Fraserburgh Harbour Commissioners will know by the end of this Summer if the proposed deepening of the North Harbour will be going ahead.
The major development is dependent on securing funding support from the Scottish Government.
The Harbour Board have been asked to submit a more detailed application for consideration in the new financial year.
Clerk to the Harbour Board, George MacRae MBE said he remained ‘confident’ the deepening would go ahead, but with a slightly amended timescale:
“We have been planning this project for some considerable time. The application for EFF funding was submitted in December 2009.
“Before then and certainly since, there have been serious problems with finance in the public sector.
“Marine Scotland accept the justification for the deepening of the North Harbour. The money from EFF is there and available, but every pound from Europe has to be matched with one pound from the Scottish Government and they do not have the funding for this at the moment necessary to draw down the funding from Europe.
“They (Marine Scotland) are doing everything possible to try and achieve the necessary match funding from the Scottish budget,” he said.
Funding in the current climate was the issue:
“They do not doubt the validity of the project.
“However in the past few weeks, the Scottish Government have announced a budget for one year only and during that period we will have an election, that may or may not mean a different administration,” Mr MacRae added.
The deepening of the North Harbour would take an estimated nine to 12 months and the earliest that work could commence would be Spring 2012.
“So, even if we were granted the money at this time, we could not spent it before next Spring as we could not complete the project within the year.
“We cannot tie the hands of any future aministration and leave them committed to such a project.
“When the new administration comes to power, whatever it’s political colour, then very shortly after that a three year budget will be announced and that will run from 2012 for the life of that Scottish Parliament.
“Then they will know how much money they will have,” he added.
The Clerk explained that this had mean a two-phase approach to the project:
“They are looking at this project therefore in two phases; a smaller phase dealing with the costs we have already spent until now and the other prepartory work that is still needed. That is at least £120,000 and we will now the exact figure within a couple of weeks.
“If we get the match funding they will be be going ahead with tenders.
“We are travelling hopefully because we believe that the case for this project has been made. We are confident bearing in mind that Marine Scotland is doing everything possible to get this project going, a project that is essential for the fishing industry.
“I think there is a recognition of it’s importance,” he added.
The Board are preparing an amended application for the second phase. They have been advised to submit this by mid June this year and it will then be considered in September.