Sandy McMillan and I do not always agree but the latest instalment of the South Lochside helipad saga sees us on the same side. For a start, the helipad is in the wrong place. As I understand it, the helicopter pilots would always prefer to be well clear of houses, tall buildings, construction cranes or hills on their approach.
The obvious place for the emergency helipad is therefore the site of the former pump-ashore fish farm beyond Pullar’s Loch, along the Sea Road. When the pilots were asked for their views, I’m told it was their first choice.
I raised this at the Community Safety and Resilience Board (the former police and fire committee) and at the Planning Board, but to no avail. The only argument against putting the helipad there (or perhaps in a nearby park at Seafield) was the price of improving the narrow road along the shore.
Officials argued that this would cost a lot of money (the figure of £1m was mentioned, as it usually is when something they don’t want is suggested). They also said the existing road was too narrow and exposed for an ambulance to use it. To that, the obvious reply is “baloney”. If the police had to close the road temporarily for an ambulance to have clear passage, who would complain?
Mr McMillan is quite right to ask why those clever people who, despite these compelling arguments, decided to plant the helipad just across the road from my constituents’ homes, then compounded their error by making it too small. Didn’t they know the pad needed a tarmac area for the emergency crews to push the stretcher trolley from the helicopter to the ambulance, rather than bumping a casualty across the grass? If they didn’t know, why were they hired?
I hope I never have to take an emergency flight with the helicopter but, if I do, I’d rather the landing site had been chosen by professional aviators who know what they’re talking about, than being another botched, bureaucratic compromise.
Councillor Jonathan Wills
Lerwick South Ward.