Oil Leak 78 What about Landscape?

We’ve stayed away from the issue of landscape impact, not wanting to be portrayed as “NIMBY’s”. We are not – you only have to look at the amount of oil rigs in resting (or should that be rotting in some instances?) in the firth which we have not said a word about. In fact, given that we are advocating the use of Nigg jetty for STS transfers, I think that makes the point that we are not anti-oil nor are we NIMBY’s as it will put transfers very much in Cromarty’s back yard – we just want to see this process undertaken in the right place – that is definitely not at anchor, off the sutors. This is a cheapskate proposal that cuts corners to offer oil companies a ridiculously low price to transfer oil. We all know what happens when you try to do things on the cheap.

The landscape issue with the CFPA application that we think is worth raising is that it is slap bang in the middle of the Highland Council Special Landscape Area (SLA) covering Sutors of Cromarty, Rosemarkie and Fort George. So what I hear you say? Well the Special Landscape Area was designated to protect a number of areas in the Highlands from potentially negative effects of development within the planning system. The area in question can be seen here – http://www.highland.gov.uk/downloads/file/2945/sutors_of_cromarty_rosemarkie_and_fort_george_sla

But this application is not being decided with the realms of the planning system! So, the applicants have taken it upon themselves to completely ignore the fact that the area is valued for it landscape quality.

Here’s what the overview for the SLA says about the sutors:

“This SLA encompasses some of the key landscape features of the Inner Moray Firth. It is an area of contrasts which forms the gateway between the open coast and expansive waters of the Moray Firth and the intimate landscapes of the Cromarty and Inverness Firths. The twin headlands at North and South Sutor which stand guard over the entrance to the Cromarty Firth are another key feature, visible from a considerable distance.”

The citation mentions Special Qualities – under the heading “Distinctive Variety of Coastal Scenery” it states

“The main scenic interest of the area is the visual interplay of land and sea at these two distinctive gateways to the Inverness and Cromarty Firths. The opposing spits of Chanonry and Fort George together represent a feature which is uncommon and this juxtaposition can be enjoyed from a variety of perspectives (eg from Chanonry Point itself, which is also notable for dolphin sightings, or more majestically from the high points of the road between Janefield and Eathie). The high viewpoints also reveal the full extent of the sandbanks off Fort George and Whiteness Head. The Sutors also provide high vantage points, with contrasting views of the narrow mouth of the deep Cromarty Firth and the wide expanse of the Outer Moray Firth.”

It also mentions under Expanse and Containments:

“Unusual visual and perceptual contrasts are provided by oil-rigs and large ships viewed within enclosed firths against settled landscape backdrops.”

Does this get them off the hook then? Well no, as it mentions oil rigs and large ships WITHIN enclosed firths – not slap bang in the middle of the main viewpoint for which the SLA was designated. We are of the opinion that to have this process undertaken within the SLA will negatively impact it – the oil rig that is parked at anchorage 18a at the moment highlights that. We call on the Highland Council to consider this aspect and object on the basis of the visual impact on its SLA (along with all the other area such as environment and socio-economic impact). If this was subject of a planning application it would never be allowed.