A young family can begin work on their “forever home” after councillors agreed they did not need to spend £20,000 on a new road junction.
Lisa and Gavin Emslie had first been refused permission for their new house in Whiteness – and then told it could only go ahead if they made significant access improvements to overcome safety concerns.
But after an emotional speech to the SIC’s planning committee today (Monday), the couple won their appeal to remove the conditions.
Mrs Emslie said she and her husband had been “down heartened” by the recommended refusal and “overwhelmed” by the conditions imposed.
She said the new junction would have been impossible to achieve, particularly as it involved building on land they did not own.
Although the SIC had identified the new junction in its roadworks plan, it was not expected to get under way for at least five years.
Mrs Emslie said five years was a “long time to put our life plans on hold”.
She highlighted recent media reports on Shetland’s “housing crisis” and the SIC’s attempts to help struggling young families.
“What we want so desperately is the vision that the SIC has for Shetland,” she said.
“We are a young family who want to stay in the community, we want to build our forever home, we want to be near our family, we want to build a house on the land I grew up playing on.”
Mrs Emslie said she also wanted her daughter to be able to attend Whiteness nursey and primary school.
While acknowledging the importance of road safety, she highlighted the fact no accidents had been reported at the junction.
She said that although granting the appeal would only be a “small step” for the council, it would mean “absolutely everything” to her family.
Lerwick South councillor Cecil Smith said that while he appreciated the officers’ comments, he felt the council needed to “take a step back” and think how it can help families looking to stay in Shetland.
Convener Malcolm Bell questioned whether the conditions passed the “reasonableness test”.
While he acknowledged the new junction might be necessary for a development of 10 or 20 homes, Mr Bell suggested the application in question was just a “marginal increase”.
Shetland Central member Davie Sandison said he had been “fairly appalled” by the conditions imposed.
He suggested other easier options could have been explored more fully.
Mrs Emslie thanked the committee for approving their appeal. She also thanked West Side councillors Theo Smith and Catherine Hughson for their assistance.