Statement in response to claims by the 'Protect Loch Tay' Group
Thev following statement by Kenmore and District Community Council was made at our open meeting on 31 August 2023
There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since our council last met in June.
It’s fair to say that we had hoped to make more progress on some things like progressing the reading rooms project. But unfortunately, other matters have taken up too much of our attention and our time.
We will discuss the Taymouth Castle development later in our agenda but there is an important matter that we want to address now - the divisive and destructive rhetoric emanating from outside our community.
Our Council largely stayed out of the wider debate on Taymouth Castle - we believe in democracy and free speech. The views of a wider audience are valid and informative.
But our job is to represent the community here, make sure your voice is heard and your concerns dealt with.
No doubt you will be aware of allegations and criticism made against this Council. We have been accused of being inept, unqualified, greedy and corrupt. Just yesterday a national newspaper reporter told me she had been briefed by a leading protestor, someone who does not even live here, that we have scared the good people of Kenmore from speaking out!
We are just a few volunteers who give sometimes more time than we have spare, to work for the community, for you. We were elected in a democratic process and have a national Code of Conduct we are bound to follow.
We did not court controversy. In fact we have worked closely with DLC the Castle developers for more than a year to try to steer the development in the best interest of local people without fuss.
Positive outcomes of our discussions so far include:
- cleaning up of the beach area, installation of life belts and repair of the dangerous collapsing walls;
- planned provision of new beach and street furniture;
- help with retaining, restoring and furnishing the kenmore communityReading Rooms and providing free broadband there;
- re-opening of the village shop - which we all know DLC did not shut;
- plans for a new village pub and restaurant
- sponsorship for the school, highland games and other local events; and
- an excellent community Christmas in Kenmore celebration with proceeds donated by DLC to community funds and the Air Ambulance.
But we have watched while lies, conspiracy theories, scaremongering and disinformation have been cast about with no regard for the truth - or worse - for the consequences.
We were told there would be a gated community - not true. The marina would be bought and loads of jet skis berthed there - not true. The castle owners bought the post office to shut it down - not true. The school will be knocked down and the kids turned out into the street - not true.
I won’t list all the nonsense, we haven’t got time but Bill Oppenheim, chair of the Loch Tay Association already did a splendid job of knocking down each accusation at a Loch Tay Association meeting just a week ago. His speech was met with resounding and lasting applause the like I have never seen in a public meeting. Thank you Bill for bringing some sense to the situation.
People have been told this is a ghost town - everything is shut, there’s nothing to do, don’t bother coming. I can’t imagine anything, more harmful to a tourist-led economy like ours here.
Clearly the authors of that are not looking at the same place I am with the Waterfront, Marina, Courtyard shop and restaurant populated with happy looking customers.
But if you tell folk who might want to stay her, live here, or work here that it is a ghost town then that is exactly what it will become.
And as a result of that irresponsible and destructive messaging our local businesses have lost valuable summer trade and are having to explain to their customers - people looking to cancel their bookings - why Kenmore is still a great place to visit.
The lasting consequence of that irresponsible, uncalled for and indefensible denigration of our vital tourist economy is absolutely frightening.
How on earth can any of this protect loch Tay?
What motivates such such harmful rhetoric?
Just as concerning for our council, we have been told by protestors that we don’t actually reflect local sentiment. Well, perhaps there are a few here who would rather not have the development.
That said, I and my fellow councillors have not met anyone here who does not want the changes to result in the best possible outcomes for the area, and that is what we are all working for.
You will have heard accusations from protestors that we are in the pocket of the big bad developers, or are being bullied, or have had the wool pulled over our eyes. If we are being bullied it is most certainly not from them.
I’m very glad to report that we have established a constructive and mutually beneficial relationship with Discovery Land Company, the new castle owners. Our experience has been that we have dealt with professional, responsible, honest people who have been frank with us when they did not need to be, heedful of our requests even when that comes at significant cost to their company.
Clearly that outcome does not suit some people.
DLC is working to previous planning consents which are publicly available.
There will inevitably be changes to their plans and they will be subject to new planning applications and public consultation under the statutory planning system.
Where we, or you, have concerns about issues such as access, temporary restrictions, environmental matters, car parking or road traffic we will voice these, continue to hold DLC to task, and try to find win-win solutions that work for us all.
You may also have heard claims that the Community Council is not qualified to monitor this development. For once, that is true. We are most certainly not experts in the many fields involved. That is why Perth and Kinross Council, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, Nature Scot, Historic Environment Scotland, Scottish Water and Scottish Forests are all involved. We trust these expert statutory and regulatory bodies to do what we cannot. Let’s let them do their job.
The Community Council is a statutory consultee along with these other bodies. If we think they are not being heeded we will say so. Where we think we need to object to any proposals then we will.
The new owners have shown they are keen to work with the community. Some of the key people working for them are already living in ex-holiday homes in the village, and are becoming a part of the community themselves.
So, having a supportive, constructive and friendly local environment is clearly beneficial to both parties. Why would DLC not want their staff or visitors to feel welcome in the tiny community here?
The notion frequently put about that their visitors will not want to explore and enjoy our area, our countryside our pubs, shops and restaurants is clearly absurd.
To sum up, we believe that working with the developers, rather than opposing them, is the only way forward. We make no apologies for that approach. It has already borne fruit.
There may be challenges where our objectives might not coincide. Should this happen, we believe that sorting these out is best done from the positive, constructive and collaborative base we have established, rather than harmful, negative demands and damaging and disruptive confrontation.
We are accountable. All that we do is on our website.
The DLC question and answer section on our website is updated as regularly as we can. If you have new questions let us know. And if you want the up to date facts you will find them there.
Finally, we promise that we will not stifle public debate and, unlike secretive pressure groups that purport to protect Loch Tay, we will certainly not ban you from any forum simply for exercising your democratic right to free speech.
But we will also not sit quietly and be harangued, especially by people we do not represent and do not know.
31 August 2023