Weekly update, 16th March

Energy & Business Services

The Meygen tidal energy project continues to progress, with arrival in Caithness of the steel to be used by JGC Engineering Services to fabricate the underwater structures in Phase 1 of the project. The steel arrived at Scrabster harbour and was safely offloaded by staff from JGC and H. Simpson Contractors to JGC’s facility. As previously reported here, the £50M Phase 1 of Atlantis Resources’ project attracted support from a range of organisations including CNSRP partner HIE, Scottish Enterprise, Crown Estate, DECC and Atlantis Resources itself. Meygen’s Dan Pearson recently confirmed that the project remains on course for commercial handover in 2016. http://renews.biz/84853/meygen-on-pace-for-2016-launch/

Tourism, Food & Drink

Good to hear this week of further progress with the RSPB/ SNH “Flows to the Future” project, which attracted around £9.5M of funding for a range of actions aimed at increasing awareness of the Flows of Caithness & Sutherland. Thurso-based O’Brien Construction are to build an observation platform on the Dubh Lochan Trail at Forsinard, and the Peatlands Partnership has just commissioned – with the support of CNSRP partner HIE – a 30 minute documentary about the Flow Country. The work will be done by Glasgow-based Maramedia, who produced the acclaimed BBC series “Hebrides – Islands on the Edge”. A separate element of the overall project is to develop a brand for the Flow Country and for the project. That work is due to conclude this month, following workshops held in Sutherland and Caithness late last year.

Scrabster Harbour Trust is represented at the international SeaTrade Exhibition in Miami this week, as the port continues to raise awareness of the attractiveness of the north mainland for cruise ship business. The development of cruise ship business to Scrabster has had economic benefits to the area over recent years, and has been supported by CNSRP partner The Highland Council’s ongoing commitment to funding shuttle buses to transport passengers into Thurso town centre. Trust Manager Sandy Mackie highlighted recently that although the 2015 cruise calendar for Scrabster shows fewer ships than last year, there will actually be an increase in the number of passengers visiting the area.

Enabling activities:

The Partnership’s Delivery Group met this week to look at the first round of update reports from the owners of major projects within the Partnership’s programme. The reports provide a useful indicator of progress against projected delivery timescales within Project Plans, and allow discussions on the need for further support if required. The reports will also form the basis of my own update to the Partnership’s Advisory and Executive Boards. Major projects in the Programme include two Skills projects (led by North Highland College and HIE respectively); Wick Harbour; Scrabster harbour; Wick John O’Groats Airport; Inward Investment; Superfast Broadband; Business & Industrial Land; the B876 road; the NDA Nuclear Archive; Dounreay Business Development; Cavendish Nuclear Projects Programme; and Community Sports Hub.

Wave Energy Scotland (WES) has announced the first funding call for projects – the £7M round, which focuses on power take-off systems, will offer grants of between £100,00 and £4M depending on the maturity of technologies in applications received. WES aims to provide funding packages for the development of innovative technologies to produce low cost, efficient and reliable components and subsystems which can form the basis of the cost effective generation of wave energy in Scotland. It is managed by CNSRP partner HIE and fully funded by Scottish Government with a budget of £14.3M until the end of the 2016 financial year. More information is at http://www.hie.co.uk/growth-sectors/energy/news/wave-energy-scotland-is–open-for-business–with-its-first–7-million-technology-innovation-competition.html

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:

  • I attended this week’s meeting of the Dounreay Stakeholder Group (DSG), which was preceded by an AGM that saw Chairman David Flear and Vice-Charman Derrick Milnes both re-elected. The DSG meeting itself heard a presentation from the NDA’s Nigel Lowe on NDA socio-economic investments in the area since the NDA’s inception in 2005, and as usual my report to the Socio-economic subgroup of the DSG (http://www.dounreaystakeholdergroup.org/files/downloads/download2612.pdf) was highlighted. My next update will be presented to the subgroup in April.