CAB - 7 Oct 2020 - 10 Oct 2020 - Advice

Letters / ‘I support the attempt to right a wrong’

I am writing in response to Ms O’Brien’s letter Shetland-Centricness (SN, 3 March 2020).

Although SNAP, the loose affiliation of eight or so accommodation providers in the North Mainland, has no resources to pursue its argument against the logic of permitting the operation of a camp at Sella Ness to continue, there are a few points contained therein which I feel I must take issue with.

The Moorfield Hotel was granted planning permission specifically to meet the construction and operational requirements of the Shetland Gas Plant. My understanding is that Total/Petrofac approached the hotel industry to encourage such a hotel. There were no plans for any such establishment prior to the gas plant’s approach.

In other words, the fossil fuel industry alone sought the building of a 100-bedroom hotel in Brae, not the leisure visitor (tourism) industry.  It is illogical to suggest that, in such a case, Moorfield committing itself to the fossil fuel industry created a detriment to the tourism industry.

No fresh food merchant (greengrocer/fishmonger/butcher) wants to have food going off unsold just so he can say he never runs out of ‘stuff’. Empty shelves of perishables at the end of a day indicate a good balance between supply and demand.

At peak construction times Busta House had two of it’s 22 rooms on contract to Total, less than 10 per cent. The other 90 per cent were available, at normal prices, to anyone and everyone who was looking for a room.

For every year over the five years 2011-2015, Busta House had one quarter of it’s rooms unused. Unsold. Empty. Unwanted by family, friends, tourists or the oil industry. In a retail environment, that’s a lot of unsold fish, if you see what I mean. Maybe not for love, but people could and did buy rooms for money.  It was a busy time, sure, but not sold out.

Ms O’Brien projects that “the many workers who may come in the future will need somewhere to stay”. Firstly, only the workers who will come will need somewhere to stay, not the workers who maycome. This is the speculative nature of Sella Ness which was one of the grounds for the SIC planning committee’s refusal of extension in May 2019.

In answer to her question “what then? There wouldn’t be enough room in local hotels for them”, I must point out that, as was seen from 1987 to 2010, a period of over 20 years, on the occasions when local hotels could not meet demand, truly temporary accommodation was chartered to meet the need – barges, flotels and vessels.

And no permanent, damaging economic impact was caused.

I have no expertise in the oil industry, fishing, aquaculture, local government, healthcare, education, transport or pretty much any other field (I can wire a plug and do a little amateur plumbing, but that’s it).

But unlike Ms O’Brien, I am an expert in the field of hospitality and accommodation. It was my life’s work. And most of it was spent in Shetland, which required me to develop a deep understanding of the market and its needs.

As a result, whilst perhaps not everything, I understand most of the decisions made by previously successful hospitality businesses on Shetland.

And I support The Moorfield Hotel’s attempt to right a wrong. Also, I haven’t a clue what Shetland-Centricness means – could someone explain, please?

Joe Rocks
Former managing director
Busta House Hotel