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Salmon farm off South Ronaldsay given green light by councillors

OIC councillors have approved the creation of a salmon farming site, including at feed barge at Lober, St Margaret’s Hope, at a meeting of the council’s Planning Committee held yesterday, Wednesday.

The planned Scottish Sea Farms (SSF) farm, which will comprise of 12 circular cages each with an 80-metre circumference, was recommended for approval by the council’s planners, having met with council’s development plan policies and other planning considerations, such as there being no objections from statutory consultees.

However, a total of 16 objections had been received to the site, including many from local residents, the RSPB, Orkney Fisheries Association and the Orkney Trout Fishing Association. One letter of support was also received from a  St Margaret’s Hope resident.

Before making their decision councillors heard from Fiona Matheson from the Orkney Fisheries Association, a nearby resident of the site, Wendy Witten, who spoke on behalf of residents near the site of the planned fish farm and from the Regional Production Manager with SSF, Richard Darbyshire.

Ms Matheson put forward the case for objecting on the basis of the untested effects that chemicals used by salmon farms could be having on crustaceans in the infant phase of their life — a matter she said is currently being looked into.

Explaining some of the residents’ objections, Mrs Witten said their main issues were around the impact of light pollution and the loss of visual amenity.

She said: “A condition of approval is that two poles flashing yellow once every five seconds within a visual range of two nautical miles would be positioned at the most northerly and westerly corners of the cage group.

“As one of the residents living nearly 275 metres from the proposed site I can say that the continually flashing lights throughout the night and the glare from them, will be more than a nuisance — it will be an intolerable burden no one can reasonably be expected to live with.”

Mr Darbyshire explained the need for the new farm in the meeting, saying SSF could not keep up with the demand for its product and, when questioned by councillors, also detailed some of the environmental viability behind salmon farming as an industry compared to some others.

Addressing, Mrs Witten’s point about the lighting at the salmon farming, he said shielding the lights may be something that could be looked into, but also added: “There are other lights within Scapa Flow like the Flotta Grinds Buoy, which will flash for a distance of five nautical miles, which will have more light intensity than the ones the Northern Light House Board have asked us to put in.

In summing up his argument, he said: “The proposal will bring a huge financial benefit to the Orkney Isles and there have been no objections from any statutory consultees. This is a key site for us and no other potential site exists within the flow that are as good as this one, we welcome the planning officers assessment that it is recommended for approval, we are happy with the proposed conditions set out in the planning report and as a result we hope you will look favourably on the application and will grant permission.”

With the matter coming down to vote, between approving the fish farm application outright or arranging a site visit, seven councillors versus five voted to approve.

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