Community ‘in talks’ with Tralee Beach owners

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Trustees of a group wanting to put Tralee Beach in community hands are now in talks with the beauty spot’s current owners.

There was a large turnout for a public meeting at Benderloch’s Victory Hall last Thursday, with people wanting to hear the latest on the campaign to potentially buy the popular beach.

Trustees told the meeting they were having discussions with the beach’s owners, who live out of the area, and would soon have a bank account set up so they can start accessing funding.

Once the account is opened, the trustees can begin to look at the best way to proceed and start getting advice from national bodies finding out about other schemes across Scotland that have completed successful leases or purchases of similar areas.

The next public meeting will be on Wednesday January 15 at 7pm at the Victory Hall again.

The New Year meeting will be to move discussions forward and decide on next steps.

Robin Harvey is one of the original trustees of the project, along with Tony Hall and they have jut been joined by Jenny McLeish.

Mr Harvey said: ‘The meeting on Wednesday was positive and we are slowly moving forward toward our goal of owning the beach, the common grazings and some woodland. This will provide us with opportunities for improving and conserving the machair area, as well as the old gravel workings. These have become a haven for all sorts of wildlife, with many birds breeding there, some of which are scarce in Argyll and Bute.

‘This area, along with the beach and the woodland, are excellent places for children from Lochnell School to learn about nature. A bird hide and nature trails are just some of the possibilities if we are able to buy the land. The grazing rights of the crofters and public access on foot will be retained.’

Tralee Beach attracts thousands of visitors every year. 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 £1.4million Oban railway pier 32 years ago, it triggered worldwide uproar from environmentalists who put a stop to it.

It made headlines again two years later when the then Highland landlord Hugh MacColl and his Surrey-based sister prohibited people from trespassing on their land by carving ‘a gaping chasm’ across the access road to the beach.

Last year an action group with a view to becoming a community trust was set up to have a say on how the beach and woodlands nearby are developed and to stop any future removal of sand and gravel.

The current landowners still have mineral rights for the beach and land owned by crofters.