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Community / Housing and transport on the agenda at government’s latest islands forum

Attendees of the latest islands forum. Photo: UK Government

THE LEADER of Shetland Islands Council (SIC) has welcomed a funding commitment from the UK Government worth £1.6 million towards a project which will look at identifying options to improve transport in island areas.

The announcement came as the government held its latest Islands Forum this week in Anglesey.

SIC leader Emma Macdonald said the forum was a “great opportunity” to engage again with government.

“I took the opportunity to highlight the importance of the island connectivity and the councils aspirations for tunnels for some of our crossings,” she said.

“On this note we welcomed the announcement by the secretary of state on the £1.6 million that has been committed for an island forum connectivity project.

“This will help support and complement the work we are undertaking to evidence the need for investment in infrastructure.”

The government will create the first UK-wide evidence-base on island transport connectivity, providing islands with “new data and insights to improve capacity and capability”.

The project will also provide better evidence to support future investment decisions to drive innovation and levelling-up to meet shared priorities, the government said.

It comes as Shetland Islands Council undertakes its own study on the needs of its own inter-island transport network, with tunnels due to be considered.

Meanwhile the main discussion topic at the latest islands forum was housing.

Macdonald described it as “hugely important” to all island areas, particularly around increased construction costs.

“The impact the lack of available housing has on our islands’ ability to accommodate the workforce we need to continue to grow our economy is one we are all very aware of,” she said.

“We discussed the need to reduce the increased costs  associated with building on an island and the challenges of capacity.

“We spoke about the event that was held recently and how important working with industry is to deliver the solutions.

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“Obviously housing can’t be the solution in insolation; transport and connectivity are all linked to ensuring we have good thriving communities so these formed part of the conversations.”

The councillor stressed though while the challenges that islands face are often similar, the solutions need to be different.

“There was a recognition that we will need flexibility in order to deliver our own solutions,” Macdonald said.

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