The path has been cleared for Leog House to find a new lease of life as a hotel, hostel or bed and breakfast.
Councillors agreed to allow the former children’s home to change to a “class seven” property when they met this morning – a move which will pave the way to conversion into visitors’ accommodation.
It will also make it easier for Shetland Islands Council to sell the building to a developer, as it tries to rid itself of unwanted properties and free up some cash.
Today’s planning committee heard up to 10 bedrooms could be offered to paying guests if the application from the SIC’s capital programme service was approved.
No additional parking was proposed as part of the development. But the council’s political leader, Gary Robinson, moved a nearby area be recommended for development to eke out an additional two spaces after hearing from planning official John Holden it would be feasible.
The plans had raised objections from nearby residents concerned valuable parking would be snapped up by visiting guests if the development went ahead. They pointed to possible congestion in the single-track Leog Lane as a major worry, and warned it could impact on pedestrian and vehicle safety.
Andrew Anderson highlighted a “snap-shot” parking survey
which showed between 21 and 29 spaces were available within a three-minute walk of Leog House.
He criticised the survey for running between 8am and 6pm.
“We … questioned whether that was the best time to undertake a traffic survey. The time a hotel would need spaces would be at night,” he argued.
He highlighted information gleaned from capital programmes which confirmed only “a few” of those spaces were within a one-minute walk.
Mr Anderson added the essy kert had to reverse up Leog Lane and highlighted difficulties encountered by a fire engine in gaining access.
He questioned whether an area to the north of the site could be included in the sale which could be used for parking.
The findings of the survey were also picked over at length by town councillor, Jonathan Wills.
However Mr Robinson said the application should be approved. He cited a hotel in Edinburgh which offered access to 100 bedrooms, but had no parking.
“It’s clear most of the objections relate to parking. But I question whether or not most of this would equally apply, regardless of use of the property,” he said.
“We have heard there is parking available. I’m sure there are existing guest houses in Hillhead or St Olaf Street which can’t demonstrate ownership of, or access to, more parking.”
He also insisted members were “making assumptions” about the number of rooms that would be let out to paying guests. Some of those rooms, he said, would be used as studies or dining rooms.
He was backed by Malcolm Bell. The convener was disappointed nobody from the capital programme service was present to “talk through what options might have been considered”.
Peter Campbell said the move to enlarge the parking area represented an “awful lot” of effort just to provide two extra spaces.