CONTROVERSIAL plans for a fish farm on Loch Long should be turned down, officials have said.

The Loch Long Salmon Company's proposals for a site in the shadow of Beinn Reithe are expected to be considered, and decided, by the board of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority at a special meeting on Monday, October 31.

Loch Long Salmon (LLS), the company behind the plans, say they believe the recommendation by park officials goes against one of the key aims of the Park’s own Partnership Plan to, “address national priorities and achieve benefits for Scotland beyond the National Park boundaries”.

The Benn Reithe project - which, if approved, would see the first use of 'semi-closed' fish farm technology anywhere in Scotland - has been supported by an array of MPs, MSPs, councillors, communities and local people.  

However, in addition to 64 expressions of support, the proposal has also attracted 192 objections.

A report on the application by Stuart Mearns, the park authority's director of place, says the proposed development "would not relate well to the landscape context and setting" and that it "would have an industrial appearance in an area of undeveloped coastline".

Stewart Hawthorn, managing director of Loch Long Salmon, said: “The Scottish Government and the National Park have both said this project is of national significance. 

"It has the support of bodies such as SEPA, Forestry & Land Scotland and NatureScot; the local MP; a cross-party grouping of MSPs and Councillors; the host community council; and a range of local people and groups.

“This transformative technology could have a positive environmental impact across Scotland by leading positive change in salmon farming, a critical food production sector and a vital part of our rural economy.”

“The technology has been proven for decades and has operated without any fish escapes over hundreds of production cycles.  It removes the threat of sea lice and the need for treatment, protecting the seabed, and will never require acoustic devices to deter seals.

“Waste and uneaten food gathers at the bottom of the enclosure, is brought on shore and can be used as the basis for fertiliser or green energy, contributing to the Circular Economy while growing the lowest carbon animal protein in the world.

“Loch Long is the ideal location for our demonstration site.  We are confident Board Members will see the benefits of this game-changing project, furthering the National Park’s goals by promoting sustainable business growth, creating jobs and supporting communities.”

The company says it hopes to establish a further four sites in the west of Scotland – though this would be subject to planning approval – and that if all its plans receive permission, it will bring more than £200 million of capital investment into rural Scotland and create at least 12 full-time equivalent jobs at each site.