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Traffic concerns over housing plans

An image taken of part of the plans from Shetland Islands Council's planning website last year.

CONCERNS have been raised by staff at Scalloway’s health centre and primary school – as well as local residents – that the access route to a proposed large housing development nearby would add too much pressure to an already “extremely busy” section of road.

A planning application was submitted recently by developers E&H Building Contractors for 32 houses at Utnabrake for Hjaltland Housing Association – but there are concerns in the community over the development’s proposed access.

A single entry and exit access point is planned to join onto an existing road and there are worries this could increase congestion and pose a safety hazard for pedestrians near the junction at the top of Mill Brae.

E&H director Bobby Elphinstone said the company has been aware of the concerns since a public meeting in Scalloway earlier this year, adding that he thinks “we have addressed the concerns as best we can” through the process.

Current plans state that access into the housing site itself would be through the existing road which leads towards to Upper Scalloway, which would be widened with a footpath included.

The boundaries of where the proposed housing development could be located.

The Mill Brae junction leads to Upper Scalloway, Scalloway Primary School, Scalloway Health Centre and the Scalloway Preschool nursery, and health centre practice manager Joan Hughson said in a letter to planners that traffic there is already “extremely busy”.

Letters have also been submitted by staff of the primary school and its parent council, Scalloway Preschool and residents of Upper Scalloway.

Hughson said the “addition of the proposed 70 cars passing will add greater pressure” to an area which also sees children regularly cross the road.

In a joint letter signed by 13 households, Upper Scalloway residents believe the “proposed access is simply an opportunistic attempt by the developer to avoid the cost of having to provide an appropriate access”.

“The savings made by the developer through this proposed access will be entirely to the detriment of local residents, businesses, services and the wider community of Scalloway”, they added.

They are also concerns over activity during the construction phase, but the developers have submitted a new separate planning application to use an existing access track, leading from the B9074 public road at Utnabrake House, as a temporary haulage road during the construction phase to remove any excess excavated material which cannot be reused on site.

“Should that alternative be acceptable, that would mean that almost all the construction traffic during the course of the development would go to the north and wouldn’t come through or congest the existing access off the Mill Brae,” Elphinstone said.

The construction director said in relation to concerns over the busy nature of the Mill Brae junction that “having discussed the issues raised with the relevant consultees, and the roads department, we think that those [concerns] have been mitigated”.

Scalloway primary school headteacher Morag Fox wrote to planners that “we feel our users and local residents’ safety may be compromised” by the increase in traffic.

She added that should there be further development towards Berry, “the access road and junction simply won’t be adequate”.

Scalloway Preschool manager Olga Inkster echoed the concerns and concluded that “should the council and the developer work together financially and otherwise to develop an alternative route in the area, this could create a potential for further housing and community developments as well as alleviating the above mentioned risks”.

The housing would start at the north side of houses at Upper Scalloway, pictured here. Photo: Shetland News

Local residents also say the “realignment of the junction opposite the entrance to the health centre will be difficult for large vehicles to negotiate, creating congestion at a point in the road that is particularly busy at peak times with both pedestrians and vehicles”.

They said the private road to Upper Scalloway has an “accident history” in the winter due to its steepness, with locals worried that alterations may need to be carried out at the bottom of the road which could make stopping cars even more difficult.

Concerns have also been expressed over the planned blasting of rock to prepare the site for development, with the some properties at Upper Scalloway said to be less than ten metres away from the proposed site.

E&H said it will seek “minimise and reduce any vibration and disturbance potentially generated by the pre-splitting operations to acceptable levels for local residents whilst enabling effective, efficient extraction and processing of the limestone”.

Scalloway Community Council did not raise any objections to the housing plans, but it commented that it had concerns over traffic density, while it suggested there should be no construction traffic movements during school opening/closing times.

It added that “as there is blasting of rock proposed, adequate monitoring must take place to ensure the structural integrity of the existing properties”.

The new owners of nearby Berry Farm, meanwhile, have written to planners to state that the existing track leading west up to Berry Road – which is popular with walkers – will “never be used as an access road for traffic”.

Elphinstone said that “everybody is entitled to have their concerns and raise their objections, and we will try and deal with them accordingly during the process”.