By RYAN TAYLOR
A COMPLEX web of ongoing planning issues are behind a lengthy delay in getting CCTV cameras in Lerwick’s town centre.
A network of 13 cameras, costing £200,000 in total, were to have been installed in the town by the beginning of the summer.
The SIC’s planning board agreed in January the cameras should run from the foot of Harbour Street along to Faerdie Maet.
Despite infrastructure work currently taking place for the cameras’ installation, they are now not expected to appear before the middle of next January – a year after approval was first granted by councillors.
The council’s community safety officer, Jenny Wylie, said a number of issues have to be resolved before the cameras can be put into action.
Because many of the shops and businesses where the cameras will be hung are classed as listed buildings, the SIC is having to run its plans by Historic Scotland, which has caused some of the delay.
Efforts are being made to ensure the brackets used to attach the cameras to the buildings blend in well enough with their surroundings.
Negotiations have also been required between planning officials, capital projects officials and the police before a single camera can be put in place.
Because three of the cameras will be hung from street lights, the roads department has also been involved in the talks.
“We’re putting CCTV in a conservation area, so it’s a matter of working together to keep everybody happy,” said Ms Wylie.
“It has been a more complex project than first envisaged. Because we’re dealing with different agencies and different departments there have got to be more negotiations to make sure everybody’s views are taken into account.”
Her comments were supported by service manager for SIC development management, John Holden.
He said while the cameras were given approval by the planning board the question of how to mount them from historic buildings had been overlooked.
“There is planning permission for these cameras but what wasn’t properly considered before submission or at approval was the means of attachments for what are – in most cases – listed buildings,” he said.
“There is a need to do this in a sensitive way to have a minimum impact on the integrity of the building.”
The delay has frustrated police and business leaders on the street, who say the cameras could have already helped to combat crime if they had only been set up in time.
Area commander for the isles, chief inspector Malcolm Bell, said the cameras had already been delivered and were being held in storage until the planning problems could be sorted out.
“The equipment has been delivered and we’ll be proceeding to have it installed as soon as possible, but I’d be reluctant to put a timescale on it because we’ve had so many setbacks.
“We’re currently progressing through the final stages of planning issues to do with listed building consents – and that’s to do with brackets and furniture used to attach the cameras to some of the buildings.”
Chairman of Lerwick Town Centre Association and owner of the Smiths of Lerwick shop in Commercial Street, Laurence Smith, said the cameras could already have proved their worth.
“We had a repetitive problem this summer with flower beds outside Harry’s. We were growing them for the first time, but they were completely pushed over on three occasions, after us trying to rectify it each time.
“It went on to the point where we gave up and they became litter bins. It would be great to have cameras up. This summer there certainly seemed to be problems that would have justified having them.”
Calls for a network of CCTV cameras in Lerwick’s town centre have been going on for years.
They gained special momentum in 2003 when police launched an attempted murder investigation following a vicious street attack on North Nesting man Malcolm Symington.
He had to be flown to Aberdeen by air ambulance for treatment.
Five years later, and despite interviewing over 100 people, police have still not charged anyone in connection with the assault.
Since then, crime on the street has been pretty minor in comparison, prompting some to question whether the £200,000 fee for CCTV provider Scot Shield is really a worthwhile investment.
Ms Wylie, a former police special constable, was quick to jump to their defence, adding they were “absolutely crucial” in helping to combat crime.
“It’s like what previous police chief Andy Cowie said, and Malcolm Bell has mirrored this, that CCTV is like anything – it’s a tool in the box. One of the many things that can make people feel safer, and I think that’s important.”
- At least some work has gone underway to get the cameras installed. The SIC’s roads department has been digging up the pavement outside Faerdie Meat for a number of weeks.
Head of roads Ian Halcrow said the work was being done not just to carry out repairs to the surface, but also to allow electricity supplies for some of the CCTV cameras once they are installed.