Plans for an Italian restaurant between Voe and Brae have failed to impress the council’s planners, but local businessman Henry MacColl is still hoping his dream venture will come off.
Mr MacColl, whose mother is Italian, wanted to build a 24-seat restaurant opposite his home at Parkgate, overlooking Olnafirth.
The restaurant was to be called Enrico’s Cucina di Napoli, after his mother’s hometown, and he planned to have a special clay pizza oven installed and import ingredients direct from Italy. His plan also included ancillary buildings and a car park.
But planning officials were not in favour, saying the location, midway between Brae and Voe, was not part of an existing settlement. In addition, it was not accessible except by car and would therefore contribute to climate change.
Planners said these factors made it contrary to the local development plan for the area, which became council policy after public consultation.
According to local policies, any new development should be “sustainable and accessible” and encouraged “within existing settlements” that have “basic services and infrastructure”. This would “maintain the vitality and vibrancy of that settlement… and the development [would be] more sustainably located to existing services, bus routes, etc.”
As the location is one and a half miles from Voe, and access would be by vehicle, planners said the proposal was “not sustainably located”, and against council policy of “sustainable development”.
Eateries should ideally be accessible by walking or cycling, as well as by car, making for “good placemaking”.
Additionally, planners said the development would not maintain or enhance the character of the area.
However, Mr MacColl, who runs Isometric Engineering at Sella Ness, refuted all these points. He said that many other eateries, including the Braewick Cafe in Eshaness, Busta House and the burger van by the Voe toilets, were also only accessible by car and were not part of existing settlements.
He said: “This policy is contrary to many restaurants. Who walks to any restaurant, or gets dressed up and goes on a bike?”
He also objected to the planners’ statement that the development would “neither maintain nor respect the existing character of the area”. The local plan states that “any new development should make a positive contribution to maintaining the identity and character of an area and ensure ease of movement and access for all.”
Mr MacColl said: “There is plenty of access and parking and excellent views.” His plan would incorporate parking for the proposed eatery, situated on a loop road, formerly the main road, in a raised hillside location commanding wide views.
Planning official John Holden said the application was still in the process of consideration. He said: “The applicant has been made aware of the concerns and we are in the process of receiving comments.
“It is against the local development plan which is council policy, and we have to act in accordance with the plan. It’s now open to the applicant to say why the policy should be departed from.”
Mr MacColl, whose middle name is Francesco, loves cooking and the idea of catering for the public came from his twin daughters, Francesca and Chiara. He said: “I’ve been making pizza for years and the restaurant would be all-Italian, we would make our own pasta and my daughters would cook pastries, it would all be handmade.
“It would be romantic dining, something we don’t have here.”
His plan would incorporate a specialist igloo-shaped pizza oven to cook 12 pizzas in a minute and a half at high temperatures, the heat coming from above and below to ensure a crispy base. Certain ingredients such as cheese, prosciutto and spiced sausage would be imported, but other food would be local.
If his vision of a terracotta-tiled restaurant took off, he said, he would start a delivery service in the local area, and eventually employ six or more people.
He added: “Why is everything in Lerwick, why shouldn’t there be something in the country?”
The restaurant venture has had 660 likes on Facebook in three days, and Mr MacColl is going to press on with his application, hoping for a much support as possible. He has spoken to MSP Tavish Scott and local councillor Alastair Cooper, who he said were in “full support”, and has a lot of local backing.
Brae resident Aimee Manson said: “I think it’s a wonderful idea. It’s just amazing and morale-boosting for the community. It’s encouraging that we wouldn’t have to go to Lerwick. We don’t live in an inner city and we have to rely on our own transport, like we do when Chinese nights are held at local halls.
“It [the proposed restaurant] would be different and authentic, not the British version of what Italian food should be like, and it wouldn’t be encroaching on any other business.”
Voe resident John Taylor said: “I’m all for it. It’s a good idea and another variety of food, and if it’s authentic, brilliant. If I want to go for a meal anywhere I have to go by car.”
Council officials expect to make a decision on the planning application after Friday 4th December, the advertised deadline for written comments.