Council / Plan to trial lower speed limits at south approach to Lerwick put on hold

Sound Brae is one of the areas where the speed limit has been reduced, in this case to 30mph. This photo was taken when it was 40mph. Photo: Shetland News

PLANS to temporarily lower the speed limits on Sound Brae in Lerwick and near to Gulberwick in response to concerns over safety from people cycling and walking in the area have been parked for the time being.

At a meeting of the full Shetland Islands Council on Wednesday a number of elected members were frustrated that the decision to press ahead with lowering the speed limits had been made by officers under delegated authority.

Delegated authority is when officers have the permission to make decisions without it being discussed by councillors.

Chairman of the council’s environment and transport committee Ryan Thomson requested that the report be deferred to obtain more information and data and to allow further consideration of potential similar projects in other areas of Shetland.

A report was due to be presented to councillors asking them to note plans to drop the speed limit at the south exit of Lerwick from 40mph to 30mph before moving to 40mph near the observatory and through the straight road into the north entrance to Gulberwick.


The A970 road from the Gulberwick junction to the Black Gaet junction would have been reduced from 60mph to 50mph.

The report from traffic and road safety engineer Colin Gair said that measures taken now may help to maintain the choices being made regarding active travel as lockdown eases, with reducing speed limits one way of doing this.

Lockdown restrictions have seen an increase in the number of people walking and cycling, including those around the periphery of Lerwick.

One particular issue is the steep uphill sections at Sound Brae and Shurton Brae where cyclists have to slow down significantly, causing a traffic build-up due to limited visibility.

Pedestrians also reported difficulties with fast moving traffic.

Temporary traffic regulation orders (TTRO), such as lowering speed limits, can be made with limited advance notice and have a normal time limit of 18 months.

Become a supporter of Shetland News


“Prior to the end of the TTRO period the roads service will report back to the environment and transport committee on the effectiveness of the speed limits, any changes in travel patterns that are evident and with recommendations on what permanent measures, if any, should be introduced or maintained going forward,” Gair’s report added.

A number of councillors supported the deferral of the report, including convener Malcolm Bell.

“We are saying we should defer it for a future report that contains evidence and looks at it with a Shetland-wide context,” he said after Lerwick member John Fraser sought clarity on why it was being postponed.

“I think it’s really important that members make decisions. I do not like reports that come to members simply for noting.”

Chief executive Maggie Sandison said new coronavirus legislation passed by the Scottish Government mentions the use of temporary traffic regulation orders and how they can be used to support active travel.


“The officers were using the Scottish Government’s recommendation that TTROs be used to sustain active travel,” she said.

Thomson, though, said he was given no foresight of the report and did not know it was going on the meeting’s agenda.

“Is it fair to say you are not particularly happy?” asked Shetland Central member Ian Scott.

“I think that’s fair to say,” Thomson replied.

Lerwick south councillor Peter Campbell, however, said he was “bitterly disappointed” that the report was set to be deferred.

He said his constituents have been keen to see safety measures implemented for some time.

“It’s a very, very sad day if we can’t discuss this as it is proposed,” Campbell said, adding that he would want to see the report come back to members at the next opportunity.


He was echoed by fellow Lerwick South member Cecil Smith, who said constituents are “really frustrated about this”.

While he did accept that decisions should be made by councillors, Smith said he was “really angry”.

Gair told councillors that the Covid-19 restrictions had impacted on roads staff’s ability to collate data on traffic in the area and suggested it would not be possible to bring a report back for the next full council meeting on 10 August.

South mainland member Robbie McGregor – who is the chair of the council’s road safety advisory panel – said he was “really worried this is going to be kicked into the long grass” and made a plea that the issue is dealt with quickly.

Scott said the issue “highlights the dangers of delegated authority” and said there were some issues too important to be dealt with in this way.


Lerwick member Amanda Hawick added: “I suggest…we go back and look at our overall strategic review and how the council conducts its business.”

South mainland councillor George Smith, meanwhile, wanted it noted that the officers themselves “have done absolutely nothing wrong” with their approach.

“They have acted with delegated authority that they have.”

Become a supporter of Shetland News

Shetland News is asking its many readers to consider start paying for their dose of the latest local news delivered straight to their PC, tablet or mobile phone.

Journalism comes at a price and because that price is not being paid in today’s rapidly changing media world, most publishers - national and local - struggle financially despite very healthy audience figures.

Most online publishers have started charging for access to their websites, others have chosen a different route. Shetland News currently has  over 600 supporters  who are all making small voluntary financial contributions. All funds go towards covering our cost and improving the service further.

Your contribution will ensure Shetland News can: -

  • Bring you the headlines as they happen;
  • Stay editorially independent;
  • Give a voice to the community;
  • Grow site traffic further;
  • Research and publish more in-depth news, including more Shetland Lives features.

If you appreciate what we do and feel strongly about impartial local journalism, then please become a supporter of Shetland News by either making a single payment or monthly subscription.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.



Subscribe to a selection of different newsletters from Shetland News, varying from breaking news delivered on the minute, to a weekly round-up of the opinion posts. All delivered straight to your inbox.

Daily Briefing Newsletter Weekly Highlights Newsletter Opinion Newsletter Life in Shetland Newsletter

JavaScript Required

We're sorry, but Shetland News isn't fully functional without JavaScript enabled.
Head over to the help page for instructions on how to enable JavaScript on your browser.

Your Privacy

We use cookies on our site to improve your experience.
By using our service, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.

Browser is out-of-date

Shetland News isn't fully functional with this version of .
Head over to the help page for instructions on updating your browser for more security, improved speed and the best overall experience on this site.

Interested in Notifications?

Get notifications from Shetland News for important and breaking news.
You can unsubscribe at any time.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

We're committed to ensuring everyone has equitable access to impartial, open and quality local journalism that benefits all residents.

By supporting Shetland News, you play a vital role in ensuring we remain a pivotal resource in supporting the community.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.