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Moray beach huts row will go to court

The foreshore at North Beach, Findhorn, where a planning application has been submitted to Moray Council for 30 beach huts..
The foreshore at North Beach, Findhorn, where a planning application has been submitted to Moray Council for 30 beach huts..

Campaigners in a picturesque seaside village are taking Moray Council to court to try to scupper plans to build a row of beach huts on its shore.

Work was due to start on the 30 multi-coloured shelters at Findhorn north beach in the next few weeks.

But developers have been forced to put construction on hold until the legal wrangle has been resolved.

The local authority approved the huts proposal in May – despite receiving 173 letters of opposition to the scheme.

Yesterday, leading objector Christine Hunt said angry residents had now clubbed together to hire an Edinburgh-based QC who will present their case to the Court of Session in the capital.

She said: “We have had a lot of support from residents, and have raised enough money to begin a judicial review into the decision to grant the huts permission.

“We feel that legally there is provision for a review to be carried out on the grounds that granting permission represented exceptional circumstances.

“These plans fly in the face of everything the Findhorn community wants, and we don’t think Moray Council has followed planning laws in granting them.”

Inverness-based developers 1 Architects said it would be “disrespectful” to start building until the legal challenge had been dealt with, but accused objectors of “double standards”.

The group’s managing director, Ian Sutherland McCook, said: “Using the appeals process is a democratic right, and we don’t want to disrespect that process by launching construction until this is resolved.

“We have taken high-level planning advice, and are confident that Moray Council’s decision to approve our application was sound.

“I can imagine the reaction there would be from these objectors if the boot was on the other foot and I was trying to use legalities to overturn a democratic decision.

“It would go down like a lead balloon, I would be accused of trying to abuse the process for my own ends.”

He added: “There may be a misconception that the huts are there for wealthy outsiders, but most of the interest we have had has come from within a 10-mile radius.”

An initial batch of 15 shelters, valued at £25,000, have already been offered for sale, and Elgin’s CCL Estate Agents vowed to continue marketing them despite the threat they may never be built.

The firm’s David Pickering said: “We have already sold one of the huts, to a woman from Findhorn, and we’ve received significant interest on the others.

“It’s our stance that any judicial review is unlikely to return a decision that will affect the building of the huts, we’re just going to carry on anyway.

“We are expecting the remaining huts currently on the market to be reserved within the next few days, and we hope any delay in construction won’t be too significant.”

Moray Council’s planning and regulatory services committee voted 8-6 in favour of the development in May.

The huts are expected to take six weeks to build, and will be located above the beach’s car park and picnic area, overlooking the sea.

Some locals have welcomed the development and yesterday Michael Start, from the House of Automata workshop, said the shelters could be a boon to the village.

He said: “Speaking only for myself, and not on behalf of the House of Automata, I think the huts will bring a bit of life back to Findhorn.

“My family has lived in the village for a long time and I fondly remember when there were huts along the bay previously.”

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