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Minister hints at more housing cash

Scottish housing minister Kevin Stewart at the Stura housing development in Tingwall. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News
Scottish housing minister Kevin Stewart at the Stura housing development in Tingwall. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

SHETLAND could potentially win additional money for social housing if projects are ready to proceed and other local authorities are unable to spend their full allocation within any financial year.

While opening phase one of Hjaltland Housing Association’s Stura development, in Tingwall, on Friday morning, Scottish housing minister Kevin Stewart strongly hinted that more money could well be made available.

The news was welcomed by the association’s new chairman Agnes Tallack, who said the association was that it was ready to spend any additional funds that would be made available.

Tallack was on her first public engagement on Friday after having been elected to the position at Hjaltland’s Housing’s AGM the day before.

Chair of the council's development committee Alastair Cooper (right) lobbying housing minister Kevin Stewart with the aim to extract more funding from the Scottish Government. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

Built by local construction firm E&H Contractors, the Stura development consists of unit 16 social rent units. The Scottish Government contributed £1.6 million to the overall development cost of £2.5 million. Work on a larger phase two of the same project is ongoing.

Stewart said: “What the government had put forward are plans to spend over £3 billion over the course of this parliament, which is being divvied up amongst local authorities.

“And I have said, and the First Minister has reiterated it, that if local authorities cannot spend to these resource planning assumptions, then we will give that to the authorities that can.

“Shetland has been quite successful in spending its resource planning assumptions, other authorities have not been quite so successful, and if there are situations where there is money that remains unspent, and Shetland has the projects that can be delivered, then the likelihood is that they would gain from the monies that are unspent elsewhere.”

Responding to the minister, Tallack said: “Hjaltland hasn’t shied away from continuing to plan because we do realise that there is a great need in Shetland, and you only have to look around at these homes to see why people want them.

Agnes Tallack, the newly elected chair of the Hjaltland Housing Association.

“We do have plans, and as the minister quite right says, we are on target, and if there is more money there I am quite sure that we will be able to spend it.”

The housing association has currently 67 units under construction and hopes to have completed 164 new homes over the next four years.

Some of these are likely to be built at the Staney Hill as part of a 10-year plan to construct as many as 300 new homes in Lerwick.

Phase one of the project, which consists of 36 new units, are currently being discussed with planners. Should consent be given, Hjaltland hopes to be on site next year with a completion date of March 2021.

The minister said: “I am particularly interested in where we are at with the Staney Hill masterplan. I have talked to the council and the association about that previously.

“I am glad to see that that is on track because I think it is one of the major sites for development within the islands.”