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Letters / Concerned by HNP criticism

As directors of a company that exists to earn money for Shetland Charitable Trust, and thus to benefit people in all walks of life in Shetland, we have been concerned by recent criticisms of our integrity.

We would like to respond by setting out some facts in relation to the sale of the site at Commercial Road in Lerwick.

HNP Engineers (Lerwick) Ltd were first formally notified that SLAP intended to redevelop the site back in 2009. The site has been subject to short term leases at minimal rents since 2004, which have since expired.

In the intervening period SLAP has spent considerable time and effort trying to help HNP, at first on site and then to relocate.

In 2014, long before the site was advertised on the open market for sale, a representative of SLAP’s property agent, the David Adamson Group, discussed with the director of HNP the possibility of the company purchasing the land from SLAP, conditional on early and much-needed refurbishment of the exterior of the building.

SLAP offered to pay for an architect to draw up plans, but HNP chose not to investigate this option.

In February 2014, HNP was advised that the lease would not be renewed in March 2015, but that it was being offered a licence to occupy the site to 31st December 2014. No response was made to this offer.

In November 2014 HNP was again advised that SLAP was willing to offer a licence to continue occupation of the site, but that it would require to be vacated no later than May/June 2015. No response was received.

Since that time, SLAP has put forward a number of suggested alternatives, including various sites owned by Lerwick Port Authority.

In addition, two local businesses have offered sites on which to build bespoke premises for HNP, designed specifically for the business and meeting all current regulations.

The director of HNP has now told the media that none of these suggested sites is suitable. At no time has he expressed this view to SLAP. He has chosen not to respond to any of our offers of assistance, all of which remain on the table.

The decision taken by the board of SLAP, after the site was advertised for sale in September 2015, to accept an offer that was considerably higher than HNP’s, was informed and based on a robust open market sale process.

We, as directors, are responsible under company law for the proper corporate governance of SLAP.

The director of HNP has repeatedly asserted that SLAP’s sale of the Commercial Road site to a third party means it could be responsible for forcing HNP out of business.

This is simply not true. As anyone who runs a company will know, the directors of SLAP have no remit or influence over HNP – its business decisions are the sole responsibility of its director.

SLAP continues to offer a fair sum for the premises currently occupied by HNP.

Were we to accede to HNP’s requests, we would not be able to provide as much income to Shetland Charitable Trust to allow it to continue to support social care, the arts, heritage, leisure and many other life-enhancing activities in the islands.

Over the last three years, SLAP has transferred to SCT in excess of £7 million, exceeding budget in each year.

Recently, the director of HNP confirmed verbally to SLAP that he has been searching for a new site for more than a decade. During that period, many other businesses in Lerwick, including other occupants of the Commercial Road site, have managed to relocate successfully.

HNP, by contrast, doesn’t want to move and has decided to blame SLAP and by extension Shetland Charitable Trust for its own inaction and lack of contingency planning given the short term lease.

Yours sincerely,

Susan Groat, Chair
Bill Manson, Director
Michael Thomson, Director
SLAP Ltd

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