Two local authorities in Scotland are set to pilot a new, more efficient consenting process for salmon farms this month.
Salmon producer Scottish Sea Farms has initiated an application for a new Shetland site, marking the start of a trial for a streamlined licensing process.
This new system, aimed at expediting salmon farm licenses, will be tested in two Scottish local authorities starting December
This streamlined system is the result of efforts by the Consenting Task Group (CTG), established by the Scottish Aquaculture Council following recommendations from an independent review by Professor Russel Griggs.
Shetland Islands Council and Highland Council, both active participants in the CTG, will be the first to implement these new rules designed to reduce bureaucratic duplication.
Other leading producers, including Mowi and Bakkafrost, are expected to engage with Highland Council in testing the system.
In the company’s monthly newsletter, The Source, Scottish Sea Farms’ Head of Sustainability and Development, Anne Andersen outlined the trial’s approach.
“The trial involves a pre-application process where the two main consenting regimes, the local authority planners and SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency), work together to examine the information we submit, rather than each body considering applications separately, as happens now.”
This joint effort replaces the current system of separate evaluations by each body.
Anderson anticipates a two to three-month pre-application phase, involving all stakeholders, followed by a rapid decision-making period after formal applications are submitted. If successful, Scottish Sea Farms expects to receive planning approval by late autumn 2024, with the aim of operationalizing the new farm in the second quarter of 2025.
Emphasizing the importance of this initiative, Anderson noted that the goal was not only to create a more effective consenting system but also to foster better relationships among stakeholders. She praised the positive working dynamics with regulators, highlighting their increased understanding of the expertise involved in each application.
A crucial aspect of the trial, according to Andersen, is the evaluation of its effectiveness and the identification of any issues. The government plans to gather feedback from all parties involved, including local communities, before expanding the new system to other local authorities. This feedback will help refine the process, ensuring its suitability for wider implementation.