Skye fish farm appeal is thrown out – £4 million plan with nine jobs is rejected to protect “feelings of wildness and tranquillity “

Work on an OSH site in North Skye

Developers have lost their appeal to site a fish farm off the Trotternish coast in Skye.

Today (Thursday 7th October) the Scottish Government’s planning and environmental appeals division has dismissed the appeal made by Organic Sea Harvest to site 12, 120-metre pens with associated feed barge at a site a mile east of Balmaqueen.

In January this year Highland Council’s north planning applications committee voted 8-6 to reject the fish farm – largely on visual impact grounds.

Council officials had recommended the project – which satisfied the statutory environmental and marine regulators – be approved, but the plans attracted several objections.

Local surveys suggested the majority of those living nearest to the site were opposed to it.

Appeals division reporter Sue Bell said in her conclusion that while satisfied that the economic benefits of the scheme “are likely to be generally positive”, there was “insufficient evidence to quantify those benefits and hence be reassured that they would justify the adverse impacts on seascape, landscape and visual receptors.”

She said the mitigation measures proposed would have safeguarded wild salmon stocks and would not have unacceptable adverse effects on protected habitats or species.

However, she wrote that the salmon farm’s “proximity and hence prominence in the foreground, in a seascape that is otherwise free of permanent, man-made structures would detract significantly from the feelings of wildness and tranquillity that can currently be experienced.”

It is the second time that Organic Sea Harvest have had their plans thwarted at the appeal stage.

The company had promised the £4 million Balmaqueen project would create nine new jobs, which would have added to the 12 at their existing operational sites at nearby Culnacnoc and Invertote.

Plans for a third site at Flodigarry were rejected by councillors last year – and that decision was also later upheld on appeal to the Scottish Government.

The company has said its original vision rested on having at least three fish farm sites getting the green light.

The plans were backed by the Staffin Community Trust and by local MP Ian Blackford.

Highland Council’s budget leader resigned his position in protest at the decision to refuse planning consent in January.

Alister MacKinnon, who is councillor for Dingwall and Seaforth, is also a founding director of Organic Sea Harvest.