The silence is deafening

A Stonehaven community councillor has launched an attack on Aberdeenshire Council for their lack of information regarding the incident at Stonehaven’s Open Air Pool on June 28.

On that date a young boy was pulled from the bottom of the pool by rescuers, but David Fleming says that in the five weeks since, the “silence has been deafening” from the local authority regarding the incident and its aftermath.

Mr Fleming says that many questions are still being asked in Stonehaven and despite various prompts, Aberdeenshire Council have been very silent on the subject. Mr Fleming wrote to this newspaper on the subject (July 20) and says he has had a huge response with over 20 people expressing their strong support for his viewpoint.

“Five weeks after the incident, there is no explanation, no news, no update, no reassurance to the people fo Stonehaven. Despite enquiries to Aberdeenshire Councillors, a set of questions to Aberdeenshire Council officers and to Friends of the Open Air Pool, there is still a host of questions for which no answer has been forthcoming.”

The former community council chairman put in Freedom of Information requests to the Police, HSE and Aberdeenshire Council. The only one to respond so far is the HSE, who say they cannot say anything because “enquiries are ongoing. Please call us again in three months.”

“We are still within the 40 day statutory limit for these agencies to reply, but surely some interim statement could be made.

“The feeling in the town is that, whilst many people are working their socks off, mainly on a voluntary basis, to make Stonehaven an very attractive tourist destination, all that the officials seem to be able to do is make life more complicated, more expensive, and to never discuss the matters that affect the public with the public who pay their salaries.”

Mr Fleming says he asked 28 specific questions of the local authority. The last of these was: Why has there been no statement issued to the Press to reassure the public, and to refute the suggestions in the public domain about permanent closure?

Contacted by the Leader, a spokesman for Aberdeenshire Council said they had not received a list of 28 questions from Mr Fleming, but would be responding to his FOI request in due course.

“We recognise the importance of keeping the local community informed about the closure of Stonehaven Open Air Pool last month and subsequent changes to procedures at the facility. During the course of our investigation, relevant information was released to the public as it became available to the council. The council endeavoured to answer all questions which were forthcoming, and also stayed in close contact with the Friends of Stonehaven Open Air Pool group about the progress of the investigation and the reopening of the facility.”

Responding to Mr Fleming’s questions as put to them by the Leader the spokesman continued: “The council established an Incident Group to manage the immediate investigation, and this group was responsible for decisions relating to the opening and closing of the pool.

“We reviewed appropriate aspects of the operation of the pool during the closure. We maintained regular communications with the Friends of Stonehaven Open Air Pool group and kept elected members properly informed.

“The Incident Group agreed that enhancing the number of lifeguards at the pool for the remainder of the summer season would be a positive response in providing reassurance for pool users. On-site staff are trained to take decisions on the status of the pool in response to weather conditions, in line with operating procedures.”