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Marine / Renewable energy and seaweed farm interest in harbour area

The Sullom Voe harbour area. Image from NAFC Marine Centre.

SECTORS such as renewable energy, shellfish, finfish and seaweed farming have all expressed interest in using the Sullom Voe harbour area should it be opened up to development.

Councillors previously approved the creation for a masterplan for the area as reduced tanker traffic means a previously imposed blanket ban on aquaculture and other sectors could potentially be lifted.

A series of public consultation events were held earlier this year to gather local views on the future of the harbour area, which includes Yell Sound and stretches from Brae up to past North Roe.

A report from C2W Consulting included in papers for Wednesday’s meeting of Shetland Islands Council’s harbour board said that there had been over 100 responses to the consultation.

The report did not spark any questions or comment from councillors.

The consultation responses will help to inform a masterplan for the area, which will be devised by the council and experts from the NAFC Marine Centre.

Around 70 per cent of respondents to were “willing to discuss possible development” in the area, with the rest in opposition.

Around a third of respondents said the exclusion zone should continue as it had resulted in a largely unspoilt area without development that was environmentally intact.

The report said interest had been expressed in two areas of the harbour for renewable energy.

Nova Innovation already has an array of tidal energy turbines in the Bluemull Sound between Yell and Unst, while there has previous been interest in Yell Sound due to its strong tides.

It has long been known that shellfish and salmon farmers are also keen on Sullom Voe harbour area.

The report said that ferry capacity is an ongoing discussion with Shetland Islands Council to ensure “ease of transport” across the harbour area, but it is “currently manageable”.

There has also been interest in the area from a seaweed farming developer, with the report saying it would be grown for biomass energy and also products like pharmaceuticals.

It added that investment could begin with a trial site before scaling up to a £1 million farm.

However, “many respondents [to the consultation] were concerned about the potential to displace jobs by allowing development” in the harbour area, C2W Consulting wrote in its report.

“The desire to see a fixed link between Yell and the mainland was often repeated,” the consultants added.

The report also said it is “clear that there are significant constraints as to where, and what type of development would be welcome” in the area.

Shetland Islands Council’s ports and harbours team’s input into the consultation so far has been to advise where any development could interfere with safe navigation tanker traffic into Sullom Voe Terminal.

Councillors, meanwhile, recently approved plans to rebuild the Toft Pier, which sits near the edge of the harbour area.

There are hopes that fish landings at the pier will increase once the pier is redeveloped.