Fishing communities could benefit from £1.2m fund

FISHING communities could benefit from a £1.2 million fund, it has been revealed.

Dates and venues for engagement events which could help open up the windfall fund for sustainable development in Aberdeenshire fisheries communities have been announced.

Four public events will take place later this month, aimed at helping fisheries industries and communities benefit from the European cash.

Aberdeenshire Council officers are currently seeking approval from councillors to try to draw down money from the £4.5 million European Fisheries Fund’s Axis 4 resource.

Its purpose is to increase the capacity of local fishing communities and business networks to build knowledge and skills, and facilitate innovation and cooperation.

Seeking to promote economic diversification and to build capacity in fisheries-dependent communities across the EU, it comes with the proviso there must be no consequent increase in catching effort.

The programme will be managed by Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs), which will represent the fisheries areas in which they are based, and implement an Axis 4 local development strategy for their area once it has been agreed.

The programme for this area will be managed by the Aberdeenshire Fisheries Local Action Group, a partnership between the public, private and civic sectors.

The local FLAG will develop and implement a Local Fisheries Development Strategy (LFDS) and will assess and approve applications for funding under the project.

Marine Scotland has identified Aberdeenshire as one of the key beneficiary fisheries areas under the programme, allocating a provisional budget of £1.2 million from the resource, which will require match-funding by the public sector.

It is thought much of the match-funding required will draw upon council and other programmes already approved, or in preparation, such as Regeneration Priority Zones.

Public sector partners could include organisations such as Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Coastal Communities Fund (Crown Estate) and the National Lottery.

Local communities are encouraged to submit views on strategic priorities for the strategy, beginning at the public meetings.

Community-driven projects are encouraged, including those relating to local harbours, tourism, food and drink, renewable energy, training and environmental protection.

In particular, Axis 4 supports measures to promote: *The strengthening and competitiveness of fisheries areas

Restructuring and redirecting economic activities

*Business diversification and value-adding

activities

*Supporting small

fisheries and tourism-

related infrastructure and services

*For the benefit of small fisheries communities

*Potecting the environment in fisheries areas

*Re-establishing the

production potential following natural and industrial disasters

*Inter-regional and trans-national co-operation.

The intended beneficiaries include micro, small, medium sized enterprises, third sector organisations and public sector organisations.

The first of the public meetings will be held at the Invercarron Resource Centre in Stonehaven on Tuesday, August 16.

The next is in Fraserburgh, at the Lighthouse Museum on Thursday, August 18, with another at the Boyndie Business Centre in Banff on Tuesday, August 23.

The meeting in Peterhead will take place at the Harvest Church Hall on Monday, August 29.

All meetings will begin at 6.30pm and all sections of the community with an interest are invited.

At the Infrastructure Services Committee (ISC) on August 18, councillors will be asked to commit the council to securing public-sector match-funding, identifying and recruiting appropriate candidates to sit on the Fisheries Local Action Group, providing the chairman and bearing some of the set-up and administrative costs.

The Aberdeenshire LFDS will have to be drawn up and submitted to Marine Scotland by September 9, following consultation with local stakeholders to determine regional priorities.

Chairman of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee (ISC), Peter Argyle, said: “We really need folk from local fisheries communities to attend and engage at the meetings, to help identify which programme priorities are appropriate for their area.

“Their views will then be incorporated into the strategy, which will define which types of projects are most likely to be supported when it launches towards the end of this year.

”Budgets will be confirmed by Marine Scotland during October. It is anticipated FLAGs will become operational and consider project applications in November 2011.

The Axis 4 programme will contribute to a number of the council’s economic development priorities, including: encouraging businesses to be more market-focused and add value, working with partners to strengthen the market for Aberdeenshire fisheries, helping businesses to develop new products or enter new markets, and helping safeguard existing jobs.

It has the potential to lead to new employment opportunities in previously fisheries dependent communities.

At £1.2 million, Aberdeenshire has a significant share of the Scottish budget of £4.5 million. Funds need to be committed by the end of 2013, although the cash drawdown period extends to the end of 2015.

For further information or to contact Aberdeenshire Council about the development of the local strategy, please email: eff@aberdeenshire.gov.uk