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Marine / Residents up in arms over Toft net washing plant plans

Local residents Liliane Tiffaneau, John Laurenson and Roy Bishop discussing the net washing plant which could be built in the area between the houses on the right and Toft Pier on the left. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

RESIDENTS of Toft are continuing to express their anger at plans for a large net cleaning plant on crofting land next to the ferry terminal.

At least eight of the ten households making up the Toft community, near Mossbank, have now lodged their objections with the planning authority after first learning of the proposal from an article in Shetland News.

They feel particularly aggrieved that the developer Swan Net Gundry Aqua (SNG Aqua) had not been in touch with local people despite spending months on pre-planning investigations.

Residents also fear that the plans could be the start of a wider industrialisation of the area after the £2.9 million redevelopment of the nearby Toft pier got the go-ahead earlier this week.

It comes at the same time the long-standing moratorium on aquaculture developments in the nearby Sullom Voe harbour area is being reviewed by Shetland Islands Council.

Residents say they do not feel represented by their local councillors, two of whom sit on the local authority’s planning board.

“Neither the local councillor nor the company involved had the common decency to inform us of what they were seeking to inflict on us,” said resident John Laurenson while expressing his concern and that of the other nine residents would “just be bulldozed over”.

“One thing would lead to the next development,” said resident Liliane Tiffaneau, adding that industrial building should be kept to designated sites like industrial estates.

“The nausea bound smell from the dirty nets at the proposed net washing plant, alongside the dust and the noise, would be a perpetual nuisance for the residents who live closest to the proposed site,” she said.

Roy Bishop said the residents’ concern was not about a ‘not in my backyard attitude.’ “Such a development shouldn’t be in anybody’s backyard”, he said.

Next-door neighbour Harry Scott-Haylock, who should have been informed by Shetland Islands Council’s planning service as part of the neighbour notification process, accused the developer of a “cloak and dagger attitude”, while Dorothy Halley, who lives across the road, wants the community to get a hearing.

A site plan of the proposed salmon net washing plant. Image: Arch Henderson/Shetland Islands Council planning department

Speaking on behalf of the developer, Dale Hunter of Hunter Planning said there was no requirement for the company to consult with the local community prior to submitting a planning application because the site for the proposed plant was smaller than two hectares.

He said the company was happy to answer any questions that the neighbours may have. “We have not been approached directly by anyone yet,” he said.

In his supporting statement for the planning application which was lodged on 22 February, Hunter said that with “the redevelopment of the Toft Pier and being located in the geographic centre of aquaculture developments, the site is ideally located”.

“At the moment, most aquaculture nets are transported to a facility in mainland Scotland to be washed and this has cost and biosecurity implications,” he added.

“The proposed development is designed to resolve these issues and meet market demand.”

Grant Cumming of Grieg Seafood said that it was highly likely that all three salmon producers operating in Shetland would be interested at developing sites in the Sullom Voe area should the ban be lifted, but he refuted rumours that Grieg was already actively working on such plans.

Local councillor Alistair Cooper, meanwhile, said he was content to leave the application for the net cleaning plant to the planning process.

“Now that they [the local residents] have all objected and have raised their concern with planning and the developer has to recognise and deal with the objectors’ concern, I don’t have a locus in this,” he said.

“What happens in these cases is that the developer liaises through the planning department with the objections from the statutory consultees and the local residents. There is a process this is going through, and I don’t have a role in that process at the moment.

“That changes at the point if, the objections lead to a refusal of planning permission. In such a situation the developer is entitled to appeal, and the objectors can then have an advocate to speak on their behalf, and that advocate could be me, and I have done that in the past.”

The council’s roads service, which is one of the statutory consultees, is recommending refusal of the plans as they stand because the access to the proposed site is feared to intervene with queuing traffic and more generally the ferry terminal operation.