An illustration of the proposed salmon farm, which was refused planning permission last year.

Inquiry continues into plan for Scotland’s first semi-closed salmon farm

Two more days of hearings take place this week as part of appeal


An inquiry into the refusal of planning permission for a floating semi-closed containment salmon farm in Loch Long resumes today following three days on hearings last week.

The inquiry at the Three Villages Community Hall, Arrochar, has already heard about planning and other relevant policy context; the nature of the development; and seascape, landscape, and visual impacts of the farm proposed by Loch Long Salmon.

Today and tomorrow, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority (NPA) will speak about the effects on wild salmon from the risk of escape of farmed fish.

Loch Long Salmon (LLS) is appealing against the NPA board’s October 2022 decision to refuse permission for the salmon farm at Beinn Reithe.

'Flawed decision'

LLS claims the refusal, which was recommended by planning officers, was fundamentally flawed, and based on fear and a misunderstanding of semi-closed containment system (SCCS) technology and its potential to transform the Scottish aquaculture sector.

The company wants to site four floating 140-metre circumference enclosures in Loch Long, together with a fifth enclosure to be used as a harvest pen. The impermeable enclosures would have standard nets inside.

LLS has said it will be able to collect more than 85% of fish faeces and uneaten feed from the enclosures and that its method of farming should also remove or drastically reduce problems with sea lice, which parasitise farmed salmon. Water for the SCCS is pumped into the enclosures from below the layer of the water column where sea lice live.

In January 2021, LLS was granted a Controlled Activities Regulations (CAR) licence from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) to farm up to 3,452 tonnes of fish at Beinn Reithe.

The company has said it believes the NPA board failed to sufficiently and correctly consider the opinions of SEPA, Forestry and Land Scotland, NatureScot and the Arrochar Community Council, which all believe the project can proceed.

Ministers make the call

A Scottish Government spokesperson said that following this week’s hearings, the planning reporter “will then carefully consider all of the information before him and will produce a report with recommendations in order for the final decision to be taken by Scottish Ministers in due course”.

There is no official time limit for ministers to make a decision on what they are told by a planning reporter but appeals generally take around a year from when they are lodged until a decision is made.

LLS lodged its appeal in February, so will probably get a decision in or around the same month next year. If ministers overturn the NPA board’s refusal, LLS expects to have its farm operational by the autumn of 2025.

Joint venture

Loch Long Salmon is a joint venture between three partners, Simply Blue, Golden Acre Foods and Trimara Services.

Simply Blue, headquartered in Cork, Ireland, develops projects in floating offshore wind, wave energy and low impact aquaculture, and Trimara, run by former fish farmer Stewart Hawthorn, supplies equipment to the aquaculture industry.

Golden Acre Foods is the UK’s leading supplier of world foods, supplying major multiples, wholesalers and foodservice customers across the UK and Ireland. It is also a B Corp certified company, meeting high standards of environmental and social performance, transparency, and accountability.

Along with Benn Reithe, LLS is proposing an 8,000-tonnes-per-year SCCS salmon farm on Loch Linnhe and submitted a Proposal of Application Notice (PoAN) to Argyll & Bute Council in August.

A diagram showing how the farm at Beinn Reith would work.