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Marine / Officials’ response poses problem for Toft plan

The ferry terminal at Toft, the gateway from the Shetland mainland to Yell, Unst and Fetlar.

PLANS for a large net washing plant to be built near Toft pier have received a setback with a planning department report saying the venture infringes the council’s own guidelines.

The response from Shetland Islands Council’s (SIC) development plans team throws up a significant number of hurdles for the roughly 100m by 130m site intended for development by SNG Aqua Ltd as an aquaculture net washing plant.

The response says that “it is felt that the proposal does not comply with Shetland Local Plan (2014) policies that seek to protect existing uses from development that may cause unwanted disturbance from industrial processes”.

It identifies a slew of concerns including access and visual and environmental impact as well as it breaching the local development policy of keeping large industrial processes in industrial zones.

Additionally, the plans team state: “It is unfortunate that the proposal has not gone through the quality audit process.

“A meeting early on in the process could have quickly identified the potential issues with siting an industrial building adjacent to a residential properties”.

The quality audit process is a relatively new planning approach which seeks early dialogue between developers and all interested parties to identify problems that need to be accounted for in designing a plan.

Although SIC planning is tackling a backlog of work brought about by a staffing shortfall, the SNG Aqua scheme has a planning officer dedicated to it.

But agent Dale Hunter of Hunter Planning Ltd said that refined proposals will be put to the council in the next few days that will seek to address the planning concerns.

Hunter said that the planning process was “fairly flexible” and could remain so until the planning decision is actually made.

The plan puts two nearby dwelling houses at or within a 10 metre boundary from the development and there are concerns over amended access as it “has not been demonstrated within the site plan or supporting statement that its location will not cause issues for vehicles queuing to use the North Isles ferries”.

The report adds: “It is the location of the domestic properties within close proximity to the proposed facility that causes concern, and may deem the proposal contrary to parts of this policy.

“There is a high likelihood of disruption to the residential properties, by means of industrial noise, unsociably working times, site traffic and process smells.”

It continues: “This type of heavy industrial development would not be permitted within or directly adjacent to existing residential development as it would not pass a residential amenity test.”

The plans team also question the developer’s intent of siting the plant away from a “protected” marine environment.

“This raises the question of why the net washing facility would be permitted to discharge into any marine environment. This would be contrary to local plan policies that seek to protect our coastal environment.”