A north-east planning chief has warned investing £5.5million in the expansion of Aberdeen Harbour will take business away from its own ports.
As part of the landmark Aberdeen City Region Deal, £350million is being spent overhauling Aberdeen harbour with an expansion into Nigg Bay including an entire mile of new quay.
On Thursday, Aberdeenshire Council’s infrastructure services committee chairman will decide if the authority should contribute £5.5million to the scheme.
The development could create thousands of new jobs over the next two decades and aims to put Aberdeen at the heart of the decommissioning sector.
Aberdeen City Council will pay a similar fee to Aberdeenshire and the bulk of the investment will be privately funded.
But last night, infrastructure services vice-chairman John Cox warned the project could hamper business in Peterhead, and said the local authority should be investing in its own ports along the Banffshire and Buchan coast.
Mr Cox asked why the local authority was being asked to pour money into a project outside its boundaries when harbours including Peterhead, Fraserburgh and Macduff all need attention.
“I’m concerned about displacement from Peterhead harbour,” the Banff councillor said. “Investing in Nigg should be about creating new business, not taking business from Peterhead and moving it to Aberdeen.
“I’m not aware of us putting £5million or £10million into Peterhead’s port.”
He was backed by prominent north-east trawlerman John Clark who said the cash would be better spent improving access to the biggest fish market in the EU – Peterhead.
The Reliance II skipper said: “We have a huge new fish market getting built in Peterhead which will be the biggest in the EU yet it has a very poor roads network.”
The Macduff-based trawlerman spearheaded the campaign to protect the night watchman post in his home port – a move he said would help the harbour thrive.
Mr Clark said Aberdeenshire now has the chance to make Macduff a “goldmine”.
Mr Clark added: “If Aberdeenshire Council are investing £5million in Aberdeen harbour I really hope they’re also going to match that funding for its own harbours in the north-east because they need money spent on them.”
The chief executive of Peterhead Port Authority (PPA) Iain Laidlaw acknowledged that the investment would spark competition between the harbours, but said he relished the challenge.
“I too would be concerned if Nigg Bay displaced work from Peterhead but it remains for us to up our game and make our offering even more attractive to existing and new businesses,” Mr Laidlaw said.
“I would rather Aberdeen harbour and Peterhead competed and won work by continually improving the services that we each offer.”
The team behind the expansion into Nigg Bay says it will allow Aberdeen harbour to attract larger cruise ships, boosting tourism in the city.
This year PPA has been promoting the Blue Toon as a tour destination but Mr Laidlaw said there would not be direct competition between the two because only smaller vessels can currently stop in the Buchan town.
In a report to councillors, Aberdeenshire’s economic development chief Belinda Miller said: “The benefits for Aberdeenshire to invest in this project is based on the economic benefit to Aberdeenshire, principally to support our oil and gas subsea and decommissioning industries which use the port.”
She added that the larger cruise vessels docking in Aberdeen would boost the tourism sector across the region.
The local authority’s infrastructure committee will meet at Woodhill House on Thursday to consider the proposal to approve a £5.5million contribution to the city harbour project.