Abandoned car near Keiss torched and finally removed
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After sitting in a lay-by near Keiss for around six months, an abandoned car was finally removed last weekend after it had been set alight.
Police and fire crew attended the scene on the evening of Saturday, January 16.
A Police Scotland spokesperson said: "Around 10:20pm, police received a report of an abandoned car being set on fire in a lay-by on the A99 near Keiss. Enquiries are ongoing to establish the circumstances of the fire."
A Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) spokesperson said that one fire appliance attended the scene, two hosereel jets were used to extinguish the blaze and crew wore breathing apparatus throughout.
The SFRS spokesperson added: "We left the scene at 10.42pm and it was left in the hands of Police Scotland."
The blaze was so fierce that the car's alloy wheels had melted into a puddle on the ground and had to be scraped off the road.
Concerns over the abandoned vehicle – a blue Mazda with no number plates and in poor condition – were raised in October last year after it had been lying in the lay-by for two months, cluttering the A99 roadside which is a popular tourist route to John O'Groats and part of the North Coast 500.
Following complaints from members of the public, Wick and East Caithness councillor Raymond Bremner spoke to council officers and the police about the problem, establishing that the car had a valid tax disc and an owner, and was therefore not deemed abandoned.
"It is hugely frustrating and an issue that, nationally, we need to get a grip of to stop irresponsible members of the public cluttering up our communities with these annoyances,” he said at the time.
“The issue we have with so-called 'abandoned' cars is that many of them are not abandoned. A vehicle in a lay-by with a registered keeper and a valid license disc is not abandoned, it is a nuisance."
He also said in October that removal of the vehicle without the owner’s permission "could easily be considered as theft" and that if the council was to consider the vehicle as a nuisance then there should be powers available to them to deal with it.
A police spokesperson said that recovering abandoned vehicles is largely a matter for the council.
A Keiss man, who wished to unnamed, said: "This is another expensive lesson for the council. A car, that looks barely driveable, sits in a lay-by for over six months.
"Any passer-by with an ounce of sense knows that it is an abandoned, fly-tipped car. The council won't do anything about it because 'it's legally taxed'. From this, they obviously know who the owner is and haven't followed it up with them. Is it surprising it went up in flames? I don't think so."
Highland Council was contacted but unable to give a full statement on the issue at the time of going to press. A spokesperson said, however, that there have been delays caused by "work priorities during the pandemic".