Beau­ti­ful Loch Etive needs pro­tect­ing

The Oban Times - - LETTERS -

Sir, We re­fer to the ar­ti­cle by Sandy Neil ‘Fish farm op­er­a­tor at­tacks op­po­si­tion cam­paign group’ (The Oban Times, Jan­uary 19).

We would like to cor­rect Ste­wart Hawthorn, the farm­ing di­rec­tor for Dawn­fresh, who is quoted as say­ing: ‘The ac­tion was ini­ti­ated by a small group of priv­i­leged peo­ple, many not from the area.’

Friends of Loch Etive has more than 300 mem­bers and these are made up of a mix­ture of those liv­ing in the Loch Etive com­mu­nity and the many reg­u­lar vis­i­tors to Etive.

What Mr Hawthorn says is sim­ply wrong, but with his com­pany’s po­si­tion so dif­fi­cult to de­fend, per­haps it is eas­ier to at­tack the mes­sen­ger.

And, of course, the ap­peal to Scot­tish min­is­ters was ini­ti­ated by Dawn­fresh it­self and it was Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil, and not Friends of Loch Etive, that re­fused to grant the cer­tifi­cate that led to the Dawn­fresh ap­peal.

Friends of Loch Etive has only ever been an in­ter­ested party in this mat­ter.

The real sig­nif­i­cance of all this is that Loch Etive is pub­lic space. It is not pos­si­ble for any­one to own a sea loch.

The im­por­tance of pro­tect­ing the land­scape of Loch Etive can­not be un­der­es­ti­mated.

Mr Hawthorn says he is go­ing to dis­cuss the mat­ter with, among oth­ers, lo­cal MSPs and coun­cil­lors. For guid­ance on what lo­cal po­lit­i­cal opin­ion is on the mat­ter, he could do no bet­ter than read the ex­cel­lent Oban Times. In the edi­tion of Jan­uary 19, the the story head­lined ‘Tourism surge boosts em­ploy­ment in Ar­gyll’ re­ported that Michael Rus­sell, MSP for Ar­gyll and Bute, recog­nises just how im­por­tant the tourism in­dus­try is to Scot­land’s econ­omy and par­tic­u­larly to Ar­gyll.

Mr Rus­sell recog­nises that Scot­land is famed for its in­cred­i­ble scenery. It is that scenery – in this case, the in­cred­i­bly beau­ti­ful Loch Etive – that Friends of Loch Etive seeks to pro­tect from the creep­ing in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion that Dawn­fresh seeks to im­pose on the com­mu­nity.

Last Fe­bru­ary, The Oban Times also re­ported on the ac­tiv­i­ties of the Ar­gyll and Bute Eco­nomic Fo­rum, which brings to­gether mem­bers of the area’s key busi­ness sec­tors, lead­ing agen­cies, as well as lo­cal and na­tional gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

The fo­rum made it clear that tourism is Ar­gyll’s largest pri­vate sec­tor em­ployer with some 25 per cent of all pri­vate sec­tor jobs and is grow­ing fast, with some 30 per cent of all new em­ploy­ment and very sub­stan­tial cap­i­tal in­vest­ment at­trib­ut­able to tourism.

Sim­ply put, it makes fi­nan­cial and em­ploy­ment sense for the Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil to seek to pro­tect the land­scape of Loch Etive and the coun­cil should be ap­plauded for so do­ing.

Loch Etive needs pro­tect­ing from the ac­tiv­i­ties of Dawn­fresh, a loss-mak­ing com­pany that is seek­ing to in­dus­tri­alise its op­er­a­tions to re­duce its labour costs, all for the ben­e­fit of its bil­lion­aire, un­doubt­edly priv­i­leged, ab­sen­tee owner.

Nor is this re­cent ap­peal an iso­lated case. At the end of last year, Dawn­fresh ap­pealed to Scot­tish min­is­ters against an­other de­ci­sion of the Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil.

Af­ter a well-at­tended pub­lic plan­ning hear­ing at the Cor­ran Halls in Oban last spring, the coun­cil re­fused on land­scape grounds to al­low fur­ther ex­pan­sion of the farm at Etive 6. Dawn­fresh lost that ap­peal in Oc­to­ber.

In 2016, Dawn­fresh was also served with plan­ning con­tra­ven­tion no­tices at its farms at Port Na Mine (Etive 3) and at its two farms on Loch Awe at Tervine and Brae­val­lich, and with Sec­tion 33A en­force­ment no­tices at Port na Mine (Etive 3) and at Airds Bay (Etive 4). All these for­mal no­tices were served un­der the Town and Coun­try Plan­ning (Scot­land) Act 1997 by the Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil, on be­half of the peo­ple of Loch Etive, and not by Friends of Loch Etive. Keith Macmil­lan, Chair­man, on be­half of the trustees of Friends of Loch Etive, Fanans Beag, Taynuilt.

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