Community / ‘Save our hotels’ petition gains support

AN ONLINE petition calling on the Scottish Government to “rethink” an earlier planning decision that granted the owners of the Sella Ness accommodation camp to operate the facility until the end of 2025 is quickly gaining momentum.

More than 500 people signed the Save our hotels – close Sella Ness petition in its first twenty hours.

The Moorfield Hotel at the north entrance of Brae is set to close on 9 September.

It was started by local bus driver Karl Maguire in response to news earlier this week that the Moorfield Hotel is to close in early September with the loss of 45 jobs after oil and gas company Total decided not to extend its contract with the hotel and instead to house its Shetland Gas Plant workforce at the accommodation camp a few miles down the road.

The decision to close the Moorfield Hotel is seen as a direct consequence of the planning decision that allows the ‘temporary’ camp to stay open for business.

In May last year, Shetland Islands Council’s planning committee declined to grant owners Malthus Uniteam permission to operate the camp until 2026. However, following an appeal a Scottish Government reporter overturned this decision in January this year.

A lobbying group of accommodation providers in Shetland’s North Mainland said hotels will go out of business if the 426-bedroom facility was allowed to continue operating.

The multi award winning Scalloway Hotel has already gone into administration.

Launching the petition, Maguire said: “Sella Ness temporary accommodation was supposed to be dismantled when the gas plant was finally finished but was granted an extension, a further application was rejected by the council but overturned by the Scottish Government.

“It is this government that now needs to rethink and save our hotels from closure in favour of the temporary Sella Ness accommodation.”

However, in planning law the Scottish Government has no role in reviewing or overturning a decision made by an independent reporter that has been appointed by the government; it can only be challenged in the Court of Session.

The owner of Moorfield Hotel, Glasgow-based BDL Shetland Limited, said earlier this week that it was determined to continue its legal action against the planning decision in the Court of Session despite the announcement of the closure of the hotel.

“This may prove too late to save the Moorfield Hotel but if successful in getting the Sella Ness temporary accommodation camp closed and dismantled it may save the few remaining permanently established hotel businesses in the North Mainland of Shetland for the benefit of local communities,” the company’s Stuart McCaffer said.

Scottish Parliament election, 6 May 2021