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Argyll and Bute Council stands accused of monumentally misunderstanding a community’s appeal for help to restore a war memorial.
The story goes back to 2015 when Minard resident Leonard McNeill invited monument conservationist Nic Boyes to inspect the war memorial at Braigh Varr, Tullochgorm.
Mr Boyes detected signs of corrosion in ferrous metal ties known as ‘dog cramps’ holding the memorial’s granite blocks together, as well as missing and defective mortar in the joints.
Believing Argyll and Bute Council to be responsible, Mr McNeill and West Loch Fyne Community Council approached the authority in 2016 to have the memorial assessed and refurbished. They were then made aware of a national fund to restore war memorials in commemoration of the centenary of World War One.
Mr McNeill claims the council undertook to apply to the fund. While waiting for the bid to be submitted, the Minard community asked that provision for the creation of a path across the field to the monument be added to their funding bid.
Argyll and Bute Council did not submit an application to the fund, and it closed with the centenary of the armistice in 2018.
The council did, however, carry out its own assessment before sending out a team to re-point the base of the memorial, though not the parts highlighted in the specialist report.
Mr McNeill accuses the council of failing to understand the community’s requests.
‘They told me they had no money to build a footpath, but we are not asking for the council to build or pay for it, as we would do it ourselves. We had permission from the landowner,’ said Mr McNeill.
He contacted Councillor Dougie Philand in 2017 to help speed up the process, but Mr Philand says he, too, received no response from officers.
Councillor Philand added: ‘When I was first approached I thought the whole situation sounded daft. The money was there, the application was there, so why not sort it out?’
Wires, though, still appear to be crossed, as a council spokesperson this week told the Advertiser: ‘Our in-house engineering team carried out a detailed assessment [of Minard war memorial] and arranged for repairs to be carried out, to the satisfaction of council officers, and there are no further repairs scheduled.
‘The land the community identified for a path to the memorial is not owned by the council. We do not have the budget to construct or maintain a pathway, especially in the current financial climate.
‘We believe we did have extensive discussions with the community about possible grant options and offered staff time to help with writing an application to the Centenary Memorials Restoration Fund.’
Mr McNeill added: ‘The communication doesn’t work at the council and it is just a shambles.’