Old town development group highlights issues
Lerwick Old Town Development Association (LOTDA) held its first annual general meeting this week in Islesburgh Community Centre. There was a good turnout and Laurence Smith was re-elected as chairman, Jimmy Wiseman as vice-chairman and Paul Wishart as secretary. Joining the committee this year are Leslie Irvine and Campbell Smith.
Mr Smith reported on progress since the inaugural meeting of the group on 3rd July last year. The main achievements had been the development of the Lerwick Town Centre Action Plan which had recently been approved by Shetland Islands Council’s planning board following a period of public consultation and the offer of funding from the Scottish government this month of £308,000 which, with local and other external funding, will provide an injection of £626,750 into the town centre. Jon Molloy of SlC’s development plans section provided the meeting with further details of the funding award and the specific projects involved.
In the chairman’s annual report a number of issues had been raised over the year including the opportunity to develop Harrison Square as an amenity for the area, the state of the new flagstones and the growth in tarred areas, the poorly sited and over abuse of particular bins and concern over the sighting of the CCTV aerials on the top of the Town Hall, which have now been relocated.
Also under discussion had been concerns over conservation area standards – and the lack of a consistent approach. Of concern recently had been the varying standards of pointing of certain buildings in the town centre.
Other items discussed over the year had been the wish to see the development of a set of historic plaques in the lanes, the illumination of the walls of Fort Charlotte, improved street furniture and street and lane cleanliness, the varying times on the Tollbooth clocks and “what ever happened to the Old Red Mine on Victoria Pier – apparently it is no more”!
The association has a new logo designed by architect Richard Gibson and is hoping now to apply for start up funding to include assistance in the development of a website.
The main plan for the association in future is to hopefully sign up the relevant agencies and organisations as partners in the development of the action plan. Mr Smith said that everyone coming together and supporting the plan will be crucial to the success of the project.
The three main issues raised from the floor towards the end of the meeting were, firstly, the erosion of the character of the old town – attracting particular comment was the recent introduction of railings at the rear of the small boat harbour, and the removal of the traditional and sheltering sea wall which characterises Lerwick’s traditional waterfront areas. Secondly, the conversion of shops to flats/offices against policy. And thirdly the repeated approach by both LOTDA and Lerwick Town Centre Association to a solution to the Church Road crossing to improve the pedestrian linkage between Commercial Street and South Commercial Street.
The current traffic light system was not being used consistently with people preferring to risk crossing at the linkage point rather than walking up hill to the lights. The proposer wished to see a more pedestrian friendly solution which would allow wheelchairs and children’s buggies safe passage, an improvement that would be welcomed by all.
Mr Smith said these issues were all ongoing but that it needed a positive and in some cases urgent response to avoid missed opportunities.
Mr Smith concluded the meeting by thanking all who attended, the 2009 committee, Jon Molloy and Claire Linton of development plans, June Porter of community work and Masha Chubarova from infrastructure services.