Foremost on the agenda for the Scalloway Community Council this month was the thorny subject of the planning application for the proposed abattoir in the former No Catch factory on the East Voe industrial estate by the Shetland Abattoir Co-operative.
This “emotive and divisive” issue drew out a full complement of community councillors and was expected to draw substantial interest from the public. But, in the event, it was poorly attended, attracting a relatively small number of locals, councillor Andrew Hughson and no representatives from the proposed business venture.
In his well-researched and comprehensive preamble community council chairman Arnold Duncan managed to draw on 1,200 years of local history, including the land use, in his extensive background to the many aspects of the debate, while also detailing the relevant planning Act and Local Structure Plan.
The first historical aspect raised was the previous existence of an abattoir in the village some 60 years ago at Spencie’s Closs, in the very centre of the village. At that time food and animal welfare regulations were virtually non-existent but nonetheless the culture of the time had no issue with the presence of such a facility, with a similar situation existing in Lerwick in the same era.
Bringing the subject closer to the present, Mr Duncan related in some detail the land history of the East Voe area.
The area held a rural scattering of dwellings until the development of the Blydoit scheme of houses, the meeting heard. This was followed by the sale of an area of land by a local resident to the SIC for the development of an industrial estate in 1985.
The introduction of industrial estates throughout Shetland around 30 years ago produced a number of successes, particularly in the Gremista and Blackhill areas of Lerwick, while the one in Scalloway was completed in 1986 and remained largely vacant for part of its lifespan, only attracting more businesses relatively recently.
Its very existence is said to have been hard won at the time due to the proximity to the Scord quarry which, during that era, prevented any commercial development within a nominal five hundred metre radius.
The furore over the proposed abattoir now seems to have prompted discussions of potential alternatives for industrial development in the Scalloway area, in particular fish processing, with only one plot left at the East Voe and no room left at Blacksness pier.
The area north of the former Shalder Coaches garage below the quarry has been touted as one possible option for future development.
The background presentation then turned to the recent inauspicious history of the relevant factory unit with two failed business ventures based there and the recent addition of the Hjaltland housing development next door.
There was also a detailed account of the existing abattoir businesses at Laxfirth and Boddam, and the estimated costs of bringing them up to required standards and further consideration of other locations touted for a modern abattoir.
The business aspects of existing businesses were apparently put forward as part of a fuller picture of the current situation but the community council members were instructed to exclude these aspects from their planning consideration on the SACL proposal.
The presentation and discussion then turned to the more relevant issue of local public opinion and perception.
Recent statements by councillor Betty Fullerton were targeted directly by the chairman, with her suggestion that “the whole community are against it” being summarily dismissed.
This most pertinent issue had been played upon by opposition through anecdotal evidence and the adoption of petitions deployed in the local area, the notable exception to this being the new housing scheme immediately next door to the former No Catch factory as the houses there remained unoccupied during the first wave of adverse publicity, although potential residents were apparently made aware of the situation with the factory next door prior to moving in. It is claimed that an approximate total of 80 signatures had been gathered from the other housing schemes and further afield.
Mr Duncan questioned the term “barbaric” used in reference to an abattoir business in recent media interviews by representatives of those opposed to the scheme.
In a somewhat whimsical discussion of the use of this description he contested that the last accounts of actual barbaric behaviour in the local area were generated by Viking marauders coming to Shetland in the ninth century and that the events of that era were still celebrated in the present time.
Returning to more serious matters, the presentation was summed up and the planning mechanism was then described in great detail, including the limitations of the community council input and the options available to either object to the application or merely comment upon it, with a summary of the criteria applicable to objecting to a new business to an area, should they be required.
The assembled public, totalling eight, were brought into proceedings at this point and given the chance to add to the background or express their concerns. Relevant comments were made about the impact upon the sewerage system, an issue dealt with by SACL at its public meeting with the assurance that slaughter was a “dry” process.
Another concern was expressed by way of description of a letter received by a local from an individual in Norway that an abattoir would “ruin the village”. During discussions the term “barbaric” was once again employed by a concerned resident to describe the proposed venture, despite the previous examination of the term by the chairman.
Safety, noise and general nuisance factors were among other objections expressed against the venture. Community councillor John Hunter, whose home is near the proposed abattoir, presented a list of objections and conditions which the business would need to overcome to avoid falling foul of nuisance and safety factors that would form the basis of a formal objection, drawing from his first hand experience of the day to day working of the No Catch factory and issues that arose at that time.
