Beach owners wants to talk about sale

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A bid to return popular Tralee beach to the people has taken a step closer.

The Surrey-based family who have owned the beach near Benderloch since 1945 have contacted the committee managing a proposed community buy out and want to talk.

According to the committee a member of the landowning family has been in contact and ‘expressed a willingness to sell the beach’.

The move by a member of the McColl family for ‘initial talks’ has pleased the trust committee who want to buy it under a Land Transfer Scotland initiative – as long as the community gives its backing.

Willie Barnett, interim chairman of Tralee Beach Community Trust said it was what he had hoped for.

‘I have always hoped that the owners would meet with us and discuss the way forward for a non-hostile transfer of this beautiful beach into community ownership.

‘We do not want the buy-out to go the same way as the Ulva buy-out which has created such hostility and bad feeling.

‘Clearly the legacy of the McColl family will be carried forward in a positive way and their names will always be connected to the beach.

‘The public meeting tomorrow (July 20) at the Victory Hall in Benderloch will give us an indication of how the community feel about it.’

The meeting to discuss the possible buy-out bid that could see residents become guardians of the busy beach will start at 7pm.

Mr Barnett has invited MSP Michael Russell and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to attend.

If the buy-out goes ahead, Mr Barnett said it would be the first community buy-out of a beach involving common grazing.

He also said there would be the possibility of discussions with crofters about transferring mineral rights on their land back to them.

Thousands of visitors visit the beach every year but it has a colourful past when it comes to land wrangles. When Argyll and Bute council allowed thousands of tons of sand and gravel to be extracted from it in the 1980s as infill for the £1.4m Oban railway pier 32 years ago, it sparked uproar from campaigning environmentalists who put a stop to it. Then trouble erupted again two years later when the then landlowners dug a trench across the access road to the beach to stop people trespassing on their land.

The current landowners, who live out of the area, still have mineral rights for the beach and land owned by crofters, so now the new Tralee Beach Community Trust wants to have a say on how the beach is developed and to put a block on any more sand and gravel removal.

Their ideas so far include putting in roads so people with disabilities are given access, filling in hazardous pits, fitting new gates to stop cattle from wandering and creating a nature reserve are just some of the ideas.