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Council / Gate on ex-church wall given retrospective planning consent – but will need to be smaller

Photo from the Shetland Islands Council planning system.

AN ACCESS gate on the wall of a former church building in Yell was the subject of deliberation from Shetland Islands Council’s planning committee this morning (Wednesday).

Councillors went with the recommendation to approve the retrospective consent, but added in a condition to change the height of the gate.

The gate has already been installed on the stone wall of the C-listed St John’s Kirk, and retrospective planning consent was sought for the creation of an opening and installation of the metal gate.

The church hall building has been turned into a home, and the gate is viewed as an access to the property.

At Wednesday’s planning committee Lerwick councillor Arwed Wenger said the representations from the podium from an objecting neighbour and the applicant was more about the “relationship between two neighbours” – and he called for focus on the matter at hand.

The application for listed building consent went in front of elected members on the committee because Yell Community Council had objected.

The kirk dates from 1832 and is now in private ownership. Wednesday’s meeting heard from planning that parts of the boundary wall was in poor condition.

The SIC had already granted permission for the construction of a freestanding shed/garage and a turning/parking area under delegated authority.

The meeting heard that the application for a garage did not go in front of councillors because there was no formal objection.

However, Yell Community Council objected to the gate plans, stating that it felt it was not in keeping with the character of the former church and church hall.

They added: “The wall is included as part of the listing of the buildings and should be retained in its entirety.

“The alleged poor condition of part of the wall should not be used to justify its removal and replacement with a gate.”

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The community council also said the gate has been installed on a section of wall which adjoins private land, and suggested there is “no right of access” over the adjoining land to allow access to the site.

However, SIC planners recommended that the application be approved, saying it leaves the “vast majority” of the boundary wall retaining its original appearance.

They added: “It is considered that the design and appearance of the gate is an appropriate response to both the character and appearance of the drystone wall and the wider site context.

“Overall it is considered that the development will not result in any major detrimental impact on the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building.

“The benefits of facilitating the ongoing viable use of the building will outweigh the minor negative impact resulting from the loss of a small section of the wall.”

Wednesday’s meeting also heard from a neighbour of the adjoining property, who said his family had an agreement with the landowner over the last 50 years to park vehicles in the space between his home and the church site – but this was now lost.

Kyle Jenkins also claimed that the area has been turned into a “vehicle dumping ground” and suggested there was a lack of parking space at the front of the building as a result.

The neighbour claimed that the number of vehicles now sitting outside the former church had resulted in an ambulance being unable to access a nearby house in an emergency, while bin lorries also have difficulties, he said.

But the applicant Louis Price alleged at the podium that his neighbour’s representation was a “complete pack of lies” based on “spite and jealousy” – which led committee chair Robbie McGregor reminding him not to make personal remarks.

Price added that he had engaged Yell Community Council on his plans, and had a site visit from one of its members, while he said he is seeking to improve the condition of the church property, including the wall.

He added that his deeds state he has access to the back of the church hall.

“I’m not asking for anything other than to have access,” the applicant told councillors.

“I wasn’t aware that I would not be able to put a gate in there as I had access for the rear of my property.”

Councillors noted that much of what was said from the podium was not directly related to the gate itself.

After some discussion and guidance, members ultimately backed North Isles councillor Robert Thomson’s motion to approve the application but with a condition that the gate be made smaller in height.

He said the gate as it stands is not in keeping with the surroundings, particularly as it is higher than the wall.

Thomson also welcomed that the gate is expected to be painted a dark green colour.

He said reducing the height and adding this colour would “reduce the visual effect of what’s taken place, and enhance the visual amenity of the building”.

The North Isles councillor also suggested that the gate at the moment is more suited to a croft as it is agricultural in style.

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