Public to have their say on fish farm proposal

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People on Arran will be given the opportunity to have their say on a proposal to develop a fish farm on the north east coast of Arran by the Scottish Salmon Company (SSC).

Taking place at Lochranza Village Hall on Tuesday April 2, representatives from the SSC will outline their plans for the new development near Millstone Point and will engage with members of the community to receive their feedback.

The initial stage of the application, a Scoping Report, has already been submitted to North Ayrshire Council to consider. Under the proposal the SSC hope to construct two groups of 10 120-meter pens, arranged in two rows of five, and with a linked feed barge and associated equipment.

SSC, which already runs a fish farm in Lamlash, employs seven full-time members of staff and with this proposed development it is looking to recruit a further 10 full-time members of staff. The company estimates that the development could support a further 41 jobs in the Scottish supply chain, plus a further 10 jobs in the wider Scottish economy.

In addition to described economic benefits, SSC has proposed that the pens will be painted dark grey or black to minimise visual impact and that they will employ the latest innovative techniques to ensuring robust fish health and welfare and environmental sustainability.

The site in particular, it says, lends itself to deliver responsible development by operating securely in a higher energy site with stronger tides and a more exposed location.

Craig Anderson, CEO of the Scottish Salmon Company, said: ‘The Isle of Arran has played a long-term role in our business and as part of our programme of responsible development, we are looking to further develop our operations.

‘We have recently submitted a Scoping Report to North Ayrshire Council as part of the planning application process for a proposed new site off the north east coast of Arran.

‘Under the new proposals, we are looking to recruit up to 10 more full-time members of staff, and the development is estimated to support a further 41 jobs in the Scottish supply chain. It is estimated that this would bring an additional £10million to Scotland every year.

‘We are holding an open day at Lochranza Village Hall on Tuesday April 2, where we welcome feedback on our proposals and look forward to discussing our plans with our local community.’

News of the proposal has not been welcomed by all on Arran though, with the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST) being particularly vocal in their opposition to the development, and any other proposals for open cage fish farms around Arran.

SSC head of site development, Marc Browne, requested a meeting with representatives from COAST to discuss the proposal but COAST chairman, Russ Cheshire, responded by saying that they do not believe it is appropriate for COAST representatives to meet directly with the SSC at this time.

They did, however, signal their intention to engage, along with members of the Arran community, at the public meeting with the SSC. Adding that they are hoping for an open public discussion and not just a drop-in session.

A representative from COAST said: ‘We wish to make it clear that we are opposed to any open cage fish farms in any of the waters around Arran.

‘We stand for a transition to closed containment systems by the industry and for a move to shellfish farming, or other forms of non-polluting aquaculture, to ensure employment is maintained and grown sustainably.

‘We are therefore also opposed to the three major developments proposed by MOWI (Marine Harvest) in Kilbrannan Sound, the four sea trout farms off Cumbrae and the plethora of farms existing in Loch Fyne.

‘The Scottish Government, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency and local planning authorities have no idea of the cumulative effects of these farms on the health and welfare of our seas and our health and yet the industry is encouraged to expand.’

Local business owner, Lucy Wallace of Arran Wild Walks, who regularly takes visitors along the route at the proposed site said in an online public forum: ‘The location is one of the last wild and tranquil corners of the island’s coast, with no road or modern development.

‘It’s also an important haven for wildlife, including seals and otters, and steeped in history and heritage. It’s  one of my favourite walks and our clients love it at Arran Wild Walks.

‘A fish farm is basically the antithesis of what this stretch of coastline represents. I’ve written to our three councillors to express my alarm.’

Anyone who wants to learn more about the proposal or who wishes to contribute to the discussion is invited to visit the public meeting at Lochranza Village Hall on Tuesday April 2, between 1pm and 7pm.