Councillors have voted 5-2 in favour of building a new stretch of road in Tingwall despite strong fears a rare type of elm tree and a unique bird species could be lost as a result.
More than 200 people signed a petition against the road at Veensgarth to be built by crofter Cecil Eunson. Mr Eunson wants to make the road to help pave the way for future housing projects.
But the route running by Veensgarth House and nearby farm steadings will result in a number of trees being removed including one Wych Elm – a native woodland tree found mainly in northern areas of Britain.
There are fears removing two sections of stone wall to help make the road could threaten the habitat of the Shetland wren – as the name suggests a species unique to the isles.
The dyke, a listed structure, forms part of the original boundary wall of Veensgarth Farm.
The plans have also opened up an old chestnut concerning the use of good arable land for infrastructure development.
Eleven letters of objection were lodged with the council’s planning department in time for a hearing at the town hall today.
One letter of objection stated many older and larger Wych Elms in other parts of the country have been lost to Dutch Elm Disease. The remote location of the Tingwall trees could be what has helped save them.
However a report before councillors recommended the 3.5 metre-wide road be approved amid concerns safety and visibility on the current route are inadequate.
In a plea to have the application turned down, nearby resident Joyce Pole said: “The trees and the listed dry stone dyke frame the western edge of the farm steading and Veensgarth House.
“Take away these two components and you will find that you have lost forever an essential part of our countryside, special to so many people.”
She said vehicles had to travel well below the speed limit on the current layout.
The 130 metre-long straight on the new section will “encourage excessive speeds” before forward visibility is reduced to 40 metres, she added.
No-one in support of the application was present at the meeting.
Laura Baisley moved the recommendation to approve, although she admitted she had reservations.
“I’m going to reluctantly support the recommendation, because although I deeply regret the loss of an old tree and the interference with a picturesque piece of environment, the road is dangerous.”
She said she had met another vehicle “head on” when she had gone to inspect the road before today’s meeting, although an accident did not occur.
“I’m supporting the recommendation because, on balance, I think the access for other people on that road will be improved.
“The road will be safer and the conditions placed upon the developer are sufficient, and must be upheld, to ensure any trees lost are replaced with similar or perhaps even better species, so the wooded nature of the area is not destroyed.”
However Iris Hawkins wanted to see the application refused.
She said eight trees, at least, would be removed. She was concerned the future of the remaining trees may be thrown into doubt if their roots are damaged by the construction work.
She added the development was planned for good farming ground, although she conceded it was often difficult in Tingwall to find land that was not suitable for agriculture.
“Because there are trees a lot of people go there to see the birds. It’s a tourist attraction because of that. I have no hesitation in moving we go for refusal.”
However she lost out when it came to the vote.