The other community council members were also asked individually to air their views, stimulating further lively and wide-ranging discussion.
The community council members were then requested to vote on whether to object to, or comment upon, the application and the roll-call vote came out in favour of submitting an objection to the council by a majority and in lieu of this outcome no other vote was deemed necessary.
On agreeing to lodge an objection, the full scope of relevant material objections were then outlined again and noted for further consideration at the next meeting, to allow the January meeting to continue with other business.
Mr Duncan said after the meeting that he had “endeavoured to deal with matters as they pertained to an abattoir in Scalloway, both past and present”.
He said: “I expected more of the public to be there. It’s difficult to gauge people’s opinion without knowing exactly what they think on the matter. I have tried to give a balanced account and impartial guidance on the situation to the meeting, before the result is passed on to the council planning board for consideration.”
The remainder of the January meeting was taken up with a fairly hurried acknowledgement of items carried over from the November agenda and new correspondence. Due to the amount of time spent on the SACL application it was agreed that more time could be allocated to the items that required debate in the next meeting on the third Monday of February.
Fishing activity once again dominated business in Scalloway Harbour with record levels of fish landings being broken once again in the current resurgence of the industry.
Industry sources estimate landings last week through the Scalloway and Lerwick markets as being the highest in 20 years, with Scalloway’s contribution to that being 3,843 boxes, certainly the most fish in the Blacksness market for almost two decades.
A substantial proportion of this total came from Lerwick and elsewhere via trucks in a week where ultimately fishing vessels were turned away from Shetland with no room left in either market. The highest daily landing in Scalloway was on Friday with 1,045 boxes.
The lengthy list of vessels contributing to this total includes the Fertile, Keila, Moray Endeavour, Radiant Star, Valhalla, Alison Kay, Tranquillity, Venture, Mizpah, Athena, Jenna Maree, Searcher, Arkh-Angell, Guardian Angell and the Venturous.
The highest single landing came from the Alison Kay with 408 boxes.
The 673grt, 40-metre standby vessel VOS Protector called into Scalloway for a crew change last week, as did the 1,125grt standby vessel Grampian Conquest.
Assembly of Aqualine fish farm cages continued on the West Quay, while the Ronja Settler departed Scalloway for Buckie, thought to be for slippage and disinfection treatment as part of the preventative measures adopted locally in reaction to the limited outbreak of ISA in salmon sites west of Scalloway.
Further measures were in evidence with foot baths on pier fronts and nets destined for washing contained in skips to prevent potential cross contamination.
The small well-boat Reflex also continues to operate locally for Hjaltland Seafarms in harvesting fish for consignment by trucks across to Lerwick.
Burra craft exhibition
The Burra History Group is planning to have a handicrafts exhibition on 21st and 22nd March, which will feature examples of the wide variety of crafts being made locally.
The group would be delighted to hear from anyone who would like to lend something to the event, whether actual items or photographs of finished items or works-in-progress. Example crafts include knitwear, sewing, painting or woodcraft.
Alternatively, anyone willing to demonstrate their craft during the event would be most welcome to attend and the organisers are keen to hear from anyone willing to do so.
If anyone feels inclined to either submit an item, photographs or help out in any way at all please contact Adalene Fullerton on (01595) 859623.
Hamnavoe school update
The Hamnavoe primary school has started the year with a busy term of activities and events.
Harry Rose from the Field Studies Trust will be visiting the school to work with classes on a range of science topics.
Primaries one, two and three will be learning about the components that go to make up toys, how they are made and how their moving parts work. Meanwhile Harry has been working with primaries four and five, learning about electricity and how to build circuits. Primaries six and seven will be having a go at orienteering and learning how to navigate using a compass.
Learning opportunities such as this enhance normal classroom lessons and engage children in hands-on experiences with an educational theme. Harry has also agreed to take part in the school’s Eco Action Day in May this year.
The school’s road safety officer attended a recent Parent Council meeting to explain her role and hand out free safety related items for children of the school and commended the school’s involvement in road safety education.
Primary seven pupils got to experience Scalloway Junior High School first-hand with a visit there at the end of January.
During the visit they followed the secondary one timetable for a day and got to meet primary seven pupils from the other “feeder” schools in the Central Mainland catchment area. They will have another chance to spend time experiencing secondary education at the Scalloway School later in the term as part of the preparation for their move from primary to secondary later in the year.