MORAY’S MSP HAS stepped into a row that has split a local community and is now in danger of damaging already struggling businesses.
Richard Lochhead has written to the Elgin and Lossiemouth Harbour Company seeking talks over the long running dispute with community leaders and businesses in Lossiemouth since bollards were put in place in the town’s harbour.
The MSP has been contacted by members of the local community who are concerned that the bollards, which are blocking access from the East to the West sections of the harbour, are contributing to a reduction in visitor numbers.
Since the bollards appeared without warning earlier this year thousands signed a petition demanding they were removed – while the Harbour Company have steadfastly refused to be moved on an issue they insist was brought about over concerns for public safety.
Now Mr Lochhead is seeking discussions with the Harbour Board in an attempt to find a solution to a dispute that has angered businesses, community representatives and the general public.
The MSP said: “I was concerned to hear from members of the community that visitor trade in the harbour area is being affected by the erection of bollards and no entry signs, by the Harbour Board, at the Marina.
“The harbour and the marina are the heart of the community and I sympathise with the view in Lossiemouth that the area should be open and accessible for locals and tourists alike.
“Since speaking with members of the community about these concerns, I have written to the Elgin and Lossiemouth Harbour Board asking to meet and making strong representations on the community’s behalf. I have asked that they reconsider and perhaps look at other less obstructive solutions.”
One of the businesses that has noted a fall in custom since the bollards were put in place is the Harbour Lights restaurant, where owner Evelyn Thomson has little doubt that the closure of the road has had an adverse effect: “Regular customers are expressing their disappointment that they cannot drive straight through any more – we are usually busy in Summer but because of the bollards we have not had as many customers this year.
“They also said they put the bollards in for safety – but delivery lorries and even bin lorries have to back up the road when they reach the bollards. We’ve been here since 2008 and the risk of accident is greater now than it was before the put the bollards in place.”
The Harbour Board were sticking to their guns last night, director George Reid saying: “The bollards were installed to benefit the town and they have eliminated any risk of traffic accidents at that area.”
Since the restrictions were put in place in February, meetings have been held between community leaders and the Harbour Board, with attempts of mediation by Moray Council – but all have failed to find a solution.
A spokesman for the Lossiemouth Community Council said: “This has been a regular issue for discussion at our meetings and the view of all community councillors is that the bollards should never have been put there without proper consultation with the local community.
“We have been given a variety of reasons as to why the bollards were put in place, including one that the road condition was such that there was a danger of it breaking up. The main reason being given is the safety one – but there has never been an accident and in any case the safety issue could be dealt with in several ways that did not include closing the road.”