Fish farm extension approved despite safety concerns

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Controversial plans to extend a fish farm near Ganavan have been given the go-ahead – but only after debate about the safety of wild swimmers in nearby waters .

Scottish Sea Farms Ltd has been given permission to install more cages at its site at Dunstaffnage, north of Ganavan Hill.

Oban North and Lorn Green Party councillor Luna Martin voiced her concerns at the amount of hydrogen peroxide which could be accidentally consumed by wild swimmers at nearby Ganavan Bay.

The proposal had also attracted 27 objections and a petition with 714 signatures but  also received 25 expressions of support.

Councillors moved to grant planning permission, with an amended condition relating to a new regulatory framework, at a virtual meeting of Argyll and Bute Council’s planning, protective services and licensing committee on Wednesday June 22.

Councillor Martin said: ‘I note that there are two objections with regard to the sea life issue. I know that is quite a widespread and a common issue and two objections would suggest there is not sufficient knowledge about the impact that this expansion could have.

‘I know the fish farm is quite close to Ganavan Bay, where there are a lot of wild swimmers. I have read the report and see that the applicants have provided assurance.

‘I also got information yesterday detailing a report which looked to suggest there is a higher risk of swallowing hydrogen peroxide, and you do not need to be close to the salmon farm – you can be 300 metres away. It can also linger for 100 minutes.

‘Being so close to Ganavan, where there are wild swimmers, does seem to be a bit of a concern. Ganavan is a tourist hotspot; can we be assured that wild swimmers are safe from swallowing these levels of hydrogen peroxide?’

Council planning officer Peter Bain replied: ‘The bottom line, as with many things in life, is that there is no cast-iron guarantee. This report looks to identify the level of risk that may occur.

‘There is an element of risk, however, the detail provided would indicate that in order to be exposed to a level of risk likely to impact adversely on human health, a number of factors would need to come into play and it is unlikely they would.

‘These factors include the time somebody spends in the water, their location in relation to the discharge of hydrogen peroxide itself, and the distance from the farm.

‘Somebody would need to be within the extent of the boundaries where people should not be wild swimming anyway as there are hazards in that area.’

Councillor Martin then said: ‘When swallowing hydrogen peroxide, it does not matter how long you are in the water. I don’t know if it is reasonable to expect wild swimmers to know when they are encountering it.’

Councillor Kieron Green, independent, Oban North and Lorn, the committee’s chairperson, moved a motion that planning permission should be granted.

But Councillor Martin submitted an amendment that it should be postponed until new legislation (on sea lice) came into force next year.

After further discussion, the motion was changed to grant planning permission with an amended condition, with the wording to be finalised.

It was voted through by the committee, with only Councillor Martin and Lomond North independent councillor Mark Irvine siding with the amendment.

After approval was granted, Scottish Sea Farms Regional Manager for Mainland, Innes Weir said: ‘It’s hugely rewarding to see the team’s hard work and diligence recognised, with the proposal to expand the existing farm approved. Of course, there’s nothing quite like being out on a farm to see first-hand the team’s passion and skill, which is why we are always happy to host visits from interested stakeholders.’