Planning review body turns down housing application

A housing application has been turned down following a planning appeal, despite two elected members insisting new homes were badly needed.

Debate surrounded a proposed new house in Tingwall, close to the Laxfirth junction with the main A970.

The site is adjacent to an existing property called Rockhaven.

But the proposals were previously held to go against planning policies – one of which stated the new house would “only be adjoining one other building of domestic scale”.

Planning officials found that the proposed site was not related to a building group in the area, which meant the location “did not respect the character and local distinctiveness of its surroundings”.

They ruled the area was not one where you would expect to see housing.

Lerwick South councillor Cecil Smith said refusal meant going against the council’s corporate plan.

“We had a meeting last week where we discussed our corporate plan where we are supposedly trying to encourage people to stay locally and to work locally.

“I see this as going against that plan. I have real issues with this.”

Shetland Central member Moraig Lyall had similar concerns.

“One of barriers to moving back to or remaining in Shetland is housing. If we turn down what seems to be a reasonable application like this it would seem to be going against that.”

Mrs Lyall also voiced concerns about the time it had taken for the applicant to get an answer.

“I note they first applied back in March 2019. That’s an extremely long time to be keeping somebody waiting.”

But fellow ward member Davie Sandison said that, while the policy may not be popular, it was the policy members had to stick by.

“We have to consider things in line with the policy we’ve actually approved ourselves,” he argued.

“We have those policies and unless we change those policies it’s a pretty clear-cut decision that we have to make.”

He added the planning policy may well be reviewed, but said “in the meantime the policy is as stated”.

“I don’t think we can move too far away from that unless an exceptional case is made.”

Lerwick North councillor Malcolm Bell agreed, and and moved the decision to refuse be upheld.

“I don’t think we can just willy-nilly ignore policies we have set,” he said.

He also said any delay in proceedings, as highlighted by Mrs Lyall, was not entirely down to officials.

Chairwoman Emma Macdonald said the issue had taken some time. She said members had previously had to go back to allow site planners to carry out a remote site visit, where video footage was taken.

“That wasn’t any fault of the planners here, or this committee,” she said.


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