The directors of the Islay & Jura Ferry Co and associated companies felt they had no option but release the attached statement.
Argyll & Bute Council Planning Authority have just informed the Islay & Jura Ferry Company that their planning application for a new ferry service from the Island of Jura to the mainland will never be determined. The proposal was for a new slip at Lagg on Jura and Keilmore on mainland Argyll. These would have allowed the company to operate a small vehicle ferry, which would have sailed several times a day giving islanders easy access to the mainland. Historically this was the traditional route between the islands and mainland. At present, residents on Jura have to travel to the neighbouring Island of Islay to get a mainland connection.
The Planning Authority claims that the application is of a fragmented nature with insufficient detail and has an inability to satisfy consultees. The council claims that during the four and a half years they have held the application there was ample time to agree content with the consultees. Following the placement of the application Historic Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage both requested further studies to be undertaken. These were completed by EnviroCentre the companies agents but Historic Scotland and SNH have demanded further long term research be done. Both claim that there is not enough evidence that this is the best route. This company point to the fact that several investigations have been done over many years, all funded by the public purse and these concluded that the only sensible option is the traditional route, Lagg to Keills. The Islay & Jura Ferry Company and its agents have continually attempted to allay Historic Scotland fears about the possible impact on the Telford piers in these areas. All attempts have been made to supply the detail to the exhaustive requests from SNH about the environmental impacts on the National Scenic Areas, the Special Areas of Conservation and SSSI.
It is clear to us now that these groups combined with Argyll & Bute Council have no intention of allowing this project to progress. It has also been suggested that there is no support on Jura for the project as Jura Community Council have placed a seven-page list of objections. The letter says, “This application and associated Environmental Assessment is based on flawed, out of date and generally dubious and suspect data and information”. It also quotes “ The Islay & Jura Ferry Co is an ill-founded organization”. These statements we find border on the defamatory. Approximately 20% of the groups funding has come from Jura. Requests to meet with Cabinet Ministers have been side stepped by the Scottish Government, who indicated in a letter that the Jura Landscape Capacity & Development Study being undertaken by A&B Council and SNH will provide additional technical design guidance. It is unclear to us what that means.
The Scottish Government have also pointed out that Jura is an Initiative at the Edge location and public bodies are working proactively with various groups on the island to support community development (passenger ferry). The IatE group declined to support the proposal for a vehicular link. Caledonian MacBrayne (the government run operator) who provides the ferry service to Islay wrote to the planning officer suggesting that the Council should seriously consider its response as the new proposal could be potentially damaging to Cal-Mac operations. Clearly competition is not allowed. We have always believed that the new service would help increase the flow of traffic to the islands, not decrease it. I&JFC is owned by the Overland Route Company, which, has been solely funded by residents on Jura and Islay. The companies, which do have shareholders and supporters on Jura, have received no public financial support and have now been bled dry by the demands and blocking maneuvers of various government and public departments.
Chairperson of the company (Donald Ewen Darroch) states, “It is a sad day for the islands when the people who wish to see their homeland develop and be prosperous for the future are ignored by authority. This is a clear indication that the public bodies have no desire to see the islands repopulate and flourish, the main consideration is to retain a Disney type image, in which the natural inhabitants are not included.” The company has been informed that due to the time periods involved there is no right of appeal to the Scottish Ministers. It is our belief that this company, which is owned by islanders, should have an input in sea transport matters and be allowed the opportunity to operate a ferry service, which would benefit the islands. We intend to do the utmost to ensure that the rights of our shareholders (who are part of the community) are defended.
This story was published with kind permission from the Ileach local newspaper.