BUSINESSMAN Henry MacColl has finally been given the green light for his plans to build a small Italian restaurant at Parkgate, on the islands’ main A970 road, half way between the villages of Voe and Brae.
Planners had originally refused permission for the 24-seat pizzeria because its proposed location was deemed unsuitable.
Diners would have to use their own cars to go out for a meal, with the resulting carbon emissions contributing to climate change, the planners argued in their initial assessment.
Quoting the Shetland Local Plan, official Richard MacNeil said during a meeting of the review board on Tuesday afternoon that the proposed restaurant would be an asset to Brae or Voe and therefore should be located in one of the villages.
But in his submission to the six councillors who sit on the board, McColl said it would be an asset to both villages and the rest of Shetland.
He noted that only last year Highland Council had approved a visitor centre in a very remote location in Skye with no objections from planning officials.
Asked by councillors whether other remote Shetland eateries such as the historic Busta House Hotel or the Breiwick Café in Eshaness would have received planning permission under the current policy, MacNeil said he would not want to speculate.
Councillor Drew Ratter moved that the application should be granted as the location was adjacent to both Voe and Brae, and as such would boost the vitality and vibrancy of both places. He was seconded by Andrea Manson.
Afterwards, MacColl said he was relieved to finally be able to move ahead with his plans, and described the last five months as “traumatic”.
He said he wanted to thanks the thousands of people who had supported his application by making representations to the planning department, signing an e-petition and following his Facebook page.
“I think the planners need to look at their own policies and how they apply them,” he said. “The policies are flexible and I don’t think planners were interpreting the policies in the way the majority of local people were.
“We are now going through the building warrant process. I don’t know how long that is going to take, but once that’s issued I can start building. I liked to think the restaurant could be open before Christmas, but I don’t think that is going to happen now.”
Before that however MacColl will head to Italy to look at equipment and discuss his plans with a number of restaurants in the Naples area, where his mother originates from.
Review board chairman Frank Robertson said officers had “no option” but to use the local plan to examine applications.
“It is a matter of how you interpret policy,” he said, “and the whole purpose of this review body is to stand back and decide if we can interpret the policy in a different form
“We often disagree with officers. Our duty is to see the bigger picture.”
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