COUNCILLORS have backed a move to build the first onshore fish farm of its kind in the country on Portland.

In the latest plan to help regenerate Portland’s economy, the aquaculture unit from Landfish Ltd based on vacant scrubland next to Balaclava Bay would rear up to 200 tonnes of mainly turbot per year in indoor tanks, making use of ‘recirculation’ environmentally-friendly technology to grow saltwater fish.

The project is designed to open up modern environmental techniques recognised in the ‘fast-developing’ aquaculture market.

Rearing fish in this way avoids seabed damage through fishing and would supplement markets at home and abroad.

Michael Ford, of Landfish, previously said the scheme would ‘lead the way in Southern England, Dorset and Portland’ and will be held out as a ‘shining light’ by introducing the first environmentally sustainable and viable scheme.

Weymouth and Portland Borough Council’s planning committee approved the outline plans subject to conditions.

Councillors were told that five jobs would be created in the first stage, with the possibility of prisoner involvement, and approximately 20 jobs coming later.

Councillors heard it would be a unique scheme due to the fact that fish, of many types, would be produced on land.

Discussing the outline plans, Cllr Ian Brooke said: “Most people will not know just how experienced Dorset is with fish farming.

“My only real issue is that we don’t pollute into Portland harbour.”

Cllr Paul Kimber added that the fish farm would be ‘good for the island and good for the community’.

He said: “We’ve got experience in this type of industry so I have no problems with this.”

Cllr Sandra West said she was concerned about local fisherman but was reassured after hearing further detail about the fish farm.

She added: “This is an excellent scheme which is likely to bring more work to the island and start developing inside Portland Port.”

A report to the meeting by planning officer Chris Moscrop told councillors that the proposed farm would produce 150 to 200 tonnes of fish per year and would distribute to fish markets.

The report added: “The applicants advise the scheme as a year to 18 month development programme and that Portland Port is perfect for export markets.

“In terms of this being an outline planning application with all matters reserved, this scheme is considered to be acceptable because it is in general conformity with emerging policies concerning the use of an area designated as a key employment site.

“Issues concerning landscape and highways remain part of the reserved matters (access; appearance; landscaping; layout; and scale) that remain to be addressed at any detailed stage.”