Weekly update, 31st March

Energy & Business Services:

SSE’s transmission business is consulting on the next phase of plans to enhance the electricity transmission grid in the north. The company this week held two days of public consultation in Thurso and Mey on plans to construct a new substation at Phillips Mains near Mey, which will connect to a new substation near Thurso via a new 132kV overhead line. Consultation documents are here. It was good to talk to Alexander Campbell, Nolan Miller and Gavin Steele of SSE about the plans, and the likely opportunities for sub-contracts and local employment that will result from the company’s ongoing programme of work in the north. Indeed SSE has this week announced contracts worth up to £450M in support of delivering the enhanced transmission network in the north of Scotland. Four major companies (Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions, Amec, Babcock Networks and MSVE Transmission) will be part of this framework. Babcock Networks has worked on the Dounreay Substation contract and Balfour Beattie is due to start work on the new Dounreay-Mybster line (this year) and the new Dounreay-Gills Bay line (next year). SSE proposes to hold an event in Caithness in the near future that will focus on both contracting opportunities via its Open 4 Business portal and on recruitment opportunities. Also this week Ofgem has announced it will consult on the “Needs Case” element of its assessment of SSE’s proposed Caithness-Moray grid enhancements, focusing in particular on the proposed subsea HVDC cable. You can view the Ofgem letter and supporting documents here.

North Highland College’s Engineering Technology & Energy Centre (ETEC) has published a progress report on its activities, highlighting that 173 apprentices have studied at the Centre since its opening, with 18 directly-employed Engineering apprentices currently going through their courses. ETEC also now has new lecturers to further support its students. Read more here. ETEC also welcomed Alyn Smith MEP today (Friday) for a fact-finding visit. Mr Smith is one of Scotland’s six Members of the European Parliament, and together with Rob Gibson MSP he also visited Wick and Scrabster harbours, as well as T3UK.

Tourism, Food & Drink:

Mey Selections and Scrabster Seafoods are amongst a group of Highlands and Islands companies exhibiting in Singapore this month at Asia’s leading food & drink event. The trade mission, which is supported by CNSRP partner Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Scottish Development International, follows on from last month’s successful participation in the World Gourmet Summit which was also held in Singapore, and featured Scrabster-based JPL Seafoods, who have been supported in their growth plans by HIE and by the NDA-funded North Highland Regeneration Fund. CNSRP partners estimate that between 2011-2014 local companies committed to creating over 50 full-time equivalent jobs in the food & drink sector.

A community consultation event was held in John O’Groats this week as a pre-planning consultation for an application to the Highland Council by JOG 2 Ltd, a company set up by Natural Retreats. Representatives from Natural Retreats, Heritage GB, GLM Architects and Cuthbert White were on hand to explain a proposed multi-phase development which would include recreation facilities, retail space and possible visitor centre on land between the main A836 John O’ Groats – Thurso road and John O’Groats Harbour.

The Scottish Surfing Championships took place in Thurso last weekend, bringing a number of surfers and spectators to the area. Event sponsorship came from a number of surf companies and from CNSRP partner the Highland Council. Photos of the event are here.

Enabling Activities:

A preferred option for the potential realignment of the A9 Trunk Road at Berriedale was on public display this week. As previously reported, the study which informed the possible options at Berriedale was funded by CNSRP partners the NDA and Highland Council, as well as Transport Scotland and HITRANS. The exhibition documents are available to view on the Transport Scotland website. It is planned to have a further exhibition later this year of the draft Road Orders produced for the preferred option.

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:

  • Last week’s issue of Scottish Provincial Press’ “Energy North” supplement is now available digitally, as well as with all SPP titles in the Highlands. I contributed one of a regular series of articles at the invitation of SPP editors Alan Hendry, this time focusing on our regeneration programme in the context of employment timescales at Dounreay. Other interesting features come on funding successes for marine renewables projects; consents for the two Moray Firth offshore wind projects; and the engineering apprenticeship programme at the Engineering, Technology & Energy Centre in North Highland College.