PLANNING permission for an 80-bedroom student hostel, to be built on a disputed site in the centre of Lerwick, has been granted to Chester-based developer Cityheart.
The site at 66-72 Commercial Road is still occupied by marine engineering firm HNP Engineers which is in the process of moving to a new site at the Lower Staney Hill industrial estate, also in Lerwick.
Meanwhile, Shetland Charitable Trust owned property developer SLAP is continuing with proceedings to have HNP evicted from the site. A first court hearing at Lerwick Sheriff Court has been set for 14 July.
It emerged on Wednesday that planning permission for the L-shaped four-storey building, which Cityheart is building for the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), was granted under delegated authority at the end of last week. Cityheart had lodged the application in early April.
The development means that HNP Engineers is under further pressure to speed up the process of moving to new premises.
Managing director Ian Walterson said the company was very close to signing a contract to purchase a former warehouse at Lower Staney Hill.
The building only came on the market in March this year and was the only suitable premises he could have relocated the business to, he said.
“We don’t see why they need to take any legal action to evict us when we are moving anyway,” Walterson said.
“They are pointing the finger at HNP saying that we are holding up the project. The court action will determine whether that is the case or not. There may be compensation claims and questions of legal fees at the end of it.”
Walterson added that “realistically” it could take until the end of the year for HNP to move to the new premises.
Planning committee chairman Frank Robertson said officers had been able to determine Cityheart’s application without going to committee after Lerwick Community Council as a principal consultee withdrew its objections over the lack of parking spaces.
Robertson said the Cityheart had removed a block of self-catering flats from its original plan and provided 25 parking spaces instead.
There were ten further letters of objection, including one from HNP Engineers, but Robertson said that a controversy over site ownership was not a planning matter.
“This was not underhand at all,” he said, “in fact permission has been granted with some very strict conditions attached such as they must only be used for accommodation for students from Shetland College and the NAFC Marine Centre.”
Shetland News has contacted the UHI and SLAP seeking comment.