving waters This process of modelling is agreed at every stage with the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA)
“The discharge of the final treated effluent is NOT activated until such time as the SEPA Consent to discharge has been received by Scottish Water. At Innellan, the respective lengths of the outfall pipelines are Site One – 203m, Site Two - 245m and at Site Three the outfall stretches 458m into the Clyde.
Septic tanks are regulated by SEPA and the discharge of any waste water from the tanks must operate within the consents applied by SEPA.”
He explained how the system copes in periods of heayy rainfall: “A Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) is an overflow pipe operates only during periods of high rainfall to relieve pressure on sewerage systems and so prevent flooding.
CSOs allow rain water and well-diluted, but minimally treated and screened sewage, to bypass a treatment works and flow directly into rivers and coastal waters.
“The CSOs at Innellan meet SEPA guidelines and best practice.”
“Everything we do has to be in accordance with legislation regulated by SEPA.” he said.
“There are a whole range of issues which have to be addressed, and in the end we have to satisfy our regulators that the scheme meets their standards before we get final approval.”
Answering suspicions that there might might be a conflict of interest in that SEPA and Scottish Water are both funded by the Scottish Executive, Ms Black said: “Absolutely not. The rules and criteria which SEPA applies are not laid down by the Executive, but by the EU - its European water quality standards which are applied.”
Asked why it made sense to pump sewage all the way from Sandbank to Bullwood to treat it, but it was impractical to do the same from Innellan, Mr Martins said: “Transferring raw sewage from Innellan to Bullwood would require a significant number of additional pumping stations and other associated equipment. Such a scheme would also need septicity dosing which again requires equipment and would need storage for chemical control boxes. In addition, it must be remembered that there is not unlimited room at Bullwood Quarry.”

Mather meets police to discuss public concerns
Responding to the concerns about policing in Dunoon that have been voiced by constituents, local shopkeepers and respondents to a Scottish National Party Opinion Survey, Jim Mather MSP, had a very constructive and informative meeting last Friday with senior officers at Dunoon Police Station and has said:
“I came away from my meeting with the police deeply impressed by the commitment and resolve of local officers but deeply depressed about the system and resources with which they have to work.”
Mr. Mather continued: “I tabled local concerns about a perceived increased incidence of rowdiness, anti-social behaviour and underage drinking and the apparent inability of low-profile policing to address these matters to the satisfaction of the public.
“I do believe that the local police share the belief that these issues have to be confronted and managed if Dunoon is to avoid unintended consequences that could affect people’s lives and livelihoods”
He said that the current system and lack of resources limit the ability of the local force to produce the results we all want.
He went on: “For instance, the ongoing difficulty concerned members of the public have in contacting the police in Dunoon is becoming a deep irritant and is eroding faith in the ability of the police to respond effectively.”
This, he said was because all calls are now routed through a central call centre in Glasgow and this appears to result in critical delays in the police attending incidents.
He said: “Whilst we understand that the objective behind the move to central call-centres is to free police officers to do more policing, that benefit is of less value in Dunoon with its lower levels of overall crime.
“I have written to the Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police to have this situation immediately reviewed: for, while this approach may work in Glasgow, it is widely believed to be failing in Argyll and Bute.
“The other issue I will raise with the Chief Constable is the very limited manpower at the disposal of the police in Dunoon. It strikes me that the low rate of overall crime may have resulted in a low allocation of resource to Dunoon and Cowal.
“Indeed, this under-manning may be at the root of the growth in rowdy, anti-social behaviour, which could never have become established and allowed to flourish if there had been a more obvious police presence that was able to act instantly.
He concluded by saying: “The fact is that, with a more direct and local telephone access and additional manpower, I know that these problems can be resolved.
“This is particularly so as we are fortunate enough to have local senior police officers, who are prepared to work with the schools and the Council to channel the energies and frustrations of young people into more rewarding and fulfilling paths, thus avoiding much of the problem and giving young people more constructive ways to spend their time.”