By RYAN TAYLOR
PLANS by supermarket giant Tesco to significantly extend its Lerwick premises were put on public display this week.
Customers were able to view technical drawings of the project as they came into the South Road store on Wednesday and Thursday.
Staff were on hand to answer questions and hand out specially-designed postcards inviting comments and recommendations.
A planning application for the project has already been lodged with Shetland Islands Council, and the plans are expected to come before the planning committee next month.
If they are approved, Tesco will see its retail floorspace increase from its present 1,980m² to 3,176m².
The news comes as concerns are raised staff are failing to deal with waste plastic being blown out of the rear entrance to the store and into the sea, proving potentially fatal to marine wildlife.
Retail organisations and shops in the town have lodged objections to the extension, fearing the move will take vital business away from the town centre.
Store manager Paul Clelland said it was important customers had a chance to express their views on the extension.
He added the move would help improve working conditions for staff who had grown used to working in a “challenging” environment.
“We’ve been quite conscious that there is a very vocal minority of people who have got a lot to say about the extension,” Mr Clelland said, “and we need to give customers the chance to express their opinions, and the staff.”
He said workers had been hampered by small cloak rooms and a lack proper eating areas, which had not been addressed by the store’s previous owners.
“The extension will allow us to rectify some of the issues we have inherited. Staff are used to it and they think it’s okay, but they’ve seen a number of companies come through this site. A big part of my job is to make sure they know we’re not going anywhere.
“We’ve got the know-how to fix the issues we’ve had historically. If we can get the back of the store right, the customers will see that in the front of the store.”
Mr Clelland said the extension could help deal with a problem of plastic waste being blown into the sea.
In a letter to The Shetland Times one woman, who did not wish to be named, said huge reams of clingfilm and thick wrapping was being blown into the water.
“A lot of people enjoy the area surrounding the store for walks and watching the seals and birds,” she said.
“Some forms of plastics which are escaping are being eaten by these creatures and can’t be passed out again which results in starvation and slow death.”
“Once the plastic has sunk underneath the water, there doesn’t look to us to be a problem, but as the winds are frequent at this time of year there’s plenty of plastic blowing from Tesco everyday and landing in and around the water.
“Other people have spoken to me about this and are concerned about the problem as well.”
Mr Clelland said he was aware of the problem and had taken measures to address it.
“We recycle all plastic and cardboard,” he said. “It gets caged up and broken down in the store.
“We recycle it by sending it south to a Livingston recycling centre. It’s caged up in four- sided cages and put down on the ferry.
“Because our store is compromised and we have a tiny warehouse, the only place we can store it is in the back yard, and the wind has been blowing the plastic out of the cages and into the yard.”
Mr Clelland said efforts had been made to pick litter from the car park and back yard. It was now fully bagged up before being left in the cages.
Part of the extension will include “an extended cage marshaling area,”which will be used to house plastic materials.
SIC environmental health manager Maggie Dunne said the service had been working with Tesco to help it improve its waste management but there was still room for improvement.
“We’ve spoken to management about how they are dealing with refuse and are trying to encourage them to keep it under control,” Ms Dunne said.
“It’s better than it was when we first started working with them but it is something we are continuing to pursue.
“It is a very exposed area. They are doing some things to keep it under control, but it doesn’t always work. We’re still working with them towards the improvement of waste management.”
Lerwick Town Centre Association chairman Laurence Smith said the extension would have “serious implications for footfall in the town centre.
“If it affects particular businesses in the town centre it affects us all,” he said.
? MANAGEMENT have also had to defend a Tesco policy limiting customers to only six items of any one product.
Reports in the local media have highlighted concerns from residents in rural areas seeking to stock-pile for a lengthy period, only to find themselves prevented from buying in bulk.
Mr Clelland said he had a duty to protect the availability of products for all customers at the store.
“If you tried coming from Unst to buy a product and it wasn’t there because somebody had bought 20 or even 10 of them you would be upset about it.”
Mr Clelland said he had had discussions with local hotels and schools to pass on information about the policy.