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Housing / SIC set to meet with construction industry in the new year

Eight homes have been demolished and are being rebuilt to modern standards by DITT at Sandveien.

THE LOCAL construction industry says it is looking forward to an “open discussion” with Shetland Islands Council (SIC) in the new year.

Speaking on behalf of the industry, DITT managing director Peter Tait said opportunities from forthcoming projects will be a topic on the agenda.

He said the industry also looks forward to engagement with other “major spenders”.

It comes as two major social/affordable housing projects are on the horizon at Staneyhill and the former Anderson High School site in Lerwick, which will be phased in over a number of years.

Speaking at a meeting on Monday, SIC development committee chairman Dennis Leask said it was important to get the industry “on board to solve the problem of housing quality, and building new housing”.

It comes as the local authority is set to buy a three bedroom home from the private market to use as social housing.

The purchase of the £125,000 property would include £83,000 of Scottish Government funding.

The council was unable to give an exact location for the property but finance manager Paul Fraser said the SIC has tended to buy homes for this purpose in the Sandveien area in Lerwick.

He added that given buying properties to add to the housing stock have tended to result in a bill to the SIC of around £30,000 or £40,000, it can look like “good value”.

In this instance the SIC’s contribution is coming from a ring-fenced second homes council tax reserve held for this purpose.

Concern has been raised in the council chamber in the past about the capacity of the local construction industry for building more publicly-funded housing in Shetland, especially for large jobs.

Councillors recently signed off the SIC’s latest strategic housing investment plan (SHIP), which outlines a desire to build more than 230 homes in Shetland over the next five years.

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The majority of these would be through the large Staneyhill and Knab developments.

Tait said the local industry is a “key component to completing the new housing and refurbishments that are planned”.

But he added there “requires a degree of certainty on timings to allow them to commit to the recruitment and training that is required to increase the available workforce, and make the industry an attractive long-term employment proposition for young people”.

Speaking at a meeting of the SIC’s policy and resources committee on Monday, Leask said he had been pressing for the council and construction industry to meet for some time.

He said the meeting has been scheduled for January.

Leask also said he favoured building more new homes rather than the SIC buying properties from the private market.

“We need to start building houses, not buying them out of one section and moving them into another area,” he added.

Meanwhile Lerwick South member John Fraser said he would like to see the SHIP to come in front of the full council or policy and resources committee given the importance of housing in Shetland.

It was approved by the SIC’s development committee last week.

Work on the infrastructure element of Hjaltland Housing Association’s large Staneyhill development, which is set to led to the creation of 300 homes, got underway at the start of the week.

Local firm Garriock Bros was awarded the three-year contract.

The redevelopment of the former Anderson High School site is a council-led project.

Demolition is ongoing at the ex-school, with a planning application for the infrastructure and public realm works under consideration.

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