THE rebirth of a former fabrication yard as a major manufacturing port for the offshore wind industry, with the potential to create 2500 direct jobs, has come a step closer.

Highland Council has granted planning permission in principle to Port of Ardersier Ltd to establish the base at the former McDermott Fabrication Yard at Whiteness Head to the west of Nairn.

In its previous life the yard employed more than 3000 at its peak building oil platforms. Its closure was announced in 2002. In 2006, planners gave their provisional and conditional agreement for a housing and leisure complex including a marina on the site.

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But with the Scottish Government's National Renewables Infrastructure Plan including the site as one of 11 possible manufacturing sites for the offshore green energy industry, the businessmen who own the site changed their strategy. Welcoming the news, Port of Ardersier chief executive officer captain Stephen Gobbi said: "This is a significant milestone for the port. Once all consents are in place we will be able to undertake dredging which could enable the port to be open for business this year."