Findhorn beach hut campaigners lose Court of Session battle

Court of Session ruling against Findhorn campaigners
Court of Session ruling against Findhorn campaigners

HOPES OF CAMPAIGNERS in a Moray coastal village that they might block a planning application to erect beach huts on the shorefront have been dashed by the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

In May last year architect Ian Sutherland McCook sought and received permission from Moray Council planners to erect 30 beach huts on Findhorn Beach.

It was a decision that angered many residents, who insisted that the move was motivated by profit and would ruin the nature of the shorefront for other residents and visitors. However, neither Scottish Natural Heritage nor SEPA offered any objection to the proposal, which was carried in the Planning and Regulatory Services Committee by eight votes to six.

That was despite 175 letters of objection from the public – and sparked a campaign to raise sufficient funding to take the case to a Judicial Review. Around £20,000 was raised through a Crowdfunding campaign and the case was put before the Court of Session last year.

In a lengthy judgement document published yesterday, the Court dismissed the case by the campaigners and found in favour of the planning committee ruling.  In his judgement, Lord Armstrong concluded: “I emphasise, of course, that the court is concerned only with the legality of the Decision and not its merits as determined by the planning judgment of the respondent.

“In that regard, the question of the efficacy of the balancing exercise employed, as between positive benefits and adverse impacts, is not one in which the court can intervene.”

Following the publication of the ruling yesterday a Moray Council spokesman said: “It is a great shame that this issue had to be tested in court, which is likely to result in significant costs to those supporting the action.

“Planning is a relatively subjective matter and generates opinions for and against many decisions by planning authorities. However, Moray Council were confident that the decision to approve the beach huts application was sound in law, and the reasons for this were explained to the petitioners from the outset.”

Last night Mr McCook said that while pleased with the decision he did not view it as a victory, saying he had never complained about any objections and protesters were entitled to contest the plans.  He added: “Our intention has always simply been to bring beach huts back to Findhorn which were popular here decades before.

“We have always been quietly confident that was the right thing to do and while there have been objections we have also had a lot of support.”

The full judgement can be found online at the Scottish Courts website.