The start of Shetland’s first council housing development for decades and one of the biggest currently in Scotland was officially marked today with the ceremonial cutting of the turf.
Work will start next week on the site at Lerwick’s North Staney Hill where 76 new homes will be built, redeveloping the area of Hoofields. The first stage will be the building of the road system, with the main construction phase starting in March.
The £9 million project, which is due to be completed in three years, will go some way to addressing the council house waiting list which stands at more than 1,000.
Housing chief Chris Medley said: “We are delighted to see the [project] started. It is a tribute to the staff and councillors who supported it and will help benefit the waiting list.”
The council had received £600,000 towards the redevelopment from the Scottish government and would be funding the rest from council reserves, he said.
Allison Duncan, the council’s housing spokesman, called it a “good news” story for Shetland. He said: “There is a desperate need for housing with over 1,000 on the waiting list. This development will enhance the economy and maintain jobs in the building industry.”
It was even more essential, he said, as Hjaltland Housing Association was finding it difficult to access grants.
Secretary and treasurer of Shetland Tenants Forum Joann Johnson said: “It’s really good, it will get the waiting list down.”
The homes will be built in four phases with the first batch due be ready and handed over to the housing department by next October. The whole scheme is estimated to be finished by December 2013 at the latest, although council staff are striving to reduce this and achieve an early handover.
Local firm Tulloch Developments Ltd has been selected as contractor to carry out the advance work on the site. During its 12-month contract the company will put in a road network leading south from the existing Hoofields chalets, already marked with white posts, and provide serviced sites ahead of the main construction project.
This will comprise a mix of one, two, three and four-bedroomed houses, as well as some flats. The main contractor for the construction phase will be named at the end of the year or early next year after the tendering process.
Senior project manager Craig Nicolson said: “This is one of the largest projects the council has done for many years. It’s good to see it committing to housing need.”
The houses were developed by in-house council designers capital programme service. Contracts manager Neil Clubb said that following public consultation the scheme has been designed in “lighter, brighter colours” and homes would be built in groups of eight to 10.
The houses are designed to be easy to construct as well as being low maintenance and energy efficient. The smaller houses are designed to allow for possible future internal conversion if required for growing families.
Mr Medley said: “With Shetland’s massive waiting lists and 90 per cent of homeless applicants in priority need, the affordable housing situation is desperate for many people. This development clearly demonstrates that the council is backing its commitment to the 2012 homeless targets and other waiting list applicants with the delivery of real affordable homes for everyone in Shetland.”
The redevelopment of the Hoofields area will complement other existing housing schemes in the vicinity, and, he said, and regenerate the area with quality homes. The existing Hoofields chalets, built in the early 1990s, will eventually be demolished.
The council is also progressing with its plans for affordable homes on sites in Brae, Bressay, Sandwick, Virkie and Burra.