TAG | Arbroath
Worries have emerged as part of a recent consultation response to Scottish Government plans, which will shape the nation’s future flood management response, with Angus Lib Dem Cllr David May claiming rural areas such as Angus and Mearns look certain to lose out.
The SNP government’s Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009 has been described as a “big step forward … providing a unique opportunity to shape new ways of working and creating a modern, sustainable approach to flood management fit for the 21st century.”
A number of Angus communities have suffered flood misery in recent years and, at a time when major financial challenges face councils, Angus infrastructure services convener David May has attacked the way money is dished out for flood schemes. Presently under this government, funding depends on the number of properties directly affected.
Mr May said:
“The funding formula means that urban areas — by their very nature more densely populated — are going to be advantaged and areas such as Angus and Mearns will lose out.
“Having in the past year regularly visited areas affected by flooding, I call on the Scottish government to reconsider their policy.”
“Given financial pressures facing councils, so it is more important than ever to make sure we receive adequate funding and do not lose out just because of our location and population.”
Highlighting the specific across Angus, Mr May continued,
“In March this year Angus Council agreed some short term measures to improve the Barry Burn Flood Protection Scheme. However, although these short term measures have been met from the council’s roads budget it is unlikely the Council will be able to fund the potential longer term solutions under investigation for Carnoustie.”
“A similar situation exists in Arbroath, which experienced significant flooding beyond the usual risk areas. The removal of the dedicated government grant scheme has thrown plans for flood protection schemes into complete disarray. Added to this, is the confusion created by the phased introduction of the new Flood Risk Management Act (2009) which changes local authorities’ responsibilities and powers.”
“We are doing what we can locally – today we will be discussing the latest report on the Brechin Flood Protection Scheme. Although this is a relatively modest scheme by national standards, it still comes with a price tag of £13m. Flooding needs to be considered at a national level, as the resources required to properly address it are clearly beyond the financial means of local government.”
Sanjay Samani, Liberal Democrat North East Regional Candidate added his support for Mr May’s comments, saying:
“By funding the new flood prevention schemes for the new act based on population, the SNP Government is being too simplistic. They have announced funding for a new Flood Forecasting Service. The information from this service must be used to target central government funding for flood prevention.”
PHOTO: Sanjay Samani and Cllr David May visit the site of flooding in Brechin with Provost Ruth Leslie Melville:
Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham recently announced plans for a Flood Forecasting Service, providing £750,000 of Scottish Government funding. Liberal Democrat campaigner for Angus and Mearns, Sanjay Samani, welcomed the announcement, but called on the Government to do more on planning flood prevention as well as forecasting.
The announcement of the investment for flood forecasting is very welcome. We all remember the devastating effects of flooding throughout Angus, Mearns and Stonehaven last year. Local emergency services can now be better prepared in case these tragic events occur again in future.
However, ensuring that flooding is prevented is even more important than forecasting when it will happen. The SNP Government made it a requirement that Councils prepare for flooding in the Flood Risk Management Act passed by parliament last year.
The SNP Government must make use of the information from the forecasting service to ensure that funding for flood prevention is provided where it is most needed. Funding should not be based on a simplistic count of population, but has to be targeted to where flooding is most likely to occur and cause devastating damage to homes, farmland and businesses.
PHOTO: Sanjay visiting a flooding site in Brechin with Montrose Cllr David May and Provost & Brechin Cllr Ruth Leslie Melville:
I am backing the Arbroath Abbey World Heritage Campaign. I have signed the petition online in order to demonstrate his support to secure World Heritage Status for Arbroath Abbey from the UN.
Given the Abbey’s connection to the Declaration of Arbroath, it is fitting that the Abbey be granted World Heritage Status. I believe that this will encourage even more visitors to come to visit Arbroath Abbey and share in the exceptional site and its history. As well as recognising the Abbey’s importance to Scotland, it would also provide a boost to our tourism industry both in Arbroath and Angus as a whole.
I would also ask Angus residents to sign the petition if they have not already done so, as the backing of local people plays a big role in securing the status. Furthermore, having World Heritage Status will help to preserve Arbroath Abbey for future generations.”
I understand that the Campaign’s website was attacked by hackers, and details of those that signed up to the petition online were deleted, which is a huge disappointment. If you originally pledged your support on the website, I would encourage you to return to the online petition and put your name down again, as I have done.
I am backing the Scottish Lib Dem campaign to get the SNP Government to support businesses and particularly hotels, facing huge increases in their businesses rates. Speaking to a debate on this issue at the Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference, I highlighted the issues facing tourism during a year of celebrations across the whole of Angus.
Jeremy Purvis MSP, Lib Dem Shadow Secretary on Economic affairs, introduced a motion to press the Scottish Government to support hotels facing rises of up to 120% in the 2010 Business Rates revaluation. He called for the SNP to provide transitional relief, staggering increases over a number of years, in the same way as the previous Lib Dem / Labour Government had done whilst in power, and is standard practice across the rest of the UK.
