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Highland Council says legal action ‘is an option’ against the owners of the Port of Ardersier over peninsula row

By Donald Wilson

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The fence after it was cut.
The fence after it was cut.

Highland Council has said it will consider legal action against the owners of the Port of Ardersier if they fail to meet the terms of land reform laws after an Access Management Plan (AMP) is approved for a peninsula opposite the former oil platform construction yard.

The site owners caused an outcry when they erected a fence to block access to the peninsula, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

The company’s marine director Steve Gobbi later apologised for the lack of consultation but claimed they were within their rights and dismissed comments from a council access officer that the fence had been erected prematurely, and before an AMP was agreed. In a direct challenge to those objecting Mr Gobbi said the correct process was through the courts.

But the council said it has already been in direct contact with the company, and that the Department of Transport had confirmed it is not a port yet and that the firm had “not submitted plans for the site’s security”, adding: “Claims that the fence and signs are required for security reasons are premature.” It has twice asked the company to install a gap and that “options [are] being considered”, including “legal action”.

The council also added that several planning permissions still had to be sought before work on the port site could begin, and that this process “may also provide an opportunity to persuade Ardersier Port Limited to do the right thing”.

One of the objectors to the fence, James Ross from Sunnyside, Culloden however fears the company is playing a waiting game to get the report from the Department of Transport.

“The company has made it clear that what’s there is only a temporary fence to identify the area they want to secure until the status of the port is decided. It is then their intention to erect a steel fence which will be an absolute eyesore.

“I welcome the council’s comments that they will challenge them if they don’t comply fully when the port’s status is agreed.

“But they (the council) will need to put their money where their mouth is and take them to court if they do breach the terms of the Land Reform Act. And councils don’t have a good record on that score because it could cost a lot of money.”

Mr Ross said he was aware wire cutters have already been used on the fence. “But the owners came and repaired it immediately.

“There’s a lot of public anger about this and I fear we may not get a good outcome.”

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