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The fate of a controversial Tiree beach hut, built at Balevullin without planning permission, is still hanging in the balance – despite councillors meeting for a third time to discuss the matter, writes Sandy Neil.
Tiree entrepreneur Iona Larg, who runs surfing company Blackhouse Watersports on the island, which is billed as ‘the Hawaii of the north’, submitted two retrospective planning applications for two wooden beach huts at Balevullin beach and at Gott Bay in December 2015.
The Balevullin hut attracted 39 objections and 100 expressions of support, including from TV chef Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, while Gott Bay hut attracted eight objections and 17 letters of support.
Planning officers recommended that Argyll and Bute Council’s Planning, Protective Services and Licensing Committee (PPSL) refuse planning permission as a departure from the Local Development Plan (LDP).
Councillors decided to hold a local discretionary hearing in An Talla Community Hall, Crossapol, Tiree, on November 28. Prior to the hearing, the applicants withdrew the planning application to retain the Gott Bay hut, which has now been removed.
At this meeting, councillors agreed to continue their deliberations until January 18 for an area capacity evaluation (ACE), a study produced by council planners to assess if a development constitutes an ‘exceptional case’ to the LDP, and presents ‘no unacceptable physical impact upon an identified area of common landscape character’.
A draft report, presented last Wednesday January 18 to the PPSL meeting in Kilmory Castle by head of planning and regulatory services Angus Gilmore, concluded the Balevullin hut does have a ‘materially harmful visual impact’. But councillors again held off making a decision to ‘critique’ the ACE.
Lomond North councillor George Freeman, who proposed the motion, said: ‘It is controversial locally. We want to avoid any potential challenge.’ Councillor Roddy McCuish’s motion to decide that day found no seconder and so was defeated.
Speaking afterwards, Iona Larg told The Oban Times: ‘The saga continues. The main argument is that there is an alternative site but it is not viable.’
Taking the hut away, she said, would also remove ‘our ability to do business, and us as a family. I have three children on the island. [With the removal of the hut from Gott Bay] that’s half of our business gone already. This is our main business.
‘If Argyll and Bute [Council] are serious about population decline and supporting business, we have to do it now, because we are leaving the EU: EU funding will go.
‘We are an environmentally-
friendly and responsible business that is totally self-funded.
‘We had permission from Argyll Estates, the landowner. The West Coast, Argyll and Tiree has the most consistent surf and it is easily accessible. We have to look at what we have got. We are supporting Tiree tourism on an international level. If we have businesses supporting families on islands, we should be saying, thank you.’