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Council / Change of use consent needed to turn historic lodberry into home

The waterfront Lodberry which used to house the Lerwick Sea Scouts.

PLANS to transform a historic waterfront lodberry in Lerwick into a home may have another hoop to jump through after it was confirmed that planning permission would be needed to change the use of the building to a house.

Aidan and Tracey Mills, who live in Canada, are keen to turn the former Lerwick Sea Scouts base on Commercial Street – which was built around 1817 – into a home.

Their agent Malcolmson Architects argued that a formal change of use planning application may not be required, saying that a legal title deed already noted the B-listed Copland Lodberry as a dwelling.

It also said that the definition of a lodberry is a “type of 18th-century house in Lerwick built with its foundations in the sea, and combining pier, courtyard, store and dwelling-house”.

“Whilst the building’s most recent tenants were the Lerwick Sea Scouts, there have been no applications for any changes of use and there have been no substantial changes to the built form and layout of the building,” the architects said in a submission to Shetland Islands Council.

An application for a change of use from a lodberry to a dwelling had previously been submitted but it had been put on hold while clarification was sought if consent was actually required.

The building, which has its own pier slipway, has run into a dilapidated state and the applicants believe turning it into a home would rejuvenate the historic property and potentially stop it from deteriorating beyond repair.

Council planners this week, however, ruled that the proposed use of the lodberry as a house would be unlawful without the granting of change of use planning permission.

They said that the lodberry, which is owned by Shetland Islands Council, had been leased to the sea scouts from the 1970s to 2016.

The planning service added that the valuation roll assesses the building as a clubroom.

They argued that while the applicant asserted no applications for a change of use had previously been made, “the test of this lawfulness of the proposed use however is not whether an application for change of use has ever been made, but whether a change of use has occurred”.

“It is not in dispute that the property has been used as a meeting place for the Lerwick Sea Scouts for a long period of time,” planners added.

“As a result of this: the land has been put to use for a purpose that is considered falls under class 10 non-residential institutions; and a material change of use has occurred from class 9 houses…and has existed for a period longer than 10 years.

“Class 10 is considered to be the current use. Within this class there is no permitted change to any other class allowed. For the original use of the land as a house to be reinstated therefore, planning permission will be required.”

The plans already had a hurdle to overcome, however, with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) previously objecting in principle to a change of use from lodberry to dwelling over the “risk of coastal flooding”.

A risk assessment from engineers Arch Henderson showed that the building has been susceptible to flooding in the past.

“With tide levels predicted to rise, so will the risk and frequency of flooding,” Arch Henderson’s Karl Tait said.

General Election - 12 December 2019