A £1MILLION pound proposal to regenerate an area of Port William Harbour as a tourist attraction has come up against the village's best known disadvantage - the smell from the harbour.
At an open meeting in the Maxwell Hall this week, the instigators, the Port William Community Development Trust, were looking for input from the villagers to take forward an ambitious project to turn the old Wyllie's grain store into a community asset.
The Trust have applied for Lottery funding and are confident of turning the disused building into a state-of-the-art attraction, possibly incorporating a caf, museum, and new lifeboat shed.
But local fisherman Jimmy Brawls was immediately concerned about the effect such a development would have on the established fishing community on the harbour.
He asked how, if a cafe was created, the patrons would cope with the odour of rotting seaweed.
"If you shift the smell, the people will come," commented one wag.
Local historian Guy Brown added that since the harbour was built over 100 years ago the villagers have had to endure the smell because the harbour was built in the wrong place.
The positioning of the harbour means that seaweed is washed in but cannot be easily washed back out to sea. If you add the fresh water that enters the harbour from the Mill Hill overlooking the harbour, the result is the familiar 'Port stink' caused by the freshwater rotting the trapped seaweed.
Over the years various remedies have been tried – with little success. But the Trust members felt that this was an ideal opportunity, with the help of Lottery funding , to find a permanent solution to the problem.
"You'll need to, or people will be getting out of their cars holding their noses," said Mr Brawls.
The meeting was well represented by the fishing community who were worried that the proposed development could mean they would lose their livelihood.
"We have out lock ups and chilled units right beside the old grain store, if you go ahead with this restaurant, we will be kicked out of the harbour," said one.
But PWCDT secretary Pauline Watkins assured all the fishermen that the project was keen to include the fishermen as they were a vital part of the attraction for visitors to the village.
"Come on board and help us, we want this to continue to be a working harbour." said Mrs Watkins.
Two fishermen agreed with this suggestion.
Mrs Watkins added that an on site meeting had been held with Jane Bridges from Combined Services regarding to development.
Ms Bridges had intimated to the Trust that for the development to go ahead the fishermens' chilled units would have to be moved.
"But none of us want to see the fishermen come out of this badly," said Mrs Watkins.
"Where are we going to go?" enquired Mr Brawls, "we have already been moved once, we are running out of room."
Further up the harbour was suggested, with Trust members suggesting the wall directly in front of the harbour green could be heightened, to give more protection, but long time Port William resident Willie Ronnie advised that they do more research into this idea, as the waves "have been as high as 40 feet.". "That wall is high enough, if you build it any higher it will just wash away." he warned.
Another resident wondered where people would park if the visitors centre went ahead. Pauline Watkins assured her that provision would be made for parking.
"Where the garages are is Community Council owned land, and the bottle bank and the recycling facilities will be moved. People are always saying to me can we get that area tidied up."
But Willie Ronnie disputed this saying that that land was still owned by Sir Michael Maxwell and the garage owners had a freehold on that land and paid a feu duty to the landowner. Mrs Watkins countered by holding up a map of the area, including where the garages stand, marked in red ink, saying that the Trust had queried ownership with the Council, who have confirmed that the Community Council were the owners.
"Michael Maxwell owns the land - I have lived here 40 years and I know all the arguments, " Mr Ronnie retorted.
Sean Dodds of the Trust said this would need to be clarifies and David Hirst suggested a search was done to establish ownership.
The vast majority of Port William residents attending the meeting said that they were in favour of the development, as they felt that there was nothing to keep people in the village, rather than passing through and the idea of a tea room was wholeheartedly backed.
"The first thing you do if you arrive in a new place is look for somewhere to have a cup of tea," said Marie Brown.
Port William resident David Hirst praised the Trust for their tenacity in securing funding, and said he had every confidence in their ability to get the project completed, but added: "How do we sustain it when it is built?
"You will need to sell 200 cups of tea a day to cover costs, and that's a hell of a lot of tea.
Mr Hirst was assured by Nicoll Milne from M R Rodgers and Partners, the Structural Enginners on the project that a complete feasibility study would be carried out to find what would make to project sustainable.
Local architect Adrian Paterson said that the plans should get the thumbs up from the local council planners but warned that they may encounter problems with the structural reoprt from Historic Scotland.
A further public meeting will be called to update the villagers on developments.