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Residents’ anger at Lochside chopper damage

Resident Sandy MacMillan with his decibel measuring device - Photo: Chris Cope/ShetNews

RESIDENTS of Lerwick’s South Lochside have again hit out at Shetland Islands Council after a chopper touching down at a dedicated emergency landing site caused a car window to smash and stones to be scattered across their drives.

Local man Sandy McMillan said his bird table was also blown over and his TV fell off a table on Sunday, while a nearby parasol reportedly flew 70 yards into the grill of a van.

Search and rescue helicopter operator Bristow and representatives from the Coastguard met with Shetland Islands Council this week to discuss the issue, with helicopter crews giving recommendations on how to improve the use of the site.

Bristow confirmed it is processing an insurance claim for the smashed car window.

Coastguard helicopters have been using the new helipad only since last year after the previous site, a few hundreds metres further to the west, became unusable as it is too close to the new Anderson High School, which is currently under construction.

The landing site is regularly used by the Coastguard search and rescue helicopter.

Local residents objected to the new landing site from day one because they considered it to be too close to their houses,but planning permission was gra nted in September 2014. 

Coastguard helicopters also occasionally land at the airports at Tingwall and Sumburgh.

McMillan, who lives just opposite the landing site at Clickimin, said the helicopter landed on Sunday during a windy day “into the west”, which accentuated the “full blast” of the draft.

“If that’s what happens with that bit of wind, god knows that will happen when it’s higher winds in the winter,” he said.

The 68-year old, who has lived at his property for over ten years, has been taking noise readings from his drive when helicopters touch down, with the local claiming the landing on Sunday was 113.4 decibels.

The limit for the average daily or weekly noise exposed to employees in the UK before action needs to be taken is 85dB.

“The noise is horrendous,” he said. “And while the helicopter was sitting idle it was around 92dB, which is still quite a lot of noise.”

McMillan said he has suggested various alternatives for emergency landing sites over the years, including Pullar’s Loch, near the town’s Sea Road.

Shetland Islands Council convener Malcolm Bell acknowledged residents’ frustration about the landing site.

However, he reiterated the need for the pad to be located as close to Lerwick’s Gilbert Bain Hospital as possible.

“We recognise the concerns that have been expressed to us by residents about helicopter landings,” he said.

“The emergency landing site is a vital public asset for people in Shetland and those either visiting or working around our shores; and it’s important that we have it as close to the hospital as possible.

“Noise monitoring equipment is in place, as a condition of the planning permission for the site.

“Discussions are underway with the parties involved to see what can be done to improve the management of helicopter landings and to minimise the impact that this will have on those living in the area.

“The disturbance by occasional helicopter landings has to be balanced against the number of lives that may be saved by its use.”

Bristow added that its “primary concerns” were the safety of casualties, crew, the local community and its aircraft.

“We take this into consideration when determining which available landing site to use when on a tasking,” the operator said.

“While we fully understand the concerns of local residents, the Clickimin landing site is the current allocated emergency landing site (ELS).

“We can assure residents that the helicopter crews only use the Clickimin ELS in life or death situations to affect a quicker transfer to the hospital than the landing sites at Sumburgh and Tingwall can provide.”