SHETLAND Islands Council is set to invest between £1.5 and £2 million into replacing and possibly extending Toft pier, in the north mainland.
Following an at times ill-tempered harbour board meeting on Tuesday afternoon, members agreed unanimously to commission a fully costed business case for a new pier.
Pedestrian access to the pier adjacent to the Toft ferry terminal has already been restricted following concerns about the structural integrity of the pier, which was built in 1951.
Councillors were given several options for extending the life of the crumbling pier but agreed to back the most expensive option after hearing that the pier was extensively used by the local fishing industry.
Board member Amanda Westlake floated the idea to offer the pier to the fishing industry after hearing that the SIC’s income from the pier over the last six years had just been £1,500 in harbour dues, collected on an honesty base.
Yet according to figures collated by Andrew Blackadder from consultants AB Associates scallops and crabs worth £2.7 million had been landed on the pier during the same period and should have generated more than £68,000 in income.
All board members agreed that the council’s track record in collecting fees across all its small piers was poor and that relying on self-reporting based on honesty meant that dues were simply not paid.
“Dishonesty is going to fail fishermen in the long term,” Westlake said, and she suggested to first speak to fishermen to see what the pier was worth to the industry.
But north mainland member Alastair Cooper said he had already done that and, “not wanting to waste any time”, urged the meeting to go further than what was suggested in the report before them.
Fishermen had told him, he said, that they would happily pay all the dues once the council had improved facilities at the pier.
Cooper not only proposed to extend the pier but also provide fuel to attract new users.
“Toft pier is a strategic asset and is not being utilised as much as it could,” he said.
He was supported by westside member Frank Robertson who told the meeting that the new £3million pier at Walls, opened last year, was widely used and had generated new business.
Blackadder had earlier told the meeting that two scallop boats and three crabbers were the most regular users of Toft pier with four other vessels using it occasionally.
He said with more berthing space other industry users such as the aquaculture sector could potentially be attracted to the pier.
The meeting agreed to also further consult with fishermen as to what other improvements the pier needed to serve the industry.
North isles councillor Robert Henderson said: “If we as a council are not able to support the fishing industry then we are falling short of caring for the community.”