John O’ Journal review: March 23, 2012

A LOCAL
hotelier has blamed Highland Council for his decision to close the business at the end of the month. Andy Green, who took over the Portland Arms Hotel, in Lybster, in December, told the John O’ Groat Journal yesterday the business will cease trading on March 31. He said he and his family have been trying to build up the hotel trade over the past three months with some success. But Mr Green claimed the commercial rates bill of almost 350-a-week was the “straw that broke the camel’s back”. He said: “Our annual bill is 16,000 as from April 1. That figure is too high for a rural hotel like the Portland in the current economic situation. I don’t think anyone could afford to take that on.”

A CAITHNESS
councillor said it is “a disgrace” the official Olympic flame is not coming to the county”. Landward Caithness councillor, Willie Mackay, hit out, after it emerged what the London 2012 organising committee described as “flame exchange” will take place at John O’ Groats on the evening of Sunday June 10. But the plan has not pleased Mr Mackay. He said: “It seems that what we are getting in Caithness, is a replica while the real thing will be in Kirkwall at that time. That is just not good enough. People have been gearing up for this and I don’t think they will turn out for a replica. They want to see the real thing. This flame exchange needs a bit of explaining.”

THE
Budget set out by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, on Wednesday will be a boost for jobs in the North and help encourage growth, according to local MP John Thurso. However, the leader of Caithness Chamber of Commerce, said she could not find much evidence of this and is waiting to see the longer term effects. But Trudy Morris does believe a raft of measures to boost the oil and gas industry in the North Sea could be a potential windfall for Caithness.

THE
owner of a Thurso listed building has been accused of having double standards in his concern for the use of public money. Kamall Ahmed denied trying to profiteer at Highland Council’s expense while complaining about the tens of thousands of pounds spent by the council on emergency repairs to the building. The spat emerged during last week’s public local inquiry into Mr Ahmed’s challenge to the council’s compulsory purchase order. At issue is the future of the dilapidated former town house in Princes Street and an adjoining one-time cafe in Sir John’s Square. The order is being sought as Mr Ahmed has failed to carry out work under the terms of a repairs notice issued in 2007. The council claims the order is required to save the B-listed building and pave the way for a restoring purchaser to give it a new lease of life.

DOUNREAY
is at the centre of a political storm after it emerged, tonnes of intermediate active debris, earmarked for return overseas, is to remain on site. Several environmental groups claim the revelation risks turning it into an international waste dump. But Dounreay clean-up contractor, Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd, insists there is no chance of that happening. The row centres on deals done by the UKAEA in the 1980s and 1990s to reprocess fuel used in foreign research reactors. Earlier this, the Scottish Government agreed to go along with a change in how the intermediate level waste, generated by the work, is returned. Instead of the waste going back to Australia and Germany in cemented form, an equivalent amount of glass-encased waste is now due to be dispatched from Sellafield. That is set to add about 300 tonnes to the ILW due to be kept in long-term stores at Dounreay. Friends of the Earth Scotland claims this opens the way for Dounreay ending up with more waste from other reactors.

A FUJITSU
boss has publicly apologised to Highland councillors and admitted the Japanese firm “screwed up” a multi-million-pound contract with the local authority. And Brodie Shepherd, who was head-hunted by the company to sort out the troubled project to replace technology, including computers and printers in Highland Council’s schools and offices, said he would not have taken the post if he did not relish a challenge. The firm won a 66m contract two years ago but it has been beset by missed deadlines and head teachers’ concerns about software and printing costs, and the company’s performance has been regularly berated by angry councillors. It has now emerged the firm has still not sorted a number of outstanding issues which were flagged up last year.

A CAITHNESS
councillor has called for the number of wind farms being built in the county to be urgently reviewed, after Highland council gave the go-ahead for nine further turbines at the site of a Christmas tree plantation. Danny Miller was granted permission to construct the wind farm with 101-metre high turbines at Wathegar Farm, Bilbster, near Wick, by the local planning applications committee in Inverness, on Tuesday. Permission has already been granted for five other turbines on the farm while six others at nearby Achairn and Flex Hill are already in operation.

Wick Academy
take on title contenders, Cove Rangers, this weekend, in what could be the David and Goliath battle of this season’s Highland League. Aberdeen’s second favourite team is travelling to Harmsworth Park in a strong league position but with home advantage, the Scorries may be the favoured underdogs for tomorrow’s 3pm fixture. Academy manager, Davie Kirkwood, knows the team is capable of being a giant slayer, having already taken the scalps of Forres, Fraserburgh, Nairn and Buckie, this season.