Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport update

Following a report agreed by Full Council in March 2023 on the Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport, Council members have received a further update on the current Outline Business Case (OBC) stage of the Green Freeport process and the role of Council officers and elected members.

The report sets out the Council’s role as Accountable Body and outlines how the potential developments and supporting infrastructure related to the Green Freeport are being identified along with the wider social, environmental and economic benefits that this aims to deliver for Highland communities.

The Outline Business Case will be brought to a future Council meeting prior to submission to UK and Scottish Governments. This will need to demonstrate how the Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport will make a significant contribution towards meeting the local and national transition to net zero, create high-quality, long-lasting employment in a green economy, regenerate and strengthen communities across the region and reverse demographic challenges.

The UK and Scottish Government are providing an opportunity to apply for up to £25m towards the cost of infrastructure and enabling works to set up the Green Freeport. It is expected that the funding should be used on land assembly, site remediation, small-scale transport infrastructure to connect sites within the Green Freeport. The Council is setting up an online tool for tax site landowners and members of the ICF Consortium to submit candidate projects which will then be assessed against the specific criteria attached to the funding.

The Council is looking to provide up-front planning advice on the issues that the tax site landowners will need to consider for any future developments. This will be based upon the existing pre-application advice service and will allow all relevant officers across the Council and Key Agencies the opportunity to inform the proposals that emerge and ensure that they adhere to the stringent policies and requirements at the local and national level. There will be consideration of utilising new planning measures, such as the use of Masterplan Consent Areas, to provide greater planning certainty and enabling streamlined decision-making.

Council agreed to set up a Member Monitoring Group which will monitor and scrutinise programme progress and ensure the tasks associated with being the accountable body are carried out effectively.

Leader of the Council, Raymond Bremner said: “Developing the outline business case, and the work sitting alongside this in setting up a Green Freeport, is a significant piece of work for the Council. This is one of the most important projects this Council has ever been involved in and has the potential to transform the Highlands, bringing jobs, economic regeneration, and prosperity for many years to come.”

15 May 2023