Proposed marina on Moray Firth would not threaten bottlenose dolphins, consultants claim; development forms part of a larger proposal for residential and leisure development including 1950 homes, a hotel, visitor centre and community facilities at the former McDermot Fabrication Yard at Whiteness, near Ardersier
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Ambitious plans for a money-spinning 500-berth marina between Inverness and Nairn would be unlikely to upset the area’s delicate eco-system if managed responsibly.
That is the view of consultants working for the developer of the project, which could generate at least £2.5 million in direct spending, according to estimates.
The marina forms part of a larger proposal for residential and leisure development including 1950 homes, a hotel, visitor centre and community facilities at the former McDermot Fabrication Yard at Whiteness, near Ardersier.
The go-ahead was first granted in 2007 but the site’s current owner, Ardersier Port Ltd, is seeking to renew planning permission after it ran out in February.
The application has prompted an objection from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), which maintains the development is likely to have a significant effect on the Moray Firth’s best-known residents, the bottlenose dolphins.
SNH also said it would significantly impact the common seals in the Dornoch Firth as well as the Morrich More Special Area of Conservation and the Inner Moray Firth Special Protection Area.
They asked for further information, including a vessel movement plan.
In response, Blue Sea Consulting LLP – which specialises in marina, waterfront and leisure developments – has revisited previous studies and concluded the industry has moved on since 2008 and that responsible boating would be easier to achieve in 2020 and beyond.
“Already a number of hybrid boats are coming to the market that are both cleaner and quieter and this can only help boats co-exist with marine wildlife,” the report from the consultants said.
“The Scottish Government recognises the increasing value of marine tourism, growing from a Scottish national value of £330 million per annum to £450 million in five years – and through the agencies has supported the development of marine tourism infrastructure and the promotion of the sector.”
The report said the firth’s modern marinas were full to capacity and there remains a demand for more berths.
“Another appropriately-phased modern marina would be a valuable asset for marine tourism development,” it said.
“Figures suggest that such a development, responsibly managed, is unlikely to upset the delicate eco-system of the firth.
“Operators in the region believe further marine development is possible and would bring more tourists to the area.
“The additional 500 berths are likely to account for up to £2.5million direct expenditure by resident boats in the region, before increased visitor spend and wider economic benefit is accounted for.”
Under the previous application, a unique management plan was proposed to ensure the wellbeing of the firth’s sensitive species, especially near the Whiteness harbour and new marina.
It included the appointment of a sea ranger to ensure boats were aware of the importance of safe handling of their craft while around the important wildlife, especially the dolphins.
“If the development of Whiteness Marina was to proceed now, it would face far fewer challenges to introducing its vessel management and user education policies than would have been the case in 2008 and its environmental footprint would be greatly reduced,” Blue Sea Consulting concluded.