CRITICISM has been levelled at the board of the Upper Eskdale Development Group (UEDG) over a questionnaire it sent to residents relating to the operator of a proposed shooting range.
The complaint being made is that the questionnaire missed out a number of properties in the civil parish and did not properly reflect residents’ opinions.
However, the chairperson of the board, which runs the Community Hub, has defended the process they undertook to gauge people’s views.
The questionnaire was done in response to a request by the range operator to use the Hub as a venue for catering on training days.
The board thought this request might be opposed by members of the community.
Its constitution states: “The objectives of the organisation are to promote any charitable purpose for the benefit of the community in the civil parish of Eskdalemuir.”
The questionnaire asked people whether they agreed or disagreed to the Hub providing catering support to the shooting range organisation.
More than two thirds were against providing catering and Victoria Long, chairperson, said more than 100 questionnaires had been delivered, either by email using the Hub’s database or by hand.
In publishing the result, the board explained that it felt it had to do a questionnaire because a few members in the valley had approached them about the catering request.
They said they would no longer use the hub or its services if it entered into any formal arrangement with the shooting range organisation.
This was of concern to the board because its primary purpose was to serve the community as stated in the constitution.
It wanted to find out whether a boycott of the hub was just a minority view or a general consensus.
Comments from respondents included people saying they would not feel comfortable using the hub or they would not use it at all.
Based on that level of negative feedback, the board decided it would be untenable to agree to the request to do the catering.
This was a difficult situation to deal with because the board also had to consider its commercial sustainability.
Victoria told the E&L Advertiser: “We really wanted to be fair and hear everyone’s responses whatever they wanted.
“I think I covered everyone on foot, apart from one or two houses. Some of them are holiday homes.
“We sent more than 100 and more than 70 responded.”
The complainers identify themselves as “Some of the residents and friends of Eskdalemuir”.
In a statement to the E&L Advertiser they said: “The Eskdalemuir Hub has received hundreds of thousands of pounds in grants in addition to more than £1m from the lottery but it seems that, if the board don’t agree with you, you’re not welcome as a law-abiding group of people.”
They had made enquiries and discovered there were quite a few properties which didn’t receive the questionnaire from the Hub, including David Moffat of Over Cassock, the people at Marlside and the resident at Pengrain.
One of the cottages at Clerkhill didn’t and had to request one by email.
They said there were seven houses around the Billholm area which were in the civil parish but didn’t receive a questionnaire.
They spoke to four of these residents and deduced this area wasn’t covered.
The statement added: “These people vote in Eskdalemuir and in the articles of association of UEDG they should have been included.