The biggest housing development of the decade is finally set to start – thanks to £20 million in Scottish government funding.
Hjaltland Housing Association today (Tuesday) announced Shetland firm Garriock Bros Ltd has been awarded the contract for phase one of its North Staneyhill project in Lerwick.
The announcement followed a visit from housing minister Paul McLennan as part of government plans to deliver 110,000 affordable homes by 2032.
Hjaltland chief executive Bryan Leask said work would begin by the end of the year – and the first new tenants could be in by late 2026.
“It’s fantastic news,” he said.
“It’s not just good for us, but it’s great for the community too – to have that certainty that this strategic housing is going forward.”
The 300-home development has been at the centre of Shetland’s housing strategy ever since a masterplan for the site was agreed in 2018.
And with the housing waiting list now approaching 700, it is seen as vitally important to address the growing crisis.
Faced with the challenges of the pandemic, soaring construction costs and a lack of contractors, the project had previously struggled to get under way.
Early tendering efforts in 2020 failed to find a contractor to take on the first phase of work, initially estimated at £7.5m. A further round of tendering also had to be withdrawn due to a lack of interest.
Only after increasing the contract value to £19m earlier this year did a suitable contractor come forward.
Now, with the Scottish government agreeing to stump up £20m from its infrastructure fund, work is hoped to get under way in the coming months.
The first phase involves clearing the site, connecting utilities and creating access roads, which will pave the way for the first of the 300 homes to be build.
Mr McLennan, who attended today’s official opening of Hjaltland’s new Berryview development in Upper Scalloway, said it was a significant investment in affordable housing,
“It will make a huge contribution to the housing challenges being felt by Shetland, with particular pressures on Lerwick itself,” he added.
“Recognising the challenges and barriers facing our rural communities we will continue to support these areas and face those challenges head on.”
The development will take place over a decade, with housing provided in four distinct areas.
Mr Leask said such large scale schemes were essential in making a dent in the growing housing list – but he also stressed Hjaltland would continue to focus on smaller developments outwith Lerwick,
Currently, the housing association has projects in Brae, Aith and Walls on its books.
The 32-home Berryview development is the first affordable housing scheme in Scalloway for many years.
It includes six units for sale through a shared equity scheme and 26 for social rent
Hjaltland chairwoman Agnes Tallack said more than 200 people had bid for the 13 properties being let by the association, showing the “desperate need” for new housing.
Ms Tallack said the homes looked “amazing” and were “high performance” in terms of energy, which she hoped would go someway to address fuel poverty for tenants.
She said Hjaltland would continue to build homes – “because that’s what we do”.
“We build homes and we create communities,” she added.
“We don’t have any other purpose, any other agenda, we have no political side to us.
“That’s what we do, that’s what we will continue to do so long as we have the money and the land to do it.”
Ms Tallack thanked the Scottish government and the SIC for funding support, contractors E&H Builders, including one of its founders Bobby Elphinstone who recently died, and the pupils of Scalloway Primary School who came up with the name for the development.
SIC leader Emma Macdonald said Berryview and Staneyhill were both “really important for Shetland”.
“We know that we’ve got a housing shortage, we know that we want younger people to come here and live here.
“We want them to have good jobs and good homes so anything that gives us more homes is important.
“We are really delighted to see that funding for Hjaltland because they’re going to be delving on the Staneyhill project and we are looking forward to that getting going
“There’s huge demand for housing in Shetland and we need to try to fulfil that need.”