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Council / Lanes masterplan to go ahead after vote in council chamber

The Park Lane community garden. Photo: Shetland News

A PROJECT to develop a masterplan for part of the Lerwick Lanes conservation area are to go ahead as first intended after a move to scale back the scope of the project failed to secure the majority support of councillors.

Shetland Central member Moraig Lyall had pushed for the project to focus on replacing housing only, but she lost out in a vote at a meeting of the full Shetland Islands Council on Wednesday.

It came after she won a vote in the policy and resources committee last week.

But her suggestion failed to win the majority backing of the full council on Wednesday, which took the final decision.

It means that a masterplan for the whole area, which includes the old swimming cool carpark, will go ahead as planned. The budget at the moment for the masterplan is £50,000.

The 11-7 vote went in favour of Lerwick North and Bressay councillor Gary Robinson, who said a masterplan could help to improve access in the area and that there was potential for a “well laid out” redevelopment including parking and green space.

He felt the existing car park is “terrible”, especially in winter time, and there was scope to improve it.

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

But there have been strong views from the public regarding the idea of potentially losing car parking space or the Park Lane community garden.

In past years some council homes in the area were demolished due to their deteriorating condition. Some remain, but they are vacant and are earmarked for future development.

The lanes project is in its earliest stage and no decisions have been made as to how the area could be redeveloped, while the community also stands to have a say in the process.

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It forms part of Shetland Islands Council’s next property asset management strategy, for the period through to 2028.

At Wednesday’s meeting, where the asset strategy was approved, Robinson won the day with his desire to stick to the original plan to masterplan the area.

The old swimming pool cark park in Lerwick. Photo: Shetland News

Lyall had argued that the priority for the area should be replacing the houses with modern homes, adding that the SIC already had plenty of projects on its plate.

She suggested there was a widespread view in the community about a continued need for the carpark, while the community garden was appreciated by many.

Lyall felt that the immediate need was to deal with the houses which are no longer fit for purpose.

But Robinson said the area could stand to benefit more from a masterplan taking into account the whole area.

“Not for one minute have I ever said we’d diminish the car park – it’s all about access as far as I’m concerned, how we improve access into the lanes and into those houses when they’re rebuilt,” he said.

SIC development director Neil Grant was also asked for assurances about the car park and community garden remaining.

He told the meeting that an options appraisal for the area would factor in everything – from housing to outdoor space and parking – and as a result he could offer no assurances at this stage.

Grant said community engagement and options appraisal could even result in using some of the site for more parking – “if that was deemed to be a better use”.

Development committee chairman councillor Dennis Leask, who supported Lyall, doubted the speed of progress on replacing the housing if a masterplan was formed.

But Lerwick North and Bressay councillor Stephen Leask backed the masterplan proposal, saying it would give the chance for the public to be involved in giving their say.

But he believed the SIC was in a “damned if we do, damned if we don’t” position on the issue.

Meanwhile depute leader Bryan Peterson said the area had been developed in an “ad hoc way”.

“It’s not a particularly well laid out parking site,” he said, adding that there may be a negative connotation in the community about the word “masterplan”.

Fellow Shetland South member Allison Duncan stressed the need to keep the car park, particularly from a business point of view.

Grant added that the hope was for the masterplan to be completed in the current financial year – something which Dennis Leask felt would be a “record” for the council.

Lerwick North and Bressay member Arwed Wenger said he was also sceptical about the financial year target.

But Robinson said it will “happen as fast as we make it happen”.

Grant also said the redevelopment of the housing is in the council’s strategic housing investment plan for 2025/26.

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