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Findochty boatowners demand clarity from council over pontoon project

By Alan Beresford

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COMMUNICATION between Moray Council and Findochty boatowners has again come under the spotlight.

Findochty Water Sports Club commodore Mairi Innes (front left) and other harbour users are unhappy with the level of communication with Moray Council. Picture: Becky Saunderson
Findochty Water Sports Club commodore Mairi Innes (front left) and other harbour users are unhappy with the level of communication with Moray Council. Picture: Becky Saunderson

The project to replace the pontoons at the harbour has come under fire over a number of issues, including delays and dredging, with the Findochty Water Sports Club (FWSC) and others slamming the local authority for poor communication with them.

A recent update from the council, which included responses to queries raised by boatowners, does not appear to have dampened the flames of discontent.

FWSC commodore Mairi Innes said the document, which was in reply to an online survey, told them "nothing we don't already know"

She continued: "There appears to be very little communication from the council as our emails and requests, (some of which are being passed on by councillors), are not being processed and we want to know why.

"Any information filtered down to locals comes in dribs and drabs and is garnered by individuals who are contacting Moray Council in order to discuss their personal concerns.

"The harbour users want to know why there is such a hold up with the marine license, which is not on the Marine Scotland website and whether anyone at HQ is pursuing said license. Allegedly it was applied for in March 2021.

"We also want to know whether the dredging contract has been awarded and the date that dredging will commence at Findochty as until such time as the dredging happens, the pontoons cannot be installed. Apparently the dredging license is in place so what is the hold up?

"We have been given no updates and received no new information since appearing in the press four weeks ago and the harbour remains in a state of disrepair.

"Providing information about performance to interested parties is an essential element of good governance, yet we are hearing nothing from Moray Council. We would appreciate clarity about the time scales for the pontoon project and ultimately we wish to return our boats to the water in a safe and secure mooring this season."

A spokeswoman for Moray Council stated that the local authority had kept in regular touch with boatowners.

She continued: “It is incorrect to suggest that we’ve not been in touch with harbour users or issued updates – in fact we’ve been in regular communication throughout, including conducting a consultation, multiple updates to the scheduled harbour advisory committee, individual meetings with berth holders to answer specific concerns, and most recently a Q&A including plans of the pontoon system was issued and further questions answered which had been raised by boat owners.

"An application was lodged with Marine Scotland on March 5, 2021 and is subject to a statutory process which we have no influence over. It is referenced on Marine Scotland’s website.

“We understand that boat owners are keen to be back using the harbour and as soon as have confirmation the licence has been granted, and we have more information to share, we will let harbour users know.”

In the response document, boatowners were told that the contractor has pencilled in an 11-week programme of works once the marine licence has been received.

With regards to dredging, the council said that they were working with the contractor to provide land based dredging to remove silt using a long reach excavator. The project is looking to remove around 1000m³ (1500 tonnes) of material. The material will be placed in a suitable location for the dredger Selkie to remove and dispose of at sea as per the current dredging licence.

Other queries raised were:

1. What are the proposed security arrange with regards to the access to the pontoons?

Response: A gate is a new feature for Findochty Harbour. We are happy to consider a gate being provided as part of the project and are assessing the available options. It is most likely that a waist high gate will be provided as part of the project.

2. Mooring of fixed/Finn/long keel vessels?

Response: This is in relation to those vessels which previously occupied a pontoon berth but relied on the wall for additional support. We have reviewed a number of different options with regards to this boat type, including alternative pontoon layouts and single steel piles (both of these options have been ruled out as not meeting our needs in a cost effective manner). We have narrowed the options to two design both being around a cradle type design. We are currently calculating which design will provide the best structurally secure solution. The design will mean there will be two or three vertical mooring poles that vessels can moor to with the pontoon on the opposite side to allow access. Once the design is complete it will be shared with users.

3. Is any pedestrian safety protection, eg railings, proposed along the length of Commercial Road?

Response: There are no plans to change the current situation as the pontoons are not changing the current situation with regards to the use of the harbour.

4. Has the positioning of anchor chains been taken into consideration?

Response: Yes, this has been taken into account, and near-final locations are on the attached drawing, please contact a member of the team below if you have any queries. The final locations will also be circulated to all users.

5. Will the old access ladders be removed?

Response: No. As these are in usable condition they will remain as an additional form of emergency escape.

6. Maximum length of the vessels and maximum weight was detailed in the specification as 10m and three tonnes respectively. Several current berth holders have vessels which exceed these maximum specs.

Response: We have liaised with the design team and all current vessels can be accommodated on the pontoons and where applicable the mooring cleats have been upgraded.

7. Would there be room to allocate visitor berthing?

Response: At present there are no plans to add visitor berths, the project specification has been for a like-for-like pontoon system in terms of capacity. The current arrangements for visiting vessels will continue to apply.

8. Is there ladder access to each pontoon or only the ramped area?

Response: There are multiple ladder on the pontoons. The ramp will be the main point of access. The ladders will remain as an additional form of emergency access. There will also be escape ladders on the pontoons.

9. Will there be water on the pontoons?

Response: A water point will be installed to the end of the pontoon system. The exact location will be confirmed during construction.

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