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Weekly update, 24th March

Energy & Business Services:

Following last week’s news of consents given to the two offshore wind developments in the Moray Firth, SSE has this week announced its major review of offshore wind commitments in the UK. Whilst the company has announced plans to scale back investment in renewables, the good news is that investment in a 375MW Beatrice project will continue, with further key project decision points expected at the end of 2014 and in early 2016. On a related note, figures this week from the Department of Energy & Climate Change suggest that some 46% of electricity generated in Scotland last year came from renewable sources.

A reminder that SSE’s transmission business is consulting on the next phase of plans to enhance the electricity transmission grid in the north. The company is next week holding two public consultation events on plans to construct a new substation at Phillips Mains near Mey, which will connect to a new substation near Thurso via a new 132kV overhead line. The events will be held at Caithness Horizons in Thurso on Wednesday 2nd April (3pm-7.30pm) and at Mey Village Hall on Thursday 3rd April (3pm-7.30pm). Consultation documents are here.

It was good to talk to Andrew Scott, Laura Carse and Ros Hart from Pelamis Wave Power (PWP) this week as they carried out public engagement events in Thurso, Bettyhill, Strathy and Durness. PWP is now taking forward its formal consultation process before making an application later this year to Marine Scotland for consent to develop a 10MW project at Farr Point off the north Sutherland coast. This would utilise 10 of the P2e devices currently being developed by the company as the next evolution of the P2 machines that have undergone testing in Orkney. An Environmental Impact Assessment is currently being carried out, with support from, amongst others, Thurso’s Environmental Research Institute. A resource assessment of the Farr Point site is helping understand wave conditions by siting wave buoys that beam data to a receiver station at the North Coast Leisure Centre at Bettyhill. This live data will soon be available to view by members of the public. It was interesting to note that PWP currently investigating the potential for an operation and maintenance facility for the project at Loch Eriboll. This could provide up to 16 skilled employment opportunities.

Tourism, Food & Drink:

Following Natural Retreats’ redevelopment projects at John O’ Groats, it is heartening to see this week that the company’s “Inn at John O’Groats” development has been shortlisted for the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland’s 2014 Awards, further highlighting the changing perceptions of John O’ Groats both nationally and internationally. Also good to see that a community consultation event is being held in John O’Groats next week as a pre-planning consultation for an application to the Highland Council by JOG 2 Ltd, a company set up by Natural Retreats. The application will be for planning consent in principal for a mixed use development on land between the main A836 John O’ Groats – Thurso road and John O’Groats Harbour. The events will be held at the Corporate Residence (part of the group of residences at the Natural Retreats development) on Wednesday 2nd April (10am – 7.00pm) and Thursday 3rd April (10am – 3pm).

A reminder that this weekend sees the Scottish Surfing Championships taking place in Thurso, bringing a number of surfers and spectators to the area. Event sponsorship has come from a number of surf companies and from CNSRP partner the Highland Council.

Enabling Activities:

Plans for the potential realignment of the A9 Trunk Road at Berriedale will go on public display next week – the plans will be on display at Berriedale Parish Church on Wednesday 2nd April from 12pm to 7.30pm. As previously reported, the study which informed the possible options at Berriedale was funded by CNSRP partners the NDA and Highland Council, and Transport Scotland.

CNSRP partner the NDA has announced updated timescales for the National Nuclear Archive project. The facility, which will be built on land near Wick John O’Groats airport, will also ensure a long term home for the Highland Council’s North Highland Archive. A notice was published in the Official Journal of the EU this week, with an industry event with potential tenderers being held today (Friday). An Invitation to Tender will be issued in May. The facility will be operated for the NDA by a specialist partner. NDA plans to have the facility operational by the end of calendar year 2016.

An opening ceremony was due to be performed today (Friday) in Helmsdale by Rob Gibson MSP to mark the start of construction on the first affordable housing scheme in the village for several decades. Helmsdale & District Development Trust – through Development Officer Paul Harrington – has led the project with support from a number of organisations including CNSRP partners Highland Council, HIE, Scottish Government (through the Innovation & Investment Fund) and NDA (through the Caithness & North Sutherland Fund).


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:

  • The CNSRP Executive Board met, and in addition to my quarterly written update on progress against the 2011-14 Delivery Plan I presented final draft proposals on 2014-17 jobs targets. This had been informed by a number of very useful comments and suggestions from last week’s CNSRP Advisory Board. Members agreed that helping companies create or retain between 359 and 479 full-time equivalent jobs by March 2017 would be challenging yet achievable. Members also agreed to move forward with the development of plans for enabling actions that will help deliver jobs. I also outlined longer term jobs targets, focusing on the 2014-2025 period.
  • The latest issue of Scottish Provincial Press’ “Energy North” supplement was published today (Friday) with all SPP titles in the Highlands. I contributed one of a regular series of articles at the invitation of SPP editors Alan Hendry, this time focusing on our regeneration programme in the context of employment timescales at Dounreay. Other interesting features come on funding successes for marine renewables projects; consents for the two Moray Firth offshore wind projects; and the engineering apprenticeship programme at the Engineering, Technology & Energy Centre in North Highland College.
  • And still on the subject of engineering apprenticeships, great to see that Dounreay apprentice Erin Thomson won the Scottish Nuclear Apprentice of the Year award at a major ceremony held in Manchester last week by the National Skills Academy for Nuclear.