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Community / Harrison Square seating area and improvements to Tesco roundabout crossing on the cards

Challenges around time and human resources, however, has meant that ZetTrans will use £80,000 less than anticipated from the Spaces for People fund

The proposed seating area at Harrison Square. Image via Shetland Islands Council.

A SEATING area could be coming to Harrison Square in Lerwick as part of a project to encourage people to “walk, cycle and wheel” more in Shetland.

The ‘parklets’ could include wooden seating, with some sheltered areas alongside plants.

Local transport partnership ZetTrans is also looking to improve the crossing at the South Lochside roundabout near Tesco which should result in more protected space and shorter crossing distances for pedestrians.

It also plans to buy three AI monitoring cameras which will be able to study active travel during planned trial speed limits at Sound Brae in Lerwick and Tresta.

ZetTrans successfully secured £200,000 from the Scottish Government’s Spaces for People fund for the projects, but members of the partnership heard on Wednesday that due to time and human resource challenges the overall budget has been reduced to £120,000.

This is on the condition that 90 per cent of the projects are on the ground by end of March, with some flexibility allowed for delivery times to Shetland.

Shetland is said to have seen an increase in active travel – such as walking and cycling – during the pandemic.

Further public engagement on the projects and monitoring will be undertaken to evaluate impact.

Transport policy and projects officer Robina Barton said there is a hope that the Harrison Square initiative could provide a boost to local catering businesses through people being encouraged to sit and eat outside.

She said this project has been developed in conjunction with Living Lerwick.

The reduction in funding which will actually be used was raised in questioning by Shetland Central member Davie Sandison.

Barton conceded that the short-term nature of the fund meant that some other mooted projects – such as developing a “low traffic neighbourhood” in Lerwick – was not possible, due in part to the level of consultation required.

“It was quite challenging to find anything that could be done on a short-term basis,” she said.

Barton did acknowledge that it has ended up being quite “Lerwick-centric”, but she reiterated that the timeframe for the funding – which requires all money to be spent by 22 May – meant that projects were limited.

Sandison also asked if the £80,000 which will not be received could be clawed back, but the meeting heard that it would not be able to come through the same fund.

ZetTrans lead officer Michael Craigie did give a reassurance, however, that other funding will be sought in the future with regards to the recently approval Shetland active travel strategy.

“We will be quite aggressive in pursuing funding and getting as much as we can into Shetland,” he said.

During debate Sandison issued a warning about applying for funding when the resources may not be in place for the work to be undertaken in the required time limits.

He added that there seems to be a “bureaucratic approach” to these types of processes, saying that the resources of ZetTrans and primary funder Shetland Islands Council need to be aligned.