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Caithness couple achieve breakthrough in A99 fly-tipping wrangle after intervention by Groat


By Alan Hendry

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Willie McLean looking at the discarded items at his former family home alongside the A99.
Willie McLean looking at the discarded items at his former family home alongside the A99.

A Caithness couple have achieved a breakthrough in a wrangle over fly-tipping – after the John O'Groat Journal intervened.

Willie and Hannah McLean had been trying in vain to get Highland Council to remove a bulky and unsightly set of seating units that were dumped beside a croft house alongside the A99, on the North Coast 500 route.

The now-derelict property at Freswick was Willie's family home up until 1975. It is still owned by his mother, Helen McLean, who is 83 and lives in Keiss.

The couple were informed that, as the items were on land owned by Willie's mother, she would be responsible for it.

Willie and Hannah, who live at Newton Row, Wick, even offered to pay for an uplift – but they said this was turned down by the council as it was not household furniture.

Hannah explained that the seating units had been dumped in what would have been the front garden of the property and were clearly visible from the road, about four miles south of John O'Groats.

“It's obvious it has not come out of a home," she said. “It's like it has been taken out of a mobile home or a caravan or a pub or something, because there are bolts on the back of it that held it to a wall."

The unsightly seating units that were dumped beside a croft house at Freswick owned by Willie McLean's elderly mother.
The unsightly seating units that were dumped beside a croft house at Freswick owned by Willie McLean's elderly mother.

The couple, who both work in the NHS, said they didn't want Freswick neighbours and the wider public to think they had been ignoring the issue but they had "met a brick wall" in their approaches to the local authority.

They managed to lift one of the dumped units away from the front of the property and attempted to burn it in a ruined outbuilding. A dirty mattress had previously been fly-tipped at the site and the couple had burnt that too, although the rusty springs remain.

This week the John O'Groat Journal contacted the Highland Council press office about the issue and outlined the couple's concerns.

On Wednesday, a council spokesperson responded: "Our waste management team have confirmed that Highland Council’s policy states that fly-tipping on private property is the responsibility of the property owner. However, they have reviewed the items involved, and we are pleased to confirm that these items can be removed under our bulky uplift service.

"We therefore recommend that the property owner, or someone acting on their behalf, contacts us to book a bulky uplift – we ask people to allow two days for service delivery."

The fly-tipping took place close to the A99 to the south of John O'Groats, part of the NC500 tourist route.
The fly-tipping took place close to the A99 to the south of John O'Groats, part of the NC500 tourist route.

The spokesperson added: “Fly-tipping is illegal dumping of waste and can be reported to the council 24/7 using the online forms at www.highland.gov.uk/report.

“We can issue fines from £200 to £20,000 or the offender can receive six months in prison – up to five years if hazardous waste is dumped.”

We got back to the couple with the council's response.

Hannah said yesterday: “I phoned the council this morning [Thursday] and the lady I spoke to said 'we don't do bulky uplifts for fly-tipping'. I said that we had gone through environmental health, we'd requested a bulky uplift, it had all been refused.

“I said the local press had taken up the case and contacted the council press office, and they've advised us on this occasion to contact you to arrange a bulky uplift and we will pay for that.

“She said that was fine, so she took all the details. I've got a reference number and they're coming to collect it on Monday.

“If we can hump the attempted burnt piece of furniture to the front then it can go as well, because we can get three items in the bulky uplift.

“We'd still like it to be raised in the public domain. If it wasn't for you then we wouldn't be in this situation.

“I would like to acknowledge that you have provided this assistance. We really appreciate what you have done.

“We acknowledge that the council have got their policies and procedures, but there should be a little bit of leeway. They've found this leeway now because you've contacted them.

“It is exceptional circumstances.”

The couple attempted to burn one of the discarded seating units, having previously done the same to a dumped mattress.
The couple attempted to burn one of the discarded seating units, having previously done the same to a dumped mattress.

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