Stay of execution for Tiree surfing hut

The fate of an island beach hut which has played a key role in the success of two of Scotland's young surfing stars has been left hanging in the balance.

Tiree Surf Club members . Picture: submitted

A public planning hearing on Tiree last night was set to decide whether to sound the death knell on the hut at the island’s Balevullin beach.

Planning officers recommended that retrospective permission for the hut should be refused.

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But Argyll and Bute Council’s planning committee failed to reach a decision and, after three and a half hours of debate last night continued the matter for more information on the environmental and economic impact of the hut remaining.

Councillors who journeyed to the island from mainland Argyll were tasked with weighing up the case of hundreds of supporters, lobbying for the hut to remain, while an island postal ballot firmly called for it to be pulled down. The 4m by 3m hut has helped Finn MacDonald, 15, Scotland’s under 18s surfing champion and Ben Larg, 11, the country’s under 14s champion, on the road to success.

The boys, who train in all weathers, appealed for the hut to be saved, claiming it was crucial to provide a warm changing room and to store health and safety equipment.

Finn said: “We need it there for safety reasons.”

Blackhouse Watersports, who give free surfing lessons to island children and run a surfing business, had applied for retrospective planning permission for the hut.

A swell of support for it flooded in to the council, with over 120 letters of support, compared to 44 letters of objection.

But a postal ballot of islanders, organised by Tiree Community Council, found that local residents were overwhelmingly against it.

Some people felt that any building on the pristine beach would spoil the island’s natural beauty, while others were annoyed that the hut was built without planning permission.

Out of 535 ballot papers, issued by Tiree Community Council to every islander on the electoral roll, 421 were returned (78.5 per cent) with 314 in favour of the planning officer’s recommendation to refuse permission for the hut and only 102 wanting the hut to stay.

The ballot result flew in the face of support which had come in from outside the island. Supporters included Argyll MSP Michal Russell and Highlands and islands MSP Donald Cameron.