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Business / Sella Ness camp planning appeal withdrawn

The loss of the Moorfield Hotel has influenced the decision to drop the court challenge

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

THE APPEAL against a decision to allow the Sella Ness accommodation camp to stay open has been withdrawn.

The appeal to the Court of Session was being led by the owners of the Moorfield Hotel in Brae, which burned down earlier this summer.

Stuart McCaffer, a director with Moorfield owner BDL Shetland, said on Monday that the company’s legal advice suggested that the economic case against Sella Ness was “significantly weakened” by the loss of 100 bedrooms at the Moorfield.

“The court case had been pushed in to 2021 due to Covid restrictions and we were running up legal costs every month,” he said.

“We were disappointed that we couldn’t have our day in court as we still strongly disagree with the reporter’s decision.”

The ruins of the Moorfield Hotel. Photo: Georgia Smith/Shetland News

McCaffer said earlier this year that the Scottish Government 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 426-bedroom Sella Ness camp, owned by Malthus Uniteam and operated by Sodexo, 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 who said the local sector would be placed under threat if the camp continued to operate.

A petition launched earlier this year to “save our hotels” and close Sella Ness, which has only ever had temporary planning permission, has attracted over 2,500 signatures.

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

Earlier this year a contract to accommodate gas plant workers moved from the Moorfield Hotel to the Sella Ness camp, leading to the hotel announcing plans to close. It burned down shortly before it could have its final day.

McCaffer said “we had to recognise the change in the landscape meant that a successful outcome at both the Court of Session and then a newly appointed reporter had become far harder to achieve with the demise of the Moorfield”.

Malthus Uniteam’s managing director of UK operations Ian Jamieson, meanwhile, said on Monday that his company believes the Sella Ness facility is “crucial for supporting future demand for worker accommodation for energy and construction sector projects in Shetland”.

One of the reasons why the owner of Sella Ness fought for the camp to stay open was due to projected demand from potential renewable energy projects.

Since then the Viking Energy wind farm and an interconnector between Shetland and the Scottish mainland have been given the green light, with construction set to last through to 2024.

It is thought that this would have been another string to the bow of Sella Ness if it had gone to the Court of Session, with the interconnector also potentially paving the way for more wind farms to be constructed in Shetland.