It is one of the smallest islands on the Orkney archipelago at just four miles long and a mile wide and with an estimated population of 75 people.

But today the tiny island community of Papa Westray is at the centre of a battle to block the development of what is thought to be Scotland's largest salmon farm - supported by award-winning author and former residents Amy Liptrot.

Cooke Aquaculture Scotland wants a second fully offshore salmon farm with a maximum stock of 3850 tonnes on the island's southern tip.

There have been 102 objections, including one from the Orkney-raised author of The Outrun, a novel exploring her post-rehab recovery in the Orkney Islands, who are concerned about the effect on the environment, including the effects of pollution and noise.

Filming for an adaptaton of Ms Liptrot's recovery memoir, which has sold 110,000 copies in the UK, starring Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan has already started on Orkney.

Now living in West Yorkshire, she wrote The Outrun over two winters in a cottage on Papa Westray.

Ms Liptrot said she was objecting after it was drawn to her attention by a number of residents.

"I think that the significant impact of water pollution, noise pollution and changes to the visual character of the area outweigh the economic benefits the development would bring.

"I have lived on Papay and what drew me to the island was its rich biodiversity, seabirds, coastal animal and plant species and open seascapes.

"These things are rare and precious and why visitors come to the island. Intensive salmon farming runs counter to the ways the sea should be protected and indeed is legally protected in the Marine Protected Area very close to this site.

"The easterly view from the Papay school and shop across to Eday, which I wrote about in my book The Outrun, is an iconic and beautiful part of life on the island that is currently unspoiled by industry. I am worried that the community of Papay are being disregarded as plans for this farm progress."

Cooke said none of Ms Liptrot's claims were scientifically valid or factual based on the East Moclett site application or any of their salmon farms and that the visual impact to the island was "minimal".

It says it is confident that there will be "no significant effects" on the the benthic environment - which relates to anything associated with the bottom of a body of water.

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But today (Thurs), Orkney Islands Council's corporate director for neighbourhood services and infrastructure Hayley Green will tell councillors deciding on the plans that "on balance the objections are not of sufficient weight to merit refusal".

"Where unacceptable impacts have been identified, adequate mitigation has been provided," she said.

Cooke, the largest producer of organic Scottish salmon, which it grows exclusively in Orkney, wants permission to build a six-cage farm in waters near East Moclett and if approved could stock the pens before the end of the year.

Among those who have raised concerns is the Orkney Marine Mammal Research Initiative, Ariane Burgess MSP and Papa Westray’s 20-strong No East Moclett Group.

The No East Moclett Group is concerned about the environmental impact, and claim to have an expert analysis showing the amount of waste including faecal effluent from the farm including fish is the equivalent of 49,500 people - about the population of Inverness - "that the seas are left to deal with and disperse" saying it is "filthy and unsustainable".

But Cooke say no chemical treatments have ever been required or used at any of their farms, that Scottish regulations do not allow salmon farms to continue operating if the environment has been significantly impacted and that the the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) did not object.

The group, who are sending representatives to Kirkwall for the planning meeting is concerned that the area of the proposed farm is 111 acres and only around one-and-a-half miles away from the east coast of the island.

They say it is just 560 yards away from the Marine Protected Area (MPA) and that the cumulative effects on the island have not been taken seriously enough.

Cooke Aquaculture Scotland already has six established fish farms to the west, south west, south and south east of the island.

And the group says there is "no doubt there has been a ‘deadening’ of our western shores due to the established aquaculture industry impacting the shore and marine wildlife".

They said that an "abundance of shell fish and shoals of fish have disappeared not to mention the decline in the numbers of seals".

Jonathan Ford of the group said: "Folk on Papay remain defiant and will do so beyond the decision day. We don’t want industrial farming of our seas.

The Herald: YouTube (OrkneyIslandsCouncil)YouTube (OrkneyIslandsCouncil) (Image: YouTube (OrkneyIslandsCouncil))

"Island communities can survive and prosper without destroying the very environment which makes them what they are.

"Papay has been a living community for over 6000 years without resorting to wholesale destruction of its local environment. Why change that now."

There are 30 people from registered addresses on the island out of 82 objections that have been accepted by the council.

There is a solitary letter in favour of the plan, according to the council, from Kirkwall.

Catherine Chattington of the group said while the 2011 Census says there are 90 residents, with just 37 permanent households there were actually around 75 people on the island and that there was overwhelming opposition to the farm on the island, with some not wanting to get directly involved in the fight by lodging formal objections with the council.

The island community council has expressed concern about the effect on the natural environment and the effects on sea life through chemicals used, about rubbish and debris washing ashore, and that there may be more farms to come.

The Scottish Greens have backed the islanders and launched a petition saying that locals already have to work year-round clearing salmon farm waste and debris from their beaches and shores.

"They don’t want to lose their last stretch of shoreline where they can swim or enjoy the beach without noise and pollution," they said. "The proposed farm also puts nature at risk. Sea currents flow past the site to the nearby Marine Protected Area, putting it at risk from chemical and faecal waste. I t would also likely damage the nearby seagrass meadow which helps protect against climate change by capturing blue carbon."

The Orkney Trout Fishing Association (OTFA), raised concerns about a dramatic increase in lice and disease in Orkney's salmon farms.

Sea lice, which have been a major problem for the farmed salmon industry, feed on the skin and blood of salmon, and can weaken the health of a fish and its growth.

Malcolm Thomson, of the OFTA's environment sub-committee said the increase should highlight the need to decrease tonnage in enclosed areas like Scapa Flow, which he said wasprobably the most in intensely farmed area in Scotland.

He said lice levels at some sites had exceeded three lice per fish inlate 2021.

"This could have a terrible effect on Orkney’s wild sea trout, a valuable and much loved constituent of Orkney’s wildlife. Sea trout are also a designated priority marine feature (PMF)," he said.

But no objections have been made by the six statutory consultation bodies, such as Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Historic Environment Scotland, Marine Scotland, and NatureScot.

And Ben Johnson, Cooke's environmental development manager said: "Cooke is confident that the proposed development of East Moclett will not have any significant far-field or indirect effects on species and habitats of conservation concern.

"This confidence is reflected in our offer to voluntarily support additional monitoring of sensitive species and habitats in the extended vicinity of East Moclett to evidence this going forwards."

A promo for Papa Westray boat trips

Cooke also said it was willing to commence twice yearly beach cleans of Vestness beach during the spring and autumn even though it was confident that its existing operations were not contributing to significant quantities of marine litter into the environment.

A Cooke spokesman said: "The tourism industry is thriving in North Isles alongside four existing and very long-established Cooke fish farms in area. The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) concluded that the East Moclett farm will be able to comply with the SEPA Aquaculture Regulatory Framework and no features at risk were identified.

"All small, medium or large aquaculture farms must comply with SEPA to operate sustainably.

"The additional East Moclett farm would add six highly skilled and well-paid jobs and further strengthen the North Isles community.

"Cooke Aquaculture Scotland is growing responsibly in Orkney and Northern Isles by taking a coordinated, thoughtful, science-based approach and going through all the appropriate licensing and permitting steps.