Listed building plans rejected – and could prove costly for home owner

Two planning applications which would change the appearance of listed buildings have been rejected by the planning committee – and could mean one home owner ripping out work already done.

Applicant Nigel Timberlake had submitted a retrospective planning application to install new railings and basement windows at Varis House, formerly known as the Bonavista guest house.
But planning officials deemed the work was not in character with the originals in the B-listed building, which is in the Lerwick conservation area on the corner of Church Road and Greenfield Place.
The planning committee meeting heard that both listed building consent and planning permission should have been obtained before the work was started, but no advice was sought.
Attention should have been given to “preserving or enhancing the character and appearance of the area”, according to planning officer Dawn Stewart.
Although no record of the previous railings exist, the newly-repaired railings had a “mixed section” of metals, were of varying design with some on the right hand side being simply “rods” and one on the left hand side missing.
The basement windows, replaced because of leakage, were now of uPVC, Ms Stewart said, and instead of the “16-pane timber sash and case” windows the panes were now “one [pane] over one”.
According to Ms Stewart: “This is not in keeping with the character or historic fabric of the building and considered to be detrimental in terms of the aesthetic quality of the property and its architectural integrity.”
The committee upheld the planners’ recommendation to refuse the application, which is contrary to the Shetland local development policy.
Board chairman Frank Robertson.
Board chairman Frank Robertson.

The retrospective application was made after a “concerned neighbour” notified Historic Scotland about the new work. Speaking after the meeting, planning committee chairman Frank Robertson said that now Historic Scotland had the house “in their sights”, the applicant would be forced to remove the new work at his own expense. Mr Robertson added the windows were “totally unacceptable”.

The second case concerned replacing windows at Seafield House in Lerwick. The meeting heard that the applicants wanted new windows in the “sophisticated house” to replace the ones thought to be original from the construction date of 1833, primarily for energy efficiency.
However, it had not been proved the existing windows were beyond repair as no “condition survey” had been received by the planning department.
The application was recommended for refusal by planners and this was upheld by the committee.
However it was deemed that the application was “premature” because more information about the condition of the windows was needed – at this stage there was no alternative to refusal. The owners can make future applications.


Add Your Comment
  • Ali Inkster

    • April 14th, 2015 22:01

    The cost of quango’s and red tape to the public is beyond a joke. I know the building in question and used to sit on the wall as a bairn, so know the windows in question too. And for some jumped up idiot of a civil servant to think that the basement windows would detract from the character of the building obviously never took the time or effort to get of their ass and go have a look at it for themselves. For those that would like to see for themselves just how stupid this decision is here is a link
    This is what the politicians think is a good use of your tax money folks.

    • David Spence

      • April 15th, 2015 11:13

      I see your point Ali, but I also see the point of the planners as well.

      In saying this though, I do not think the SIC had a Planning Department when they gave permission to build 2 high raised buildings in the south end of the street here. They look, put in 1 word ‘ awful ‘. These 1960’s/70’s constructed eyesores are totally out of character with the area and the surrounding buildings – dating from the 16th – 18th centuries. There is also the telephone exchange, again 1960’s/70’s construction, which is smack in the middle of the south end of Commercial Street, and it looks just as bad as the high raised buildings previously mentioned.

    • Gary Robinson

      • April 15th, 2015 18:32

      While I’m occasionally on the wrong end of Ali Inkster’s I’ll-informed and personal attacks, I cannot let such an attack on a member of Council staff doing their job go unchallenged.

      Ali wasn’t in the Council chamber on Tuesday when this issue was discussed or he would have been aware that not only had the officer visited the building in question but so too had members of the committee.

      What Mr Inkster glosses over is the fact that it wasn’t just the plastic windows. A wrought iron railing had been repaired using several steel bars more commonly used to reinforce concrete.

      I would ask Mr Inkster if he thinks it would be a good idea, as owner of a listed building, to carry out such alterations without consulting the Council or Historic Scotland (presumably the “quango” he refers to) before commencing?

      In this case the “civil servant” he refers to was merely quoting Council policy and the legislation that protects our listed buildings.

      I think an apology is due.

      • Ali Inkster

        • April 15th, 2015 20:07

        It is the idiots at historic Scotland that were the object of my ire Gary. But if you think that the owner of the property should of left the railings in a dangerous state then maybe you deserve it too. The building may be old but it is hardly a thing of beauty. Then we can ask are the new buildings next door in keeping with what was there before? NO. Is the extension on the end of St Olafs Hall across the road in keeping with the original building? NO. Is the TSB in keeping with the area? NO. Did you pay any attention to the planning department when you gave permission for the VE project? NO So get of your high horse, you won’t make this petty decision seem to be anything more than that. I accept along with most others I would think that the planning boards hands were tied by policy, so in the end it does come down to you and your colleagues in the council chamber. Funny how you found a way round policy when it came to VE.

