Sur­prise visit

En­vi­ron­ment boss on Ar­ran

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Mem­bers of the Com­mu­nity of Ar­ran Se­abed Trust (COAST) re­cently had a sur­prise visit from Terry A’Hearn, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Scot­tish En­vi­ron­ment Pro­tec­tion Agency (SEPA).

He made a rare trip to visit a com­mu­nity group af­ter he ac­cepted an un­usual in­vi­ta­tion to visit the en­vi­ron­men­tal char­ity fol­low­ing a mes­sage posted on Twitter.

The visit fol­lowed a re­port in a na­tional news­pa­per dis­cussing the ex­tent to which SEPA ac­cepted hos­pi­tal­ity. Quick off the mark, COAST chair­man Howard Wood re­sponded to the tweet say­ing: ‘I look for­ward to wel­com­ing Terry A’Hearn to Ar­ran COAST for an in­for­ma­tion and ed­u­ca­tional visit to learn all about our work. Happy to of­fer him a cof­fee but he would need to pay his own lunch. Gen­uine of­fer Terry.’

Sur­pris­ingly Mr A’Hearn took up the of­fer and, on Fri­day Fe­bru­ary 2, he and Mike Mon­tague, an aqua­cul­ture spe­cial­ist, joined mem­bers of COAST and the Ar­ran com­mu­nity where they heard about con­cerns sur­round­ing the pro­posed ex­pan­sion of the Scot­tish Salmon Com­pany’s salmon farm in Lam­lash Bay and other en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns on Ar­ran and be­yond.

Also dis­cussed were de­tails of the Marine Pro­tected Area in Lam­lash, the Aqua­cul­ture Growth Plan, wa­ter con­di­tions in the Clyde as well as pub­lic con­fi­dence in SEPA.

Mr Wood said: ‘We in­vited Terry A’Hearn to Ar­ran due to con­cerns by many west coast com­mu­ni­ties, widely aired in the press, that SEPA had suc­cumbed to po­lit­i­cal pres­sure to wa­ter down reg­u­la­tions to al­low the 100 per cent ex­pan­sion of salmon farm­ing, an­nounced by Fer­gus Ewing MSP last year.

‘Mr A’Hearn as­sured those present that SEPA hadn’t suc­cumbed to po­lit­i­cal pres­sure and that he was happy for COAST and other com­mu­ni­ties to hold him to ac­count on im­prove­ments SEPA will be in­sti­gat­ing over the next few years.’

At­tend­ing the meet­ing were 10 lo­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions which use, or de­pend on, the coastal re­sources, along with chair­man Bill Calder­wood and mem­bers of Ar­ran Com­mu­nity Coun­cil.

COAST di­rec­tor Paul Chan­dler said: ‘Ev­ery­one present at the meet­ing wanted more trans­parency in how SEPA reg­u­lates the in­dus­try. We also made it clear we wanted to work with SEPA to im­prove the trans­parency and en­sure ac­cu­rate mon­i­tor­ing, not mod­el­ling, of the en­vi­ron­men­tal ef­fects of the Lam­lash Bay salmon farm.

‘Both SEPA rep­re­sen­ta­tives were im­pressed with the com­mu­nity-led ethos of COAST, the amount of knowl­edge present within the com­mu­nity and how, as a com­mu­nity, we have been mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in the seas around Ar­ran.’

Af­ter his visit, Mr A’Hearn posted on Twitter: ‘Great day with Ar­ran COAST com­mu­nity mem­bers. Loved their en­thu­si­asm, knowl­edge and de­ter­mi­na­tion to build a bet­ter fu­ture for their is­land. Has im­proved my un­der­stand­ing of com­mu­nity views re­gard­ing fish farm­ing.’

Del­e­gates of the SEPA meet­ing with Terry A’Hearn and Howard Wood at the Marine Pro­tected Area site.

Com­mu­nity and COAST mem­bers meet with Terry A’Hearn and Mike Mon­tague of SEPA.

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