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Chamber Slams Crown Estate Delay On Seabed Leases

12th October 2009

Commenting upon reports by Reuters last week that the Crown Estate will announce seabed leases for the Pentland Firth development in February 2010, Trudy Morris, Chief Executive of Caithness Chamber of Commerce said: "We are extremely concerned by this delay. We were told back in August that conclusion of seabed leases would happen in the autumn. On 1st October we were told at the Caithness Conference that the Crown Estate was still concluding legal negotiations with potential seabed lessees and yet some 7 days later, we read of comments made by Rob Hastings, director of estate at the Crown Estate in a Reuters article that announcements will be made in February next year.

You have to ask why did the Crown Estate not give this announcement at the area's all important annual Conference where marine renewable energy was the main topic and highlighted as the area's major priority. The same Conference at which Jim Murphy, Secretary of State for Scotland said that the Pentland Firth has a leading role to play in the development of marine energy and that it would benefit the local community, bring high quality jobs to the area and help keep young people in the North.

The Crown Estate's delay in announcing the winners of this all important bidding process does nothing to help the planning of local infrastructure nor does it support marine technology providers; and in fact if the rumours are correct concerning the likely lessees, could well lead to Caithness losing a significant number of companies that have already connected with the area as they feel their route to deploy their devices in the Pentland Firth has been blocked.

In a week where we have heard Ofgem warn that 200bn of new investment may be needed in the next few years to deliver energy security and where the unwillingness of energy companies to invest in Britain was underlined this week when German-owned utility E.ON postponed their plan to build a "new" coal-fired power station, you have question whether the future of our marine renewable energy should be left to the Crown Estate.

We will be seeking an early meeting with the Crown Estate in London to discuss these issues and the Chamber urges agencies and government alike to deliver on promises made"


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