Tuesday, 15 December 2015


Shetland highway

It must be one of the most unusual planning decisions ever made. A local Shetlander of Italian heritage wanted to build a pizzeria on his home site between Voe and Brae. It was reportedly planned to be a small restaurant seating only 24 people, complete with adequate associated parking and the required supporting facilities. The proposal was rejected. The article noted that the Shetland Islands Council said that the development was not a part of any settlement, standing alone between Voe and Brae. This seemed true, but Shetland has no clustering of tight, self-contained villages. The other reason for rejection of the scheme was that one had to drive to the site, thereby increasing emissions and contributing to climate change.

Shetland is a place for recreational walkers who usually start by driving to a location

Car ferry, Gutcher, Shetland

How many folk walk to the Brae Hotel?

This appeared to be a very strange reason to dismiss any proposal, especially in Shetland where one needs a car to get almost anywhere. Council itself facilitates vehicular movement between islands by providing a ferry service that adds to emissions; and it requests parking spaces in other developments. Why should Council suddenly be concerned about so few vehicles having to travel to get a pizza when the whole of Shetland relies on motor vehicles? Is Council planning to demolish all isolated croft houses because one can only drive to them? Do not buses take children to school? Is Council concerned about the thousands of workers at the new gas terminal at Sullom Voe being bused around Shetland every day? One has to scream out "Humbug!"

Buses take the gas terminal workers all over Shetland every day, for every shift.

The car park at Tesco, Lerwick

Consider the Tesco supermarket on the southern side of Lerwick. Sure, it is a part of a large town, but most folk still have to drive to get there. A large car parking area allows for this access. Is Council concerned? It seems not. Does Council limit vehicular access to other food outlets in town by forbidding those out of town access to these restrauants if they have to drive to them? The ruling looks farcical. Is there another unstated reason for Council not wanting this development? One can only guess.

The new hotel on the edge of Brae.
How many walk to this large development?

How many people walk to the Mareel?

Town planners, it seems, can get away with almost anything. The profession wields an authority superior to most others. Yet, in spite of the world having more town planners than ever before, towns and cities are not getting any better. The proposition is that the town planning profession needs to be abolished, or substantially reformed. Planners seem to concentrate on selected, preferred facts while frequently ignoring matters relevant, rich, subtle and complex. Cities and towns will continue to deteriorate while such issues are ignored. Where might one start? Perhaps architects might be able to assist? Something has to happen to stop what looks like the irrational stupidity that is seen time and time again in planning decisions, not just in Shetland, but across the globe.

The fish and chip cafe at Brae.
Is anyone in Shetland allowed to drive to this restaurant?

Shetland settlements, designed for cars?

If the Shetland Islands Council, like so many other authorities around the world, really is so concerned about the impact of climate change, then it needs to start on a much broader scale and scope, and with more coherent strategies than seemingly randomly rejecting the construction of a small pizzeria. Planning has to be better than this.

3 March 2016
More on the saga of the rejected pizzeria near Brae, Shetland.

Carbon-ara or pizza? (Henry MacColl)
Shetland Times

Henry MacColl is hopeful his plans to establish an Italian restaurant will still go ahead.

As the date for the review of my refused planning application for a pizzeria at Parkgate approaches (15th March), I find myself trying to make sense of the policies that have conspired to create this situation.
In my mind it seemed what I was asking permission to do was a relatively simple thing, born of a rather sociable idea. To build an authentic
Italian pizzeria where people could enjoy traditional food in a warm family atmosphere. People think they know Italian food but few have sampled the genuine experience and celebration.
Little did I realise that the plans I made, sat around the kitchen table with my family, would flounder on an inexplicable, one-sided and biased series of policies.
Maybe it is a collective guilt of a local authority and government that has based an economic strategy primarily and almost entirely on carbon producing and polluting industries.
No-one in the local authority batted an eyelid about the effects of constructing or operating the new gas plant at Sullom Voe, yet building a six-table restaurant midway between Brae and Voe is an environmental issue.
It seems as if our council has become very generic, controlled by a government and bureaucrats only able to conceive of policies that have less and less relevance the further north one travels from the central belt of Scotland.
One cannot help but feel the policies that have led to this situation belong somewhere else and have very little to do with the people and place that they purport to serve.
All I can really hope is that the committee that will ultimately decide the fate of my application has the ability and courage to listen to the people they represent.
It seems that we live in a world where people tend to only ever pass comment when they have something negative to say, so I am genuinely touched and grateful to the 57 people who took the time and trouble to write to the planning department in support of the application, the 2,500 people who have made positive comments on social media and the 600+ signatories of an online petition.
I really do thank all the people who have been supportive and encouraging. Here is hoping for a positive outcome.

Henry Francesco MacColl

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