Conservation Groups Back Council Stand –

Conservation Groups Back Council Stand Fish Farming Today Published:  23 October, 2002

HIGHLAND Council’s policy to take ownership and planning powers over the Scottish seabed away from the Crown Estate, has received the backing of a number of conservation bodies.

The groups, which include the RSPB, WWF, Friends of the Earth and the Marine Conservation Society, claim that the powers should instead go to a minister in the Scottish Executive. They claim that the Crown Estate has failed to regulate the development of the coastal fish farming industry over the past 30 years. The Crown Estate controls the seabed out to 12 miles from the coast and takes £2.5m in rent from fish farming alone. It also charges rent for harbour developments, anchorages and submarine cables and has already been the subject of a complaint from Shetland over the development of new submarine IT communication links to the northern isles.

Councillor Gavin Scott Moncrieff, Highland Council’s vice chairman of planning and development, said: “I welcome the fact that these bodies also see it necessary to change this anachronism, which does not exist in any other country that I know of. The Council has been pressing for this for years. The Executive should press the Westminster Government to take these powers away from the Crown Estate and to give them to the Executive.We would want the Executive to go one step further and devolve these powers to local authorities.” They should control marine development in the same way that they control development on land.