Community campaign sees fish farm appeal dismissed

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By Colin Smeeton

A campaign with a wide community support was celebrating this week after the Scottish government threw out an appeal to allow a new fish farm on Arran.

An appeal by the Scottish Salmon Company (SSC), which sought planning permission to establish the fish farm near Millstone Point, has been dismissed by the Planning and Environmental Appeals Division.

The eagerly-awaited decision, announced earlier this week, follows a lengthy campaign by SSC to install and operate a large Atlantic salmon fish farm comprising 12, 120-metre circumference fish pens in the north of the island four miles north of Sannox.

Permission for the development was unanimously refused in March this year by the planning committee of North Ayrshire Council after widespread opposition both on and off the island. Following an appeal by the company, a reporter was appointed by Scottish Ministers to make a determination on the proposals.

In a 16-page decision notice, reporter Allison Coard outlined her reasons for dismissing the appeal. These took into account the development plan context, landscape and seascape character, visual impact, national scenic area and special landscape area considerations, tourism impacts, benefits of the proposal, benthic habitats and water quality, wild salmon welfare and implications, natural heritage and habitat, noise and light pollution and other marine impacts.

From an environmental impact perspective, the decision notice stated: ‘… the proposal is an unacceptable incursion into an isolated locally and nationally valued area of landscape and seascape. Whilst I recognise the benefits of the proposal and that other significant effects would be avoided, I do not consider this to be an acceptable location.’

In a final summation, Ms Coard said: ‘I therefore conclude, for the reasons set out above, that the proposed development does not accord overall with the relevant provisions of the development plan and that there are no material considerations which would still justify granting planning permission. I have considered all the other matters raised, but there are none which would lead me to alter my conclusions.’

The news has been particularly well received by a number of organisations on Arran and those that oppose all open cage fish farming.

Rob Cowieson of Friends of Millstone Point, who led the two-year community wide opposition campaign, said: ‘We are delighted to learn of the reporter’s decision to refuse SSC’s appeal to construct an open cage salmon farm off Millstone Point.

‘This has been a long and protracted process during which a dedicated group of individuals have worked diligently through the hundreds of pages of submission to establish a clear, reasoned and objective analysis of the proposal. While we are absolutely delighted with the outcome, it is extremely gratifying the views of hundreds of objectors and the unanimous view of North Ayrshire Council’s planning committee has been upheld.’

An SSC spokesman said: ‘We are understandably disappointed by the decision but it’s pleasing to note the reporter for the Scottish government largely agreed with the environmental assessment that any environmental impacts would have been confined to the landscape and visual impact from the proposed fish farm site.

‘We will continue to work with the Scottish government to play a prominent role in the sustainable growth of the aquaculture industry, which is crucial to the country’s economic recovery.

‘We have strong links with Arran stretching back over 30 years and our existing operation there continues to provide long-term employment for people on the island and is a key driver in the local economy.’

SSC still has recourse to appeal the decision made by the reporter. This must be made within six weeks of the date of the appeal decision, however, an appeal to the Court of Session can only be made on a point of law.

The appeal refusal concludes one of the most contentious planning applications on Arran in recent years. At the time of the application deadline, 436 objections and 19 supportive comments were received by the planning authority. These included objections from Friends of Millstone Point, Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST) as well as Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland, Scottish Salmon Watch, Ayrshire Rivers Trust and Fisheries Management Scotland.



A protest at the proposed site in 2020. The fish farm application at Millstone Point, Lochranza, was strongly opposed by environmental groups, marine campaigners and concerned individuals. 01_B46SSC01