A controversial new pharmacy in the heart of Scalloway can now be built after the Scottish government overturned a decision by the SIC planning board to block its construction.
Norsepharm Ltd could have its traditional looking storey-and-a-half premises next to the Kiln Bar on the village’s main street open by the middle of next year.
Members of the planning board rejected the company’s original application in April this year after hearing that the building would be squeezed into too tight a space and there would be insufficient parking.
However a reporter to Scottish ministers, Michael J P Cunliffe, has now granted an appeal lodged by Norsepharm’s Torquil Clyde.
One of the key objectors to Norsepharm were Scalloway Hotel owners Peter and Caroline McKenzie.
They were concerned the village’s picturesque views out of the harbour could be lost if the pharmacy was built, and the possible impact it could have on their business.
Mrs McKenzie said they were “totally devastated” by the government’s decision.
“It’s a strange irony that in the last week we have been shortlisted for the dining out experience of the year in the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards. Part of that is down to the view out of Scalloway Harbour, and now that view is going to be lost.
“We’ve been working really hard to build up this business, and this year we have found growing numbers of people coming out to Scalloway because of the hotel’s reputation for food. This new pharmacy is going to be a real blot … which the [Scottish government] report does acknowledge.
“This is a tourism business. We are trying to build it up as a tourism business where people will want to come and stay and eat. If you’ve lost one of your major selling points it’s not much use.
“How this building has been allowed to go ahead in a conservation area is beyond us.”
Mr Clyde told The Shetland Times he was delighted his appeal had been successful.
“I’m obviously very pleased, after a long wait, that it is successful. I would hope to have a pharmacy open by the middle of next year.”
Referring to the fears raised by the Scalloway Hotel, he said: “It’s a pity they feel that way. I don’t feel it will effect them as much as they believe.”
In a report backing his decision Mr Cunliffe said: “The council maintains that this is an insufficient level of provision, particularly having regard to the proposed use as a pharmacy where customers with health problems are likely to require parking close at hand while collecting prescriptions.
“However it is unusual for retail units, including pharmacies, in the centres of towns or large villages to have their own dedicated parking. It is sufficient that there is a reasonable provision of public on and off street parking nearby.
“The demand for parking will fluctuate at different times of the day, week and year, but my visit in the middle of an October weekday confirmed the applicant’s survey findings that, ordinarily, there is no shortage of available parking spaces within a reasonable walking distance of the proposed development.
“The hotel dining room currently looks across the street to the Kiln Bar car park, with a view to the harbour beyond. That view would be largely obstructed by the proposed new building, leaving only a diagonal view to the southeast over the picnic area.
“Diners on tables near the window would therefore have a less attractive outlook. However the planning system enshrines no right to a view, and the protection of one commercial interest against another is not a material planning consideration.”
Norsepharm won the right to open a pharmacy in Scalloway by virtue of being the first to apply to NHS Shetland’s pharmacy committee.
Scalloway GPs Paul and Phillipa Veenhuizen also applied through their business MelbyHealth Ltd, but the health board said it had to consider the applications consecutively rather than concurrently.
Norsepharm was then granted a provisional licence to open its pharmacy and meet a recognised need in the area.
While Melby’s proposals were subsequently turned down, the only barrier keeping Norsepharm from development was the planning board’s refusal – until now.