Progress earmarking marine energy sites

23rd November 2012 from John O'Groat Journal

Plans to develop land use in the north Highlands to complement developments in the emerging marine renewable sector are said to be progressing well according to Highland Council officials.

Fifty four sites across the far north have been identified after members of the public were asked which areas they thought would be suitable to help develop the green energy economy.

Principal planner David Cowie said that a 10 point action plan for Caithness and Sutherland has been revised to make sure the economy gets the maximum benefit for potential opportunities which may exist.

His views came at the Caithness and Sutherland area committee meeting on Monday when he updated councillors from five wards on progress since the action plan was drawn up in 2011.

Mr Cowie said the creation of the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters marine energy park has proven to be a major boost for the development of the marine energy industry in the region.

He said the results of the consultation were being prepared and that selected locations would be presented to the public next year.

“The exercise focused on asking the community to identify areas of land for employment use to support the marine and renewable industry,” he said.

“Out of the 54 sites that were suggested, 21 of those were areas of land that belong to the council.

“We are now looking at those sites which have been suggested and what types of use and scale of development would be suited to each area.

“There is a lot of technical consideration that needs to go into issues such as access and we also have to look at the impact of development on each location and carry out strategic environmental assessments.”

Added Mr Cowie: “We will report to the committee next year our results and get view from councillors and the public about which sites they would prefer.

“This would lead to a portfolio of sites from which we could invite applications, which would carry significant status in planning decisions.”

Mr Cowie also reported that the establishment of the Scrabster enterprise area in January has also led to significant progress and that it was important that the public and private sector worked together to facilitate the development of the area’s principal ports at Scrabster and Wick.

He said it was also vital that external transport issues on the A9 were progressed as well as improving the level of service at Wick John O’Groats airport, offering connections that meet customer demand. He said developments were on course to deliver actual community benefit to Caithness and Sutherland by 2017.

North, Central and West Sutherland councillor George Farlow commended progress on the action plan.

Landward Caithness councillor Alex Macleod also welcomed the report but asked for planners to engage with residents in rural areas of Caithness as well as Thurso and Wick.

John O'Groat Journal:

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