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Business / Sella Ness accommodation owner responds to ‘save our hotels’ petition

Malthus Uniteam’s Ian Jamieson said it is ‘very sad news’ when a business has to close – but he believes the Sella Ness camp will be ‘crucial’ in the coming years

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

THE OWNER of the Sella Ness accommodation block has responded to a petition calling for its closure – saying the camp is “crucial” for supporting demand from proposed future energy and construction projects.

The online petition, created by Karl Maguire in a bid to ‘save our hotels’ in the North Mainland, has attracted over 1,600 signatures.

It came after the Moorfield Hotel in Brae announced it would close in September after losing the contract to house Shetland Gas Plant workers, who will move to Sella Ness.

Managing director of Sella Ness camp owner Malthus Uniteam (UK), Ian Jamieson, said “it’s very sad news when any business is faced with closure, for a number of reasons”.

He said he was unable comment in detail due to ongoing legal action in the Court of Session by Moorfield owner BDL Shetland Ltd.

The hotelier wants to overturn a decision by a Scottish Government-appointed reporter to allow the accommodation block – which normally employs around 30 people – to remain in place through to 2026.

Jamieson, however, said the 426-bedroom camp was well placed to accommodate workers involved in potential future projects, particularly in the renewable sector.

The £6.5 million Moorfield Hotel was opened on Tuesday.The £6.5 million Moorfield Hotel was opened in August 2013.

“With a judicial review underway, it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to comment in any detail here other than to say we believe the Sella Ness facility is crucial for supporting the immediate, medium and long-term demand for worker accommodation for existing and future energy and construction sector projects in Shetland,” he said.

The building was opened in 2011 to serve workers constructing the nearby Shetland Gas Plant, and after an initial renewal it had temporary planning permission in place until 30 November this year.

Since construction on the plant finished, the facility has over the years also housed people working at Sullom Voe Terminal.

North Mainland accommodation providers, however, said the Sella Ness facility had taken business away from them, and a warning was made that some could go out of business if the camp was kept open.

In May last year Shetland Islands Council’s planning committee refused to grant owners Malthus Uniteam further temporary permission to operate the camp until 2026, saying it contravened sections of the Local Development Plan.

The council’s planning service itself recommended to members of the planning committee to keep the camp open until 2022 to see if there was demand from proposed large construction projects like the Viking Energy wind farm.

However, following an appeal by Malthus Uniteam a Scottish Government reporter overturned this decision in January this year, saying that the development in fact complies with the local development plan.

Operations at the Sella Ness accommodation camp are currently run by Sodexo.

The online petition, launched in recent days, said: “Because of Covid-19 and the ongoing economic climate our hotels here in Shetland are closing the most recent will be The Moorfield in Brae.

“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.”