The council’s planning authority has been accused of standing in the way of a school project aimed at showcasing Bressay’s maritime history.
Primary pupils from the island have been researching different rescues and shipwrecks that have taken place, and have devised a “rescue and wrecks” trail as part of their education.
But councillor Jonathan Wills, who stays in Bressay but is not a member of the SIC planning committee, has criticised the planning department for dithering over proposals for six interpretive signs devised by children.
He told planning committee members at today’s meeting that teachers had been forced to explain to their charges delays in getting up the signs.
Applications were lodged by the school for signboards to be erected at the Bressay Lighthouse and at Cruester, as well as another two at Ward Hill.
However, Dr Wills questioned why plans for the remaining three signs as part of the trail had not yet been considered by members. He insisted the planning authority should have done more to help the process.
“Teachers and pupils have done an excellent job,” he said. “Pupils have spoken to old people about memories of shipwrecks. It is one of the best school projects I have seen.”
Dr Wills was “astonished” by the level of detail required by the school, insisting the project warranted help and assistance from planning rather than barriers which, he said, had been put in place.
He said: “I’d have thought the planning authority would have said ‘what a good idea’. But rather than facilitating the project what we have seen here is tantamount to obstruction.
“Teachers have had to explain why there have been delays. How long is this going to be prolonged?”
Planning official John Holden said the roads service had to take account of issues such as visibility. Any information which may have been forthcoming about the three outstanding signs would have arrived too late to be assessed for the report which had gone to members.
“There are planning rules and regulations we have to follow,” Mr Holden said. “As a planning service we can’t act as an applicant’s agent. We can’t fall foul of the accusation we’re giving favours to one person above another.”
Dr Wills was cut short by chairman Frank Robertson when he attempted to ask whether the time spent on the applicant by staff had exceeded the value of the signs.
“We are not here to debate the planning process,” Mr Robertson insisted, adding other services had to be consulted on whether signs should go up.
Planning member David Sandison offered some sympathy to Dr Wills, however. He said people behind other “good-meaning” projects had become “frustrated” by the bureaucratic process involved.
Fellow member Malcolm Bell echoed what Dr Wills said. He maintained the Bressay signs represented an “excellent project” and moved the recommendation for approval.