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Community / Another business on the market in Scalloway but plan provides source of positivity

Scalloway Meat Company's shop and butchery. Photo: Peter Johnson/Shetland News

A DEVELOPMENT plan created for Scalloway could act as an incentive for anyone considering buying into the village, according to representatives in the area, as a third prominent business has been put up for sale.

The Scalloway Meat Company – which runs the shop and butchery on Main Street – has now gone on the market for personal reasons unrelated to the impact of Covid-19.

In March a total of 17 jobs were lost when the Scalloway Hotel – with all its accolades – shut as the company which operated it went into administration, with the property up for sale for offers in the region of £775,000.

The Scalloway Hotel remains closed. Photo: Peter Johnson/Shetland News

The building was placed on the market back in 2019 but no buyers had been found.

Da Kiln Bar has also been on the market for some time, owing to personal reasons.

Each one is on the market for different reasons, rather than an overall trend, but Scalloway Community Council member Mark Burgess described having three significant businesses on the market at the same time as “unsettling”.

It comes, however, in the midst of a project launched in 2018 with government funding which was designed to bring minds together on how the village could be developed, under the name Re-Create Scalloway.

There is a feeling that having the Re-Create plan in place could give encouragement to anyone looking to take on either of the three businesses up for sale.

People came together through workshops and surveys to have their say on what improvements they felt could be made in Scalloway, with the redevelopment of the former youth centre and changes to the waterfront among the priorities mooted.

The Scalloway Community Development Company, meanwhile, has also proposed a caravan and camp site at Asta in the Tingwall valley.

Plans for a housing development of more than 30 homes at Upper Scalloway, which caused concern among surrounding residents over issues like access, has also been approved.

The 2011 census showed that Scalloway had a population of 1,479, but it has grown since then, with new houses built at East Voe.

Figures from September noted that there were 140 pupils in primary school in Scalloway, while nursery provision in the village remains popular. At the NAFC Marine Centre a total of 1,315 students were enrolled in 2018/19.

Mark Burgess.

The village’s port and harbour remains busy, with a newly built fish market double the size of its predecessor and able to take in more landings.

Community council member Burgess, who has been involved in the Re-Create project since its inception, said the scheme “created a genuine sense of interest and purpose in the future of the village”.

“It provided a focus and direction for the community, and for the various public and private interests that operate here,” he said.

Burgess said the circumstances of all the businesses in the area are unique to themselves, but “Re-Create Scalloway sits as an incentive for anyone buying into the village, as a place that has looked to the future and will welcome positive change”.

“To have three such significant businesses for sale at the same time is unsettling but each is for its own very distinct reasons,” the community councillor said.

“The aftermath of the pandemic is not going to help with any change for them but that uncertainty is a national and global problem that we all face.  The changes in how people regard local services during the pandemic may continue into the aftermath and that may help any change or start-up in an otherwise highly challenging time.

“The core base of industry remains the same in Scalloway and that provides a welcome element of stability from which to grow or change direction.”

He said three projects underway – the demolition of the old youth centre, the information boards and improvements to the civic square area at the waterfront – are “real evidence” of the value of Re-Create Scalloway.

“The improvement of public areas and removal of a significant derelict property may be a welcome bit of news for everybody,” Burgess said.

“Much of the focus of Re-Create Scalloway targeted outdoor areas and they may well be all the more important in the aftermath pandemic.”

Scalloway resident and SIC councillor Davie Sandison, who chairs the local community development company, also believed there was positivity in the village despite the closure of the hotel.

Davie Sandison. Photo: Peter Johnson/Shetland News

He said the newly built fish market, which was handed over to owners Shetland Islands Council in February, is “a massive, massive opportunity for Scalloway”.

“Clearly the hotel situation was really, really unwelcome,” Sandison added.

“I think I described it myself on social media as a tragedy, not just for Scalloway, but for Shetland. I do believe that, because it’s such a good going operation that tried its hardest in the face of lots of different challenges.”

Sandison said even before the Covid-19 situation struck earlier in the year, there was a “definite downturn in the economic fortunes in Shetland”.

He believes, however, there is “more to play” with the issue of succession of business in Scalloway rather than a general downturn.

“I think Scalloway – as witnessed by the Re-Create process – is really quite vibrant,” Sandison said.

“There’s quite a lot of commitment, and strength in the community in terms of being keen to see things develop. I think it was a pretty exemplary process actually and it threw up a lot of good ideas.

“I think the fact that we’ve got the plan for Scalloway actually is almost a commendation to business, a place to come to.

“If I was a businessman looking to try and establish something in Scalloway or try to take over an existing business like the hotel or the shop, I would think it was a damn good opportunity. You’ve got a strong community with a plan.”

The councillor, meanwhile, said an emphasis on public amenities and outdoor spaces resulting stemming from the Re-Create process could fit snugly into a post-lockdown society.

“I believe passionately that we need to think more about our social interaction being more outdoor than indoor, even if that is just for the short term,” Sandison said.

“I still believe that having good public amenities and spaces that you can gather in outdoor or under cover, is the only way we can maybe come back in the short term.

“The Re-Create Scalloway thing identified public space projects mostly as what was higher on folks’ priority lists. So in terms where we go next and project funding, I expect we’re not alone, and lots of other communities are going to have a focus on outdoor social interaction and amenity. I think public funds and other funds will drift in that direction.”