Staffin slipway

STAFFIN Community Trust (SCT) has welcomed fresh proposals for an organic fish processing development which could create significant employment opportunities and much-needed infrastructure investment.

The improvement and redevelopment of the Staffin Slipway has been a priority of the local community for some time.

Basic amenities such as water, fuel and electricity cannot currently be accessed. There are no boat storage facilities, while increased shelter for vessels, and the ability to berth at all times of the day were frequently highlighted by local people and fishermen in public consultations run by the SCT. Potential marine tourism opportunities through the potential installation of pontoons were also identified.

SCT has worked hard to progress the community’s aspirations and secured funding for an engineering report which outlined several development options in 2012. SCT was unlikely to progress those options without a commercial partner.

In 2013, a company called Skye Sea Harvest Ltd (SSH) approached the SCT as it sought a suitable location for a seafood processing facility. After consulting again with the community the SCT agreed to work closely with the company and public agencies to try and deliver a transformational project at the Slipway which could have created a number of jobs.

That project has now been unfortunately shelved after a series of feasibility studies calculated the total investment required was more than £18million. Dredging costs in particular were higher than anticipated.
SSH has now returned with a revised fish production and processing development linked to the Slipway, which could help SCT in its efforts to secure investment in the Slipway. SSH directors Alex MacInnes, Robert Gray and Alister Mackinnon have formed a company called Organic Sea Harvest (OSH). Hugh Drever, who is chief operating officer of Villa Seafood, is the fourth OSH director.

The firm proposes to produce organic salmon at four fish farm sites in north Skye, including two at Invertote and Culnacnoc. The firm want to harvest 10,000 salmon per year using organic methods and create a number of jobs in the local community. OSH outlined the project at SCT’s AGM last month (27.9.16) and has pledged to hold further consultation with the community in early 2017.

The fish would be processed and labelled at a building on land away from the Slipway but in the Staffin area.

SCT chairman Donald MacDonald said: “The Staffin Community Trust, working in partnership with Organic Sea Harvest, have continued to investigate new options for improvements to the community slipway whilst also identifying solutions that would bring additional social and economic benefits to north-east Skye.

“Earlier proposals, which included major infrastructure improvements, had challenged both parties due to the high capital costs. In discussion with public agencies it became apparent that a new approach was needed with alternative solutions to reduce the size and costs while retaining the desire to improve facilities and create much needed employment. At the recent AGM of Staffin Community Trust new innovative ideas were presented by Organic Sea Harvest to produce organic salmon for the Skye Sea Harvest processing unit to be situated within Staffin as part of this new chapter, which will now be investigated further through the partnership.

“The need to dredge the basin has been substantially reduced. These two key alterations will substantially reduce the costs while still allowing for significant improvements which will satisfy the needs of the community, open up marine tourism opportunities and allow Organic Sea Harvest and Skye Sea Harvest to operate their businesses.

“These proposals are at an early stage of development but both parties will continue to engage the community as things develop.”