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Planning permission a step too far for Eshaness handrails

The controversial Eshaness steps with the lighthouse in the background. Photos: Shetland News

A RETROSPECTIVE planning application for concrete steps and handrails which were installed on a slight incline near to the Eshaness Lighthouse last year to help tourists on bus tours has been refused.

Shetland Islands Council’s planning service ruled that the steps “serve to compromise the public’s health and safety” and do not respect the character of the surroundings.

The council’s health and safety manager said that there was a “significant risk” of people being injured by slipping, tripping or falling.

The installation only features four actual steps and they have often raised eyebrows for their location – on the side of a modest incline at a passing place near to the Eshaness Lighthouse, surrounded by land.

They were installed by local tour company Island Vista last year to give visitors arriving at Eshaness on buses easier access up and down the hill to see the Calder’s Geo beauty spot.

However, no planning permission was sought at the time, with a retrospective application only going in earlier this year.

The company said on Thursday that it intends to appeal the decision, while it is also willing to make any adjustments to the steps.

The handrails were originally made of wood, but they were later changed to more sturdy metal ‘Kee-Klamp’ rails.

Shetland Islands Council’s assets commissioning and procurement team said in an objection to the retrospective application that the steps are sited on land belonging to the Busta Estate, managed by the council.

“The steps in their current form do not meet with the required standard for use by the public and therefore the council as landowner object to his retrospective proposal in its current form,” it wrote.

“Should the steps be constructed in a compliant form to address the associated safety and risk elements, the council as estate manager would not object to an alternative proposal.”

A site visit showed “signs of wear and tear and erosion of the grassed area at the top of the steps, resulting in it being lower than the top step, thereby producing a trip hazard,” planners wrote in their decision.

“The existing handrails were also slightly loose, and do not appear to be adequately secured.”

Island Vista’s Jolene Garriock said in July that the company would be willing to carry out any recommended work to make the steps safer.

However, the planning service said in its decision that “it is uncertain whether steps in this location could ultimately be provided that would pose no health and safety risk”.

They said it is likely that the erosion of ground would continue in the presence of steps as they would encourage people to use them and concentrate footfall to a small area.

The steps also drew criticism from the Northmaven Community Council, which said they “set an unacceptable precedent”, with a recommendation that the steps are removed and that “something more appropriate” is put in place in consultation with the community.