Council / Council says church’s planning appeal should be dismissed

The science building at the old Anderson High School. Photo: Shetland News

SHETLAND Islands Council says a planning appeal launched by a church after being denied consent for turning an ex-school building into a place of worship should be dismissed.

The local authority has now responded to New Life Shetland’s appeal, saying the reason for the decision taken by councillors on the planning committee last year was “valid” in the determination process.

The building at the centre of the appeal is the former science block at the old Anderson High School in Lerwick, which New Life Shetland wishes to turn into its new premises.

Whilst the church has the approval for the asset transfer of the building, councillors expressed concern about the level of detail around traffic management and parking and turned down the planning application against the recommendation of officers. 

There was also concern about the prospect of construction traffic moving around the wider ex-school site during its redevelopment whilst the church building is in operation.


The prospect of counselling taking place in the repurposed New Life building also drew some fierce opposition from local equality campaigners, but that issue has no relevance in planning consideration.

The planning refusal was appealed and taken to the Scottish Government.

New Life pastor John Rollo said in an appeal statement that council roads officers were “satisfied, after careful work with the appellants, that the parking and travel proposals put forward in support of the application were satisfactory and met their requirements”.

The old science block forms part of the wider ex-school site which is due to be redeveloped in phases over the coming years.

In its formal response to the planning appeal, the council highlighted that elected members are entitled to take a decision against the advice and recommendation of planning officers.

“In this respect, when representing the interests of their electorate councillors can take a wider viewpoint, and apply their knowledge: of the site, the proposed use and its wider ramifications, in contrast to the more technical view taken by relevant council officers,” it said.

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“The reason for the decision taken at planning committee is therefore valid in the planning application determination process. 

“In this particular case, councillors attached a different weight to the relevant planning matters before them to that applied by planning officers in their considerations.”

The planning appeal statement also said it was “critical” that each element of the site is “fully assessed in the context of the desired comprehensive and coordinated redevelopment of the site”.

It continued: “In this instance, the view of planning committee members is that the proposal to bring the former science block back into full time use has not fully considered how the parking requirements plus wider traffic movements will interact with future construction traffic across the wider site throughout what may be a considerable construction period.


“As a result, there is potential for conflict in terms of road safety and health and safety within the site if the change of use of the former science block is given planning permission at this time.”

The report from officers to the planning committee last year said temporary parking would be required to begin with if the church building was to open prior to more permanent parking being in place.

The planning appeal statement concluded: “As matters currently stand, the extant planning application for the temporary car park has not been granted planning permission and the wider infrastructure application has not yet been submitted for formal consideration.

“Therefore, granting planning permission for the change of use of the former science block brings planning risk because one or both parking/infrastructure applications may be refused.”


An objection from a member of the public living near the building has also been submitted to the Scottish Government’s planning appeals department.

Christine Horrix wrote there is a “strong feeling within the local community about how the traffic and subsequent on road parking would disrupt the lives of local residents”.

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