21st April 2019
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‘Put brakes on airport motorsport proposal’

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Councillors will this week be urged not to allow motor sport events to take place at Tingwall Airport.

The environment and transport committee will consider a report on Wednesday recommending the council stops short of freeing up the airstrip for “non-aviation use”.

Key among concerns is the air ambulance, which can land at Tingwall at all times – even outwith normal operating hours when proposed motor sport events could be taking place.

Figures due to go before councillors show a total of 53 landings were made at Tingwall by the air ambulance last year. Of those 26 were outside normal operating hours.

Maggie Sandison said they could look at having to "skill up" existing staff.

Maggie Sandison said they could look at having to “skill up” existing staff.

The report says the staging of motor sport events could hasten the deterioration of the airstrip.

It adds that the last quotation for relaying the runway – received several years ago – indicated a cost of £150,000.

“Increasing usage of the runway would shorten the current lifespan,” the report by infrastructure director Maggie Sandison states.

“Roads engineers have inspected the runway and indicate the surface is showing signs of wear. They advise it would definitely be detrimental to the surface if motor racing was allowed on this surface.”

Other concerns focus on “tyre deposits” and rubber on the runway after the events.

The report also raises concerns highlighted in a risk assessment report about the nearby “large store” of aviation fuel, and the arrangements required to manage spectators and participants.

The Shetland Motorsport Club has submitted a four-page response to the risk assessment.

It states: “Any use of the airstrip introduces hazard but the risk of this can be controlled well within acceptable limits.

“Power take-offs are what we are carrying out. However, no wheel-spinning will be permitted on the runway. Hard braking and cornering is not required on a straight, long stretch of track as the final line is well within the airstrip’s length. The braking of any vehicle will be far less severe than an Islander aircraft.”

The item follows a previous report seeking permission to hire out airports in council ownership.

However, Mrs Sandison has highlighted “inaccuracies” in the terms and conditions attached to that report, which “substantially change” the consideration about putting in place arrangements for such events.

The report states: “Firstly the terms and conditions indicated that Tingwall Airport will not be operating as a licensed aerodrome at the time of any motorsport event. This is incorrect. Tingwall Airport is a CAA-licensed aerodrome. It will remain a licensed aerodrome even when a motor sport event is occurring.

“The proposed events would occur outside the published opening times. When Tingwall Airport is closed, it remains a licensed aerodrome. Tingwall Airport accepts movements outside its normal operating hours, most particularly from the air ambulance.”

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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