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Members of the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST) recently had a surprise visit from Terry A’Hearn, the chief executive of the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA).
He made a rare trip to visit a community group after he accepted an unusual invitation to visit the environmental charity following a message posted on Twitter.
The visit followed a report in a national newspaper discussing the extent to which SEPA accepted hospitality. Quick off the mark, COAST chairman Howard Wood responded to the tweet saying: ‘I look forward to welcoming Terry A’Hearn to Arran COAST for an information and educational visit to learn all about our work. Happy to offer him a coffee but he would need to pay his own lunch. Genuine offer Terry.’
Surprisingly Mr A’Hearn took up the offer and, on Friday February 2, he and Mike Montague, an aquaculture specialist, joined members of COAST and the Arran community where they heard about concerns surrounding the proposed expansion of the Scottish Salmon Company’s salmon farm in Lamlash Bay and other environmental concerns on Arran and beyond.
Also discussed were details of the Marine Protected Area in Lamlash, the Aquaculture Growth Plan, water conditions in the Clyde as well as public confidence in SEPA.
Mr Wood said: ‘We invited Terry A’Hearn to Arran due to concerns by many west coast communities, widely aired in the press, that SEPA had succumbed to political pressure to water down regulations to allow the 100 per cent expansion of salmon farming, announced by Fergus Ewing MSP last year.
‘Mr A’Hearn assured those present that SEPA hadn’t succumbed to political pressure and that he was happy for COAST and other communities to hold him to account on improvements SEPA will be instigating over the next few years .’
Attending the meeting were 10 local organisation who use, or depend on, the coastal resources, along with chairman Bill Calderwood and members of Arran Community Council.
COAST director Paul Chandler said: ‘Everyone present at the meeting wanted more transparency in how SEPA regulates the industry. We also made it clear we wanted to work with SEPA to improve the transparency and ensure accurate monitoring, not modelling, of the environmental effects of the Lamlash Bay salmon farm.
‘Both SEPA representatives were impressed with the community-led ethos of COAST, the amount of knowledge present within the community and how, as a community, we have been making a difference in the seas around Arran.’
After his visit, Mr A’Hearn posted on Twitter: ‘Great day with Arran COAST community members. Loved their enthusiasm, knowledge and determination to build a better future for their island. Has improved my understanding of community views regarding fish farming. A great day!’
Community and COAST members meet with Terry A’Hearn and Mike Montague of SEPA. No_B06COAST01
Delegates of the SEPA meeting with Terry A’Hearn and Howard Wood at the Marine Protected Area site. No_B06COAST02