By RYAN TAYLOR
Work is underway to convert a dilapidated church hall in Lerwick into a fully modernised office complex after a much modified planning application was resubmitted to the council by a group of local businessmen.
West Fish (Shetland) Ltd are pressing ahead with plans to convert St Olaf’s Hall at the top of Church Road into upmarket offices. However plans to replace an ugly extension with eight flats in two-storey blocks have been ditched amid fears they could cause major parking problems in an already densely populated area.
The original application, which included the flats, was rejected by members of the council’s planning committee last August.
As well as potential parking problems, planners were worried the new flats could block out sunlight to existing houses in Queen’s Place.
However work in the hall has since started after a resubmitted application to change the building’s use from a church hall to office accommodation was approved by delegation, meaning it was passed for approval without having to come up again before councillors. There were no new objections.
Planning officer Matthew Taylor said the redevelopment was “not an extension” and an earlier proposal to develop the flats had not been included in the re-submission.
As a result, the development will take up no more space than the existing hall does.
“It’s not an extension. The flats that were included in the previous application are not in the re-submission, and all the major modifications are internal,” said Mr Taylor.
“No objections have been received as part of the re-submission, so we are able to allow the development to progress.”
He added that additional lay-by parking would be provided at the side of the church.
One of the businessmen behind the project, West Fish director Angus Grains, said the development would be good news for the town, and bring new life to the hall.
“Regeneration is what is required. The hall is a listed building which is very much down at heel. You only have to look at Commercial Street to know the town centre is in a poor state.”