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Golspie left to count cost as storms cause heartbreak

By SPP Reporter

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Waves crash against the shoreline near to the Golf Links Hotel in Golspie. Photo: Gary Sutherland.
Waves crash against the shoreline near to the Golf Links Hotel in Golspie. Photo: Gary Sutherland.

IT has been a heartbreaking week for those involved with Golspie Golf Club, Caravan Park and Kart Track, as gale-force winds whipped up high tides, causing flooding at the three amenities.

Tuesday night’s tidal surge caused the main damage, breaching defences along the 5th to 7th and 17th holes at the golf course, flooding many of the static holiday homes at the caravan site and breaking through on to the North of Scotland Kart Club track.

All three areas suffered similar disasters in January this year and in December 2012.

Shellshocked holiday home owners stood helplessly at the site on Wednesday, waiting for waters to recede to allow them to inspect their properties.

One couple who have been regular visitors to Golspie for 30 years and bought their home in 2007 had battled overnight to try and keep the water out.

Ken and Betty Bulloch told us that they also had no electricity. A tearful Betty said: “This is the third time in a couple of years and we don’t know if it will happen again this week. The water was up to our knees and there has been considerable damage.

“The site owner, Neil (Morrison), put us up in another property eventually and the golf club has kindly offered us its holiday flat for tonight, but it is all very heartbreaking.”

Mr Morrison said: “I’m actually completely sickened. The last time this happened it was unavoidable but this time it could have been stopped. It breached the defences farther along, which could easily have been shored up before now. At the moment I am very angry and thinking of contacting my solicitor to take things further.”

Golspie golf course was closed on Wednesday morning as committee members waited for insurance assessors to arrive. There was extensive flooding of the 5th and 17th fairways. The 6th tee and fairway was severely flooded, with water filling bunkers, while there was significant damage to the 7th tee. Rocks, gravel and debris littered the greens.

It was estimated that the sea encroached onto the course by about 100 yards and in places was seven feet deep.

Club captain John Davies said: “We are encouraged by the fact that the huge amount of work carried out by our greenkeepers following the last storm proved very effective in preventing further damage. 

“Unfortunately the protection provided by the armoured rock has once again been less than satisfactory. According to the forecast there will be another high tide on Friday, so we are planning a concerted clean-up operation immediately after that.”

Managers of the Kart Club, which is also now closed, are counting the cost of the storm. Rubble and other debris brought in on the surging waves was deposited across the track.

Secretary Carol Blanchard said: “The banking has gone at the area known as Beach Corner, and also at a section further down.” She estimated the cost of the damage as running into thousands of pounds. It is a bitter blow for the club, which spent £75,000 to improve its sea defences following flooding in 2012.A 100m stretch of banking was shored up with rock at that time.

But the track was again left waterlogged and unusable after storms earlier this year breached another 75m section of banking, which had been shored up with rubble rather than rock.

Mrs Blanchard said there was little money left in club coffers to repair this week’s damage. “We are devastated at this latest breach, just devastated,” she told the Northern Times.

She said her husband, club vice-president Ron, had gone to the track on Tuesday after hearing a flood warning for Golspie. “Ward councillor Graham Phillips arranged for us to get sandbags from Highland Council in preparation for the storm and Ron went up to put them out,” she said.

Mrs Blanchard has emailed club members to inform them that the track is closed for the time being. She said the final race of the season was due to take place at the end of this month. “Wewill have a meeting to decide where we go from here,” she said.

Councillor Phillips visited the three areas early on Wednesday morning. He said: “This is terrible timing for three local businesses, each vital to the local economy, and hit by three storm events in less than three years.

“If we lose any one of them it will be a really big blow to East Sutherland. And that’s before we consider personal losses suffered by caravan owners.

“Since the 2012 event I have been chairing a working group of the businesses, SNH and Highland Council officials. We now have an expert report from Glasgow University coastal erosion specialists, with a recommended protection scheme.

“We have a set of plans and project costings to replenish the beach ridge. We have identified where the materials can come from with the help of SNH and Sutherland Estate. We are ready now to apply for planning permission and a Marine Scotland licence.

“For many years it hasbeen council policy not to protect commercial premises against flooding – something I frankly disagree with. Notwithstanding that, we recently had the new council chief executive visit the site. Last month council policy was changed so that it will be the lead agency in seeking grant funding.

“We, the working group, are ready to roll. We need £10,000 now to finance planning consent, a Marine Scotland licence for works in the beach and detailed project drawings. As soon as we can get those we will be ready to go, needing £300,000 to finish the job.”

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