A PIONEERING salmon farm proposal could be sunk after National Park planning officers advised it should be refused – despite it being hailed by the authority as being of “national significance”.

The Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park officers recognised the project planned for near Benn Reithe on Loch Long could be of “national significance to Scotland” but fails to meet requirements set out in the Local Development Plan for the area.

Developers at Loch Long Salmon claimed that the “transformative” technology of their proposal could have a “positive environmental impact” across the country.

The farming enclosures would be formed from a flexible yet impermeable material with a mesh net on the inside, ensuring water from the loch cannot permeate through to the fish.

While the recommendation to refuse the proposal has been submitted to the National Park Authority Board, a final decision will not be made until a public meeting on October 31.

According to the report, supporters of the Loch Long salmon farm development claimed that it could “spearhead aquaculture growth in Scotland”.

However, the national park’s authority board received only 72 representations in support, in comparison with 202 objections.

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It has received support from a number of MSPs including Fergus Ewing, Angus Robertson, Pam Gosal and Jenni Minto.

Objections to the development include concerns that the novel technology has not been properly tried and tested and it could harm the natural environment. Greens MSP Ariane Burgess said there were “big questions about the impact on wildlife and the local environment”.

“Loch Long is a beautiful, nature-rich environment that many love and care about and is an iconic part of Scotland. There are currently no fish farms in Loch Long, and a lot of people want to keep it that way.

“What is being proposed may have a lower impact than open-net farming, but we should always think long and hard before giving away our iconic nature to these experiments.”

The managing director of Loch Long Salmon, Stewart Hawthorn, said Loch Long would be the “ideal location for” a demonstration site of the technology previously never used in Scotland.

He said: “The Scottish Government and the National Park have both said this project is of national significance. It has the support of bodies such as SEPA, Forestry & Land Scotland and NatureScot; the local MP; a cross-party grouping of MSPs and Councillors; the host community council; and a range of local people and groups.

“This transformative technology could have a positive environmental impact across Scotland by leading positive change in salmon farming, a critical food production sector and a vital part of our rural economy.

“The technology has been proven for decades and has operated without any fish escapes over hundreds of production cycles.

“It removes the threat of sea lice and the need for treatment, protecting the seabed, and will never require acoustic devices to deter seals.”

However, the report raises concerns the development would have an adverse impact on protected water.

It is believed the farm could affect the Endick Water special area of conservation (SAC) meant to protect Atlantic salmon, as well as brook and river lamprey.

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A Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) warned the proposed development could adversely impact the conservation area due to the risk of farmed fish escaping.

A shore base which would be built as part of the plans would also see trees felled in the area, including ancient woodlands.

A spokesman for Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park Authority said: “We have this week published a report outlining planning officer’s recommendation that the application for a Marine Fish Farm below Beinn Reithe, Loch Long, be refused.

“The report has been published following a detailed assessment, and consideration, against key documents, policies and statutory requirements. It takes account of consultation responses that identify relevant planning considerations and responses from local and national Government bodies. This in line with the statutory process for major planning applications.

The recommendation will now be considered by the National Park Authority Board, who will take a final decision on whether to approve or refuse this application at a special meeting held in public on Monday, October 31, following a site visit and hearing.”