Skye fish farm denied approval

One of two Organic Sea Harvest sites already in operation on Skye.

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An application by Organic Sea Harvest (OSH) to set up a third fish farm on Skye has been refused by Highland Council.

The decision was taken at a North Planning Application Committee (NPAC) meeting last Tuesday.

The company, which currently operates sites in Culnacnoc and Invertote, had sought planning permission for a third site at Balmaqueen. The site would have seen an investment of £4m in salaries, equipment and stock.

Consisting of 12, 120-metre cages, this latest venture would have provided full-time employment for seven farm employees and two boat workers, taking the direct work force to 21 full-time employees.

OSH has its main office base in Staffin, servicing their nearby fish farm sites from the Staffin slipway and working closely with community organisation Staffin Community Trust (SCT).

Speaking after the application was refused, local councillor John Gordon commented: ‘I was supportive of the proposals as they would have brought financial benefit to our area.

‘We’ve been through a tough year as a result of Covid-19 and jobs are key in our economic recovery. These farms would have created a number of good jobs and would have created advantages for our area.’

OSH spokesperson and founding director Alex MacInnes commented: ‘We are disappointed the Highland Council has not granted approval for our Balmaqueen site. At OSH, we are committed to farming organically, creating a world-class product for a worldwide market and investing in the community. This would have been a fantastic opportunity for us to support our community as we continue our mission of becoming the world’s leading organic salmon farmer.

‘We are very much looking forward to bringing Scottish organic salmon from Skye to the market in the near future. We appreciate the trust the community has given us for our two existing sites and will continue to work hard to show them that was the right decision.

‘Although we are disappointed our Balmaqueen plans were refused, we will now consider closely whether we want to seek a review of the decision though the Local Review Body or appeal to the Scottish Ministers.’

The motion ‘against’ the application was proposed by Skye councillor Calum MacLeod, with the amendment voting ‘for’ the application proposed by Skye councillor John Gordon.  A second motion against the application proposed by Councillor Raymond Bremner was dropped in favour of Councillor MacLeod’s motion.  The motion ‘against’ was carried by eight votes to six.