A NEW pier that will cater for the fishing and seafood industries at Toft for the next half-century has been given the thumbs up by members of Shetland Islands Council.
There had been suggestions that, with only a few boats berthing, a new pier – likely to cost between £1.5 million and £2 million – would currently be beyond the local authority’s financial means.
But North Mainland councillor Alastair Cooper successfully pressed for the council to ensure there is a suitable pier for smaller fishing boats to land without having to go all the way to Lerwick.
Last summer members heard pedestrian access to the crumbling pier, sited next to the Toft ferry terminal, had been restricted amid concerns about its structural integrity. The original concrete pier was built in 1951 and a “sheet piled finger” was added in the early 1970s to accommodate the North Isles’ ro-ro ferry.
Cooper said: “I believe the Toft pier is integral to the needs of the fishing industry in Shetland. If they can’t land at Toft, they have difficulty landing at Collafirth, and the next option is Lerwick.
“It’s a well-used facility, and I believe there is justification for replacing that pier and giving a 50-year lifespan to a new pier.”
He added that the council would have to fund the capital cost from its harbour account.
When the subject was discussed last year there was talk of tightening up the collection of harbour dues. Some members were annoyed to learn that over the past six years just £1,500 had been collected.
Figures collated by AB Associates found £2.7 million-worth of scallops and crabs had been landed and should have generated more than £68,000 in income for the council.
At small, unmanned piers the SIC relies on the honesty of those using the harbour paying their dues.
Council ports and harbours executive manager John Smith said the local authority was in talks with those using the Toft pier to ensure more dues are paid.
“With a lot of these small piers, you’re depending on self-declaration by the users because there’s no harbour staff there,” he said. “We’re having that dialogue with the industry – they understand that if there’s no income it’s much more difficult to invest. We’re looking at alternative ways of collecting dues as well.”
He said Highland Council, for example, collected quite a lot of dues from buyers rather than sellers of seafood.
Smith said: “You are to some extent relying on harbour users, but we’re in discussions as to how that can be made most straightforward to them with a view to a reasonable return for the facilities provided.”
It had been suggested the council could wait until there was clarity on how Crown Estate revenue from the seabed around Shetland is to be devolved before pressing ahead with the project.
Cooper said it could be 18 months before construction of the pier begins, and “if at that point of building we can finance it cheaper by other means, we should do so”.
Smith said other funding sources would be examined but the “backstop would be from council resources”.
“The main users would be expected to be the creels and scallops,” he continued. “Yell Sound is quite an important fishing area for them. Part of what we would do is working up the details, to speak to them and also the aquaculture industry to see what facilities might be useful to them.
“They have a number of peerie piers, but not much between Cullivoe and Lerwick in the bigger pier sense. It’ll take a bit of time both to have those conversations and work through consents, detailed designs, funding package, and get into tendering.”