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OSH chief executive Ove Thu:
OSH chief executive Ove Thu: "There is absolutely no evidence to suggest a salmon farm would deter visitors." Photo: OSH.

Scotland’s newest salmon farmer, Organic Sea Harvest (OSH), has today appealed against a refusal of planning permission for a fish farm at Balmaqueen, north-east Skye.

OSH’s application was recommended for approval by planning officers but members of Highland Council’s North Planning Applications Committee voted 8-6 against the plan.

In a press release, OSH said the main reason for refusal was cited as a negative impact on localised views for a limited portion of north-east Skye. 

Jobs and investment

It said that in its opinion the limited visual effect would be greatly outweighed by economic benefits the farm would bring to the community, including the direct creation of nine full-time jobs.

The Balmaqueen site would release £4 million, allocated for salaries, equipment and stock, said OSH, as well as allowing Skye to expand its aquaculture industry in a sustainable manner.

It pointed out that the refusal decision has caused significant reduced economic activities elsewhere in Scotland.

Ideal environment

The Balmaqueen site has an excellent water exchange rate, thanks to strong currents and tides, resulting in a consistent flow of oxygen and lessening the risk of sea lice, said the company. The exposed location would create an ideal environment to nurture salmon. 

Chief executive Ove Thu said: “We are committed to supporting the community in north-east Skye and investing in the fragile local economy. We believe aquaculture will help to support the diversification of Skye’s economy, which relies strongly on tourism, and has struggled greatly during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“There is absolutely no evidence to suggest a salmon farm would deter visitors. We believe tourism and aquaculture can work hand-in-hand to bolster the local economy. It presents a chance to showcase Scotland’s economic diversity and traditional reliance on the sea. Skye has already witnessed a growth in aquaculture, with no evidence that this has impacted visitor numbers. As producers of organic salmon, we want to show everyone that Skye is a world-class destination for top-quality, locally sourced food. 

Hoping for ‘harmony’

“It is hoped that our appeal will be successful as we continue our mission of becoming the leading organic salmon producer in the world and bringing huge economic benefits to the local area. We are mindful that we must work in harmony with the environment, fish and community to achieve our visions.” 

The appeal will be decided by a Reporter appointed by the Scottish Government. 

OSH operates two farms, Culnacnoc and Invertote, off north east Skye and had planned two more a few miles north at Flodigarry and Balmaqueen. The Flodigarry site was refused at the planning stage and on appeal.