Skye MP Ian Blackford said he would support Organic Sea Harvest's planning appeal. Photo: Official portrait.

Skye MP backs appeal against fish farm refusal

Skye MP Ian Blackford has criticised a decision by Highland Council’s North Planning Applications Committee (NPAC) to reject a proposal for an organic salmon farm off the Trotternish peninsula on the north east coast of the island.

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Blackford told the West Highland Free Press that NPAC got two decisions wrong by rejecting the farm but then approving an application for housing in a conservation zone in Waternish, a peninsula between Loch Dunvegan and Loch Snizort in the north west of Skye.

“I am distraught at the outcome,” Blackford told the newspaper, adding that he was fully behind Organic Sea Harvest’s planned salmon farm at Balmacqueen because it would have brought jobs to the area.

How the Balmacqueen site would look from Trotternish. Click on image to enlarge. Montage: Munro Landscape Ltd.

Full support

“The company are going to appeal, and they will have my full support,” said Blackford, who is the Scottish National Party’s leader in the House of Commons.

Referring to Waternish decision, which some fear could kick-start development in a conservation zone, Blackford said he was “deeply uneasy” that local councillors had voted against the plan but it had been passed on the votes of councillors based many miles away in Caithness.

8-6 defeat

That concern has also been expressed by Highland councillor and Organic Sea Harvest (OSH) co-founder Alister MacKinnon, who pointed out that NPAC members from Caithness, Sutherland and Dingwall were among those who voted against the Balmacqueen plan, even though three of the four councillors from Skye support the plan.

The NPAC voted 8-6 against OSH’s application, which was opposed by local residents but had been recommended for approval by planning officers and had received approval from other agencies that must give permission for fish farms.

The committee, which had previously rejected an application for an OSH farm around 2km away at Flodigarry, was primarily concerned with the visual impact of the proposed Balmacqueen farm.