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Council / Family house build set to go ahead after planning conditions removed on appeal

A LOCAL couple have successfully overturned conditions attached to their planning permission for a family house in Whiteness after their appeal gained the support of councillors.

Lisa and Gavin Emslie had their case heard by Shetland Islands Council’s planning committee on Monday – and the decision means they can press ahead with their “forever home”.

They were previously given planning permission for the four bedroom home north of Hjoglen in Whiteness, overlooking the Loch of Strom.

But the Emslies appealed suspensive conditions around traffic safety and visibility imposed by the planning service following representation from the roads department  – saying they were barriers to development.

In an emotional statement to the committee, Lisa Emslie said the “goalposts had changed” during the planning process.

The conditions imposed required an alternative access be created to meet current visibility standards, and the existing single-track access off the A971 to be removed.

With concerns over land ownership for a new junction and the cost of creating a new access – estimated to be around £20,000 – the applicants felt the conditions were unfair.

The original hope was for the access from the A971 to the property to be the existing junction opposite the turn-off to South Whiteness.

There have been no reports of accidents at the junction, the meeting heard.

It emerged during the planning process that the council would widen the existing access – but that work might be more than five years away due to other jobs taking priority.

The applicants, however, were keen to press ahead with using the existing access point in the meantime and proceed with the house.

Lisa Emslie said “safety is of utmost importance to us” but stressed that “five years is a long time to put our life plans on hold”.

She said the couple wanted to build a long-term home for their family and wished for their daughter to grow up in the area.

“It would mean absolutely everything,” Emslie said, while she also referred to the “housing crisis” currently affecting young islanders.

The couple also secured the support of Westside members Catherine Hughson and Theo Smith as they prepared their appeal.

The two councillors wrote to the planning service to say that it was “concerning that a condition can be imposed on the applicants which is virtually impossible to comply with” – and they urged the committee to accept the appeal.

Lerwick councillor Cecil Smith moved that the appeal was approved – saying: “I think as a council we probably need to step back a little bit and think how we can help people”.

Fellow town councillor Malcolm Bell was among those supporting Smith, feeling that the issue came down to whether the conditions were reasonable.

He said there was precedent set by the committee from previous applications involving new builds and old junctions.

“I think the junction is adequate at the moment,” Bell added.

Shetland Central member Davie Sandison also said he was “fairly appalled” by the conditions being imposed without all other options being considered.