Council / Planning consent turned down for new Lerwick home over traffic concern

The proposed development would be behind the church, which is located on the left of the road in this picture. Photo © Stuart Taylor (cc-by-sa/2.0)

PLANS to build a new house in Lerwick have been rejected by councillors who felt concerns over parking and traffic in the area had not been fully addressed.

An application for a small single storey, two-bedroom house on land behind the Congregational Church at Clairmont Place was discussed at a meeting of Shetland Islands Council’s planning committee on Wednesday.

A spokesperson for applicant agent Née Gibson Architects said they were “disappointed” by the decision and added initial work suggested there would have been “compliant parking provision” in the area under SIC roads criteria for a conservation area.

The applicant, who currently resides at a house next to the site, was keen to provide additional accommodation which could be used for their family, with possible rental in the future.

Access would be for pedestrians only through an existing path, and the house would be largely hidden from public view.


The timber clad development – only just located inside the Lerwick Lanes conservation area – already has planning permission in principle, and in the previous application the council’s roads department accepted the idea of a dwelling there and that parking would be outside of the boundaries of the site.

But people who live in the area expressed concern to planners over the extra demand it could bring to parking in the area, such as Ronald Street and Rechabite Place.

Lerwick Community Council had also objected on similar grounds, which meant the application went in front of the planning committee for determination. The planning service itself recommended approval with conditions.

Wednesday’s planning meeting heard that no traffic survey had been carried out because of the development is located in the lanes conservation area.

Guidance is that lower or nil parking provision may be appropriate in this area if there is good access to alternative forms for transport and existing public parking facilities.

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But planning officer Dawn Stewart also said the council’s roads department said there is likely to be sufficient parking capacity in surrounding streets.

Two local residents spoke up at Wednesday’s meeting against the proposal, primarily citing the impact on parking.

Gary Williamson, who said the development would be parallel to his house, told the committee he had lived in the area for more than 50 years, and added that the issue is getting worse.

“You do not appreciate the problem until you live there,” he told councillors.

Williamson added that the idea of craning large items into the site was “fantasy land”.

He also felt the development would result in a “tragic and irrevocable loss of amenity” in Lerwick.

Meanwhile Muriel Fox gave statistics of the number of parking spaces available nearby at 9pm on Tuesday night.


She said there were only eight available car parking spaces across Church Road, Queen’s Place and Rechabite Place, with more than 60 vehicles parked.

Fox said there were ten vehicles parked on double yellow lines or on pavements.

Agent Mark Dennis of Née Gibson Architects explained that the applicant and their family was building a new home in Whalsay, but the Lerwick development was planned for use when they were on the Shetland mainland.

It could also be used for family, and potentially for renters in the future.

Dennis said the team behind the application had liaised with the council and other bodies over concerns, and that construction management and traffic plans were previously agreed during the previous planning in principle process.

He highlighted how the plans would bring additional accommodation to Lerwick at a time when there is limited availability.

Dennis also said the site was similar to some of the Lerwick lanes, which have seen construction difficulties overcome.


He said it is felt the development meets all planning policies and has considered all comments raised.

Committee chairman Davie Sandison said councillors were in a “tricky situation” regarding the fact that the development previously had planning in principle.

But he said he believed that “what we have here is policy that doesn’t then reflect the reality of how people live their lives”.

Sandison said policy may desire that people do not rely on cars and vehicles so much, but this is not borne out in practise.

He added that he is supportive of new housing, but felt concerns of residents had not been addressed.

Shetland Central member Catherine Hughson said it was “totally unbelievable that traffic would not be taken into any kind of consideration in this kind of development”.

She said she tries to avoid Ronald Street due to congestion, and was worried it would only stand to get worse.


Hughson also described the proposed construction phase as “absolute nonsense”.

“Are we going to see folk carrying great piles of bricks and that along the front of the congregational church to get it to the site?”

West representative Mark Robinson said he was not convinced residents’ concerns had been “fully discharged”, adding it was likely the development would bring more car usage to the area.

Ultimately it was Hughson who moved the application be refused, citing traffic management and health and safety concerns.

Meanwhile planning content was given at Wednesday’s meeting to a proposal to create three flats in the former Havly Cafe in Lerwick, including through removing a garage.

It only went in front of the committee as a member of the planning department had interests in the development.


SIC convener Andrea Manson said the person in question was the owner of the site.

She said it was a “fantastic development” and was happy to go with the recommendation to approve.

Speaking in response to the decision regarding the Clairmont Place development, a spokesperson for Née Gibson Architects said: “We are obviously disappointed with today’s decision of the Local Review Committee, given the planning department had granted planning in principle in 2021, and recommended approval for the full application. 

“We do appreciate the parking challenges raised at the meeting, and that they are inherent to town centre living, however a parking survey was not requested due to being in a conservation area.

“Ironically, should a survey been required, our initial work showed there was likely to be compliant parking provision within five minutes walking distance of the site, per SIC roads department’s criteria for the conservation area.

“It was also very interesting to observe the swift and positive outcome of the hearing immediately after, in which a proposal to add three flats while removing a garage, arguably places more pressure on parking within the same conservation area.”

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