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Lack of berths causing upset at Moray harbours

Findochty Harbour. Picture by Gordon Lennox
Findochty Harbour. Picture by Gordon Lennox

A harbour group is calling on Moray Council to build new pontoon berths at one of the area’s most picturesque coastal spots to tackle a waiting list crisis amongst boat owners.

The Three Harbours Association, a charity set up to look after ports at Findochty, Cullen and Portknockie, said sailing fans at Findochty were becoming frustrated by a lack of spaces to store their vessels.

Mairi Innes, honorary secretary of the Three Harbours Association, said: “People get very upset when they can’t get their boats in the harbour, and some owners find it annoying having to wait for berths to open up – but the council does have quite a fair, clear policy on that.

“If there appears to be a space there, it’s because someone has paid for it and it is theirs to do with as they wish.

“It’s a ‘dead man’s shoes’ situation, someone has to leave their berth before someone else can get in it.

She added: “But at Findochty we have about 90 people waiting on a space and we think the council should look at providing more berths.

“That’s something we want addressed in the near future, but we need to get the councillors on our side first.”

She said the charity would seek to raise the money for the expansion.

Mrs Innes, 48, is also vice commodore of the Findochty Water Sports Club, which is also based at the port.

She said the club has struggled to attract members in recent years as boat owners are unable to land a space to store their craft at the harbour.

Moray Council yesterday said it would support the creation of extra berths that “in principle” but said management of the spaces could be problematic.

A spokesman said: “In principle the council supports the idea of extra pontoon berths in harbours such as Findochty, but it is complicated by the future ownership position of new pontoons and their ongoing maintenance.

“For the council to undertake planned maintenance on the new structure, an asset transfer arrangement would be required.

“Funding bodies may not allow harbour associations to hand over the asset to the council to maintain, which would mean the harbour association would require a sustainable plan of maintenance and replacement.

“The current berthing fees are subsidised by the council, but the level of harbour fees required for the extra berths might have to be set considerably higher, creating a two-tier system.”

Buckie councillor Gordon McDonald added: “In theory I have no issue with the suggestion of creating more berths, but if it led to a two-tier charging system then that is something I would have a problem with.”

Chairman of the council’s economic development and infrastructure services committee, John Cowe, said the issue would be discussed at the next meeting on August 25.

He added: “Any decisions we make will depend on the outcome of that, but anything we can do to generate business at any of our harbours would be very much welcomed.”

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