Letter to the Editor

Miller Rev Ian 2

Dear Editor,

I have just read the submission from the Balloch and Haldane Community Council re the west Riverside development. I admit to my shame I should have done this before opening my mouth on this issue but I did not. Now I have. First may I say it is an incredibly balanced and well-argued document. It gives guarded approval with a number of clear caveats. Its approval is far from being unconditional.  It closes by saying…   B&HCC are of the opinion to support, in principle, this area of the development, but reserve the right to further comment when full detailed plans are submitted, with consideration made to comments regarding the Charrette Report. 

Having a fair track record as a “protester” myself, I would be the last one to criticise anyone for protesting about anything that they feel is not good for the community.  To my mind the criticism levelled at the Community Council, however, is both unwarranted and unfair. The development will be approved or rejected on planning grounds and what will be will be.

Perrie Sid.jpgI don’t know Mr Perrie, pictured left. He may well be an upright and well-intentioned citizen. Who knows, in his shoes, I may well be tempted to sign any petition that, in my opinion, might affect the exclusivity of my property.  The better half of me however would, I hope, be open to consider what might arguably be to the detriment of my interest and might also possibly be to the benefit of the wider community.  Leaving that argument aside, what I can’t understand is the obvious rancour he feels for the members of the Balloch and Haldane Community Council.  I have read his allegation that the Community Council have broken their “Sacred Trust”. That is quite a statement.  He alleges the community council have not tried to “ascertain, co-ordinate and express the views” presumable of their area.

The geographical remit of the Community Council stretches wider than Balloch Road and Drumkinnon Gate, where I understand the overwhelming majority of the petitioners reside.

Is the allegation of the breaking of a “sacred trust” the burning issue in Haldane? I think not.  I think it is a burning issue for those who live a few hundred yards from the development, but living in the Haldane it is not the issue that dominates the conversation around the dinner table or in the pubs, possible employment or what their leisure opportunities might well be.

The statesmanlike and guarded approval given by the community council, I would suggest, probably does reflect public opinion fairly accurately.

When there is a threat to the hospital, thousands turn out.  Thousands attend the 24-hour vigil and sign the petition.  When a public meeting is held re this development we were told there were 150. That, according to the Lennox Herald, has now risen to 200 plus. An independent count on the night was 123. It was a fairly animated meeting. Feelings were running high; opinions were expressed strongly.  Having chaired many a similar meeting, I could understand the comment of one attendee who said “it would have taken a brave man or woman to have offered any guarded word of support”.

But even if those present, (even 200 plus), were utterly united in opposition, is that enough to deduce that the entire population or even the majority of the catchment area of the Haldane and Balloch community are against the proposal?

Understanding what the members of the community council have faced I can understand how there would be a disinclination to speak even in tentatively in support.

As to the allegation of lack of community consultation, there was a consultation at Lomond Shores and many attended. It was held over three days (a weekend day, A week day and night and also another afternoon evening slot a few weeks later) to make sure everyone had a chance to go.

Also, the survey could be completed on line by those who couldn’t make it. It was well advertised in public places, the local press and on social media. When I attended there were some for and some against. It seemed fairly evenly divided and some were looking commendably for further information and assurances.  Those present behaved with dignity.

Lomond Shores Iconic LD

I have now asked for the results of that survey. I am told 519 attended. I am told a total of 385 questionnaires were completed.  83% of those who responded lived in the local area (defined as Balloch, Jamestown and Alexandria) Over half of those, 55%, welcomed the proposals.   30% did not and 15% were undecided.  I would also think if I had an issue I would certainly be one who filled in the questionnaire in RED INK.

I should imagine those who did not were either reasonably happy or wanted to wait and see the detailed plans. I would contend that would be a reasonable assumption. On the basis protesters want to make their views known.

My concern right now, however, has nothing to do with whether the development goes ahead or not …. what will be will be. The outcome will be decided by the planners. My concern is however that there is more than a hint that somehow the good people of the Balloch and Haldane Community Council have somehow “abused the sacred trust” and implicit in this that they have in some way failed to live up to the council’s stated principles:

Service to the Community; Selflessness; Integrity; Objectivity; Accountability and Stewardship; Openness; Honesty; Leadership and Respect.

I have checked the names of those who are members of the Council, and I have absolutely no reason to doubt their openness, objectivity, accountability and stewardship.

I am not a member of it and don’t attend their meetings but I do know the vast majority of their committee through various other community activities and having lived in this community for 43 years.

I say unreservedly in terms of selflessness, service to the community, integrity, honesty, leadership and respect … they are shining lights.

If asked to provide a reference for those individuals that I know personally (and that is nine of them) those would be the very words I would use. I am sure that in everything they do for the community, they do it unpaid, they deserve our gratitude for devoting their time and talents in an exercise that now and again brings them nothing but headaches.  They do so trying as best they can to serve the wider community rather than any private or vested interest. They may not always get it right but don’t in any way question their honesty and integrity.

Sorry Mr Perrie, I don’t know you and you may well genuinely have a concern for the community as a whole rather than that of a fairly small geographical part of it.  You may well be a community activist who has crept below my radar and be involved in a whole host of things.

If so, I apologise, but if not I would ask you to think twice about questioning the principles of those who have an untarnished record of service, some even recognised nationally for that contribution.

By all means Sir. Fight and Fight Hard. Disagree with them, but to question their motivation or integrity is a step too far.

The Rev Ian Miller,  Alexandria

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