Letter / Depopulation not an issue

Having taken great interest over the last two days with the live updates around closures of Northmavine’s schools (Live: Full Council debates Northmavine schools; SN, 05/11/14), I am shocked by some of the councillors in position of power in Shetland.

Firstly, well done to Andrea and Alastair for leading the drive for common sense to prevail.

The outcry stating that those in favour of keeping rural schools open are “cowards” and are “unwilling to make the big decisions” is a completely detached view from that of the particular case in front of them.

What an unwitting view two of Shetland’s main councillors have on one of its most fragile communities in North Roe!

“It is depopulation which leads to consultation on closures, not the other way round,” Vaila Wishart said, and the head of the council, Gary Robinson, stating North Roe had “gone beyond the point of no return”.

Twin that with some of the comments from Jonathan Wills and ‘Da Flea’, I can see exactly why the SIC will continue to be dysfunctional and make the wrong decisions.

It’s this gung-ho approach from councillors like Mr Wills and ‘Da Flea’ that alienates communities from the council in the first place.

I’m happy to see councillors defending their parish, as these are the very people who voted them in, and will again in 2017.

I’d like to ask Mrs Wishart and Mr Robinson what exactly has the council done in the past 20 year to stop North Roe going past this perceived “point of no return”?

Depopulation isn’t an issue in North Roe, far from it, anyone who had done proper research could see that North Roe is in fact a stable community with very little fluctuations in population, but is deprived of any chance to grow by lack of support from the council.

Families/couples/people move to North Roe and stay there. The low numbers projected for the school isn’t caused by a mass exodus of families with school aged children, far from it.

It’s caused by a lack of housing available for new families; while places like Lerwick will continue grow with the support of the council.

I’d expect that the occupancy of council owned houses there show a far greater turnover than that in North Roe.

Tell me, how often would you apply for a job that didn’t exist?

Unfortunately, most members of the council will never see past the three lanes to realise that even 5 per cent of the reported 400 houses being planned for Lerwick would allow an area like North Roe to thrive.

It’s about time that the council acted in the interest of North Roe and other communities like it. I’m glad to see councillors A Cooper and A Manson are able to see the underlying issues.

It is impossible to grow without investment; it’s no surprise to the local community that the two privately built houses had no issues being rented out.

Now the decision has been made for keeping the school open, this should be the start of a plan to regenerate North Roe, and not a five year wait before putting the area through the whole process once again.

On the council’s website it gives a list of applicants in each area. In North Roe there is a demand for 100 per cent of available houses, with the waiting list equalling the housing stock.

Yet in Lerwick, the waiting list is 66 per cent of the housing stock. So which area is in higher demand of housing?

Lee Goodlad
Blackburn, Aberdeenshire

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