Fish farm operator attacks opposition campaign group
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.