Redeveloping the former oil fabrication yard at Kishorn in Wester Ross moved a “significant step” closer this week when Highland Council approved the developer’s planning applications.
On Tuesday the north planning applications committee voted to give Kishorn Port Ltd the green light to extend the existing yard and quarry and build concrete batching plants, lifting platforms for the dry dock, other industrial buildings and a three-hectare accommodation block.
The way is now clear for KPL to market the yard to the emerging renewables sector as a potential site for the manufacture and assembly of structures for the offshore wind, wave and tidal renewable energy industries.
However, the planning committee attached 31 conditions to the consent. These include dealing with potential on-site contamination, pollution prevention, foul drainage, watercourse management and the avoidance of coastal flooding of site buildings.
The planning process has taken almost three years to complete and has been part-funded by Highlands and Islands Enterprise. There is scope for the creation of up to 2,500 jobs, although that is only if the yard is fully utilised.
Commenting on the day’s events, Simon Russell, a director of KPL said: “This application, with its successful outcome, has been long in the gestation, and represents a significant step forward in the regeneration of a tremendous asset that has lain dormant for far too long.
“In developing the application, we have taken full consideration of the responses from the local population, and there will be numerous conditions appended to the planning approval to underpin the environmental sensitivities of the site.”
Another director, Alasdair Ferguson, said KPL were attracting an “increasing number of enquiries” from fabricators and developers for the use of the site, which has one of the largest dry docks in western Europe.
He added: “The deep waters of Loch Kishorn make it ideal for the manufacture of large concrete structures, and in particular foundations for offshore wind turbines. KPL’s focus has been on delivering a ‘shovel-ready’ site to potential developers and this permission ensures that there should be no barriers to an early regeneration of the yard.
Robert Muir, HIE’s area manager or Lochaber, Skye and Wester Ross, said the redevelopment promises to re-establish Kishorn Port at the “forefront of manufacturing” in the north.
Highland MSP Rhoda Grant added that the future was bright for jobs and the local economy in Wester Ross.
“This decision will provide opportunities to young people in the area who have for generations been forced to leave to find work,” she said. “This is a great opportunity to revitalise and regenerate industry in this part of Wester Ross, which has seen a steady stream of young people leave the area to seek employment.
“We have to listen to and understand the points made by those objecting to the proposals and ensure that the impact is proportional — for instance understanding the economic benefit of tourism brings to the area. That has to be balanced against the potential to energise this part of Wester Ross, develop capacity in the offshore oil and renewables sector and giving young people in the area jobs where they can gain valuable skills and choose to remain in the area.”
While the redevelopment has widespread local support, Couldoran Estate landowner Mark Pattinson is among those opposed.
Mr Pattinson questioned those councillors who say that the area is “ageing and dying” and in dire need of additional employment.
“In Kishorn, we have a flourishing village for the young,” Mr Pattinson said. “There are two buses a day going to Lochcarron Primary and to Plockton High School, so I don’t understand where the councillors are coming from.”
Sewage discharged from the yard’s planned accommodation blocks would also threaten Loch Kishorn’s status as EU shellfish waters, Mr Pattinson added.