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Public Inquiry into Pier Sale Demanded

LOCAL politicians and harbour-users are demanding a public inquiry into the sale of the pier at Drummore Harbour to a Charitable Trust.

Questions have also been raised over MP Peter Duncan’s role in the purchase, made by Stephen Unsworth and Michael Miller, the Trust’s Directors.

The group claim that the community, as well as other potential bidders, were left in the dark over the £1000 sale of the public asset by the Ministry of Defence to Drummore Harbour Trust Ltd.

Councillors Willie Scobie, Tommy Sloan and Grahame Forster, as well as Dumfries MP Russell Brown, have all said they would support an inquiry, and would like clarification on the nature of Mr Duncan’s approach to the MoD over the sale.

Mr Sloan has also written a letter to Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, in which he states that the council, Scottish Enterprise Dumfries and Galloway and the West Freugh Steering Group had no knowledge of the sale or the formation of the Trust. Mr Scobie said:

“We have read that the MoD have sold the harbour to this Trust — this seems to have had the support of Peter Duncan.

“Why was the West Freugh Action Group not consulted about this? We had a standing arrangement to secure as much of the property of West Freugh as possible for community benefit.

“When was the public meeting to consult the community over this Trust? What representations were made? These are the kinds of questions a public inquiry would seek to answer.”

Mr Duncan was swift to deny allegations of “cronyism”, stating that he had only urged the MoD to sell the pier to a private party who would maintain the harbour.

“Categorically, I have had no involvement in the sale process,” he said. “I have always been on the record that the MoD would be better off transferring the pier into private ownership, because it was badly deteriorating under the MoD.

“I approached the Ministry some time ago to encourage the sale of the asset — at no point did I make any representation as to who it should be sold to.”

He added: “If any part of this process has not been transparent, I would be the first to support an inquiry.”

The Trust’s Director, Mike Miller, who was at the meeting in his capacity as council member, said that he was “not at all surprised” that a public inquiry had been called for, but that the pier had been bought with a view to benefiting the community as a whole. He said:

“All of this could derail something that could be very good for the village. This is a very bold move on our part, and a lot of our money has gone into it.”

Controversy over the sale comes amidst complaints from local fishermen that they are being denied access to the pier.

Tony Patterson and John McAlpine say they have not been given keys to the gate at the pier, despite other harbour-users being given this right. This forces them to carry their catch to their vehicles.

Both men claim that, despite their efforts to co-operate with the Trust’s directors, they are being denied their rights. Mr Patterson said:

“Why should we be restricted in going to work? It is the fishermen that have kept the harbour going over the years, and recently we worked hard to get funding for harbour dredging.

“We did everything they asked. We cleared up the gear, swept the pier, and even took other people’s rubbish away. We want the right to do our fishing like we have done for the last 23 years.”

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