A HOUSING development near Upper Scalloway featuring over 30 new homes has been given the green light from planners – despite strong concerns from residents and staff from a range of organisations including the local school and health centre.
Concerns were stressed, from Upper Scalloway residents to the NHS, Disability Shetland and nursery Hame Fae Hame, over the proposed traffic access in what was described as an already “extremely busy” area.
A number of the worries centred around the suitability of the access route and the road safety of people using the school, health centre and preschool facilities in the area.
A point of contention was that although roads would be upgraded, vehicles would access the development via existing infrastructure rather than through its own, purpose-built route.
Concerns were also raised over the Upper Scalloway road being dangerous in the winter due to its steep incline, with residents “terrified” at the prospect of a pedestrian crossing and two lanes of traffic being introduced at the foot of the road.
Locals also expressed worry over the impact of blasting rock for the development near to the existing housing.
A planning application was submitted last year by developers E&H Building Contractors for 32 social houses at Utnabrake for Hjaltland Housing Association.
The development, located between existing housing at Upper Scalloway and Utnabrake to the north, would be a mix of semi-detached houses and flats, both one and two storeys high.
A single entry and exit access point is planned to join onto an existing road, but there were worries this could increase congestion and pose a safety hazard for pedestrians near the junction at the top of Mill Brae.
The existing 3.8 metre wide public road access which is currently being used by existing houses at Upper Scalloway will be upgraded to a finished width of 5.5 metres, along with a 1.5 metre wide footpath.
There is also set to be new bellmouth access opposite the health centre.
The size of the proposed footpath, as well as gradients, drew concern from Disability Shetland.
“The scheme as proposed could render an independent person to become dependent on others for their mobility and access to services to the lack of quality infrastructure and accessible walking routes,” team leader Stephanie Bain said.
A stream of representations were submitted against the plans over the last year in a process which is understood to have been draining for local residents.
In one final letter to the planning service in July, around 20 residents of Upper Scalloway said that they had “endured nine months of stress and uncertainty as a direct result of the shambolic nature of this planning proposal”.
They claimed that they still did not have answers to “many of our questions”.
“We are more convinced now than at any point that the residential development should and must be served by its own appropriately design access and reject the suggestion that alternatives cannot be explored,” they wrote.
“Safety must not be sacrificed to make saving on providing suitable infrastructure for a residential development that is ultimately funded using public money. “
The project is a design and build scheme by E&H, but the houses are ultimately destined for Hjaltland Housing Association (HHA).
HHA chief executive Bryan Leask said the organisation was “delighted” to see the development receive consent, but as it was not involved in the application, it could not comment on any of the details.
He added that HHA continues to be interested in developing new homes for the community in Scalloway, which has the second highest demand for housing in Shetland after Lerwick.
E&H managing director Bobby Elphinstone said: “It has taken much longer than we had hoped or expected to go through the planning process, but we hope that the approval will now allow us to proceed with the construction of 32 badly needed social houses which will go some way in helping to reduce the SIC and Hjaltland’s large waiting list of families who have Scalloway as their preferred location to live.”
The council’s planning department said in response to concerns over traffic volume that “while the proposed development could be expected to generate a 36 per cent increase in daily traffic volumes the overall combined level of movements is under 1,000 vehicles per day, which is well within the capacity of the road infrastructure”.
Referring to the width of the footpath, it added: “While not a small development by Shetland standards, it will not generate significant pedestrian demands.
“Any peak demands will tend to be tidal given that the development is all residential. This minimises the degree of meeting conflict between pedestrians and other users of the footway.”
In its conclusion, the planning department wrote: “The layout and design of the houses is of a good standard.
“The site can be satisfactorily serviced in terms of access, parking, foul drainage provision and surface water disposal. The natural heritage is protected and there is provision for enhancement of biodiversity.”
The land is located in the same area where a much larger scheme of affordable housing, private dwellings and an industrial estate was previously proposed by developer JHB Ltd in 2009 before being turned down by planners.