By LOUISE THOMASON
People in the south Mainland are being asked to give their opinions on how their community should be run.
In a series of public meetings, held from Quarff to Fair Isle, those behind a new initiative, Shetland South Vision, hope to engage the community with a range of public service providers to find out what the people want from them and if they can be run more effectively.
The exercise is being co-ordinated by a task group drawn from the local service delivery group and is supported by SIC community work office, based at Sandwick Junior High School.
Each meeting will focus on a separate service-related theme, such as transport, education, health and housing. The first of these, at Cunningsburgh, is entitled “Setting the Scene” and will cover the aims of the scheme.
There will also be an opportunity for the themes themselves to be addressed, should the public think they are not relevant or could be better.
The initiative was devised after issues relating to the increasing population in the area were raised. The Levenwick health centre and Sandwick youth centre are two service providers already feeling the strain, and housing is also a problem in the area.
However, these problems are being seen as the catalyst for trying to do something positive.
Shetland South councillor Rick Nickerson said that rather than focusing on the negative aspects, the situation was a chance for both the public and service providers to enter into a discussion about planning for the future.
He said: “It’s a positive initiative to bring the community together with service providers. There are positives and negatives to population growth; the schools and youth clubs might feel pressure but the shops for example will be busier.
“Our aim is to provide the platform for communities and service providers to come together and discuss the future needs of the community.”
Shetland South Vision was also, he said, an effort to create a more grassroots approach to decisions on service delivery and give the public a chance to have their say in its provision.
He said: “It’s important that the community has the opportunity to feed into things like the council’s local development plan.”
However, if the programme is to have any impact, people must be involved.
Mr Nickerson said: “It is … important and crucial for members of the community to participate to ensure that this project is a success. If folk have issues and positive ideas and don’t come forward, there’s no point in them having a whinge later on.
“I’m aware that a lot of folk in the community will be unsure about how this will deliver and may be worried it will be a talking shop, but if you don’t try these things and don’t allow people to come forward [we’re] not doing our duty as representatives.”
The first of the meetings, which will run until December, will be held in Cunningsburgh hall this Saturday, from 11am to 1pm.