No go for new South Uist seaweed factory

Storas Uibhist maintain Gasaigh island site still in the running.
Storas Uibhist maintain Gasaigh island site still in the running.

Lochboisdale is still a ‘potential’ for a new seaweed processing factory say Uist landlords Storas Uibhist – but the company building it say no.

Ayrshire based seaweed processing company Marine Biopolymers Ltd (MBL) had investigated the island of Gasaigh as a site for construction of a new £20million factory.

The move could have created up to 60 jobs in the Uists area, but the company recently announced a site at Barcaldine, near Oban in Argyll as its preferred spot.

It was reported in the media last week that the news had disappointed Storas Uibhist; and Chief Executive Huw Francis conceded that Storas was actively seeking a replacement, saying: “We are talking to a number of other potential companies/tenants for the site at Gasaigh in Lochboisdale.”

Yet in a statement issued on Tuesday (June 24th) Storas Uibhist highlighted its determination that the Gasaigh site is still in the running for the MBL factory build.

“Lochboisdale is still a potential location for the seaweed processing factory proposed by new-start company MBL,” read the Storas release.

“With development of the production process still underway and significant funding still to be raised by the company before a factory can be built, there is much work to be done before a real decision on the best and final locations for the seaweed factory can be determined.”

It continued: “Lochboisdale offers MBL the opportunity to have a purpose built factory, close to the prime supply of seaweed resource, with a local workforce already skilled in supplying seaweed.

“Storas Uibhist will continue to work with MBL and the appropriate agencies to persuade the company to locate in Lochboisdale, alongside other tenants that have expressed an interest in establishing operations on Gasaigh Island.”

However, MBL Director David Mackie said to the Gazette that the decision to base in Argyll has already been made. He expanded: “We evaluated this [Lochboisdale site] over a period of several months and going through a number of factors.

“ Lochboisdale and Argyll weren’t the only sites looked at. We looked at half a dozen others as well and after all that was considered, the best option for us as a company is Argyll.”

Mr Mackie said that he understood ‘the sensitivity’ of this situation in the Western Isles, but added: “This information was conveyed to Storas Uibhist a couple of months ago.”

The new seaweed processing factory would have been part of the larger ongoing harbour development project at Lochboisdale in South Uist, which includes plans to build two causeways and roads to Rhubha Bhuailt and Gasaigh island, a new fishery pier and 51 pontoon berths for fishermen and leisure sailors.

The construction contract was awarded to local business MacInnes Bros in June last year, creating employment for 25 construction workers, including six new employees.

In October 2013 a momentous milestone was achieved when the causeway from Rhubha Bhualit to Gasaigh island was connected and in February this year blasting for the new 80metre fisheries pier was carried out.

And it is anticipated that the causeways and roads will be tarred in August.