Beach buy-out bid gets community’s vote

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Plans to push forward a community buy-out of Tralee beach have got a big yes.

The vote at Friday’s well-attended public meeting in Benderloch was unanimous.

Now a steering group, bolstered by more volunteers who came forward after the Victory Hall meeting, will knuckle-down to work with support from Community Land Scotland.

A couple of years is ‘quite normal’ to complete a buy-out project like this but there is still a lot of work to be done – including a feasibility study first – to get it off the ground, the meeting heard.

As well as the beach, whose current owners live out of the area but have already expressed a willingness to sell, the community has interest in  taking over the Lorn showfield, some gravel workings, crofters’ grazing land and a wooded area close to Lochnell School and the Sustrans cycle route.

Mull and Iona Community Trust general manager Moray Finch was there  to chair the meeting, which heard a presentation from steering group member Robin Harvey.

Mr Harvey  said Tralee was ‘the finest and least spoiled’ beach in North Argyll  and that it was ‘a vital resource’ for the community for recreation and for local businesses who depend heavily on it to bring in tourists.

He said crofters’ grazing needed to be continued as part of any plan, if not to be improved, and identified there were some problems of erosion on the machair, including invasive plants, that need to be tackled.

‘The current landowners have more or less abandoned the land – there’s not been any management done for decades,’ he said.

Mr Harvey also said there was ‘huge potential’ for educational use if the buy-out was a success, including setting up nature trails with the area having such a wealth of wildlife.

Linsay Chalmers, from Community Land Scotland, said funding was available to help a buy-out and, at the moment, three per cent of Scotland is owned by communities. Other beach buy-outs have included Findhorn Bay in Morayshire and Luskentyre on Harris.

She told the meeting being able to negotiate with a landowner who was willing to sell was the simplest route for a community buy-out and there would be government funding to help.

Questions from the floor before the vote was taken covered public liability responsibilities and how the project, if completed, could be financially sustained. Ways of making an income from it, including possible parking charges, would help answer that one.