The ETZ is in limbo, even though the consortium of ONE, ACC and Invest Aberdeen behind it has been able to convince the UK Government to award it £27 million from the North Sea Energy Transition Fund in March 2021 and the Scottish Government a further £26 million out of its £62million North East Energy Transition Fund in June 2021. Far from being “shovel ready” as Sir Ian Wood has been maintaining since April 202, firstly there still yet no clear plan in the public domain, no clear feasible plan for activities in the Zone, which makes it hard to see how any plan there may be will achieved. ONE’s energy board has been hived off and replaced by a new not-for-profit company - ETZ Ltd - to develop and manage the Implementation Plan was registered on 30th April 2021. It appointed a Project Co-ordinator to help the CEO and other staff to develop and manage the ETZ Implementation Plan. To that end it put the £250,000 12 month contract for a Consultation Team to Develop the Master plan that has to accompany any planning application and obtain planning permission in principle out to tender on 28th June.
Notions of wind turbine construction are fanciful, given the collapse and subsequent partial rescue of Fife turbine construction yard, Bifab, and lack of government support which would enable yards to compete on price with large, established ones in Europe, the middle and far East. An alternative hydrogen campus supplied with hydrogen from the Dolphyn Project in the Kincardine Wind Farm is also speculative . (It is currently in the proof of concept stage.) In addition, the Council’s response to the issue of OP51 OP61 and the ETZ is focussing on the area of flat land immediately next to the South Harbour. The developable area in St Fittick’s Park cited in the FS is 11.6 ha – too small for just one offshore renewable assembly yard.
Secondly, the ETZ in the FS cannot go ahead until St Fittick’s Park and Doonies have been rezoned for ETZ development as OP56 and 61 and that cannot happen until the PLDP has been approved by the Scottish government, some time in the middle of 2022. Council planners presented the schedule 4s of unresolved issues and its responses to them to the full Council on 21st June, 3 months later than originally planned. OP56 , OP61 and the Energy Transition Zone are dealt with as issue 17, p 299 – 316. In the report of the Schedule 4s, in spite of what the Council acknowledges are well made, valid arguments, including strong ones from 4 statutory consultees, NatureScot in particular, ACC has prioritised what are really uncertain economic gains for the whole Region over the certain extensive damage to the natural and historic environment, and to the physical and mental health of the deprived community of Torry. Yet the planners seem less convinced by economic gains the ETZ proponents used to justify a free rein for ETZ purposes in what will still be green space in ONE’s and AHB’s submissions by not granting it. Councillors accepted the PLDP as it is, in spite of two questions from opposition councillors,, prior to sending it to the Scottish Parliament for scrutinty and independent examination of the Schedule 4s by government appointed reporters . That process will take about a year, eventually leading to acceptance of a possibly revised Plan.
Even if OP56 and 61 stand, any developments will need planning permission , requiring applications, accompanied by a Master Plan, for the whole area and a detailed environmental assessment. Under the PLDP, developments on OP56 must be ones that cannot possibly be done elsewhere. Although ONE and AHB are hoping that the South Harbour and the ETZ will be National Projects in the developing National Planning Framework 4 which will go out for public consultation in autumn 2021. It they are, economic imperatives are more likely to dominate any others, particularly if the framework does away with what both organisations describe as “restrictive green belt policies” in their responses the April 2020 call for ideas.
The feasibility report on Freeports commissioned by City Region and Growth, and presented to the Committee on 11th May regards a City Region area Freeport as feasible, but there are no firm proposals yet. The Scottish Government’s Freeport model is one that does not have the features that have given freeports their bad reputation, in contrast with the UK Government’s one . The two governments are currently at loggerheads about it, with the UK government stating it would impose its model against Holyrood’s wishes. All very uncertain.
The people of Torry have a fantastic number of their own ideas for the future of St. Fittick’s Park and Doonies, and about the kind of place both should be, which are very different to the vague proposals currently on offer. Enabling the DCMP mitigation measures to be carried out and allowing the community to develop them further.