I was very disappointed to hear convenor Bell’s response to some of the questions posed on Radio Shetland’s Public Platform form 26 November.
During my five years on the council I sat on the planning committee and the lack of resources within the planning department was a constant theme.
Difficulty in recruiting planning officers was always an issue and having a single enforcement officer inhibited the planning department from being proactive and usually only able to respond specifically to complaints in a limited capacity.
I disagree with Mr Bell’s assertion when asked about the planning department’s ability to regulate current construction that there is absolutely no difficulty in achieving this.
Given my past experience this was not the case and I believe that lack of staff is still an issue. Just by expecting the public to believe that one enforcement officer can cover everything going on in Shetland rather exposes that misrepresentation.
We have already seen the failure of this in the first few months of Viking Energy construction. What is the point of imposing planning conditions if they cannot be enforced?
When it comes to the ‘discharging’ of planning conditions, they appear to be arbitrarily dismissed rather than meaningfully complied with.
Mr Bell’s incognisance with the planning department’s difficulties does them no favours. It also does a disservice to the Shetland public who deserve stringent compliance in the face of such huge construction projects.
There is no other local authority this size which has dealt with such large construction projects than Shetland, it is a very unsatisfactory situation and credit must be given to our planning department for coping as well as they do.
I formed the opinion when sitting on the planning committee, and voiced it on a few occasions, that when projects of such magnitude which have a national bearing fall to such a small local authority, it should be beholden for central government to provide further resourcing for monitoring and enforcement.
The key word here is enforcement; no amount of environmental monitoring consultants paid for conditionally by the developers can supplant the role of the local authority, whose statutory responsibility is to police any development and uphold the necessary controls, extending to suspension of work if required.