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Council / Councillor keen to see lanes redevelopment proposal scaled back

The Park Lane community garden. Photo: Shetland News

A COUNCILLOR gained support in the chamber earlier today (Monday) for her idea to scale back proposals for possible development in the lanes area of Lerwick.

Shetland Central member Moraig Lyall said in her view that when it comes to future development the local authority should only explore replacing the ageing SIC housing in the area on a “like for like basis”.

Whilst she won a vote on the matter at the council’s policy and resources committee, no decisions have yet been made because the topic will get another airing at a meeting of the full council next week.

Lyall argued some of the other areas earmarked for potential development, such as the old swimming pool car park, should be left as they are.

The council has already gone out to tender for a masterplan on the site, which includes part-vacant sites in the Pitt and Park lanes and is located within a conservation area.

But there have been strong views from the public regarding the idea of potentially losing car parking space or the Park Lane community garden, after these were first reported by Shetland News here.

In recent years some council homes in the area had to be demolished due to their deteriorating condition.

Some remain on Pitt Lane, but they are already earmarked for future development.

Shetland Central councillor Moraig Lyall. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

The masterplan project is in its earliest stage and no decisions have been made, while the community also stands to have a say in the process.

But Lyall – who said she was “surprised” to see the masterplan news in the media last week – felt that creating a masterplan for the entire site would be a “waste of money” at a time when the SIC is trying to make savings.

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Earlier in the meeting SIC assets, commissioning and procurement manager Robert Sinclair said he felt that there was “huge development potential” in the area and said looking at Pitt Lane in isolation could be “short-sighted”.

Lyall’s comments came as the policy and resources committee discussed a draft property asset management strategy.

The strategy includes the proposal to look at development between Hill Lane and Park Lane.

Lerwick councillor Gary Robinson said he felt an overarching masterplan for the site was the way to go, saying that the area had suffered from “piecemeal development” over the last few decades.

He pushed for the wording in the strategy to remain the same.

SIC depute leader Gary Robinson. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

When it went to a vote, Lyall’s motion to change the wording in the strategy to purely refer to redevelopment on housing land won 7-4.

However, the strategy still needs to go in front of the full council next week for final approval.

It will come, however, with a recommendation from the policy and resources committee regarding Lyall’s proposed change of wording.

She said that since her time on the council she had not heard anyone say the whole area needed changed.

Lyall added her view that the open nature of the area was a benefit to the town, “allowing it to breathe”.

She continued by saying that if someone does not raise their concerns about something at the earliest opportunity, “then it becomes council policy and you’re too late to change anything”.

She said that is why she was voicing her views – adding that there are “plenty” of plans for future housing development within Lerwick as it is.

But Robinson said the area in question would benefit from a wider examination, saying there are “arguably improvements which could be made for the benefit of everybody” across the whole site.

He said there was a “real risk” around trying to develop Pitt Lane again without taking account of the main vehicle access – the car park.

Robinson said he felt the old swimming pool car park could be improved – “for parking, and also for access down there”.

“I think it’s not fair to say that area has been properly planned or developed,” he said.

Robinson also said in wintry conditions the bottom of the car park can be difficult.

The SIC depute leader also noted that the car park could be excluded from development at a later stage – “but at the moment I think we keep our options open”.

Mention of a “mini masterplan for the Pitt and Park Lane area” featured back in the council’s 2022 update of its strategic housing investment plan.

It added: “This follows an earlier commitment to demolish flats and redevelop the area. Given the significance of the Lerwick Lanes conservation area this is seen to be the most effective way to take this forward.”

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