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Business / North mainland accommodation providers renew Sella Ness camp call

The Sella Ness accommodation block.
The Sella Ness accommodation camp.

A GROUP of North Mainland accommodation providers have again expressed concern that if the Sella Ness workers’ camp is allowed to stay open until at least 2026 then some hotels or guest houses in the area could have to close.

Shetland North Accommodation Providers (SNAP), which represents over 200 guest rooms and more than 150 employees, has reiterated its call for Shetland Islands Council (SIC) to “choose local jobs and local businesses” over the temporary accommodation camp.

The application will be discussed by the SIC’s planning committee next week and in a new statement SNAP spokesperson Joe Rocks said with “no confirmed large scale construction projects requiring accommodation, Sella Ness is now competing directly with the local hotels”.

A representative of the camp, which is owned by Malthus Uniteam, previously said the “continued use of the accommodation facility at Sella Ness provides the most effective and suitable approach” to meeting the need for beds from people working in the oil and gas industry, as well as possible future wind energy projects.

The 426-bedroom facility opened in 2011 to serve workers constructing the nearby Shetland Gas Plant and its previously extended temporary planning permission is due to end in November 2020.

SNAP, which is comprised of Brae Hotel, Busta House Hotel, Drumquin, Greystones, Moorfield Hotel, St Magnus Bay Hotel, Toog Properties and Valleyfield Guest House, previously objected to the application, saying there was “no justification” for the camp to be still open after the gas plant was built.

“Its size dwarfs all the other available guest rooms combined and if Sella Ness remains open then some of the North island accommodation providers will undoubtedly close,” Rocks said.

“It is no coincidence that at present there are no less than four local hotels on the market. Any hotel closures will have a devastating impact on the local communities, suppliers and our staff, and severely curtail any future expansion of visitors to our islands.”

Rocks argued that the planning application failed to show “significant long term demand that cannot currently be met by the existing permanent accommodation providers”.

“Temporary accommodation should be exactly that and should follow on from there being a specific project need. To risk people’s livelihoods and jobs by allowing an extension would be inappropriate,” he said.

The team behind the camp previously said the facility is “complementary in meeting the specific and significant accommodation challenges that exist in Shetland”.

They also downplayed the issue of competition and argued that the “additional facilities and services” provided by local hotels and guesthouses – such as public bars and restaurants – provide a “good balance for the commercial offer” and unlike the private camp, are serving the community.

The application comes as developers look to build a new 91-bedroom hotel in Lerwick that is expected to be a national chain brand, with Premier Inn targeting a location in Shetland since at least last year.