Rock for the new approach roads for Total’s new plant at Sullom Voe is being shipped in from Norway at vast expense because a planning condition is restricting the efforts of a local firm to supply the material, The Shetland Times can reveal.
Staff at a North Mainland quarry have been threatened with reduced working hours after its owner, construction firm Garriock Brothers, was denied the chance to deliver the goods to Irish contractor Roadbridge for the £500m development.
Instead 60,000 tonnes of rock is being shipped across the North Sea at double the anticipated cost, which was put at £500,000 by Garriock’s managing director George Garriock.
Speaking to The Shetland Times, he said the move followed a planning restriction which said materials should only be imported via sea before being landed close to the site.
However he had learned about it too late and, in the meantime, had set aside £1m of heavy crushing machinery to be used in the development.
Planning guidelines for the plant state: “All materials … shall be imported into the site via the sea, landed close to the site and thereafter transported to the site via road transport.
“Any proposal to import materials and equipment to the site by any other means shall require the written approval of the planning authority following appropriate statutory processes.”
Mr Garriock said the crushing equipment was instead being sent to one of the company’s quarries in Inverness, because there was not enough work in Shetland for it to do.
“This, for us, is very disappointing because we have been gearing up for the larger work in the last year,” he said. “To see shiploads of stone coming into Shetland from Norway is depressing and devastating for the Shetland economy.”
He said plans to install a new £200,000 washing plant at the company’s quarry at Brindister – intended to make washed sand which could possibly be used for pipe-bedding – were under review.
However he said plans were well underway to re-open a quarry at Vatster, which should create work and avert any lay-offs.
“We, as a company, take full responsibility for our misjudgement in purchasing the equipment to carry out the work, but you have to speculate to try and progress. It takes four to six months to get delivery of this type of specialised equipment.
“However we never expected to be stopped by a planning condition which excludes local businesses from supplying materials and plant.”
Council officials say they recognised the impact the planning condition could have on local industry but insisted a path could be found for Garriock to supply materials for the construction project.
Planning officer John Holden said the application as originally submitted did not have sufficient information on traffic movements during the construction stage.
That, said Mr Holden, was raised with Total. However the oil and gas giant was eager to proceed to determine the application.
However councillors felt that could jeopardise local industry, and conditions were later revised to allow rock to be brought to the site by road once an environmental impact assessment had been properly carried out.
The whole process could take over two months to complete, meaning it could be at least July before Garriock Brothers is able to supply the rock.
“We felt the only way to control the impact of the development was to impose a condition for materials to be brought by sea,” he said.
“When the planning board considered the application it identified that this would potentially put local industry at a disadvantage, and it suggested conditions be revised to allow flexibility.
“We understand Total are intent on submitting an application to enable them to import materials, including aggregate, by means other than through the jetty.
“It’s fair to say that the proposal as originally put forward provided limited scope, but the planning board realised this and put in place some measure of flexibility to allow all sides to consider their options.”
Spokesman for Total Brian O’Neil said the company had recognised sailing rock from Norway should be an “interim measure”.
“Arrangements at the moment are that we will be importing rock for construction of the roads as an interim measure, because in order to source rock locally we have to go through an environmental impact process, which has not yet been completed. Once that is done the rock can be sourced from Shetland.”