Weekly update, 18th March

Energy:

Highland Council’s North Planning Applications Committee this week agreed to raise no objections to the application to Marine Scotland from Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd (MORL) to develop offshore wind in the Moray Firth. The news attracted a range of press comment, both locally and nationally, and CNSRP Chairman Sir Anthony Cleaver’s comment can be viewed at http://www.cnsrp.org.uk/2013/03/21/moray-offshore-renewables-ltd-draft/ . A final decision on the plans is expected later this year.

At the same meeting Highland Councillors also granted approval for Meygen Ltd’s application to construct the onshore infrastructure needed to deliver up to 86 tidal energy devices in the inner sound of the Pentland Firth. Meygen Ltd also this week successfully ran an event in Caithness to identify “tier 2” suppliers for its development.

Tourism, food & drink

Along with members of the Partnership’s Delivery Group I attended a presentation on the work being taken forward by the group of tourism businesses working with Glasgow School of Art’s Institute of Design Innovation. The work, which is supported by HIE, focuses on innovative collaborations between tourism businesses.

I also had discussions this week with consultants working on the Peatland Partnership’s bid to secure support for its “Flow to the Future” project, which has received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The project is running public drop-in consultation sessions next week at North Coast Connections (Tongue, Monday 25th), Helmsdale Community Centre (Tuesday 26th), Halladale Hall (Wednesday 27th) and Ross Institute, Halkirk (Thursday 28th). Events will run from 4pm-8pm apart from Tongue which will be 4.30-8pm. Further information from flowtothefuture@rspb.org.uk

Enabling Activities:

A final reminder that Foundation Scotland, the organisation that is working on a “Caithness conversation” around the issue of how community benefit funds can be best used for the wider Caithness area, will be running open events in the area to help understand views on the issue, and to talk about examples of best practice in managing funds. Two “café” events (lunch and conversation) will take place today and tomorrow: today (Friday 22nd March) from 1.30pm-5pm at PPP’s Pulteney Centre in Wick, and tomorrow (Saturday 23rd March) from 10am-1.30pm in the Royal British Legion in Thurso. Responses are also invited to a survey in support of Foundation Scotland’s work on this issue: more information at www.npower-renewables.com/caithnessconversation

Miller Construction, the company set to deliver the construction of the new Wick High School complex, will be holding a “Meet the Buyer” event in Wick next week, aimed at raising awareness amongst local subcontractors and suppliers of the opportunities likely to be available from a £50M pipeline of work in Wick and Tain over the next three years. The event will take place on Wednesday 27th March. To register an interest in attending please contact mtbwick@miller.co.uk

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 Partnership’s Advisory and Executive Boards each met this week. The Advisory Board heard an update from Seonag Campbell of Skills Development Scotland on a skills mapping exercise, and discussed progress with priority projects. Continued support was expressed for the need to take advantage of the current upsurge in business at Wick John O’Groats Airport to examine how long term sustainability can be secured through investing in infrastructure. This message was reinforced by the Executive Board, and it was agreed to continue to work with HIAL to ensure that infrastructure plans are clearly understood. The Executive Board also emphasised the need to push forward with clear plans for skills development, particularly relating to young people in the area and in attracting new labour into the area.
  • Scottish Provincial Press’s excellent “Energy North” supplement was published last week with local newspapers in the Highlands, and is now available to view online at http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/Features/Supplements/
  • The John O’ Groat Journal also carries an article from Gordon Calder highlighting the likely growth in employment at SSE’s Wick base over the next two years as grid improvement works continue to take shape.