Councillors have appealed for calm after members of an Angus environmental group were subjected to a campaign of “sustained online bullying”.
Angus Council leader, David Fairweather spoke out after an emergency meeting between a number of Arbroath councillors, the local authority’s legal team and parks department amid growing online criticism of volunteer group, Keptie Friends.
It comes after project leader George Park claimed the group, set up five years ago by volunteers who have worked to restore the Keptie Pond in Arbroath, was “in tatters” following clashes with anglers and kayakers.
The environmental group has maintained that angling and recreational boating are harmful to the ecosystem of the pond and are not permitted according to local by-laws.
However critics have disputed this view, with some kayakers taking to the water in recent days.
Mr Fairweather slammed those responsible for what he said amounted to bullying and said the meeting with senior officials had clarified the by-laws which prohibited recreational pursuits at the pond were supported by an act of Parliament.
He said: “There seems to be a campaign of sustained online bullying against Keptie Friends – not by kids, but by people who quite frankly should know better.
“It is one thing to level fair criticism at people, but some of this is abhorrent and very much out of hand.”
Fellow Arbroath member, Conservative Councillor Derek Wann said an information campaign letting people know that what is permitted at the pond, while identifying a safe space for kayakers to learn the sport “could be the way forward”.
Councillors and officials are set to meet with Police Scotland at the end of the month to discuss the situation.
Project leader George Park, 73, backed the calls for calm and said the group had observed the rules from the beginning and had been unable to use kayaks themselves because they were classed as recreational boats.
He said: “I welcome this legal clarification and an information campaign could help raise awareness of the situation.
“At the moment, this situation means all our ambitions for the year have been thwarted and our plans to illuminate the island with a display of Christmas lights, possibly on a scale not seen before in the town, are in jeopardy because timescales are now against us.
“So much is on offer that has been imperilled by a few people,” he added.
Mr Park revealed that three members of the group had resigned, but said there was still hope that the organisation could be saved.