A new plant looks likely to rise from the ashes of a burnt-out fish factory in a north-east town.
Bosses at Northbay Pelagic have lodged plans with Aberdeenshire Council for a replacement building on the site of its Peterhead depot, which was destroyed in a massive blaze last month.
Community leaders have welcomed the move, saying it will bring fresh hope for the 120 full-time and 100 temporary workers whose long-term job prospects were thrown into doubt in the aftermath of the disaster.
Both the processing and packing lines, as well the firm’s office and administration block, were destroyed as the former plant at Kirk Square burned to the ground in a blaze that raged for 10 hours.
Some employees have been seconded to work at other businesses in the north-east, but pelagic landings at Peterhead have reportedly slumped because of the lack of processing facilities.
No one at Northbay – formerly Fresh Catch – was available to comment on the latest move.
However, Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, hailed the news that the firm was looking to the future.
“We will be delighted when the factory is back up and running,” he told the Press and Journal.
“I would have liked to see it happen before the herring season in the summer, but that will be a challenge.
“The factory would have been a miss if it went for good.
“They were taking in a lot of fish and we have just had a very busy mackerel season, so Peterhead will have suffered a bit because of the fire at Northbay.”
Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said his group was eager to see the factory re-open.
“We would very much welcome the return of capacity as soon as possible,” he said.
Peterhead councillor Alan Buchan said the planning bid would have to “run its course”, but he was keen to see a secure future for the Northbay workforce and the wider economy of the town.
“I can’t comment on the planning application itself, but the more jobs there are in Peterhead the better,” he said.
“There has been a big reduction in the pelagic landings in Peterhead this year, obviously, because of a lack of facilities.
“With the ability to process in Peterhead cut back, boats have been landing in Norway and places like that.”
Councillor Stuart Pratt, chairman of the Buchan area committee, said: “Obviously, we want the company to get back up to full strength as quickly as possible – that’s bound to be for the good of the employment in the town.
“The fact that an application has been put in will give them some security for the future.”
Local MP Eilidh Whiteford said it was important that the town continued to have “substantial processing capacity”.
“Although I would not comment on any specific planning application, I would welcome developments which contribute significantly to Peterhead’s fishing industry,” she said.
In a supporting statement to Aberdeenshire Council planners, the project’s agent – David Bailey – said the remains of the gutted factory were in the process of being demolished.
He added that work on the new factory – which will have a floorspace of 6157sqft – is expected to begin as soon as the demolition is complete.