In the canteen, cafe, pub, mobile phone in a bus queue, the majority of overheard conversations are about sex, football, politics, religion, Sunday teas and school closures, but after this a regular and repeated theme is planning.
The Scottish planning guidelines, the draconian Shetland interpretation on them, and the now ridiculous Local Plan are all totally unfit for the intended purpose and create unnecessary complexity, costs and delays.
I cannot understand why Shetland building firms and the general public do not rise up in revolt and just refuse to comply with all the rubbish that comes out of the SIC’s planning department and the headless chickens in the town hall who propagate it all.
Everyone I know who has tried to build something is confronted by an absolute barrier of unnecessary regulations that make affordable housing in Shetland impossible.
So on the basis of criticism that without suggestions to simplify things is unhelpful, here are a few to start with:
• Get rid of the ridiculous requirement to build a ski slope up to the door just in case you might need a wheelchair in the future! Why? Because if I need a wheelchair I would either move to a more suitable house or sort it myself just as I have to replace a rotten roof, window or door.
• Ditto wide doors and corridors in new houses as it should be up to me if I am paying for the house I want.
The regulatory requirements now for over insulation, air tightness etc. are creating unhealthy sweat boxes that may have good SAP ratings but a year or two down the road when the ventilation system is full of bugs, you need only one bairn with a cold or virus and the whole family comes down with it as the air quality is so unhealthy.
There are countless examples of this unnecessary planning fascism but the best one is the limit on planning fees charged to big developers like Petrofac, Total, Scottish Hydro, which bear no relation to the costs incurred by the planning department.
The little folk trying to build a porch, put up a shed, erect a sign advertising their location or trying to build an affordable dwelling are subsidising the multinational and corporate giants.
If I want to build a house out of tyres, straw bales and a felly roof, away from the road or out of view (it can be done cheaply) then it’s my business and planning should have no say in it.
There are old croft houses out there a million miles away from any of the current planning nonsense which will be standing long after the modern plastic, polystyrene, chipboard, hermetically sealed vacuum rubbish houses rot away.
Planning, like all public services, should reflect the needs of ordinary folk. We don’t need independence as much as we need a burning of regulations and quangos.