Past Times: Buildings do not merit retention

From The Shetland Times, Friday 12th December, 1958

Lerwick Town Council do not agree with the Department of Health that there are thirty-three buildings of special architectural or historic interest in the town which merit retention – they have cut the Department’s list to five, but have added one the Department missed.

At a Planning Committee meeting, the consultant, Mr R. E. Moira, stated that while he had a certain sympathy with the list and would like to see all the individual buildings preserved, in order that the unique character of the old town might be maintained, there were practical difficulties in achieving that end, and it would not be possible to preserve all the buildings on the list.

The majority were not in good condition, and their condition was only likely to change for the better if they were put to some proper use. Most had served a useful purpose in the past, but if these were to serve such a purpose today, substantial alterations would be unavoidable.

Considerable changes in appearance had to be accepted. To preserve the buildings as they were would mean preserving them for destruction, because neither private individuals nor the Town Council could afford to preserve buildings for their own sake.

In the case of shops, for example, plate glass windows were required, and stores, and these generally greatly changed the appearance of a building.

In the case of housing perhaps the outward appearance of a building need not be greatly changed, but in order to obtain light and air, adjoining buildings often had to be demolished and cleared away.

Mr Moira considered preservation should be on very much more general lines, and that except in the case of outstanding examples it should be left to the good sense of the Council to determine what should and should not be preserved in terms of good planning.

Those who considered the Town Council were not a fit body to be in charge of such matters should form themselves into a committee to discuss with the Council proposed changes.

Mr Moira recommended that all properties be deleted from the list, except the walls of Fort Charlotte, Town Hall, R.N.M.D.S.F., lodberries, and the Broch of Clickimin.

Mr Moira’s recommendations were unanimously approved, and it was agreed to suggest that 72 Commercial Street, not previously mentioned, should be included in the list. This property, at present occupied by Messrs. R. & C. Robertson, was understood to be among the first buildings built in the “ebb” at Lerwick, was originally used as a hospital for Dutch fishermen, and did possess an interesting architectural feature.

Approved also were the terms of a reply to the county clerk, advising him that the steps at Gardie Court, about which some question had been raised at a meeting of the Planning Authority, had been removed by the Town Council under the powers conferred by the Town and Country Planning (General Development) (Scotland) Order, 1950, and had been taken away before the list of properties mentioned had been received. In the circumstances, approval of the Planning Authority had not been required.


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