Author slams beach hut protesters over ‘inaccurate information’

Marketing illustration of how the huts would look on Findhorn beach
Marketing illustration of how the huts would look on Findhorn beach

A MORAY AUTHOR who came up with the idea of recreating historic beach huts in Findhorn has written of the “infamy” her proposal have brought about.

Sophie McCook has written a blog in which she questions how it was she has become the “most hated person in Findhorn” on the back of a heated campaign over the controversial planning proposal.

Moray Council planners approved a bid to build 30 huts along the north beach in Findhorn – despite 173 notes of opposition and against the recommendation of planning officials. It was a decision that sparked anger and dismay in the community and drew national and international press attention.

Despite having the required planning permission, building of the huts has been put on hold as objectors took to online fundraising in a bid to gain a Judicial Review and reversal of the Council decision.

When they approved the plans in May by eight votes to six, Councillors refuted the idea that the huts were “for wealthy outsiders”, adding that most of the interest for the huts – offered for sale at £25,000 each – had come from within a ten mile radius.

Now Ms McCook has written of why she thought the idea a good one from the start – and even sought and received initial approval from the local community council. She said: “It was my idea to recreate the beach huts, and I sold the idea to my architect husband.

“I gave him my memories of community, living closely and warmly in a thriving village. How the tar bubbled on hot days, how the nets festered and cracked in the sun. He also felt inspired – his family links to Findhorn go back to the 17th century. His family tree is full of Findhorn fishermen and chandlers.

“I sold the idea enough to persuade him to buy the old beach hut site – or at least, the closest flat area to it – below the barrage.”

She added that there were few objections from the community council at that point, and the Findhorn Conservation Group also liked the idea enough to independently put the beach huts into their five-year plan.

“Two huts were to be donated to the community for use by local group. It all felt positive. I could almost hear the families chattering, see the children on the beach,” Ms McCook said.

However, the beach hut proposal had now reached an infamy beyond her wildest imagination.  She wrote: “If my recent novel had had the global reach that this scheme has had, I would be very pleased.

“What, instead, has happened is a virulent campaign that has swept up hundreds of those who feel interested in Findhorn beach. There have been leaflets, meetings, hand-holding photo ops, viral campaigns, glares and averted eyes.

“The Community Council has distanced itself from earlier support. The Conservation Group can’t expunge their support from the record, but I bet they don’t crow about it.”

She continued that only one neighbour in Findhorn had actually approached the them to talk about the plans, and that her neighbouring community seems to be more about “sharing protest pages on Facebook with inaccurate photos and information”.

She added: “It’s about expressing one’s own strong personal opinion without canvassing or listening to those of your neighbour. It’s the forgetting that you’re campaigning against one small family, not a faceless company.”

Sophie McCook’s blog can be seen in full online.