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SIC - Free Tyre Check - 22 Nov 2019

Business / Sella Ness camp owner wants appeal costs covered by SIC amid accusations of ‘unreasonable behaviour’

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

THE COMPANY behind the Sella Ness accommodation facility is requesting that Shetland Islands Council pays the cost of its appeal against refusal of further planning permission after claiming that the local authority has acted “unreasonably”.

An agent representing Malthus Uniteam said the council’s behaviour has caused the company “unnecessary expense” as it believes the matter should not have been referred to Scottish ministers.

Shetland Islands Council said it did not wish to comment at this stage.

Malthus Uniteam launched an appeal last month after councillors rejected an application for further temporary planning permission for the 426-bedroom camp which would see it kept open until 2026.

Members of Shetland Islands Council’s planning committee ruled in May that it was contrary to the islands’ local development plan, while they believed that forecasted demand at the facility was “speculative”.

Their decision meant that the accommodation block, which was opened in the Sella Ness industrial estate in 2011 to house workers building the nearby Shetland Gas Plant, is due to close by the end of November 2020.

The camp, built on land owned by Shetland Islands Council, was first granted temporary planning permission in 2010 before it was later renewed for a further five years.

In August Malthus Uniteam appealed the decision to the Scottish Government as it pointed again to possible future demand from wind farm projects – as well as continued interest from the oil and gas sector – as to why the building should remain open until 2026.

It has received renewed objections from the local accommodation sector, as well as groups like Northmaven Community Council.

In a new twist this week, however, the agent representing Malthus Uniteam submitted a claim for expenses against Shetland Islands Council for costs incurred during the appeal.

One of three conditions which need to be met before expenses can be awarded is that the party has “acted unreasonably”.

Malthus Uniteam’s agent has cited five reasons as to how it claims the council has acted in this way.

It said it is “not clear” what specific aspects of the Shetland Local Development Plan the appeal offends, writing that there is a “failure on the part of the council to give complete, precise and relevant reasons for the refusal of the application”.

The agent also points to minutes of the planning committee meeting in which the application was initially refused, with chairman Theo Smith stated as saying that to get planning to work properly it was important to take account of the views of local communities.

“In this case the matters of objection are not considered to be relevant to the determination of this application and inappropriate weight has been given to these views in reaching a decision,” the company’s agent said.

The agent also claimed that the council has “failed to explain and support the reasons for refusal during the planning process”, leading to Malthus Uniteam’s appeal submissions “being longer than perhaps was necessary”.

Malthus Uniteam also gave “clear evidence that the proposals accord with the development plan and material considerations” – with the submission being that the council did not have reasonable planning grounds for refusing the application.

“Further evidence that the council has acted unreasonably is demonstrated by the different approach to the appeal proposal which the council has taken as compared with the previous applications for the same use on the appeal site,” the agent added.

It said that “considerable work” went into the preparation of the appeal, with “no substantive response from the council justifying its position”.

The planning appeal process continues, with a decision expected in November.