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Storm damage at Thurso Esplanade – canoe club building in danger of collapse


By David G Scott

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Storm damage and coastal erosion have seriously undermined part of the Esplanade walkway in Thurso and a building on it after a storm on Monday night.

A concrete section of the walkway measuring several yards has broken off and fallen onto the beach and a building used by Pentland Canoe Club (PCC) is deemed to be at risk of collapse with its contents being removed by members.

A large section of the Esplanade has cracked off and fallen to the beach. Picture: Matthew Reiss
A large section of the Esplanade has cracked off and fallen to the beach. Picture: Matthew Reiss
The Pentland Canoe Club store is seriously undermined by coastal erosion. Picture: Matthew Reiss
The Pentland Canoe Club store is seriously undermined by coastal erosion. Picture: Matthew Reiss

Ken Nicol, PCC secretary, said that the store is leased from the Highland Council and added: "As a result this coastal erosion, the club members had to remove all the equipment to safety. [We] did not want to lose equipment to the sea and any potential calls to the emergency services if equipment was washed up somewhere at a later date."

The concrete walkway section that has broken away. Picture: PCC
The concrete walkway section that has broken away. Picture: PCC

The chairman of PCC, Neil Parkin, said the club had about 50 members and numbers have been growing annually for some years. "We're looking for permanent storage for the sea kayaks and other equipment. Ideally, somewhere close or near to the sea and a similar size to what we have," he said. Mr Parkin added that though the interior of the building does not seem to show much damage there are apparent structural issues visible on the exterior of the building. "It would need an awfully big cash injection to make it safe."

Historic image of the Esplanade showing a grassy area before the concrete walkway was set up and the hut before it was altered for use by the canoe club.
Historic image of the Esplanade showing a grassy area before the concrete walkway was set up and the hut before it was altered for use by the canoe club.

A PCC member travelled up from Golspie with a trailer borrowed trailer from the East Sutherland Canoe Club to removed the equipment and the damaged area of the Esplanade has now been closed off by the Highland Council.

Thurso and Northwest Caithness councillor Matthew Reiss said he was walking along the Esplanade when he saw PCC members evacuating their store. "The building is owned by the Highland Council and leased to the club for a nominal fee," he said.

"I got in touch with the ward manager as I was concerned there might be further damage to the building with the next high tide. The council attended immediately and coned off the area to make it safe. People walking in the dark might not have realised what had happened so I'm pleased the council acted very promptly.

"The club is trying to find covered accommodation so I hope some kind-hearted person will have the space for them."

A huge cavity underneath the canoe club hut has now been exposed after this week's storm. Picture: PCC
A huge cavity underneath the canoe club hut has now been exposed after this week's storm. Picture: PCC
A large section of concrete on the shoreline at Thurso beach. Picture: PCC
A large section of concrete on the shoreline at Thurso beach. Picture: PCC

Councillor Reiss said he had talked with an engineer who said that there was "significant damage" to the building and there was now a "question mark over its future". The councillor said that the building could perhaps be saved and that "several funding streams may be available" for PCC to pursue.

"If the next night the sea had taken away the building completely, canoes that were in it could have been washed out to sea and caused false alarms [for the coastguard]."

Serious erosion has been reported around Thurso Bay for a number of years now and developments at Scrabster Harbour have been blamed by some for tidal changes that also led to a huge incursion of sand into homes around the Esplanade three years ago.

The building is being undermined by erosion. Picture: Matthew Reiss
The building is being undermined by erosion. Picture: Matthew Reiss
The Esplanade and canoe club hut after the storm damage. Highland Council has now cordoned off the area to make it safe. Picture: PCC
The Esplanade and canoe club hut after the storm damage. Highland Council has now cordoned off the area to make it safe. Picture: PCC

The PCC building is said to have been a sweet shop at one point and used by bathers visiting the beach before lying idle for a number of years and then repurposed by the canoe club in 1991. Community activist Alexander Glasgow thinks it is around 60-70 years old and says he is in correspondence with an "oceanography researcher" regarding erosion occurring in the area.

He said: "Are those with responsibility locally now being reactive rather than proactive? What are they proposing to stabilise this structure? Perhaps additionality funding can be sought for an eco-friendly and innovative solution."

This image by Alexander Glasgow clearly shows how serious the erosion has been at the site.
This image by Alexander Glasgow clearly shows how serious the erosion has been at the site.
The damaged part of the Esplanade has now been cordoned off by the council. Picture: Alan Hendry
The damaged part of the Esplanade has now been cordoned off by the council. Picture: Alan Hendry

A Highland Council spokesperson said: “The Highland Council is aware of the damage to the esplanade at Thurso. Our Roads Team made the area safe the day after the damage occurred by way of excluding pedestrians.”

If anyone can help the canoe club find a permanent base they should email the secretary Ken Nicol at: secretary@pentlandcanoeclub.org.uk

Related article:

Kicking up a sandstorm in Thurso


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