By RYAN TAYLOR
PLANS for a major new housing development in Sandwick were given the green light by councillors this week, despite grave warnings from objectors that a decision to build would amount to “irresponsible planning”.
Members of the SIC’s planning board granted outline permission to applicants J and A Sinclair for the 12 houses to be built by Lerwick construction firm JHB close to Houlland Road.
At least some of the houses are expected to be built for Hjaltland Housing Association as part of a drive to address Shetland’s drastic housing shortage.
Sandwick has proved a popular hot-spot for new houses in recent times.
Recent developments close by include those at Parkwynd and Parklands, and work has also begun on a separate group of 25 houses nearby after councillors granted approval almost a year ago.
The development comes despite fears from residents the decision will have a negative impact on local amenities in the area. The primary school would reach its full capacity with an increase of 24 pupils.
A recent meeting of the community council found Sandwick had the biggest primary class sizes in Shetland outside of Bell’s Brae.
A letter of objection was sent to the council by manager of the Levenwick Health Centre, Karen Ellis, who said they were “very concerned” about the housing project and the impact an expected influx of new patients wishing to register at the surgery would have on the practice.
Residents also raised concerns that too many houses for the site were being proposed, meaning the area was facing a future of over-development.
They also feared the development of the local infrastructure would not match the speed at which houses were going up, and that the low-lying site may cause problems with drainage and sewage.
The area’s community council also raised concerns about the proposal.
Speaking at a hearing in the Town Hall on Wednesday, resident Alan Hannah criticised Hjaltland for failing to attend public meetings where the development was being debated.
“The community welcomes cheaper housing for people, but as soon as Hjaltland get a foot in the door they kick it down.
“Hjaltland don’t turn up to public meetings, and if they don’t do that I don’t see how we can trust them.”
He added there were “enough affordable houses in Sandwick as it is”.
“The population is not in decline, and it is not static. It is flourishing.”
Mr Hannah backed health centre calls for the houses to be refused, adding “doctors appointments are more difficult to get now”.
He said concerns were being raised in Sandwick even before the most recent housing developments were being discussed.
“There’s no way of knowing how this is going to affect things. There are umpteen other houses being built in the Sandwick area.”
He added the school would have to be extended, warning his children and others could soon be going to school in a building site.
“If this gets accepted, I would say that is irresponsible planning because that area is overdeveloped.”
John Halcrow of JHB said existing residents should not be inconvenienced by building works for too long.
“What tends to happen when you have a scheme where you have a number of plots that are all going to be bespoke designs, it’s ideal if you can get it all tied in at the same time.
“There are various successes with this, but nothing is better than when you know exactly what you are going to build from day one.”
He added that because Hjaltland Housing were not the applicants they may not have felt obliged to attend public meetings.
He said because only an outline application was being sought, concerns over infrastructure provision could be dealt with at a later date.
“All these things have to be worked on,” he said.
North Isles councillor Laura Baisley moved the application be approved, adding extra housing provision was badly needed in the isles.
“I sympathise with the objectors but the council’s policy is to try to increase the population of Shetland, and Sandwick is an attractive area to live in.
“I would hope by increasing the population of the area we would also see an increase in services.”
One bone of contention for Lerwick North member Caroline Miller was the safety to pedestrians of the Houlland Road, which stands to divide the proposed houses from the ongoing 25 house development by Farquhar and Jamieson.
Her calls for vehicular access to be restricted on the road were seconded by Cecil Smith, but rejected by other councillors.
They called for the finer details to be ironed out at a later planning stage instead.
Shetland South member Jim Budge said he had a “degree of difficulty” with the application, but could not vote against it.
“I was at a community council meeting on Monday where we discussed this, and they have their objections to it.
“At the end of the day, it’s difficult to object to it because it’s not contravening planning policy.”
Shetland North member Bill Manson said he “understood the objectors’ reservations”, but responded to Mr Hannah’s comments over Hjaltland Housing Association.
“Hjaltland are appointed the right to Scottish house building for the Scottish government. They should be involved in this kind of development.”
Members voted by four to three against Mrs Miller’s amendment.