Orkney salmon farm to build eco-homes for workers

A salmon farm in Orkney has been granted approval to build a small development of houses to provide workers with a place to live.

Orkney salmon farm to build eco-homes for workers

Scottish Sea Farms in Eday, alongside local landowners Haydn Jones and Nick Lyde of Willowstream, are planning to build six eco-friendly homes to house the farm’s workers on the Mill Bay site on the island.

Costing £0.75 million, four of the new homes will be for employees, with the other two available for rent by island residents or visitors.

Eday is one of the smaller islands in Orkney and has only 76 habitable properties for a population of 129 people.

On occasion, workers on the salmon farm have left their jobs due to a lack of housing, therefore this new build is aimed to remedy that problem.

Phil Boardman, farm manager at Eday for Scottish Sea Farms, said: “We’ve been farming on the island for over seven years now and while the conditions for growing salmon are superb, the remote location has made recruitment difficult.

“Unless employees live on one of the nearby islands such as Sanday, they face a two-hour commute by boat from Orkney mainland, then have to stay over on one of the islands until their next weekend off, leaving little time for family, food shopping or looking after home and garden. The result is that we have seen valued employees leave with every crop cycle – they loved the job, just not the logistics that go with it.”

He added: “Step one has been to introduce a two-week on, two-week off shift pattern which is enabling the team to balance farm life and home life. Step two, and equally critical, will be building these high spec houses for the team to go home to after each shift, sparing them the commute to other islands and ensuring they have a good quality of life.

“We gave the team the choice of multi-bedroomed communal homes or single-dwelling and the decision was unanimous – they wanted their own space. The bonus of having the two rental homes meanwhile is that there will also be somewhere for visitors, contractors and auditors to stay.”

Charlotte Owen will be one of the first Scottish Sea Farms’ employees to benefit from the new accommodation.

She said: “The two-week on, two-week off shift pattern has already made a huge difference, ensuring there’s sufficient time around work to leave the island, see family and friends, and generally catch up on all things life. The only downside is that, during my two weeks on, I’m having to stay in shared accommodation with colleagues, so the days of going home to my own space at the end of each shift can’t come soon enough.”

The initial movements towards building the development will begin immediately, with the aim of the new homes being ready for occupancy in early spring 2020, in time for the next stock of salmon.

Haydn Jones, a local landowner and co-director of Willowstream, said: “We’re really looking forward to getting things underway on site, particularly in terms of applying the experience we have gained improving our own land to help breathe new life into this remote bay and to Eday as a whole. Both have been long-held aspirations of ours, but both are reliant on the island having jobs and homes.”

Mr Boardman said: “From the architect, Orkney Islands Council planning team and local SEPA office, to the contractors we’re using and our logistics partners Northwards who will help transport the homes to the island, local partnerships have been key to making this project happen. Get it right and this eco-friendly development could be the start of things to come for remote communities such as Eday.”

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