A new manufacturing plant that will create more than 150 new “green” jobs in the Highlands has been approved.
The proposal from Japanese firm Sumitomo Electric Industries is one of the first to emerge following the Cromarty Firth’s designation as a green freeport last year.
Its £200m project to create a high voltage cable manufacturing plant in Nigg can now begin.
Highland Council’s north planning applications committee considered the proposal on Wednesday.
Several objections about noise had been raised by people living across the firth in Cromarty.
That fear dominated much of today’s discussion but ultimately, councillors unanimously agreed to approve the plans.
Job excitement tempered by Cromarty noise concerns
A noise assessment has not yet been completed for the proposal.
That has concerned locals in Cromarty and a number of councillors.
An objection from Cromarty Community Council said there is already a number of ongoing noise complaints from Nigg affecting the “physical, mental and emotional well-being” of people there.
But assurances were given from planning manager Gillian Pearson that no work would begin at the site until the council’s environment health department was satisfied.
Sutherland councillor Richard Gale said the proposal had his backing.
He said: “Everyone is concerned about the noise.
“But this is a huge investment for the Highlands. It shows that the Highlands is open for business and I’m fully supportive of it.”
Tain councillor Alasdair Rhind added: “Major developments bring challenges. But those challenges bring jobs as well.
“We’re talking about 180 here possibly and that’s very welcome for Easter Ross and the Highland area as a whole.”
‘New chapter’ for Nigg
Black Isle councillor Morven-May MacCallum was one of several to hammer home how important it is that the council takes the noise concerns seriously.
She said that the Cromarty residents’ complaints were valid and added that “sleep deprivation is a form of torture”.
Planning manager Dafydd Jones summed up the pros and cons of the application and sought to reassurance councillors who had worries about the potential noise impact.
He said: “There is an ongoing issue with noise and existing vessels. Environmental health is aware and have been monitoring shipping movements.
“Clearly there are concerns but I have comfort in the conditions put forward that they will cover this.
“This is a new chapter, in terms of moving away from an oil-based approach to renewables.”
Those conditions include the completion of a noise impact assessment that is acceptable to the council.
Sumitomo, which put forward the application with help from local business giant Global Energy, estimates the plant will be up and running within two and a half years.
Green freeport jobs boom
Paperwork submitted with the planning application said 156 new jobs will be made once the manufacturing plant is fully operational.
It said 31 of the local posts will be office jobs and 125 will be process and plant operative roles.
The development will involve the production of high-voltage submarine cables for
supply to the offshore wind market.
The Scottish Government wants to achieve “net zero” emissions by 2045 and needs to rely on natural resources such as wind to meet the target.
It is hoped that last year’s award of green freeport status will create as many as 75,000 jobs in the Highlands and Fife.