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‘If there’s no money, then there’s no harbour’: New cafe to raise funds to save historic port

The cafe is planned to raise cash towards saving Port Errol Harbour

The caretakers of a historic north-east harbour want to build a fundraising cafe to help amass the millions needed to save the crumbling port.

Full planning permission is being sought to create the small diner next to Port Erroll Harbour.

The new eatery, to be named the “Harbour Dunes Café”, would be located to the end of Harbour Street on ground that was previously used for drying salmon fishing nets.

As well as being just along from the expansive sands of Cruden Bay, it would be within walking distance of popular Slains Castle – famously said to have inspired Bram Stoker when writing Dracula.

The late 19th century boatyard is in urgent need of repairs but the costs required are “currently beyond the reach” of its trustees.

Port Erroll Harbour Ltd will lease the land if permission for the café is approved and its current trustees support the application.

Port Errol Harbour pictured earlier this week as sun shone over Cruden Bay

Huge fundraising challenge

Harbour director Ian Edwards said the last quote they received for repair work to the port totalled more than £2 million.

He added: “For a small harbour like us, there is no way we could get that money in.”

Port Erroll Harbour Ltd is currently working towards achieving charitable status so that it can access grants needed to preserve the harbour.

Providing the lease for the café would help the company with its goal to keep the harbour running for the next generation and those in the years to come.

The small harbour has been part of the village since the late 1800s

Location is ‘stunning’

Mr Edwards said that the new facility could also help to “put Port Erroll Harbour on the map”.

He added: “With Covid, staycations are now more popular and the area has been busier.

“A portable café was once available at the harbour and was received well by the community.

“The proposed café is very in-keeping with the community and the conservation of the area.

“It is a stunning place at the harbour and the café would bring more people, more money and would help us as well as the wider community.

“If there is no money, there is no more harbour.”

The cafe would be across from the green used to dry salmon nets in days gone by, with a stunning coastal view

Cafe is a ‘huge opportunity’

The applicants, a family local to Cruden Bay, said that opening a café in the area had been a dream “for years” and they hope that the proposed facility will attract local residents and visitors to the area.

They added: “We aim to work closely with the local community to help safeguard the future of Port Erroll Harbour and assist where possible with the council and projects to keep our beautiful beach and village as clean and welcoming as possible for everyone to enjoy.

“This is a huge opportunity to turn a piece of ground which is currently unused into a real vibrant and enjoyable community space.

“In previous years, the fishing was the community.

“Port Erroll revolved around the harbour and people from near and far made a living from it.

“Sadly those days are gone, remembered only in old photographs, however we have been given a chance to put something in its place that can be enjoyed for years to come.”

Slains Castle near Cruden Bay is among the nearby attractions

‘We are now at a critical stage…’

In a Facebook post, the team behind the plans added some more detail.

They said: “During the last decade, the harbour has fallen into disrepair despite emergency repairs having already been carried out.

“We are now at a critical stage where the harbour desperately needs an additional source of revenue to prevent further deterioration and collapse of the port’s vital infrastructure.

“The increase in funding would mean the harbour could carry out vital repairs to the quay sides and slipway, and bring in some much needed upgrades while enabling the annual maintenance needed to keep the historic fishing port open for future generations to enjoy.”

Locals say new cafe badly needed

The building would be constructed from shipping containers, steel and timber cladding in a V-shaped layout with an outdoor seating area.

A takeaway serving hatch has also been included as part of the plans.

The café would be open all year round and would create between four to nine new jobs depending on the time of year.

Plans for a larger Heritage Centre at the harbour had been created by Port Erroll Harbour trustees in 2014 but never came to fruition.

A survey carried out at the time revealed that of 94% of respondents said a café was the “most desired facility needed” in the village.

The picturesque harbour was formed between 1875 and 1880 by the Earl of Erroll and is still used today by a small number of fishing, pleasure and visiting vessels.