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Housing / Discussions needed with developers of future projects over accommodation pressures, meeting hears

A house model on top of a paper and keys.

THE COUNCIL should seek early talks with developers behind future large projects in Shetland about providing their own accommodation for visiting workers to ease pressure on the private rental market, its development director has suggested.

Neil Grant told a meeting of Shetland Islands Council’s development committee on Wednesday that the visiting workforce associated with the construction of the nearly-completed Viking Energy wind farm and also the Shetland Gas Plant impacted the market and pushed prices up.

He said this then had a knock-on effect for people looking for a house to rent in Shetland.

With more large projects on the horizon, such as reworking the Sullom Voe Terminal site and renewable and new energy developments, Grant said he advocated speaking to companies in advance about accommodation needs – including them providing their own.

He said with Viking and also the gas plant construction in the 2010s the council took a position where the “market essentially sorted itself out”.

But Grant suggested the council should now “take a slightly stronger position” on the matter.

On the horizon is new infrastructure at Sullom Voe Terminal in addition to potential hydrogen production and carbon capture facilities on site.

Norwegian energy company Statkraft also has consent for three wind farms which are expected to be constructed in the coming years – two in Yell and one on the outskirts of Lerwick.

The firm, plus partners, is also the preferred bidder for using the former council owned Scatsta Airport site for future energy production.

Grant said future large projects “are still a couple of years away”.

“But I think there are discussions that need to go on with these big developers about them not pressurising the local private let market and them providing their own accommodation for that workforce coming in for the construction,” he added.

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The Sella Ness accommodation camp – which has temporary planning permission in place until 2026 – has been utilised for visiting workers in recent years, but the private rental market has been used too.

During the large-scale construction of the Shetland Gas Plant in the 2010s floating accommodation barges were also taken to the isles to house workers.

These included the Bibby Stockholm, which was brought in by the UK Government earlier this year to accommodate asylum seekers.

There was the prospect of a barge being used for some of the Viking Energy wind farm workers but those plans were dropped because space was available at the Sella Ness camp.

At its peak hundreds of visiting workers were in Shetland on the wind farm project.

The Viking Energy project, as well as the construction of the subsea transmission link which will allow the wind farm to export power, is winding down ahead of both going live next year.

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