By Bill Heaney
Plans for a new fish farm in Loch Long between Whistlefield and Arrochar have been rejected by The Loch Lomond National Park Authority.
The Loch Long proposal included the use of pollution-limiting containers which it was claimed would separate wild and farmed fish.
But the national park authority’s board has refused the application.
The board said it was not not an appropriate location to host “development of such an industrial scale”.
The impacts associated with a potential escape of farmed fish at the site near Arrochar was “a significant concern”, the board added.
Loch Long Salmon had argued it was a “game-changing project” and pointed out that semi-enclosed containers have been used in Norway since 2014 and have also been rolled out in the Faroe Islands and Canada.
James Stuart, Convenor of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority, said: “Today (Monday 31st October) the National Park Authority Board refused an application for a marine fish farm below Beinn Reithe, Loch Long.
“This decision was taken following careful consideration by the Board of the planning assessment report, together with responses from statutory bodies and community members, and representations from speakers both in support of and in objection to the proposal at a thorough public hearing in Arrochar today.
“This application is for development within a National Park and it is our view that such a nationally important landscape is not the appropriate location to host development of such an industrial scale and where the risk of an escape of farmed fish could impact on designated water courses.
“The semi-closed containment systems proposed – whilst noted as a substantial step forward for the industry -have not yet been trialled in Scotland and there is not a sound body of evidence on which to base decision making.
“There is a clear risk that the technology may not be sufficiently successful and the location of the application site in Loch Long – with connectivity to the Endrick Water Special Area of Conservation and its fragile population of Atlantic salmon – means that the impacts associated with a potential escape of farmed fish is a significant concern.
“The proposed development also presents a number of significant landscape, seascape and visual issues. It would have an industrial character and would notably contrast with the largely undeveloped and remote character of the local landscape.
“The National Marine Plan, the Local Development Plan, our National Park Partnership Plan and Scottish planning policy all require the special landscape qualities and landscape character types of the National Park to be conserved and enhanced. This is also the founding aim of the National Park to which greatest weight is given in any planning decision.”
He appeared not to have taken into account that the loch shore at Arrochar is one of the filthiest in the National Park area and has been the subject of numerous inspections and site visits by Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie and councillors from Argyll and Bute.
Campaigners who have worked hard to keep the fish farm out of Loch Long are forecasting already that the applicants will appeal.
Former Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham and Jackie Baillie MSP on a visit to Loch Long to inspect the filthy shores.