      • Gary Robinson

        • April 15th, 2015 21:50

        I’m glad that Ali Inkster has clarified that he wasn’t criticising a member of Council staff but he continues to miss the point.

        The building in question may not meet with his approval in the “thing of beauty” stakes but it is none-the-less a grade B listed building the same as the Town Hall. Neither I nor the Council’s planners can do much about that.

        While it might be practical – even tempting – to stick plastic windows in the Town Hall and replace the Sea Serpent lights at the front door with grey municipal street lights this can’t be done. It’s the same rule for everyone.

        And – just for the record Ali – I supported the planners report on Viking Energy just as I supported their recommendation for this application on Tuesday.

      • Ali Inkster

        • April 15th, 2015 22:48

        My critic of the council Gary is shared by many in Shetland. £trillions in revenues heading south with very little coming back. I used to think we were only getting the crumbs form our own table, but you laid that myth to rest with the OIOF farce in which you got together with Orkney and the Western isles and did not even ask for the crumbs because the Western Isles had no bread. Yet the very folk you were negotiating with were claiming that there is loads of bread of the Western Isles in their attempt to get the scoti to vote for independence. In the last few years the SSnp have used our resources to claim that they can fully fund their dream of an independent Scotland, yet you would not use those same resources to bargain for the money we need to bring Shetland in line with other European islands. You are quite happy it seems for the SSnp to say they will drag Shetland back into the EU should the UK get us out, What good will that do for our fishing industry?

      • Ali Inkster

        • April 15th, 2015 22:49

        Gary you have been at the top of the SIC totem for a few years, so maybe you can explain the decision not to provide Engineering courses at the college. If UHI did not want to provide them why not? Why did the council not insist on Total and BP funding courses and sponsoring students. Even with the current downturn the oil industry is crying out for young blood. Very few of which will come from Shetland. If the aim of the college is to encourage young folk to stay and raise their families then I wonder just how many sound and lighting engineers the local music scene can support? How many of the 16 hairdressing places will be filled this year? And just who was responsible for the cookers in the catering department? Did they get their knuckles rapped because we the public certainly got our fingers burned.

      • Robin Stevenson

        • April 16th, 2015 9:43

        I was wondering how long it would take you to blame the SNP Ali? So far we have you blaming “the idiots at historic Scotland” then we have you blame Gary Robinson, now [of course] we’re once again back to blaming the SNP?
        The £300 Billion that has gone to Westminster since oil was discovered came from ALL of Scotland, not just Shetland, and certainly NOT to the Scottish government, this is part of the reason that it seems pointless explaining how this all works, along with the benefits of Scotland being a part of the EU, you simply don’t get it, could I suggest Ali, that you read more and write less? take the time to read through things twice? who knows, maybe one day it’ll ALL sink in?

      • Suzy Jolly

        • April 16th, 2015 14:40

        “Ali wasn’t in the Council chamber on Tuesday when this issue was discussed or he would have been aware that not only had the officer visited the building in question but so too had members of the committee.”

        Photographs weren’t enough then so committee members had to actually go visit too? And we wonder why things take so long … I can understand some visits being necessary but in this instance? Do you visit every single site that comes before the Planning Committee?

        Isn’t scrapping some Planning Regulations not only overdue but also part of UKIP’s manifesto?

        I wonder what would happen if a load of councils got together and decided to ignore a load of red tape and told the powers that be to go spin on it? It’s got to the stage where there is very little local democracy left, with councils just rubber-stamping EU and national government’s wishes, despite if those fly against the wishes of the local electorate.

      • John Tulloch

        • April 16th, 2015 16:40


        I like your last paragraph – a lot!

        It’s the inconsistency that galls. You can’t have plastic windows in Church Road but you can do anything you damn-well please next door to the Picts’ Castle; and Donnie Morrison can’t renovate an aald hoose but you can build a 100ft high industrial, indoor grid substation the size of a football pitch next door with a backdrop of 103 x 450ft birling wind turbines.

        Both credulity and credibility become severely stretched!

      • Ali Inkster

        • April 16th, 2015 17:30

        Wrobin you may think there is benefit for the subsidy junkies in Scotland but here in Shetland all we see is EU boats sweeping our waters while our own fishermen are told by marine Scotland that they are not allowed to catch fish or even go to sea. The EU is a perfect example of Shetland and Scotland having different priorities. And a perfect example of why we would be better aff clear o da lot o you.

