Argyll and Bute Turn Down Ardmeanach Salmon Farm, 19th September 2012

 

Decision

The Committee agreed to refuse the application for planning permission for the following reasons:-

1. The proposal involves the installation of a series of large scale fish cages and an associated service/feed barge in a location close inshore to the southern coast of the Ardmeanach peninsula, the basalt landscape of which forms an imposing and dramatic backdrop to Loch Scridain as viewed from the waters of the loch and from the important route via the Ross of Mull to the nationally important tourist destination of Iona. It also stands below and would be experienced from successive points, and at relatively close quarters from, the important coastal footpath from Tioran via the National Trust land at Burg to the ‘Fossil Tree’ at the head of the peninsula, on the route of which it is also overlooked from, and impinges inappropriately upon, the setting of the scheduled monument Dun Bhurg. The footpath from Tioran to Burg is a proposed core path which has received no objections through the core path planning process and represents an important coastal route on Mull. This part of Ardmeanach is largely undeveloped and is only accessible on foot, where it is visited specifically by persons wishing to experience its scenic qualities and its natural and historic environment attributes along with the associated drama of this exceptional stretch of coastline. It is included within an ‘Area of Panoramic Quality’, a landscape designation of regional importance, having regard to both the views which are available across and along the length of the loch and to the islands offshore, which represent important assets to the tourism economy of Mull. The introduction of marine development on the scale proposed would, by virtue of its physical presence in the landscape and lighting and activity associated with its operation, impinge upon the very characteristics of the receiving environment which give rise to its special qualities, which are derived from a combination of its landscape character, its resident wildlife and its historic associations. Such uncharacteristic and inappropriately situated development would therefore fail to safeguard the natural environment and the important role which this plays in the tourism economy of the island, and would not represent a sustainable form of development. The proposal would also contribute to the extent of aquaculture within the loch (currently three shellfish farms plus a shore base) and would give rise to additional cumulative impact with those developments when viewed from the Ardmeanach coastal footpath, and from those locations on the Ross of Mull

where the site could be seen in combination with existing mussel lines, which would contribute to the impression of aquaculture being a significant characteristic of Loch Scridain. The foregoing shortcomings would conflict with Structure Plan policy STRAT SI 1 and STRAT DC 8 and Local Plan Policies LP ENV 10 and LP AQUA 1 which seek to secure sustainable forms of development which safeguard designated landscape assets of regional importance from uncharacteristic and inappropriate forms of development.

2. Scottish Planning Policy confirms that potential conflict with other marine users is a legitimate material consideration in the assessment of aquaculture applications. The development is proposed to occupy around 40 hectares along the coastal shelf of Loch Scridain which forms part of the traditional fishing ground currently worked by a number of local commercial inshore fishing boats. Fishing organisations and boat owners consider that exclusion form this area by virtue of the presence of fish farming equipment and associated boat activity would, cumulatively in combination with existing shellfish operations elsewhere within the loch, prejudice the ongoing viability of inshore fishing in Loch Scridain, in circumstances where small vessels would not lend themselves to working alternative more distant fishing grounds. This would be to the detriment of established resource based employment in Loch Scridain and would be contrary to Local Plan Policy LP AQUA 1 which requires that consideration being given to navigational interests in the assessment of aquaculture developments in order to avoid unnecessary conflicts to the detriment of those interests.

(Reference: Report by Head of Planning and Regulatory Services dated 24 August 2012, submitted)