The Scottish government has overturned a Shetland Islands Council decision to reject the extension of temporary planning permission for the Sella Ness accommodation camp.
In May of last year the camp owner’s Malthus Uniteam had its request to extend the 426-bedroom facility’s planning permission turned down.
But on Monday the SIC was overruled by a member of the Scottish government’s planning and environmental appeals division.
In applying for an extension Malthus had argued that the camp – erected in 2010 to house workers involved in the construction of the Shetland Gas Plant – was crucial to meet medium and long-term demand for worker accommodation from “existing and future renewable and construction projects such as the Viking Energy scheme”.
The application proved controversial and led concerned hoteliers to form Shetland North Accommodation Providers (Snap) to oppose the application.
Councillors rejected the application in May amid concerns the projected demand was “speculative and to date unproven”. Additionally, it was felt that the application ran contrary to parts of the local authority’s development plan.
In August Malthus Uniteam indicated their intention to appeal the decision, with head of the firm’s British operations Ian Jamieson saying that the planning policy issues had been “comprehensively addressed”.
Karen Heywood, the reporter who reviewed the decision, issued her decision today (Monday).
She wrote: “I conclude that the reason for refusal is not complete or precise and that the council has not supported its reason for refusal or shown that it has reasonable planning grounds for its decision. This amounts to unreasonable behaviour on the part of the council.”
Joe Rocks, on behalf of Snap, said: “Snap are extremely concerned about the reporter’s decision to allow the Sella Ness temporary camp to remain open until 2026 based on the hope of future large-scale construction projects.
“In the meantime the 426 bedrooms at Sella Ness will continue to have a devastating impact on Snap.
“We are baffled as to why the reporter has chosen to overturn the local decision when the evidence highlights that Sella Ness is not required. Indeed the Sella Ness presentation to the reporter indicated even lower levels of occupancy than first reported.
“Additionally, it would appear that large scale construction projects aren’t on the horizon anytime soon given the windfarm projects being unsuccessful in the UK Government’s Contract for Difference programme.
“Even on technical planning regulations, there are compelling reasons why Sella Ness shouldn’t have been granted an extension. However, we have no right of appeal and we all have to live with the consequences of this decision.”