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Community / Eight projects to vie for town centre funding

What a redeveloped old Scalloway youth centre could look like. Image via SIC

EIGHT projects in Lerwick and Scalloway have been put forward for a slice of Scottish Government funding to improve town centres – but some councillors say other areas of Shetland could have done with the money too.

With an estimated total cost of £348,000, the shortlist will have to be whittled down as Shetland’s funding amounts to only £205,000.

South mainland councillor George Smith, however, suggested other large settlements in Shetland like Brae and Sandwick could have merited receiving some of the funding too.

Councillors agreed at a meeting of Shetland Islands Council’s policy and resources committee and Tuesday that chief executive Maggie Sandison, or her nominee, will be delegated to allocate the money.

Three of the eight projects have already been presented publicly by Living Lerwick. They are an art and culture trial (£60,000), an Explore Lerwick app (£58,000) and footfall and vehicle access monitoring (£15,000).

Another proposal for Lerwick is for pedestrian facilities at Church Road to provide a safe route for walkers, which would cost £35,000 and has been devised by the council.

This would result in a new pedestrian footway and wheelchair friendly route, with the aim of emphasising that vehicles are entering a pedestrian priority area.

The other four mooted projects all stem from the ongoing Recreate Scalloway project, which aims to gather the public’s thoughts on how the village could be developed.

Included is the redevelopment of the old youth centre building, which would cost £110,000, and civic space improvements in the centre of Scalloway like parking and access, repositioning street furniture and creating street art. That has an estimated cost of £40,000.

Tourism infrastructure improvements is also mooted at a cost of £25,000, such as new signage, maps and orientation boards, while improvements to Fraser Park is the final proposal, with a cost of £5,000.

Consideration was given to an upgrade of the CCTV system in Lerwick, but this has been removed from the projects list as it would be “very difficult to achieve the timescales involved”.

The funding from the government is part of a wider national £50 million fund distributed to Scotland’s 32 local authorities in the hope of making town centres more attractive.

It is to be used for capital projects only, and the council is required to submit a a final statement of completed expenditure by September 2020.

Development director Neil Grant said the criteria for being a ‘town’ in this instance was that the population had to be at least 1,000.

Smith said some other areas of Shetland may feel unfairly left out.

“I think it’s really good for Lerwick and Scalloway, but there may well be other communities like Brae and Sandwick that potentially have a thousand people in their community,” he said.

“It would have been really good if this money is going to be distributed this way, that it might have been spread a bit further than just Lerwick and Scalloway.”

Shetland Central councillor Ian Scott remarked that his hometown of Scalloway had originally thought the fund would just be for the “toonies” in Lerwick.

North Isles member Ryan Thomson, meanwhile, said Shetland’s outlying islands could have also done with support.

He also described the “last minute” nature of the fund as “erratic”.

North mainland councillor Emma Macdonald suggested some of the £50 million could have been better used if it was sent Shetland’s way to cover the deficit in running inter-island ferries.

Lerwick member Stephen Leask, meanwhile, said the project was another example of ring-fencing funding – and an attempt by the Scottish Government to “make themselves look good”.