27th September 2016
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Whalsay harbour expansion plan turned down

A proposal by the Whalsay community for the council to re-develop and expand the harbour at a cost of up to £40 million has been turned down by the development committee.

The request followed an approach by an “external operator” interested in basing a seafood processing plant in Whalsay. But this depended on the harbour being developed, which would cost between £20 and £40 million.

Councillors unanimously refused the proposal as being unaffordable, as it would take more than 20 years to recoup the investment, mainly through landing fees. However, they agreed that any development using the existing infrastructure would be welcome.

The report, written by development director Neil Grant, said the venture would not fit into the council’s corporate plan. As well as being high cost, it would also be high risk as it would be relying on one enterprise. It could also take business from other existing processing plants.

Committee chairman Alastair Cooper said he thought the report was rather “stark”, although he agreed the council could not afford £20 million for a new harbour. He recommended a “halfway house” which would encourage anyone who wanted to develop a project within the existing infrastructure.

Billy Fox said work on the harbour was a “no-goer” and the council should not support it. But, he said, if a development could “stand on its own two feet” with the existing infrastructure it should go ahead.

Andrea Manson said the fishing industry was of “colossal” importance to Shetland and if someone wanted to invest “we canna slam the doors without more information”.

Mr Grant will now write back to the interested parties explaining the council’s position.

Councillors agreed that any development would strengthen the case for a tunnel to Whalsay, but this is being considered separately in consultation with the Scottish government.

AboutRosalind Griffiths

I am a Shetland Times reporter covering news, including health stories, and features. I have been in Shetland for more than 30 years.

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7 comments

  1. John Tulloch

    “Any development would strengthen the case for a tunnel”?

    And… presumably,… a tunnel would strengthen the case for development? Mmh!

    Councillor Fox is quoted as saying, “if any development could “stand on its own two feet” with the existing infrastructure, it should go ahead.”

    May I enquire how many similar developments he thinks would have gone ahead in Lerwick over the past fifty years had that same standard been applied?

    Surely, Whalsay is an obvious candidate for building up its indigenous fishing industry?

    An autonomous Shetland would not have to discuss tunnels or anything else with the Scottish government, it would be empowered to act and if I may say, would likely have a very different ‘Corporate Plan’ than has the SIC.

    Reply
  2. Duncan Simpson

    It sounds to me as if this has just been dismissed out of hand without being properly examined for feasibility.

    Could external funding not be sought, say from that benevolent organisation the EU? Considering foreign EU fishing vessels remove vast amounts of fish from Shetlands waters annually is there not a case for them reinvesting some of that money in the local community?

    From the European Regional Development Fund web page; “Areas that are naturally disadvantaged from a geographical viewpoint (remote, mountainous or sparsely populated areas) benefit from special treatment. Lastly, the outermost areas also benefit from specific assistance from the ERDF to address possible disadvantages due to their remoteness.”

    Would this situation not fall in to that category? Is there no way funding could be sought from a variety of sources to get this idea going? Whalsay has sorely missed it’s fish factory since it closed, a new one would bring much needed employment.

    If you consider Whalsay’s contribution to the economy is it really too much to ask for the SIC to at least look in to further development? Or maybe they would rather just pursue closing the School again?

    Reply
  3. WilliamPolson

    This was an offer by an international fish processor to invest £14 million in fish factories in Whalsay.
    The development could have produced a revenue stream to the S.I.C. of between 1 and £2 million a year from landing and export dues.
    The proposal was for the S.I.C . to borrow and build the piers required for landing the fish and exporting the frozen product, the landing and loading dues would have paid off the loan, thus creating jobs and industry at no cost to the S.I.C., only profit.

    Reply
    • Johan Adamson

      Was it white fish processing? Is there another facility in Lerwick? I think the worry is that this fish processor disappears and we are left with the bills. Are there no grants available?

      Reply
  4. Gregory Martin

    It seems time and time again that the councils “corporate plan” is to find a way to empty all the islands and squeeze everyone in and around Lerwick.

    Reply
  5. William Polson

    It is disappointing for us that the S.I.C. have decided to dismiss the Whalsay harbour proposal, based on information presented to them in the Director of Development’s report and a lack of available funding.
    This was very unfortunate as it appears that Neil Grant may have missed, some of the findings in the consultation document from the Scottish Government.
    The document clearly states that the option to build in Symbister is likely to yield the greatest social benefit for a remote community, as it would help to sustain Whalsay’s population, both by supporting the creation new fish processing jobs and by encouraging more vessels to land in Whalsay and use its local facilities.
    In the conclusions it stated that Shetlands waters are abundant with fish, in 2012 15,039 tonnes of Whitefish and 108,924 tonnes of pelagic fish were caught in its waters. The proportion of this fish processed in Shetland is low at %2 of whitefish and only %13 of pelagic.
    It also states that there should be enough available fish stocks in Shetlands waters to support a new fish processing plant without having any significant raw material displacement implications for the plants already working in Shetland.

    Reply
  6. John Tulloch

    William, thank you for that additional information.

    Your comment underlines the need for Wir Shetland to exist – maintenance and development of Shetland’s remote communities are central to what we are about.

    Can you please provide details of where the consultation you referred to can be found, assuming it’s in the public domain, hopefully, online?

    Reply

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