      • Bryan Peterson

        • April 16th, 2015 21:51

        Just for the record, the only Sound Engineering course at Shetland College is one day a fortnight for secondary 3 pupils and there’s never been a Lighting course.

      • Ali Inkster

        • April 16th, 2015 22:54

        I’ll put my hands up to that Brian, 🙂

      • Ali Inkster

        • April 16th, 2015 23:03

        Wrobin £300 billion may of gone to Westminster but £billions more circulated round the Scottish economy, you only need to look at the money in Aberdeen to see who did well out of Shetlands oil. Makes you wonder how we were bought off with a few pools and a leisure centre??

      • Robin Stevenson

        • April 17th, 2015 9:56

        Once again Ali, you still seem confused as to where ALL Scotlands oil revenue ends up? is there really any point in explaining it again]?
        Aberdeen has done well out of the oil industry, but not for the reasons you imagine, it has done well from the infrastructure which had to be put in place to accommodate the influx of oil related workers, ie: housing, services, transport, this of course led to wealth and a high demand for housing, either bought or rented, for some obscure reason you’re under the impression that Scotland has somehow managed to bypass Westminster and keep ALL oil revenue for itself, you’re absolutely wrong about this.
        If you feel you were “bought off” with a leisure centre and a few pools, then may I suggest you take it up with the very people you allowed steal your revenue, rather than blaming Scotland and it,s government that suffered in exactly the same way? why on earth do you think we wanted independence on the first place?

      • John Tulloch

        • April 17th, 2015 13:07

        Wrong again, Robin! 🙂

        “Why on earth do you think we wanted independence in the first place?”

        I don’t know, Robin, but it was nothing to do with oil revenue. You’re possibly unaware of this but the SNP preceded North Sea oil by some considerable time.

  • john irvine

    • April 15th, 2015 10:19

    and on the other hand its ok to grant planning for an industrial scale wind farm wich will totally destroy our beautiful islands?

    • Ali Inkster

      • April 15th, 2015 12:15

      In that case the recommendation of the planning dept was ignored. Does that mean the rest of us should just ignore them if it suits us?

  • Lowrie Paton Gulberwick

    • April 15th, 2015 12:16

    Had a look at the windows in question. They seem perfect to me and for our climate ideal. I suppose 150 wind turbines scarring the landscape to these people will be quite acceptable.

  • stephen shirmer

    • April 15th, 2015 16:09

    To a point I agree in keeping to the original style of a listed building, if the windows are not the original type would anyone even be notice ?

    As for respecting planning regulations , I suppose its best to consult the planning office !

    As for not keeping in with the style of the area or the landscape, would someone please tell me how all these unsightly kit houses received permission to be built, as they are certainly not in keeping with anything !

    • Bill Smale

      • April 15th, 2015 20:17

      Are they not in keeping with other kit houses?

  • Michael Inkster

    • April 15th, 2015 21:17

    Through time, the Church Road area will recover from this monumental setback, I’m sure, as few people driving past or otherwise passing will have missed this, as I did for some obscure reason, Michael Inkster

  • John Tulloch

    • April 16th, 2015 10:22

    Wis Church Rodd no wint ta be ‘Church Lenn’, wi’ a kirk yaird atween dere an’ ‘Wheen’s Lenn’?

    I doot hit’s a peerie bit lett fir gyittin wrocht up aboot da laekly o dat place quan you pit new windus ida hooses dere noo?

    Bit dey laekly sudna a pitten dem in athoot aksin first quan dey kent fine at hit wis a listit beeldin’?

  • Robert Duncan

    • April 16th, 2015 10:26

    On one hand I do sympathise with the view that this is just petty bureaucracy, but on the other, people know what they’re signing up for with a listed building, and are probably less inclined to complain about the funding available for them. We’d all soon be complaining if sections of more-obviously historic buildings such as the town hall were changed in a way that affected the style of them.

  • Michael Garriock

    • April 16th, 2015 11:21

    “The building in question may not meet with his approval in the “thing of beauty” stakes but it is none-the-less a grade B listed building the same as the Town Hall. Neither I nor the Council’s planners can do much about that.”

    Neither of you my be able to do anything about it as legislation stands, but that’s absolutely no excuse whatsoever for elected members to meekly roll over and have their collective bellies tickled by some unaccountable Scottie quango, by accepting it is cast in tablets of stone (pun intended in most cases).

    Where is the Council’s fighting spirit, everything created by humans is changeable and/or removable by other humans, *if* the will exists to do so. Clearly it doesn’t much in the council chamber.

