Weekly Update, 3rd October 2011

Energy

Another potential inward investor visited the area this week to look at sites relating to offshore renewables, further highlighting the interest being shown in our assets and infrastructure.

 

Enabling Activities:

 

Transport Scotland has submitted a contract notice to the Official Journal of the European Union requesting operators to come forward to undertake the Northern Isles Ferry Services from 2012-2018, following consultation with local communities. As a result of these consultations, Transport Scotland will continue to specify the ports of Aberdeen, Lerwick, Kirkwall, Scrabster and Stromness for the provision of these services. A maximum crossing time of 90 minutes between Scrabster and Stromness will also continue to be specified. More at http://www.transportscotland.gov.uk/news/northern-isles-ferry-tender

 

I met this week with the Environmental Research Institute’s new business development co-ordinator, Helen Campbell, to outline the work of the Partnership, and to discuss opportunities to bring further economic value to the ERI’s already-important role. Developing a cluster of like-minded organisations and companies able to pro-actively work on opportunities is a short-term goal on which I will now work. The first step will be a meeting later this month of several interested organisations.

 

I also met with Sandy Mackie and William Calder of Scrabster Harbour Trust to hear an update on progress with developments. Phase 1 of the Trust’s development is underway, and the physical shape of the harbour is already changing. Work is progressing well, with completion expected next summer. The Trust is also examining its plans for delivering business/ industrial space at a site it owns at Scrabster Farm, as well as considering the potential scope of a Phase 2 development. I outlined some of the Masterplanning work proposed as part of the Highland Council’s “onshore vision” for the area, together with work just starting on a study into the “internal” transport infrastructure of Caithness and North Sutherland in relation to energy sector developments. On the latter point I attended an inception meeting this week with Council colleagues and appointed consultants AECOM to allow them to commence work on the transport study. The consultants will now carry out around 8 weeks of work, which will include contact with a number of local representatives.

 

This week I also attended a meeting between Highland Council officials and the Chairman and Chief Executive of the North Highland Initiative. The meeting looked at NHI’s ambitions for the tourism sector in the north, and how Caithness/ North Sutherland can be a “proving ground” for development of tourism potential in rural areas. NHI Chairman David Whiteford is also quoted in this week’s Northern Times on the subject of the price of fuel and its effect on tourism in rural areas. http://www.northern-times.co.uk/News/Rural-tourism-dependent-on-access-to-fuel-04102011.htm

 

Communications:
As part of an ongoing process of helping communicate progress with the delivery of aspects of our economic transition programme CNSRP’s partners work together to generate news stories for local, regional and national media. I also speak on a regular basis to individuals and organisations across the area to update on progress. This week:

  • The ERI was the recipient of an award at last week’s Energy North awards, winning the “Best Pioneer” category in recognition of its leading role in the research and learning in support of the marine energy sector. It is only just over ten years since the ERI opened in Thurso with 1 researcher, 1 PhD and 1 technician. There are now over 40 staff based at ERI and the new centre for Energy & the Environment. Congratulations to Stuart Gibb and his team. Rob Gibson MSP lodged a Motion in the Scottish Parliament this week congratulating the ERI. You can read this at http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/ERI-praised-by-MSP-Rob-Gibson-over-award-honour-05102011.htm
  • Caithness Chamber of Commerce has appointed two people to take over the management of its Town Centre Development project, which is funded by the NDA and LEADER. The two staff start work this coming week. http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/New-shops-in-Wick-and-Thurso-hailed-as-encouraging-news-by-chamber-of-commerce-chief-Trudy-Morris.htm
  • Whilst not directly relevant to Caithness & North Sutherland, it was interesting to note this week the announcement by RWE npower of a deal with the port of Mostyn in NE Wales to bring arouund 100 skilled engineering jobs to the area to support its offshore wind operations around that area. There are parallels with the opportunities offered by the development of the Moray Firth offshore wind sites to ports like Wick. Read more at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-north-east-wales-15179262