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By Hugh Boag
The Scottish Salmon Company (SSC) has drastically reduced the size of its proposed fish farm at Millstone Point on Arran in a bid to secure planning permission.
It has cut the number of fish pens from 20 to 12 and significantly reduced the surface area of the proposed development in the north east of the island.
The revised planning application is expected to go before the North Ayrshire planning committee in early December.
However, the changes are unlikely to assauge the petitions and dozens of protest letters which have been lodged opposing the plans.
Just over 12 months ago, more than 200 people demonstrated against the plans at the site. Organised by the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST), it was one of Arran’s biggest protests in years.
SSC first submitted a planning application to North Ayrshire Council in August 2019 for a proposed marine fish farm known as North Arran comprising of 20 x 120 metre circumference fish pens and associated infrastructure to the north-east of Arran.
The updated plans are contained in an additional Environmental Information Report compiled by Glasgow-based Arcus Consultancy Services.
It states: ‘Since the Environmental Information Report was submitted, and following discussions with SEPA, SSC has taken the decision to reduce the fish farm pens to 12 x 120m pens. This reduction is to ensure that a Controlled Activities Regulations licence can be obtained for the revised development, based on the revised approach to modelling.’
The revised development will comprise 12 pens divided into two groups of six pens of 120m circumference (19.1 m radius), with a reduction in surface area to 13,753 m2 or approximately 1.4 hectares (ha) from the original 2.3 hectares (ha). The site location remains the same.
The original plans included the SeaQure farm concept but this has been dropped. The concept was to allow the integration of fish welfare improvement space with an integrated central SeaSpine.
The maximum biomass of 5,000 tonnes will be cut to 2,300 tonnes, while the feed holding capacity has been halved in tonnage. The feed barge has been increased in width, but reduced in length and height above sea level.
The report states: ‘As part of the development plans in the area, SSC is looking to recruit an additional six full-time equivalent members of staff which will support 31 indirect jobs and six in the wider economy across Scotland with a total Gross Value Added for the Scottish economy of more than £5.9million per year.’
A Scottish Salmon Company spokesperson said: ‘SSC has links with salmon farming on Arran stretching back more than 30 years. Throughout this project, we have actively consulted with a range of stakeholders, including members of the community, North Ayrshire Council, SEPA, NatureScot, Marine Scotland, the District Salmon Fishery Board and Fisheries Management Scotland. This feedback has been crucial in shaping our plans.
‘This revised proposal still delivers significant economic and social benefits to Arran and the wider economy. The new employment and investment generated by this site will help support the island’s communities in a time of economic uncertainty. We take our stewardship of the local environment very seriously and the proposed site will adhere to the very highest levels of environmental care and management.’
The protest at the site of the proposed fish farm last year. Photograph: James Appleton NO_B42protest01