Fish firm at­tacks cam­paign group

The Oban Times - - Front Page - SANDY NEIL sneil@oban­

DAWN­FRESH has lost its ap­peal to use a stretch of Loch Etive to store fish farm equip­ment.

The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment agreed with Argyll and Bute Coun­cil’s ‘well-founded’ de­ci­sion not to grant con­sent for a ‘cer­tifi­cate of law­ful use of land’ in op­er­a­tion for ‘40 years’.

Dawn­fresh has said it is dis­ap­pointed and con­fused by the re­porter’s rul­ing. Friends of Loch Etive ap­plauded the de­ci­sion.

LOCH ETIVE fish farm op­er­a­tor Dawn­fresh has hit out at a ‘priv­i­leged’ lo­cal cam­paign group af­ter the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment re­jected its ap­peal to use a stretch of shore­line to keep and re­pair equip­ment.

In Jan­uary last year, Dawn­fresh Farm­ing Ltd, one of the UK’s big­gest fish and seafood pro­duc­ers, ap­plied to Argyll and Bute Coun­cil for ‘a cer­tifi­cate of law­ful use of land for the main­te­nance and stor­age of fish farm equip­ment’ on the banks of its Loch Etive trout farm near In­ver­awe.

But coun­cil plan­ners re­fused con­sent in May, stat­ing: ‘It is not con­sid­ered the 10-year pe­riod to es­tab­lish a law­ful use of this land has been demon­strated on the bal­ance of prob­a­bil­ity.’

Dawn­fresh then launched an ap­peal, ar­gu­ing the site was in con­sis­tent use for stor­age and main­te­nance from 1974 un­til Au­gust 2015, and ‘that clear­ance of the site in Au­gust 2015 does not con­sti­tute aban­don­ment and there­fore have the ef­fect of break­ing the con­ti­nu­ity of use. The use of the site was merely dor­mant in this pe­riod and ca­pa­ble of be­ing re­vived’.

Now a Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment re­porter, fol­low­ing a site in­spec­tion, has up­held the coun­cil’s ‘well-founded’ de­ci­sion, dis­miss­ing Dawn­fresh’s ap­peal.

Dawn­fresh farm­ing di­rec­tor Ste­wart Hawthorn ex­pressed the com­pany’s dis­ap­point­ment and con­fu­sion.

He said: ‘The area of land in ques­tion has been used to sup­port var­i­ous forms of fish farm­ing ac­tiv­i­ties for more than 40 years.

‘We are dis­ap­pointed the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment re­porter has de­cided Dawn­fresh has not supplied suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to demon­strate this and there­fore to al­low this ac­tiv­ity to con­tinue. The area does not im­pact vis­ually on the lo­cal com­mu­nity or the en­vi­ron­ment.

‘ We don’t un­der­stand the rea­sons for this de­ci­sion and be­lieve the re­porter has mis­un­der­stood our ap­pli­ca­tion to for­malise an ac­tiv­ity that has been tak­ing place for more than four decades. This neg­a­tive de­ci­sion will im­pact our abil­ity to op­er­ate re­spon­si­bly in the Loch Etive re­gion – for ex­am­ple, by pre­vent­ing rou­tine in­spec­tion of cages.’

Mr Hawthorn then hit out at the cam­paign group who launched the ac­tion, claim­ing it was putting jobs at risk, say­ing: ‘Aqua­cul­ture is crit­i­cal to Scot­land’s ru­ral econ­omy and Dawn­fresh is proud to play its part by pro­vid­ing long-term, high-value jobs di­rectly on Loch Etive and else­where, as well as through our lo­cal sup­ply chain,’ he said.

‘This ac­tion was ini­ti­ated by a small group of priv­i­leged peo­ple, many not from the area, who I hope will re­flect on the pos­si­ble con­se­quences of their ac­tions which are putting the liveli­hoods of lo­cal work­ing peo­ple and their fam­i­lies at risk.

‘ We will also be dis­cussing this mat­ter with lo­cal of­fi­cials, coun­cil­lors, MPs and MSPs to de­ter­mine a con­struc­tive way for­ward that pro­tects the em­ploy­ment that Dawn­fresh brings to the area while re­spect­ing lo­cal plan­ning laws and reg­u­la­tions.’

Cam­paign group Friends of Loch Etive (FoLE) ‘ warmly wel­comed’ the gov­ern­ment’s ‘rul­ing against the com­pany’s prac­tice of lit­ter­ing the shore of Loch Etive at In­ver­awe with in­dus­trial equip­ment used in fish farm­ing’.

FoLE spokesper­son Guy Lin­ley-Adams said: ‘Rather than ap­ply for plan­ning per­mis­sion in the nor­mal way and al­low the Loch Etive com­mu­nity to have its say, Dawn­fresh ap­pealed in­stead to Scot­tish min­is­ters in Ed­in­burgh.

‘FoLE has fought hard against Dawn­fresh’s ac­tiv­i­ties at the shore­line at In­ver­awe. We are de­lighted to have won an­other bat­tle against Dawn­fresh, this time pre­vent­ing it from con­tin­u­ing to blight the shore­line at In­ver­awe with un­used fish-farm equip­ment.

‘ We will con­tinue to fight against Dawn­fresh on be­half of the Etive com­mu­nity to stop one com­mer­cial com­pany ex­pand­ing its in­dus­trial fish farm­ing op­er­a­tions to the over­all detri­ment of the loch and its im­me­di­ate en­vi­ron­ment. Where nec­es­sary, we will bring to bear the full weight of the law. Loch Etive be­longs to the lo­cal com­mu­nity – not a sin­gle busi­ness.

‘The coun­cil recog­nised the real risk of dam­ag­ing the land­scape of Loch Etive and the frag­ile tourist econ­omy upon which the Etive com­mu­nity so clearly de­pend. It should be ap­plauded for the po­si­tion it took last year.’

Dawn­fresh has been ac­cused of ‘lit­ter­ing’ the shore­line of Loch Etive.

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