Supporting Sustainable Aquaculture and Marine Protection under spotlight at Council Committee
The importance of supporting environmentally, economically and socially sustainable aquaculture development in the Highlands was under the spotlight at yesterday’s Planning, Development and Infrastructure Committee. Members agreed a pre-consultation draft supplementary guidance on Aquaculture which, will eventually be used to determine future planning applications.
The draft supplementary guidance provides a suggested policy framework for making consistent planning decisions across Highland, and a spatial strategy that highlights areas of sensitivity and aims to guide developers to locations that are considered to have fewer constraints.
Alongside, it outlines six overarching development criteria that complement the Highland-wide Local Development Plan. These will help ensure an integrated approach to terrestrial and marine planning.
Chair of the Committee, Councillor Thomas Prag said: “Aquaculture plays an important part in the economy of the Highlands and is a growing sector so we need to ensure we look ahead and make it as sustainable as we can because of the key environmental, economic and social elements involved.
“Once adopted, the Aquaculture Supplementary Guidance will help us to approach future applications in a consistent way so we can make decisions on both marine and freshwater aquaculture development in line with best practice. It will also greatly help when developers are pulling together their proposals as they will be clear from the out-set what information they need to provide, making the whole planning system more efficient and effective.”
Now the Committee have approved the draft supplementary guidance it will go out to consultation with statutory consultees as part of the Strategic Environmental Assessment process prior to full public consultation. Details and dates for the consultation will be publicised shortly. As well as being available from local planning offices, service points and the Council’s website, the document will be circulated to stakeholders with an interest in aquaculture. The Development Plans team will be carrying out tailored consultation with industry representatives. All comments received during the consultation will be considered when the Council prepares the final consultation version later this year.
The next item of the Committee’s agenda covered the Marine Scotland consultation on the management of inshore special areas of conservation and marine protected areas and members had the opportunity to discuss and confirm the Council’s response to this consultation.
The response on behalf of the Council broadly welcomes the management measures set out in the consultation but also suggests additional protection for the marine environment within designated Marine Protected Areas. The Council has recommended additional measures for five of the six sites in Highland included in the consultation. The measures recommended include additional areas closed to mobile fishing gear such as Prawn trawling and Scallop dredging.
In discussing the item members recognised the valuable contribution made by the mobile fishing fleet to the economy of the Highlands but were also aware of other stakeholders and users of the marine environment.