Two of Scotland’s junior surfing champions are appealing to council officials to abandon plans to demolish a beach hut on the Hebridean beach where they train.
Finn MacDonald, 15, the Scottish Under 18s surfing champion and Ben Larg, 11, who holds the nation’s under 14s title, both practise year-round on Balevullin beach on Tiree, which is used by the local surfing club to give free lessons to island children.
The beach hut, measuring three metres by four metres and owned by Blackhouse Watersports, is used by surfers as a changing room, a place to shelter from the elements, to house the first aid kit and to store surf boards.
But it is now threatened by officials at Argyll and Bute council who are recommending that a retrospective planning application for the beach hut be refused.
Yesterday, from the Azores where they are taking part in the surfing junior world championships, Finn and Ben appealed to the council not to take away such a vital component of their training regime.
“Please don’t destroy the hut, don’t take it away, It’s essential on the beach, we need it there for safety reasons,” said Finn.
“It means there is always someone watching us and there is a first aid kit in there. It’s also great for keeping our boards in. We are out surfing in December and it’s somewhere dry to get changed in, it would be impossible to train in the winter without it, we can’t do this without a beach hut, we need it 100 per cent.”
Ben added: “We have a gas stove there so that we can come out of the water and get a hot chocolate.”
Mark Boyd, Secretary of the Scottish Surfing Federation backed the boys when he said: “Shelters such as this one are particularly important for the sport of surfing in Scotland due to our harsh weather and the removal of this hut would undoubtedly have a detrimental impact on the progression of the sport in the country.”
Argyll MSP Michael Russell, said he was very disappointed in the planning recommendation to refuse permission, adding: “The beach hut is not only perfectly in keeping with its surroundings it is also essential for the operation of the surfing business.”
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A 135 name petition and 101 letters have been lodged supporting the application to keep the beach hut, which was erected last year. However,41 objectors feel it shouldn’t be allowed, with some claiming it spoils the area’s natural beauty.
Planning officer Richard Kerr, in a report to councillors, said: “Although the development is small scale and constructed using materials which are sympathetic to the locality, its very presence on an otherwise undeveloped beach poses a serious issue, as its open and unspoilt character forms a vital part of the area’s local distinctiveness.
“Tiree’s undisturbed beaches form a highly vulnerable wilderness fringe between the land and the sea and one which should be afforded robust protection against artificial change.”