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Council / Councillors pick their preferred option as Lerwick Lanes project moves step forward

A visualisation of option two. Image: 7N

COUNCILLORS have shown their support for a proposal for the Lerwick Lanes area which includes a “compromise” of housing, parking and garden space.

Out of the three options presented to members of Shetland Islands Council’s development committee on Wednesday, the one which gained most support included the highest potential reduction in car parking on site – from the current 144 spaces to 123.

But the preferred option – estimated to cost more than £2.5 million – was the only one which would preserve part of the existing community garden, and offered the most opportunity for housing development.

It also includes the potential to create housing at the top of the existing old swimming pool car park by extending Gladstone Terrace.

People can read more about the options in these documents.

A visualisation of option two. Image: 7N

Wednesday’s decision to take ‘option two’ forward is not a final decision on what happens on the site, which is located within a conservation area.

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Instead, it means that an “implementation report” will now be produced on the option.

Whatever happens, however, the existing council flats on the site – which have been used for temporary accommodation – will be demolished, likely to be next year.

The area in question includes the old swimming pool car park, part of Pitt Lane and the space currently occupied by the Park Lane community garden.

A primary factor in the decision to explore options for the area is the SIC’s housing along Pitt Lane, which is ageing.

A masterplan for the site was produced by Edinburgh based 7N Architects, with community engagement part of the process.

Three options were presented to a meeting of the development committee on Wednesday, and councillors were not given any recommendations from officers.

The one taken forward could result in eight to 15 housing units, according to indicative estimates – the most of all three options – and involve a “land swap” to allow the creation of up to three plots at Gladstone Terrace.

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Nearly 330 square metres of the community garden could remain out of the current 504 square metres.

Option one would have seen only four parking spaces lost, but with the potential for five to ten houses.

It would have also seen the community garden, which only has temporary planning permission and is on SIC housing land, removed.

Option three would have resulted in around seven to 13 housing units, with just two parking spaces removed, but the garden would have been lost.

Lerwick North and Bressay councillor Gary Robinson moved that the committee takes option two forward.

The SIC depute leader said he acknowledged concerns from the community about parking, and also the number of spaces associated with new housing in the area, but said any decision would be a “compromise”.

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Robinson said there was an opportunity to do things better on the site than the current arrangements, and added that there was a “dire need for housing in Shetland” with demand likely to be ongoing in the long term.

Image: 7N

Meanwhile Shetland West councillor Liz Peterson advocated demolishing the existing properties and then not developing it further – saying there is plenty of housing coming in Lerwick through the Staney Hill and Knab projects.

She added that the parking on the site is important for people coming into Lerwick from outside the town.

But development director Grant said demolishing the existing properties and doing nothing after would in effect leave an area of gravel in the centre of town in an area that could be developed.

Lerwick North and Bressay councillor Stephen Leask said he felt the status quo would be “letting down the Lerwick community incredibly badly” and added his view that housing would bring in more income to the SIC than it ever will from parking.

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Meanwhile Grant said the SIC is “very aware” of the thoughts of the community and said the consultation was done for a purpose.

He also said he felt the Lerwick Lanes redevelopment would be placed high up the SIC’s priority list – something which did not sit right with North Isles councillor Ryan Thomson.

He felt the council resources could be better placed elsewhere and referred to the ferry service to the North Isles, which has faced disruption.

Thomson also claimed that there was an “apparent disregard” of the community feedback on the lanes project.

However neither Peterson or Thomson tried to push forward any decision not to develop the area.

Shetland Central member Davie Sandison also asked if the SIC was left in a “quandary” given that housing did not seem to be high up on the list of priorities for the community during the consultation.

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Housing manager Anita Jamieson suggested that some people perhaps envisaged the existing housing being replaced like for like, and said the type of build or tenure of new properties has yet to be decided.

She suggested there may need to be some “imagination” involved in the future housing provision.

But Jamieson said it was “disappointing that people didn’t see housing as more of a priority than other things”.

The meeting was told that there would be future community engagement on the project.

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