A proposal by the Whalsay community for the council to re-develop and expand the harbour at a cost of up to £40 million has been turned down by the development committee.
The request followed an approach by an “external operator” interested in basing a seafood processing plant in Whalsay. But this depended on the harbour being developed, which would cost between £20 and £40 million.
Councillors unanimously refused the proposal as being unaffordable, as it would take more than 20 years to recoup the investment, mainly through landing fees. However, they agreed that any development using the existing infrastructure would be welcome.
The report, written by development director Neil Grant, said the venture would not fit into the council’s corporate plan. As well as being high cost, it would also be high risk as it would be relying on one enterprise. It could also take business from other existing processing plants.
Committee chairman Alastair Cooper said he thought the report was rather “stark”, although he agreed the council could not afford £20 million for a new harbour. He recommended a “halfway house” which would encourage anyone who wanted to develop a project within the existing infrastructure.
Billy Fox said work on the harbour was a “no-goer” and the council should not support it. But, he said, if a development could “stand on its own two feet” with the existing infrastructure it should go ahead.
Andrea Manson said the fishing industry was of “colossal” importance to Shetland and if someone wanted to invest “we canna slam the doors without more information”.
Mr Grant will now write back to the interested parties explaining the council’s position.
Councillors agreed that any development would strengthen the case for a tunnel to Whalsay, but this is being considered separately in consultation with the Scottish government.