The floating structure which would allow the group to significantly minimise road, ferry and boat movements was opposed on the basis that the nature and the size of the barge would be out of character with the surrounding sea and landscape.
The company – which is a major contributor to the local economy – believes that the decision is unfounded, arguing that there was no objection from anyone in the local community.
They argue that the visual impact is minimal and that there has been no recognition of how the feeding barge will help its operations to become more efficient and will allow its vital farming business in Orkney to grow in a safer and more a sustainable way.
The company also believe that similar proposals with arguably greater visual impact that are being made by other industries on Orkney are not being subject to the same levels of scrutiny.
Mark Warrington, Managing Director of Meridian Salmon Group, said: “We are thoroughly disappointed with the decision by Orkney Island Council to reject the feeding barge in Fara.
“We have submitted an appeal against this decision because we believe the barge would be a huge step forward in the future of salmon farming feed operations and that it would make the lives of those people working with us much easier going forward.
“The fact that SEPA, Marine Scotland, Orkney Fisheries Association and the local community had no objections to our plans shows there is definitely an understanding of the need to modernise and improve salmon farming – and the importance the industry plays in many fragile communities on Orkney.
“The barge which would store 10-15 days worth of food, would not only reduce transport journeys but would also reduce the disturbance to tourism and local people. Our staff would also benefit with less risk posed to them with not having to embark on multiple day trips by boat to the cages.
“It also would assist us in being able to compete commercially with other production areas on the mainland and Shetland where these barges are common place.”
Meridian Salmon Group employs 92 people in Orkney and operates 16 sites around the islands. The 400 tonne capacity barge which would be located on the south east of Hoy, would act as a hub for the firm’s Hoy cluster of five sites in the area.
All the Hoy cluster sites are presently serviced from the shorebase at Lyness Harbour, which can only store around 30 tonnes of feed. The feed is transported by truck from Kirkwall to Houton and then ferried to Lyness before crews undertake multiple boat trips to the sea sites.
Ferry trips to Hoy can rise to four crossings per week in peak production, creating space problems during the summer months when ferry traffic is high.
Mark added that they dispute the claims the barge will have an adverse visual impact.
He said: “We have operated a similar sized barge on other sites around Scotland without complaint – in fact the barge quickly becomes a feature of the local coastline.
“We also feel we have to take issue on the fact that applications from other industries which we’d argue create structures that are not visually appealing do receive an easier planning passage.”
Meridian Salmon Group is one of the top five salmon farming companies in Scotland, employing 350 people particularly in small communities in Argyll and Bute, the West Coast, Shetland and Orkney. It operates at 61 sea sites and 19 freshwater sites across Scotland and Cumbria.
The company is unique in that it operates a combined integration processes involving salmon breeding, hatchery, farming and processing, which gives the company total control over every stage of the production cycle, resulting in fish of consistently high quality.
It is committed to best practice in its entire farming and aquaculture operations and in protecting the natural environment and eco-systems in which they operate, ensuring all its facilities operate to the highest quality and food safety standards.
Meridian Salmon Group is also developing a state-of-the-art processing plant in Rosyth, Fife, which will become the biggest salmon processing plant in the UK, representing a major investment in the UK by Morpol, the company’s Polish owners.
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