Eyemouth’s Great White Eyesore

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SIR, - Bryan Webster is correct (Letters, April 26) in pointing out that local politicians should address local issues in their attempts to win our support.

We expect them to focus full time on the things that should be done to make civilised living safe, enjoyable and rewarding here and now. Of course they must do what they can to promote local industry and employment but not at the expense of social welfare and local amenity.

The Great White Eyesore (GWE), described so well by Kevin O’Brien (Report, April 12) is a case in point. Our politicians have been negligent for, in their enthusiasm to promote the Fishing Industry at Eyemouth, they have neglected their duties to the amenity. They have allowed the GWE to be planted at the Harbour entrance, dominating the Harbour and spoiling the view from the shore. Mr O’Brien has pointed out that in doing this, they have undermined the other industry for which the town is dependent, tourism.

Who blundered? Obviously the Eyemouth Harbour Trust, who put the interests of their business ahead of those of the community, is the first culprit. Good luck to them, if they can get away with it! Let’s face it, their industry is in trouble. As you reported (April 14, 2011) we, the taxpayers, are paying them a one-off £44,000 and a further £62,000 a year over five years to help them out in sticky times; money that could have gone towards repairing the roads or caring for those who cannot care for themselves; as Mr Webster suggests. We might have expected, if not gratitude, at least some consideration for the community. It was not to be so. Like other old-fashioned firms, the Harbour Trust sees business as red in tooth and claw and, in its quaint way, presses on regardless of the community interests. Well, they may have reason to regret that, if ever they come cap in hand for our money.

Planning officers are constrained by rigorous rules, but one might have thought that they would have had regard for the historic significance and ambience of the Harbour, even if the Harbour Trust did not. There was no report from those employed to protect our heritage. The planning officers might have reacted to objections, but there were none. This is hardly surprising as most of those informed of the project were intimately associated with the Harbour.

The Planning Report implies that the Berwickshire Civic Society were notified. As they did not reply, consent was assumed. The Society was not notified. Eyemouth Town Community Council was also assumed to have consented by default. Gunsgreen House Trust, operating one of the main tourist attractions of the town and closely adjacent to the GWE, was not consulted at all! Nor, apparently, were others in the tourist industry or the Chamber of Trade. Inexplicably, our local representatives on the Scottish Borders Council seem to have been silent on the matter too. Perhaps their minds were on other matters such as the coming elections. Even the Eyemouth Public Library, which usually receives major planning applications, did not receive this one. Of course, it is inconceivable that the Harbour Trust and maybe even the Council could have attempted to conceal this project until it was apparently too late to do anything about it. Happily, it is never too late to rectify mistakes, even on this scale.

There seem to be two options - change it or make the most of it. The GWE is only a very large tent covering two rows of containers. It is almost twice the height of the containers and the space above seems to serve no purpose whatever. It seems probable that the containers without the high tent would be more acceptable, and if fishermen wanted to work there out of the elements, a less obtrusive, discreetly coloured, covering could be anchored to the containers at little cost. The GWE might be offered for sale on eBay to provide a Visitors Centre for some windfarmer on a moor somewhere.

The alternative option, to make the most of it, might be an even better solution. Edinburgh’s Folly on the top of Carlton Hill is a great attraction. The GWE could have a similar, if more enlightening, pull. Here is a monument for all to see of the avarice and carelessness of old-fashioned businesses, for example the Eyemouth Harbour Trust; and of the inability of small communities, such as Eyemouth, to protect their amenity, despite the efforts of their representatives and their paid officials.

Properly marketed, this could be such an attraction that bus parties of councillors, planning officials, academics and school students from Edinburgh and Newcastle and even from abroad, might increase the tourist trade and add a frissant of hilarity to the otherwise pretty dreary activity of urban planning. Lectures could be given inside the tent by planners and institutions such as Enterprise Scotland that preach that modern businesses have a care for the communities that support them.

Unlike remote battlefields, such as the not-even-flooded ‘Flodden’ Field, here is something very prominent to be seen, and its self-evident lessons easily understood, without any need for translation into foreign languages. Perhaps Eyemouth’s Great White Eyesore could find its way into the Guiness Book of Records as unique of its kind and a lesson for the whole world.

I am sure that your readers will be able to subscribe more ideas about what could be done about it.


North Street,