Page last updated at 13:56 GMT, Tuesday, 16 June 2009 14:56 UK

Concerns over boat and guns clash

Black Watch solider
The Black Watch soldiers use the firing range

The military is considering using bylaws to restrict boating activity from a proposed marina to protect the operation of a live firing range.

Whiteness - the site earmarked for the marina along with 2,000 properties - and barracks at Fort George lie close to each other on the Moray Firth coast.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) outlined its concerns in a letter to Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon.

Highland Council have given the project outline planning permission.

The MoD had previously objected to the planning application.

However, it withdrew its opposition after an agreement on planning conditions to be imposed on the scheme.

In his letter to Ms Scanlon, Defence minister Kevan Jones revealed that subsequent negotiations on the wording of the conditions failed to reassure the department that any impact on live firing training would be low.

The MoD response is understandable
Mary Scanlon

He said the range already had to close 20 days a year to allow vessels to pass through what is know as the live firing danger area.

Mr Jones said the MoD was considering using new Military Lands Bylaws to protect the operation of the range.

Ms Scanlon has written to Highland Council on the matter.

She said: "The MoD response is understandable.

"Currently they lose up to 20 full training days because of the number of boats passing through the live firing danger area and it would be a reasonable assumption to suggest that a marina, boat yard and yacht club will significantly increase both the number of boats and the number of lost training days."

Jacobite uprisings

Whiteness is a former North Sea oil platform construction yard.

Bought by Whiteness Property Company, it has since been cleared of its industrial facilities.

Situated on the shores of the Moray Firth, 2,000 homes along with recreation, leisure and fitness facilities are planned.

A marina for yachts and other craft would also be built.

The site's life as a construction yard ended in 2002 when owners J Ray McDermott closed it down following almost 30 years of activity.

At its height, there were more than 3,000 workers employed there.

Built in the late 1700s at a cost of almost £1bn, Fort George was regarded as the mightiest artillery fortification in Britain.

It was constructed as part of efforts to suppress further Jacobite uprisings following the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

Fort George remains a working barracks and is currently a base for the Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland.

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