  • Sandy Ramsay

    • April 16th, 2015 13:15

    Do Historic Scotland acutally get asked on this, I honestly doubt it as this is a local planning issue that may be judged based on the Ancient Monuments Act but, for this surely its only the council that deals with it and not a government agency, not quango.

  • Donnie Morrison

    • April 16th, 2015 16:22

    Planning committees decisions;
    A few bits of rebar in a railing in a Lerwick conservation area = bad.
    A few hundred tonnes of rebar in turbine bases in hills all over the central mainland = good

    We also have the case where a householder is incapable of recognising a rotten window frame and has to have a report written by a ‘rotten window expert’.
    Boy – you coodna mak it up.

  • Chris Johnston

    • April 16th, 2015 17:22

    The most dreaded words in the English language are, “I’m from the Government and I’m here to help.”
    You will be made to care.

    • Michael Garriock

      • April 16th, 2015 18:22

      I feel I must be highly pedantic and disagree with this….slightly.

      In my experience a more accurate statement is, the most dreaded words in the English language are, “I’m from the SIC and I’m here to help.” However, I will cede that the difference between the two is probably no more than the width of nose hair.

  • Philip Leask

    • April 17th, 2015 9:49

    If you want to look at google street view you can see what the rail at Bonavista looked like before it was repaired .

  • Mike Goldsmith

    • April 17th, 2015 11:06

    What a lot of comments over this matter. It’s simple – we are only the custodians of our buildings, the listed status of this building must be respected. UPVC is not and never will be a suitable material for windows on an historic building. The appearance of our historic buildings should be kept to a very high standard, not just for the present but for future generations.

    Mike Goldsmith

    • Ali Inkster

      • April 17th, 2015 12:50

      Just what “historic significance does this building have? I have taken the time to peer down past the wall to have a look at the windows and can tell you it is the best they have looked in the last 40+ years.

    • Michael Garriock

      • April 17th, 2015 13:47

      “….we are only the custodians of our buildings, the listed status of this building must be respected.”

      As far as public buildings go, I have no argument with that, however privately owned ones are another matter. If the state decrees a repair or replacement of existing in a privately owned building must be of a specific type, the state should be willing to step up to the plate and fully reimburse the owner the difference in cost between the two, otherwise they should butt out. How much are we going to let the rights of an absolute owner be eroded and it still be considered acceptable? We’re not quite Communist yet, despite the best efforts so some political parties over the last two odd decades.

      • Mike Goldsmith

        • April 17th, 2015 18:07

        Ownership does not matter, what matters is the building. Grants for listed building repairs are available and can be applied for. Our built environment is important.

      • Michael Garriock

        • April 18th, 2015 11:40

        “Ownership does not matter, what matters is the building.”

        If your intent is to be a troll, you’re doing an excellent job, if you’re being serious, God help us all.

        Meanwhile, if “ownership does not matter”, if you’d be so kind as provide me with your address and a list of everything you own, I’ll gladly come along and take possession of it all and do with it as I please. I assume you’ll be quite happy with me doing that seeing as “ownership doesn’t matter”, or don’t you practice what you preach?

    • Suzy Jolly

      • April 17th, 2015 16:07

      “UPVC is not and never will be a suitable material for windows on an historic building.”

      Incorrect. Many Listed buildings do have UPVC framed windows. Some even have double-glazing as opposed to secondary glazing. Provided they ‘look’ like the original, many Listed Building Consent Officers throughout the UK do permit them albeit if a window originally had Crittall frames then it makes the task somewhat more difficult than replacing timber framed sash windows.

      It’s a farce (or should that be facade?) There’s many a Listed building that looks as if it was constructed of solid brickwork, masonry and perhaps stucco rendered only to find that behind a rather superb front elevation facade, the rest of the property is, in fact, concrete block, nothing like the original structure of the building. Like so many things these days, it’s all about face and not substance.

  • Ingrid Moar

    • April 17th, 2015 16:33

    At least Mr Timberlake tidied the place up a bit. No one seemed concerned when it was an old bit of safety rail that was acting as a railing! And as for the windows, I wish common sense would prevail a bit more, they are in the basement for goodness sake, you can’t even see them.


Add Your Comment

Please note, it is the policy of The Shetland Times to publish comments and letters from named individuals only. Both forename and surname are required.

Comments are moderated. Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.

The views expressed are those of contributors and not of The Shetland Times.

The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

Comments are limited to 200 words but please email longer articles or letters to for consideration and include a daytime telephone number and your address. If emailing information in confidence please put "Not for publication" in both the subject line and at the top of the main message.

200 words left

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.