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Wee Choo Choo Owner Claims Sub-Committee was not Given all the Information

LISTEN: Fergus McCallum gives his thoughts on the decision not to lease the Rie-Achan Road car park spaces

The Perth and Kinross Council’s Property Sub-Committee has decided not to lease out car parking spaces in it’s Rie-Achan Road car park.

Fergus McCallum, director of the Wee Choo Choo restaurant, who was planning to lease the land for his railway carriages believes the councillors behind the decision were not given all the facts in making their decision.

Councillor Murray Lyle put forward a motion which he explained as: “My motion would be this morning that I do not feel that we are in a position to advertise for lease this site. Currently, I don’t think it’s making best use of public resource in the car park.

“The anecdotal evidence, I have to be fair I don’t have the benefit of factual evidence, is that the car park is well used and there isn’t really the capacity to take away a significant amount of it.

“I think I would like a lot more assurance on the car parking situation, given that we allocated £150,000 to improve our car parking facilities recently in Pitlochry. And I would move that motion.”

However, Mr McCallum was prepared to pay for the replacement parking spaces in full once the council had identified and costed potential plots for the parking in leu of the Rie-Achan Road car park.

But this information was not presented to the councillors during the subcommittee during the meeting.

Mr McCallum claims he could not advocate this position during his deputation because of his poor connection to the meeting.

He explained: “I dialed in three or four times and I said time and time again, on the tape, I could not hear the questions I was being asked. The phone signal was extraordinary. Well, It wasn’t the phone signal, there was something wrong technically, I was getting every fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, maybe every 10th word. Now before I spoke It wasn’t a problem because I watched the live stream video on a computer. The live stream video runs approximately 60 to 70 seconds behind the actual conversation.”

The following day, after the decision had been made, at 5:45pm, Mr. McCallum’s representative contacted the council requesting the location and costing of replacement parking.

After the meeting Mr McCallum received an email from one of the council’s planning officers who said: “I can now advise that under Mark Butterworth’s instruction a sum of £23,000 has been calculated to provide replacement parking within Pitlochry. £12,000 for 8ono on street bays in Rie-Achan Road and £11,000 for 4no additional bays within Atholl Road Car Park.”

Asked if Mr McCallum knows if the councilors were informed of this, he raised that he can’t say on behalf of the councilors but suggests that the officers must have known this.

He said: “The councilors, I believe were aware the planning conditions included a phrase that I would make a contribution towards the planning. I don’t know the answer to that because this is a different committee. So, my assumption is they were. Certainly, the offices in the room that would have been aware. And the contribution in fact is 100%. So I’ve actually contributed, I am actually contributing to 100% of the cost.”

During the meeting, the council also raised the issue of £150,000 which had been allocated to developing a new car parking space in Pitlochry.

However, Mr McCallum feels the parking he is obligated to pay for as part of granting planning permission for his restaurant was confused with the money set aside for a potential new car park.

He explained: “I have agreed to fund 12 other spaces that are being identified in two other locations by the Perth council’s engineers. So, Perth council engineers have identified an entirely different set of 12 spaces, in a different part of the town, separate from the spaces for the £150,000 to which I believe I’m contributing in full.”

This point is raised in the ‘Agenda Document Pack’ for the meeting, which states: “The Planning & Development Management Committee decision was subject to a legal Agreement being concluded with the applicant to secure a contribution to replacement parking elsewhere in the town and compensation for the loss of spaces at Ria-Achan Road car park.”

While it does raise the sum of £150,000 by stating: “In 2018, the Council allocated £150,000 in its Capital Programme to increase car park provision in the town. A parking survey was scheduled to be undertaken over the summer of 2020 to determine use patterns and pressures. However, this was not possible due to COVID which clearly restricted the normal operation of most businesses across the country and significantly impacted on tourism.”

The agenda does not include the location or costing of Mr McCallum’s replacement parking, which he suspects would have been ready in advance of the meeting.

A Perth & Kinross Council spokesperson said: “Perth & Kinross Council is committed to transparent decision making. Councillors on the Property Sub-Committee were able to ask questions of officers and anyone making a deputation before making a decision on whether to lease the site. They were also provided with information that potential other sites for parking had been identified.

“The report presented to councillors also stated the Planning & Development Management Committee’s decision regarding Mr McCallum’s application was subject to a legal Agreement with the applicant to secure a contribution to replacement parking elsewhere in Pitlochry being concluded.

“However, the Property Sub-Committee’s decision was on whether to market the site for lease, not on any specific proposal.

“Councillors voted five to two against marketing the site for lease.”

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