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Tiree beach access under threat

Over the last few years there have been a few problems regarding vehicular access to Tiree\’s beautiful beaches. Well it looks like its all coming to head with a large public meeting to discuss the matter.

Basically windsurfers need beach access to windsurf, so if you have ever been to Tiree, or ever hope to go, send an email to Ian McKinnon at trd@tireebroadband.com, and copy jim.mather.msp@scottish.parliament.uk. Make sure to emphasizing the importance of vehicular access to all of Tiree\’s watersport beaches.

Further information regarding the meeting is below.

The following is reprinted from “An Tirisdeach” the Tiree community newspaper.

An Tirisdeach     Page No 5
The Fortnightly Newsletter From The Isle Of Tiree    
 
Restricted access to Tiree\’s beaches?
This letter has been sent to An Tirisdeach by lain MacKinnon of Tiree Rural Development. You are asked to reply to TRD with any complaints but please feel free to send your responses into us here.
The following communication was sent to Mr Jim Mather MSP as a result of concerns with regard to access arrangements to some of the beaches on Tiree. Tiree Rural Development Ltd through the creation of the Access & Conservation Officer\’s post has been monitoring the situation since the middle of May. TRD hope to be in a position to make recommendations on various access issues to the agencies involved in land use whether it be on a professional of recreational basis by the end of October.
It is planned to hold a public meeting before the end of September to give the conununity an opportunity to discuss this issue and to explore a mutually acceptable solution to the various land user groups\’ concerns.

In the meantime, anyone who would like to contribute to this consultation and debate is invited to lodge appropriate representations
to lain MacKinnon, Access & Conservation Officer, The Rural Centre, Crossapol, Isle of Tiree. PA77 6LJP. Telephone No: 0 1879
220677. E mail; trd@tireebroadband.com



Restricted access to Tiree\’s beaches, “making offenders out of visitors”.

Problem:

Crofters fearing damage to their common grazing are restricting vehicular access to Tiree\’s beaches.
Crofters feel that they are being taken advantage of, whilst the “tourism sector” is profiting at their expense and resent this.

The restriction of access is causing deep resentment amongst visitors, many of whom feel that they are no longer welcome. This threatens the thriving tourist industry. The new “access code” effectively makes offenders out of most water sports visitors and families. Visitors are resentful in that they feel they are being denied access over land which they are subsidising through their taxes, and to which they have been allowed access for many years.

The area of machair affected by such vehicle access is very limited, perhaps no more than 10 acres in total (a tiny percentage of  the total area of machair.)

The machair has limited  value as grazing.

There is no mechanism to recompense crofters whose common grazing machair is affected.

Watersports users have  equipment that needs to  be transported to the water\’s edge and changed easily.

Parents often need to supervise children in the water and have “line of site” and protection from the elements.


Recommendations:

That dedicated routes  to provide vehicular access to Tiree\’s beaches are provided.

That these routes are fenced, maintained, “pebbled” or  “rotated” to allow machair to recover.

That the parking areas have “line of site” to allow supervision of children.

That affected crofters have the rents for their common grazing so affected, reduced.

That a mechanism is found to raise resources from the tourist sector, directly or indirectly for the creration and maintenance of these access routes and parking areas.
Direct contributions could be requested by “Marketing Tiree” as a precondition of participation in “Marketing Tiree\’s” activities.

That public funding be accessed if possible.

That these initiatives are  “brokered” by Argyll Estate and the elected representatives.

That this is done speedily, by spring 2009,  to restore the reputation of  Tiree as a welcoming community and to end the rift between visitors / crofters and tourism providers / crofters.


Background information:

Tiree has a reputation as a world class watersports destination. Its beaches face in different directions which means that different wind and swell combinations can produce ideal conditions for a variety of sports.

Sports people require vehicular access to beaches to get their equipment, (boards, sails, kites, canoes, kayaks) to the water, and to change equipment as conditions change.

Many visitors combine sports activities with “family” activities.  
Whilst young fit males can often cope with an equipment “carry in” of several hundred metres, this is not an option available to families with children or older sports people. It may be that preventing vehicular access is discrimination in law to women, the aged, the disabled and families, it is indeed discriminatory in practice.
Safety concerns mean that parents often wish to observe their childrens\’ activities in the water, Scotland\’s variable weather means that this can only be done in comfort from a car. The Scottish Government encourages children to partake in sport, this initiative is being hindered by the new access code.
Water sports activities are often pursued on “cold” days in which children need quick access to warmth, food and shelter. These are usually provided within a car.
If access is granted to “social” providers , such as youth support initiatives using the Hynish Centre, why should this access not be granted to families?

The tourism sector is responsible for an amount of economic activity equal to that of the agricultural sector  nett of subsidy. (Tiree Development Report 2004)

The economic value of the beaches outwith the tourism sector is close to zero.

The actual lost income from damaged machair is small, and out of proportion to the resentment and ill feeling caused.

The Crofters Commission (http://www.crofterscommission.org.uk/ ) state as one of their three main “Guiding Principles”:
“To promote co-operative management of shared natural resources.”

Most visitors would be happy to pay a reasonable amount for vehicular access if a mechanism was in place. c £10 per vehicle per week. (Source, private poll by accommodation provider)

The Scottish  Government, through Sports Scotland, actively supports and funds events such as the “Tiree Wave Classic”, whilst access restrictions discourage the very visitors and activities that this support is meant to encourage.

Tiree is in a strong position to to encourage new “knowledge worker” residents if  proposed policy changes by the Scottish Government in the areas of affordable housing and sea transport are made. The attraction of such residents is a goal of the Scottish Government, (“Smart, Successful Scotland”). It is suggested that “knowledge worker”  residents are more likely to be attracted to the island if the water sports access is good and that restricted access will have a negative effect on the liklihood of such relocations , leading to a waste of funding.


Tiree\’s water sports beaches are:

Balephuil, popular family and surfing beach. Access is via private pebbled  track (which undoubtedly suffers damage from traffic). About 2 or 3 acres of machair is damaged by previous vehicular access to beach. Car park introduced several hundred metres from beach. New restrictions make the use of the beach by water sports enthusiasts, especially families, extremely difficult. A simple fencing arrangement and some 5 acres of rotated path would solve problem *

“The Maze”,  one of Europe\’s finest watersports beaches:  access restricted several years ago when common grazing adopted and enclosed, (perhaps with public subsidy?). This access is only available to people staying in holiday cottages owned by the farmer. Access to north end is blocked by locked gate requiring 200m “carry in” when slight rearrangement of fences and gate would solve this. North end access is over track in machair which  would effectively be prohibited by new access code.  Access to south end is effectively prohibited by new access code. Access for families is extremely difficult as neither north nor south access has “line of sight”.

Balevullin Bay: popular family and surfing beach, access ok, new car parking area is in suitable location.

Balephetrish Bay: access easy, but access  to much of beach would effectively be prohibited by new access code, land appears to be little used as grazing.

Crossopol Bay: access easy but vehicular access to much of beach would effectively be prohibited by new access code, land appears to be little used as grazing.

Gott Bay: access easy, but would technically be prohibited by new access code

“The Green”: vehicular access extremely limited as only parking is outside residents\’ homes and holiday homes. A simple alternative route and small parking area would solve this.

* There has recently been a report to the Procurator Fiscal regarding a charge of racially aggravated breach of peace against a local which occurred at Balephuil township. Visitors had parked there in order to gain access to the beach as the previous access had been denied.


Photo Credit: John Carter

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