A REMOTE island community has backed plans for two controversial fish farms at a popular beauty spot that will see more than 50 jobs created and directly benefit the local residents by £140,000 a year.

Planners are being asked to approve the organic salmon farms subject to a raft of environmental and other conditions and despite more than 50 objections.

But Staffin Community Trust (SCT) has backed the farms at Tote and Culnacnoc and highlighted the economic and social benefits to the area, which is classed as “fragile” by the Scottish Government.

The Trust says the farms are a major opportunity to revitalise the area by attracting new families to work at the farms.

Highland Council’s north planning committee will consider the proposals lodged by Organic Sea Harvest (OSH) last year at a meeting in Inverness on Tuesday.

Under the plans, 14 fish-farming jobs will be created along with direct community benefit and infrastructure investment at Staffin’s harbour if it is approved.

OSH has also agreed to make annual payments to the SCT, which will result in at least £140,000 becoming available for further investment in the community.

The company plans to produce and package high quality, locally branded product in Staffin before wholesaling to major retailers as organic Skye salmon.

The processes could create 38 jobs as well as further indirect supply and service jobs.

The trust proposes to move forward with further development of the Staffin slipway and surrounding infrastructure to create opportunities for marine tourism, fishing and the leisure industry, on the strength of the project.

But in a report to the committee, planning officers say some of the development is within the Trotternish and Tianavaig Special Landscape Area and “notes it comprises an extensive and important part of one of the most spectacular landscapes in Britain”.

They add: “The area is characterised by a well-defined ridge crest, including the pinnacles set away from the main escarpment. Of these, the Old Man of Storr forms a key element of this spine, which offers prominent in views along the coast. Scottish

Natural Heritage agrees with the overall conclusion of the landscape and visual impact assessment (LVIA) in that the proposal has the potential to erode the special landscape characteristics and particular views of the area. However, it is also noted the scope of the areas affected is restricted, minimising impact upon the area as a whole.”

The local community trust said it views the move as a chance to lure locals from Staffin back to the area and attract new families. It adds: “SCT is of the view that the majority of its membership is in support of this development and would highlight to councillors that the bulk of objections come from outwith the SCT’s area.”