By RYAN TAYLOR
The council has laid itself open to an appeal after a last ditch attempt to move a controversial abattoir and meat processing plant in Scalloway through the planning process failed.
Members of the SIC’s planning committee recently rejected an application by Shetland Abattoir Co-operative Limited (SACL) to convert the former No Catch fish factory at Blydoit into an up-to-date slaughterhouse that would help serve the agricultural industry.
However, the path is now clear for SACL to lodge an appeal against the decision after councillors voted against the proposal at Wednesday’s Full Council meeting.
Bill Manson reiterated concerns he had raised previously that there was no reason under planning guidelines why the abattoir should be rejected. He moved an amendment that the application, which sparked major concerns among residents who petitioned against the plan, be approved.
“I think the planning reasons for this proposal are strong, and I think we should grant permission,” Mr Manson said. “When we examine this as a planning authority we’re meant to look at the application in front of us, and not say we’d prefer it to be down the road somewhere else.
“I move an amendment we should grant planning permission. I don’t know if this will be appealed, but should it be we’re setting ourselves up for trouble. I don’t believe it was rejected for reasons which would stand under examination in a report.”
Mr Manson was seconded by Laura Baisley, who said she had been encouraged by reassurances from environmental health over the use of a humane killing device that would be used, although she admitted Blydoit was not an “ideal” location.
However, Iris Hawkins reeled off a list of planning regulations which stated developments should benefit the whole community.
She said no fewer than 68 new houses had gone up in the area since 2000, and added residents should not face “unacceptable adverse affects” on their amenities.
“This development is not in the interest of the established community,” Mrs Hawkins said. “We attended a site visit and were amazed to see there were just two metres between the boundary fence of the building and the new houses. “You could hardly get it any nearer. It’s not suitable use of an existing building in what has changed over the years to become a residential area.”
Mrs Hawkins said tourists stopping at the viewpoint at the top of the Scord did so to enjoy the scenery, and would not be impressed by the sight of a slaughterhouse.
Supporting her was Andrew Hughson, who said allowing the change of use would “contribute to the erosion of the residential character of the area”.
Jim Budge said the council needed to take some of the responsibility to help SACL find an alternative location. He wondered how many of those around the table knew what went on in an abattoir.
“If we’re going to turn down this application we have to give some commitment to the industry,” Mr Budge said. “We’ll have to work with them to identify where we can build a new facility. I’d like to think that we as a council would be brave enough and strong enough to do that.
“A lot has been said about vision and noise, and I wonder how many people have been outside a slaughter house when it has been working. If they did that they might realise things are not quite what they think they are. It’s very strictly controlled.”
Mr Budge was chastised by Florence Grains, who said she had been chairwoman of a slaughterhouse working group and knew what went on in an abattoir.
Nevertheless, his view was backed by Andrew Hughson, who said the council had “a duty” to support the industry.
Adding Shetland “needs an abattoir,” Mr Hughson said the right place for it in his mind would be the marts – although that was not a view shared by Allison Duncan, who said the isles were already served by two perfectly good slaughterhouses.
Mr Manson praised the efforts of council officials who, ever mindful of just how controversial the issue was, had prepared a detailed report for the planning committee.
He denied the boundary fence was just two metres away from the nearest house, and said the line of vision from the viewpoint would not be drawn to the Blydoit plant.
However, he was defeated by 13 votes to seven.
Farmer Ronnie Eunson, who has been behind the move by SACL to get the factory converted, said he was not too surprised councillors had refused the application again.
Asked whether an appeal might be lodged with the council’s planning department he said: “That’s a decision for the board of SACL, but clearly the council has acted in defiance of its policies and officials. The council has got to meet its duty as an economic developer for Shetland.”
? Meanwhile SLMG is continuing its efforts to claw £38,000 back following the sale of lamb to Faroe in 2007, which was never paid for.
Mr Eunson said a debt recovery company had been enlisted to pursue the money owed, although the debtor – Danish man Daniel Thomsen – had so far “remained elusive”.