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Letters / Joined-up policies require joined-up thinking

Your article on Ms Valente’s approach to selling her second home in Lerwick was thought-provoking.

Homeowner keen to sell Lerwick flat at valuation price to give local buyer helping hand


Ms Valente’s recognition of the local housing market’s problems, and her selfless approach to selling her second home, are worthy of praise. She recognises the huge problem for young people in particular in acquiring accommodation, renting or buying in hugely over-heated Lerwick, where some multi-property owners by contrast appear to be ruthlessly exploitative on rents.

The housing elephant in the room is that the mass housing ‘market’ bolstered, if not created by ‘that Thatcher’ (who’s she asks the youngster) doesn’t and has never worked to meet a basic human need/right.

Even I’m getting sick of pointing out the bleeding obvious to the council. Clearly the SIC housing policy is deeply flawed. One can only hope their recent consultation allows for the creativity and significant shift in policy required. Can’t the councillors see it? Maybe they should invest their under-performing pension fund in the local housing ‘market’?

The issues raised also directly relate to your other article on the nature of the (house) construction industry in Shetland. Again, creative solutions are required. Thinking-caps (outside the boxed minds) on!

I ranted, as I do, perhaps less coherently elsewhere about the need for an immediate moratorium on building more houses in Lerwick. Building in Lerwick will only exacerbate the draw from outlying rural areas with the usual economic dis-benefits.

Building smaller housing number developments, hence smaller contracts, in more rural areas, but not in the burgeoning conurbations of Scalloway and Sandwick, may be a solution or improved approach.

Certainly not building in Sandwick until at least the main through road – still dangerously single track – is addressed. (Cllr Smith, Shetland South Ward, should maybe confine his site visits in his native Sandwick, rather than stating the bleeding obvious about the whole extremely and unnecessarily costly, to-date, current Knab project.

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Heads should have rolled for the wasted money to date. Mr Grant would seem to need reigning in. Then again councillors have a very poor track record of exercising political control over some, if not all, of their senior officers, who may need it.

The Knab should become the new, and much needed ‘lungs of Lerwick’ – Shetland’s Eden Project if you will, PolyCrub XXL with, if they must, some, not a lot, low rent, shared accommodation, for single people that will be served by a completely revamped town bus service, to reduce the need for costly car ownership by those least able to afford it use, but also reduce commuting by workers and shoppers alike.

North and South Road park and ride approach might suit town work commuters and shoppers alike. We do have to be forced out of our cars. We are not going to give them up voluntarily.

Seeing a largely empty over-sized bus infrequently circle the town, when two half-sized buses, running clockwise and counter-clockwise, much more frequently, would make ‘the bus’ more practically appealing and resultantly economic. Maybe a voluntary community transport solution, out of council hands, would better deliver people, and for them.

The council seems incapable of taking a sustainable development approach to policymaking i.e., developing place-making through working on housing, transport and economic policy together and in that mix giving the environment very high priority in line with the vacuous local authority climate change emergency policy it adopted three years ago, then took a year to recruit someone to work on the practicalities! I wonder and worry how well they are doing trying to get cross-departmental working.

People can live in Shetland in remoter areas – many do – and work in Lerwick. The blindingly obvious is a complete overhaul of the council’s approach to transport.

A decent commuter transport approach would be a start, where car use is minimised and bus use maximized, to properly meet the needs of commuters.  I, and Covid consequences recognise that many jobs can and should not require a Lerwick base office and commute.

Of course, to have joined-up policies require joined-up thinking and a spirit of openness and transparency, particularly across council departments that seem for some reason to scared or lacking in ability to do so.

Thinking, joined-up or otherwise, often requires challenge. Where is the challenge within the council to what appears over-managerialism, departmental protectionism, bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo and under-thinking of a type and magnitude that only Franz Kafka (writer), Max Weber (sociologist)  and the film maker Terry Gilliam (Brazil & Twelve, or is it 22 monkeys?) and George Orwell’s 1984 Big Brother could capture and explain so well. (Check them all out!)

Anyhow, flooding the Knab or Staney Hill with more houses in a Lerwick creaking as a gigantic over-filled car park is clearly not the answer. I am of course making the assumption that the SIC and Hjaltland Housing Association actually talk to each other?  That Shetland needs two public house providers in and of itself screams a ridiculous waste of, and un-joined up-ness on housing, where one seems to perform very poorly ( SIC) and the other very well (Hjaltland).

Maybe the council should hand over all its housing to Hjaltland and we may get the better thinking and behavioural modification so much needed – never mind service delivery (housing repairs) and neighbourhood improvements (Greenfield Place/Square & Water Lane) so obviously needed.

When are the prospective councillors for next year’s election manifestos out? Scrutiny required.

James J Paton
Sooth-End Residents Association
c/o 14 Water Lane

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