Planning obstacles (Vic Thomas)

Shetland Islands Council’s planning and building control, be it the interpretation of Scottish planning guidelines or the Local Plan, is working against Shetland.

In my discussions with folk prior to my decision to pull out of being a candidate in the last council elections, the key criticisms for the folk in my rural ward and the barriers to what folk in rural Shetland want were of a planning and rural development nature.

Rural development, while being indelibly linked to the planning system, is a separate issue here as planning is my target.

The issues concerning planning are:
1. Planning applications far too complicated and costly, causing, unacceptable delays and timescales to process projects;
2. Unnecessary and draconian regulatory system;
3. A local planning system that works against affordable housing in a time where folk, young or older, struggle to raise the finances;
4. Air-tight building requirements focused on energy efficiency that is and will cause poor health environments within modern structures;
5. A system that is hostile to new ideas on affordable, alternative or even healthy accommodation.

With more and more local authorities south looking at innovative ways to address the housing shortage, the high costs (more so in Shetland as we are now the most expensive area in the UK to build) and regulatory complexities, ie accommodation built out of shipping containers, more simple designed log cabins, low impact cheap housing etc, work against us.

It is now time to radically change the planning system here in Shetland, so that it helps folk and becomes more fit for purpose in changing economic times.

I am thinking of some form of pressure group to put pressure on the council to reflect on the current unsustainably complex and costly situation. There are a lot of angry or deeply disappointed folk out there, not to mention a building trade that have “no idea from one month to the next, what they will be allowed to build for folk” (quote from a managing director of a local building company) until the planning fascists dictate what they want and not what the folk want, once they receive the application, the extortionate fee and their outrageous demands.

On the back of this it’s also time for the SIC with its “Our Islands Our Future” to lobby the Scottish government to remove the bar on the planning application fees charged for major large scale developments such as gas plants, schools, power stations etc, because at present Joe Public is subsidising the planning costs associated with these very large projects.

I’m in communication on this with one of my area councillors and respectfully await the outcome of a meeting. But in the meantime if anyone has similar concerns please contact me.

Vic Thomas
South Nesting.


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