Shetland’s depute convener Cecil Smith today expressed sympathy with residents of Lerwick’s South Lochside who are protesting against the emergency helipad being re-located opposite their homes.
The emergency landing site will have to be shifted from its site behind Clickimin Leisure Complex if the new Anderson High School is built on the nearby campsite.
The proposed new landing pad would be squeezed in between two football pitches on a green belt area, meaning that matches would have to be halted in the event of a landing. The football fraternity is against the proposal, and residents say the noise from helicopter landings any time day or night would be unbearable.
Landings seem to have increased recently – there were five last weekend (see story in today’s Shetland Times).
Residents are also worried about fumes from aviation fuel, and possible damage to their homes, which could go down in value. They want other areas in the town considered, and say there are many other suitable sites within a mile of the Gilbert Bain Hospital.
The proposal, for a 10-metre emergency helicopter landing site with a new access road from South Lochside and turning head for ambulances is now with the council’s planning department. The proposal would involve moving the football pitches by a few metres.
This morning South Lochside residents put their concerns to Mr Smith, who is councillor for the area.
Having listened to the concerns, Mr Smith said: “I sympathise with the residents. We need to look at other areas [for landing sites] and I have given a commitment I’ll make a start on discussing it with senior managers and officials.” This could be as early as this afternoon, he added.
Resident Gail McMillan called the proposal “absolutely scandalous”, and pointed out that a lot of tourists walk in the area. Fellow resident Philomena Leask said: “It’s absolutely ludicrous. There’s nothing wrong with where it [the helicopter landing pad] is at the moment, although it’s extremely loud, but to put it in the middle of pitches is shocking.”
All the residents agreed they thought Shetland Coastguard, the main user of the helipad, did a “marvellous job”, but they did not want the landing pad moved nearer their properties, where there are many pensioner and disabled households.
Helicopter landings, even at the existing site, have already caused problems because of the down draught, they say. Resident Drewie Hawick says his trailer has been blown across the road, a caravan was moved and yoals were damaged on the day of the baton relay. And last weekend a football training session had to be stopped because of the draught.
Resident Sandy McMillan said he was pleased that the campaign against the re-location was making progress. He has circulated a petition to keep the landing site where it is – this would involve moving the proposed AHS back to an originally proposed spot behind Bruce Crescent.
The online petition has 170 signatures, and the paper version 40.