Gravel bank motion refused by Provost

Councillor Bob Myles was left bitterly disappointed last week when Provost Helen Oswald rejected his motion to appeal the decision on the gravel bank.

Speaking on Thursday, Councillor Myles said: “I was furious at today’s council meeting. Firstly the Provost didn’t allow the deputation that came from Brechin to speak on the gravel bank issue and secondly she didn’t allow the motion to be put to full council because she deemed there wasn’t a material chance in circumstance to warrant the motion being put.

“Now I discussed with senior officers beforehand the fact that the public meeting [at the Bridgend] demonstrated to everyone present, including all three councillors and all three councillors at that time concurred that the gravel bank should be removed and that there was an overriding public interest to have it removed.”

He continued: “It showed the council were frightened of something. Why would they not let it be debated? It had already passed a full council meeting that we would remove the gravel bank.”

The issue over the gravel bank has rumbled on for sometime. Last month, Angus Council was refused a CAR licence by SEPA amid concerns over fresh-water mussels which live in that particular stretch of the river.

Councillor Myles hoped to appeal the decision during the meeting of the Infrastructure services committee on August 21, but his amendment was deemed incompetent.

Discussing the amendment and the cost of an appeal, councillor Myles said: “The cost of the appeal is virtually negligible. If we lost the appeal the cost would be the officers’ time, at the absolute maximum it would be something like £20,000.

“If we won the appeal we would get costs rewarded. If we lost the appeal then we won’t be doing anything with the gravel bank and there was £150,000 in the pot for that, so for Councillor Gauld to say I hadn’t identified where the money is coming from is a lot of rubbish, because the money was there. It was identified for the flood prevention interim measures. He is totally out of order trying to deem my amendment incompetent.

Adding that he expected more support from Councillor Mairi Evans, he said: “I gave her the opportunity to rectify that and speak up for the people of Brechin by referring the item to full council. She agreed at the public meeting to do so and in an email I got from her the next day she said she wouldn’t be at the following council meet and said for me do it.

“Now, by that time it was too late to refer it because a Standing Order allows three days from a meeting to refer an item, but it also says in the small print including the day of the meeting. So when we went on Friday it was deemed too late- hence the reason it was put forward as a full motion.”

Councillor Myles continued: “My argument is remove the it and get on with it. The fear from SEPA is this potential risk to the mussels. Now potential risk doesn’t mean guaranteed risk and doesn’t guarantee there is any risk at all.

“The suggestion I was making was that gravel bank could be removed without touching the water line at all. It could be removed behind the water line hence not disturbing a single fresh water mussel. It could all be done most economically and sympathetically with the ecology of the river.”

He added: “We know removing the gravel bank wouldn’t solve all problems but I am sure it would give people some comfort that something had been done. At the moment hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent on reports and surveys and not a penny on the actual engineering works to improve the situation for the residents.”

Speaking about where the decision leaves him, Councillor Myles commented: “In six months time we can write back again, but we will have wasted another six months. I probably will refer back in another six months but we have to now undergo another winter with the residents of Brechin worried about getting flooded.”

Commenting on Angus Council, Councillor Myles said: “The council are saying they are working for the people of Angus, but they are not doing a damn thing for the people of Brechin.

“It seems strange that Mairi Evans didn’t have the courage to appear at the meeting when she could have added a lot weight to my argument. She did nothing.

“Jim Houston was prepared to second me but did nothing to defend me in the chamber. I would have appreciated a little support from him. He had something written out on how he was prepared to support the motion and I don’t know how he is feeling.”

“I know there is unease with some of the other SNPs as they feel they are being dictated to and not allowed to air their views. This is what we are seeing at national level and it now seems to be at a local level too.”

In her response to the decision about the gravel bank, Provost Oswald said: “I am sorry Councillor Myles is disappointed by my decision that his motion on the gravel bank issue was not competent.

“The paper initially came before the infrastructure services committee on August 21. The papers for this meeting would have been with Councillor Myles on the previous Wednesday, i.e. August 15 – six days. Council Standing Orders state quite clearly that if an amendment is to be put forward, the head of finance has to be consulted as to the possible financial consequences.

“Despite having plenty of time, Councillor Myles failed to do this. It should be noted that this Standing Order was brought in by his own Angus Alliance administration!

“Again, under Standing Orders, if he had then wanted to take the matter to full council, he needed to do this within three working days, the date of the meeting being one of these days. Again, despite being a councillor of long standing, Councillor Myles failed to do this.

“A further Standing Order of the council states that any decision of a committee or council shall not be altered or revoked within a period of six months unless the Provost rules that a material change of circumstances has occurred to such an extent that it is appropriate for the issue to be reconsidered.

“During a very bad-tempered exchange, Councillor Myles failed to persuade me that there had been a material change since August 21. He left the meeting in high dudgeon, and due to his shouting over me, failed to hear the comments that, the council and indeed SEPA would be keeping a watchful eye on the situation and if there were any material changes, these would be brought back for consideration.”