Row over who is responsible for keeping beaches clear

Heavy fishing gear washed up on Lossiemouth's East Beach
Heavy fishing gear washed up on Lossiemouth’s East Beach

ANOTHER ROW HAS broken out between environmental campaigners and Moray Council over who is responsible for removing bulky items from local beaches.

Peter Miners and Adrian Hutchins have been identifying problematic rubbish dumping along river banks and that left by tidal movements on Moray’s coastline, marking particular problems and informing authorities in the hope that they would take action.

The pair have met with mixed success – managing to rally support from communities and, more recently, from volunteers at RAF Lossiemouth.  However, their most recent attempt to have bulky fishing nets removed from Lossiemouth’s East Beach has received little by way of support.

After identifying the netting in October, Mr Hutchins wrote to both the Crown Estates and Moray Council seeking their assistance in removing the netting – but the Crown Estates said that they had “no regulatory or statutory duty” to clear litter from the foreshore, pointing to Moray Council as being responsible.

Moray Council, however, say that it is not a problem they can solve – with a response from monitoring officer Grant Wilson saying: “Local Authorities do have the ability to clean marine litter from the foreshore where they think appropriate, on this occasion I regret to advise that Moray Council will be unable assist with the clearance of the net you have detailed.

“Whilst I remain very supportive of community efforts, I have some concerns over the expectations placed on the Authority and the availability of resources that will be required for us to uplift the materials in this case and, some of the other communications we receive.

“I note that much of what’s washed up on occasion is creels, steel hawsers, nets and other assorted marine litter washed off, or broken from shipping, that’s now on land not under the direct responsibility of the Local Authority.”

Lack of resources

Mr Wilson added: “Given the reduced availability of resources we will have to become ever more reliant on the sharing the workload for removal with a variety of partners and landowners playing their full part and even then, we will not be able to assist with collection removal or disposal of many of the items.”

The council official offered to accommodate the campaigners with any “tax burden associated with disposal of the net” at their landfill site “as form of contribution”, provided the net was nylon and had no metal weights attached.

A disappointed Mr Miners has hit out at the Council response, taking particular issue that any washed up items were not on land under the responsibility of the local authority.

He said: “These items are under Moray Council’s direct responsibility, as was pointed out by the Crown Estates who told us that the power for the council was contained in Section 122 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1982.

“Meanwhile the Crown Estates portray themselves as in charge of the foreshore – yet are not responsible for rubbish in that zone, insisting that the Council is responsible.”

Last night a spokesman for the Moray Coast Tourism group commented: “It is disappointing that more cannot be done to assist people like Mr Miners and Mr Hutchins.

“They may be seen as a couple of pests at Moray Council and Crown Estates, but if Moray is ever to be taken seriously as a beach holiday destination, then a great deal more needs to be done to keep at least our most popular beaches clear of litter and debris – and the East Beach at Lossiemouth certainly comes into that category.

“Investment is being found inland with projects in Elgin and Speyside – it is perhaps long overdue that similar priority be given to Moray’s beaches.”