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Business / Moorfield Hotel owner challenges Sella Ness camp decision

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

THE OWNER of the Moorfield Hotel in Brae has taken the “flawed decision” by the Scottish Government to approve more planning permission for the Sella Ness accommodation camp to the Court of Session.

Director Stuart McCaffer said in a statement on behalf of BDL Shetland that the decision, made in January, was “flawed for a number of legal reasons including the reporter’s failure to consider the socio economic impact of the camp”.

The Sella Ness camp, owned by Malthus Uniteam, was given further temporary planning permission through to 2026 after the Scottish Government overturned Shetland Islands Council’s initial refusal.

The application was opposed by a number of hoteliers and accommodation providers in Shetland.

The accommodation block was opened in the Sella Ness industrial estate in 2011 to house workers building the nearby Shetland Gas Plant.

Malthus Uniteam pointed to possible future demand from wind farm projects – as well as interest from the oil and gas sector – as to why the building should remain open until 2026.

McCaffer said in a statement on Monday that BDL Shetland now raised an action at the Court of Session against the decision made by the planning appeals division of the Scottish Government.

“The camp opened in 2011 as accommodation for over 800 construction workers on the Shetland Gas Plant (SGP),” he said.

“The 426-room facility was originally to be removed in 2015 however its life was quietly extended to 2020. The Sella Ness camp only ever had a temporary consent and therefore was never meant to be a permanent feature offering rooms to oil and gas workers.

“In 2019, when a further extension was proposed to November 2025, a number of local hoteliers objected to the planning committee and were successful with the application being rejected. However the camp’s owner appealed to the Scottish Government and a reporter reviewed the decision and ruled in favour of the camp’s life being extended to 2025.

“We believe that this decision is flawed for a number of legal reasons including the reporter’s failure to consider the socio economic impact of the camp. We have therefore taken steps to fight the reporter’s decision and do what we can to remove this camp.

“If the camp survives it will have a significant impact on the wider economy of north mainland. We as owners of the Moorfield Hotel will do whatever we can to correct this flawed decision.”

Malthus Uniteam appealed to Scottish ministers after councillors on the local authority’s planning committee rejected its application to extend the life of the 426-bedroom facility by a further five years in May 2019, saying the forecasted demand at the facility was “speculative”.

The Scottish Government’s assistant chief reporter Karen Heywood said Shetland Islands Council had failed to give the applicant “complete, precise and relevant reasons for refusal”.

She said that in refusing the planning application the council merely stated that the proposal was contrary to local development plan policies GP1, GP2 and H7 but did not give any explanation as to why the development did not comply with these policies.

In addition, policy H7 wasn’t even relevant in the circumstances of this particular application, she said.

Heywood added that “while there is still a need for the facility to support the terminal and gas plant and also the prospect that there may well be a need to house wind farm construction workers, it would be wasteful and unsustainable to remove it”.