By ROSALIND GRIFFITHS
Angry housing chiefs pledged this week to go ahead with plans to build 10 new council houses in Brae, despite Shetland missing out on Scottish Government funding.
Last week ministers announced that money would be made available to build the first council houses in Scotland for 30 years, with a total of £20 million allocated to the building programme. Almost £17 million of this to be shared among 14 councils to start building a total of around 1,000 homes.
The SIC had asked for £250,000, but no money was awarded to the isles. There had only been a short time in which to apply for the funding and no guidance as to how to go about it.
This week head of housing Chris Medley branded the government’s decision as a “farce”. Referring to £3 million of unallocated money, he said: “It’s just ridiculous having to jump through these hoops to get £250,000 they could have given us anyway.”
The amount he had asked for would have paid for two houses, he said. “They couldn’t even find the way to pay for two houses – that sums up the whole way the Scottish Government is dealing with housing. It’s a complete shambles. There are loads of people in dire housing need. I feel demoralised and sad for the staff [here].
“There are loads of people in dire housing need and the council’s doing all it can, but people from somewhere else are deciding the fate of people in Shetland.”
He quoted from the letter received by the SIC: “It was the view of the expert group and the SSB (Cosla’s Shared Services Board) that SIC’s application did not fully meet the agreed principles and criteria and due to the high demand from across the country, will not receive an award on this occasion.” Mr Medley said: “We currently have no details about which parts of our submission did or did not meet the agreed principles and criteria. We hope to make a revised bid when we have had a chance to speak to civil servants about the missing details.”
But, he said, the 10 houses in Brae’s Gallowburn on the outer edge of the Moorfield estate will still be built, subject to planning permission and building warrant approval. He said: “The decision to build these houses was taken by SIC long before the Scottish Government thought about putting any money into local authority housing. This is in my view another example of SIC working to resolve the housing crisis in spite of central government intervention and not because of it.”
The 10 houses for Brae will become the first new council houses in Shetland since the 1970s. The proposed houses will be a mix of one and two-bedded properties, with potential to expand into the loft space.
Mr Medley said he is not expecting any particular difficulties finding a builder.
The Brae houses are just the start of a council housing development programme. Future projects include redevelopment of Hoofields, in Lerwick, and the council is in negotiations over acquiring land to the north of Staney Hill.
Mr Medley said the council “is resolved to build as many houses as possible” to sort Shetland’s housing problems.
Meanwhile Orkney was granted £450,000 of funding to build 18 houses.