UK should ease housing crisis in exchange for income from gas, argues Cooper

Shetland should make the case for greater financial support from national government to build more homes to tackle its housing crisis, according to SIC councillors.

The council is already fighting to have the debt it chalked up building houses when North Sea oil was getting up and running in the 1970s written off.

If the debt is not addressed, council house occupants – already paying among the highest rents in Scotland – face a hike in rent of 10 per cent or more next year.

Alastair Cooper
Alastair Cooper

You can sign The Shetland Times’ petition to have the debt wiped out here. It has attracted over 700 signatures so far.

Development committee chairman Alastair Cooper said that, while that campaign was ongoing, today’s housing shortage was being exacerbated by the influx of workers to allow west of Shetland gas to be piped ashore.

Mr Cooper said that, aside of redeveloping Hoofields and a small number of homes in Brae, it was unlikely the SIC would build any new houses during this council. Hjaltland Housing is building some homes, but not enough to eliminate a waiting list which stood at 832 in March.

“There should be more emphasis in this on engaging with government and saying we’re the powerhouse of the Shetland economy,” he said at Friday’s social services committee meeting.

Between 1974 and 1989 the council built over 1,000 new homes to cope with a 37 per cent population influx. Mr Cooper drew parallels with the arrival of hundreds of construction workers to build Total’s gas plant.

“We’re fighting for the £40 million [debt] from last time [to be repaid],” he said. “But there needs to be money to enable us to accommodate more folk and provide the services the UK is needing. The UK really needs the gas that Total and BP are coming with. We should be asking them to do more to deal with the housing crisis in Shetland.”

Figures published last week estimate that Shetland’s billion-pound economy contributed £82 million more to the UK state than it received in government funding in 2011.

Social services committee chairman Cecil Smith endorsed Mr Cooper’s plea.

Councillor Allison Duncan, meanwhile, bemoaned the “extortionate” rents being charged by private landlords following the latest influx of oil and gas industry workers.

“If we don’t do something about this very quickly for young people, they’re going to move out of Shetland,” Mr Duncan said. “I hope we can get something done as a matter of urgency here.”

Mr Cooper also wanted to scotch the “popular misconception that folk are coming in the South Mouth, walking into the housing department and getting a house”.

Development director Neil Grant said the housing department stuck rigidly to its procedures. He does not believe there are a “significant number of people that come off the boat and present themselves as homeless”.


Add Your Comment
  • Maureen Bell

    • May 27th, 2013 16:33

    Is it known how long this huge anticipated influx of workers will remain in the islands and how long accommodation for them will be required?

    Personally, I have worked overseas where we ‘flew in’ 55 houses which came complete with furnishings, equipment, down to dustpans and napkins. All we had to do was to prepare to specification the concrete foundations. The exercise proved to be excellent value for money.

    Could such an arrangement be made with the Total and/or BP? The facility is urgently required.

  • Ian Brown

    • May 27th, 2013 23:52

    The major oil companies have provided for their workforce – it will peak in a month or so at about 1,400 beds – all imported to Shetland.
    However, some, but not many, of the workforce have decided to set up residence in Shetland with their families, and these are looking for rented accommodation.

    There are several much smaller non-oil projects that have their own temporary work forces and these are also taking up beds, mainly in rented accommodation.

    So demand for rented accommodation is high … market responds.
    Money coming into Shetland – sounds good to me.

  • Johan Adamson

    • May 28th, 2013 9:55

    I dont understand why there are hotels and guest houses for sale in Shetland which no one seems to want to buy even although there is such a high demand for accommodation. Is it that those with the will dont have the money?

  • David Spence

    • May 30th, 2013 5:39

    ‘ Is it that those with the will don’t have the money? ‘

    Johan, it is more than likely that property in Shetland is way over-priced. Call the large percentage increase in the value of property up here as the ‘ greed factor ‘ a well known trait of the selfish, look after number 1 capitalist and their greed for money and profit.

    As for using hotels or other private accommodation… way…..the hospitality industry are the biggest con-artists going with their over-inflated prices for, literally, any thing you buy within this industry.

    Hospitality industry, an industry that loves to exploit, and over charge you with their over-inflated prices……….oh, but we are providing a service…yes, its called lining your own pockets.

  • Johan Adamson

    • May 30th, 2013 10:02

    So then we should sell off our property for peanuts to the wealthy from other parts of the world so that we remain impoverished whilst the standard of living elsewhere is higher and the champagne socialists in the South can carry on drinking? There should be no reward for early morning and late nights catering for other people’s needs? I think it is extremely hard work (maybe thats why no one wants to do it).

    I think someone could buy and run a nice little business if they so desired and the banks would lend them the money (and they got their redundancy package from the SIC). Nothing wrong with the businesses for sale, just people needing and wanting to retire. What a shame Swansons the jewellers had to close due to lack of a buyer. I am sure that was not overpriced.

  • David Spence

    • May 30th, 2013 14:23

    Johan, I am well aware of the ‘ hospitality industry ‘ and the work in which they do, but lets not pretend the hospitality industry, in many ways, is very much over-priced in the service and products that they provide.

    Some people may say it is because what they do is seasonal and they have to recoup the costs when there are periods where business is quite………..well, in many ways you could apply this to all businesses in Shetland, but the service and products they provide are not, lets say, rip-off prices in comparison.

    Example : 1 small glass of orange juice costs around £1.25 in the Hotels here, the same brand and quantity in the shop, around 13 pence. (price ratio to volume). Put another way, if the shop’s were to price the same orange as the Hotels here, it would cost around £ 9.20. Actual price £0.95p.

    I may be wrong, but as far as I know, Swanson’s the jeweller’s gave up the business after the sad demise of the owner. The wife and son of the gentleman were not wishing to continue to run the business. I agree it is to the street’s loss that the shop is no longer in business, but I suspect costs may be a contributing factor as to why the business has not be sold. (I believe that part of the building needs some work done too it, which could be enough to put people off?)


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