In Angus, the recession is already hitting Scottish Hotels and Tourism. In February, a stately home, the Castleton House, near Glamis, closed its doors as a hotel.
This year, there are bicentenary celebrations for the Royal Montrose Golf Course and the Bell Rock Lighthouse as well as the 150th anniversary of J M Barrie’s birth in Kirriemuir. All of these celebrations have developed great relationships with local hotels and B&B’s. But already a lack of hotel beds in Angus limits how big their events can be and how much extra business they can bring to the local area.
I spoke to Fraser Ogston, the owner of two hotels in St Andrews, who will open a third in Arbroath in April. He had little idea of what his business rates will be, particularly with the rates revaluation. How can hotel owners plan their business without knowing what their taxes will be?
The issues with business rates go further than the hotel industry and transitional relief, however. In particular, business rates are discouraging investment to tackle climate change, as any savings made on energy bills are swallowed up in increased rates. I talked to a shipyard owner, Harry Simpson of Mackay Boat Builders, again in Arbroath, where they rebuilt a workshop building, with one with an insulated roof, motion sensitive lights and taps, and a better working environment for staff. With little warning their rates were doubled, not least because they were taken over the threshold for small business relief.
How can it make sense that a business that has added no new capacity, is no longer regarded as small, simply because they have replaced a building with a greener, safer one?
I visited Arbroath’s Signal Tower Museum on a cold, frosty morning. I was delighted to hear from Cllr David May, Convener of Infrastructure Services, that the museum secured £450,000 of investment in the recently passed Angus budget.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the museum, the displays are fresh, informative and give a real feel for what life was like for ordinary folk living in Arbroath over the years. Staff there indicated that there were a huge number of items the museum would dearly like to share with the people of Arbroath. Therefore, it is wonderful news that the historic Signal Tower Museum has secured £450,000 for significant renovation from Angus Council.
David mentioned that the model of The Bell Rock Lighthouse, acquired by Angus Council, is included in the BBC’s History of the World in 100 Objects. It is no wonder then, that Angus Council want to support Arbroath and put the town at centre stage for the Bell Rock Lighthouse Bicentenary celebrations.
This significant investment in the Signal Tower is long overdue and I congratulate Angus Council in their vision in investing in Arbroath to help the community celebrate its rich engineering history. It will benefit the whole of Angus, not only in the Year of the Light, but well into the future.
David had said “ This allocation of funding on Arbroath’s Signal Tower is not just for the 2011 international celebrations of ‘the Year of the Light’, but in my view is very much part of our Council’s commitment to heritage tourism. This is a fundamental part of our wish to boost Arbroath. As tourism is one of Angus’s key economic drivers, this considerable investment in the Signal Tower is hugely welcome. I am just disappointed that the SNP did not support us in celebrating Arbroath’s heritage.”
I recently visited the Angus Volunteer Centre in Arbroath to discuss their work with Gary Malone and Fiona Walsh. Gary and Fiona showed me around the Centre and discussed their future plans and the issues facing the centre and volunteers.
I had the pleasure of meeting Gary and Fiona at a Voluntary Sector Conference last year in Perth. So it was great to meet them again to find out more about what the Volunteers Centre is doing to help involve Angus residents through volunteering, who might otherwise feel isolated from the community.
Gary and the Volunteer Centre have a refreshingly unique attitude to volunteering. When considering volunteers, we normally focus on how they help and care for others. The Volunteer Centre is pioneering an innovative approach by encouraging those in need of help themselves, to get involved through volunteering, and so help themselves as well as others.
I heard from Gary and Fiona of training and skills provided to volunteers to help them develop work experience, which then can lead on to paid employment. Equally fascinating was Fiona Walsh’s personal experience, where volunteering is not just a route into employment, but has become a passion. Fiona has a well known ability to engage with the younger generation in Angus to discuss drug and alcohol abuse. She thoroughly deserves her BNI Nexus Young Employee of the Year Award.
Gary and I also discussed the Volunteer’s Centre’s role in providing services for Angus Council and developments in the relationship between Government and the voluntary sector.
One common theme I find talking to businesses, farmers, volunteers and individuals in Arbroath and across Angus is the lack of flexibility and common sense central government arrangement provides to local councils. When Councils tender for services, it is understandable that the SNP Government wants to ensure standards of quality, however current national arrangements can unduly benefit large national companies. In some cases these companies will subcontract to volunteer organisations, without passing on the full financial benefit.
The inflexibility of the national arrangements often discourages or discriminates against small, local voluntary groups from offering their services directly. So their invaluable local knowledge, help and experience can get lost. Worst of all, it could also put volunteers off getting involved, which would be an immense shame.