A SET of steps near the Eshaness Lighthouse which were installed last year to help people on bus tours are set to be removed after the tour company failed in its bid to overturn its refusal of planning permission.
Shetland Islands Councilâs planning committee ruled on Monday to uphold officialsâ initial decision and reject the appeal.
Jolene Garriock of tour company Island Vista, which installed the cement steps last year, said she was âobviously disappointedâ with the decision from councillors.
âThe steps will have to come out in their current format,â she confirmed â adding that the company is currently unsure over whether to submit a new application for different steps.
The steps and metal handrails, located at a passing place near to the lighthouse, were refused retrospective planning permission in August.
Officials ruled that the steps âserve to compromise the publicâs health and safetyâ and do not respect the character of the surroundings.
The councilâs health and safety manager also said that there was a âsignificant riskâ of people being injured by slipping, tripping or falling.
The installation only features four steps and they are sited on a small incline at a passing place near to the Eshaness Lighthouse, surrounded by land.
The steps were installed last year to give visitors with physical difficulties arriving at the beauty spot on tour buses easier access up and down the hill to see the landscape.
Island Vistaâs Jolene Garriock said the company thought it had permission from the landowner, but it turned out the land was managed by the council.
In light of health and safety concerns raised through the process, Island Vista said it âresponded to each of these concerns and asked for further adviceâ.
When its application was refused, the company said it would address any design issues raised by the council.
The steps, meanwhile, drew criticism from the Northmaven Community Council, which said they âset an unacceptable precedentâ.
It recommended that the steps should be removed and that âsomething more appropriateâ is put in place in consultation with the community.
Garriock told councillors on the planning committee on Monday that in the last two seasons around 7,500 people would have used the steps.
She said without the steps the tour buses would have to park at the lighthouse car park, adding on extra time to an already short 30-minute visit and reducing the enjoyment for guests.
Garriock warned that the company could stop providing guided tours in the area in future years if the steps were removed, creating a âdetrimental effectâ on some businesses up north.
Tourists have been using the handrail even when the steps had been taped off by council officials, she said, showing that they are needed.
Garriock admitted that the steps were not compliant with regulations, but she said they were installed in good faith at the time.
She also conceded the mistake in the identity of the landowner was âjust ignorance on our partâ.
Answering a question from Shetland Central member Davie Sandison, Garriock said pursuing the application and not submitting a new one for modified steps was a âtiming and a cost issueâ.
She said the company had already taken advice from the SICâs roads department on compliance with regulations, while it also sourced quotes for different handrails and looked into health and safety advice.
âAs far as Iâm aware, what we have suggested would meet the criteria,â Garriock said.
But when it came to debate among councillors, there was a clear siding with the recommendation of planning staff.
Lerwick member Malcolm Bell said he had âno doubtâ the steps were installed with the best intention, but there remained issues over compliance, health and safety and the location.
âAs a planning body, it really would be perverse for us in these circumstances to approve,â he said.
Fellow town councillor Cecil Smith said his âbig concernâ was the lack of consultation Island Vista had with the local community council.
South mainland member George Smith said he had a âlot of sympathy for Island Vistaâ â as well as those looking for further Shetlandâs tourism industry â but he sided with Bellâs views.
âAs things stand, I canna ignore the health and safety concerns that have been raised,â he said.
Sandison said that although it is âimperative that we support the local tourist industry and businesses in the areaâ, planning guidance should be adhered to.
Bellâs motion to reject the application was then seconded without opposition â meaning that the Eshaness steps are set to be removed.
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