Orkney councillors have given their backing to a plan which would see more than 350 properties built in the county over the next five years.
During a special meeting of the education, leisure, and housing meeting, councillors gave the green light to a Strategic Housing Investment Plan (SHIP).
The SHIP is proposing the council and Orkney Housing Association Ltd develop social rented and low-cost homeownership and 353 units are built.
The private sector and partners are also expected to build up to 120 affordable rented and low-cost home ownership properties.
Seven projects in Orkney have received funding and four more are at the initial approval stage. These will see 74 housing units ready for use, most of which are on Orkney’s outer isles.
Will the strategy increase urbanisation in Orkney?
However, councillor Harvey Johnston had concerns that the plans would be “increasingly urbanising Orkney” by having so many future homes in Kirkwall and not other areas of Orkney.
He said: “Out of the 294 [new houses], 220 are in Kirkwall and surrounding areas and between 70 and 80 are outwith Kirkwall.
“Less than 40% of the Orkney population are in the Kirkwall environs. Our plan for the next five years seems to have 75% of the housing we’re planning to build, around Kirkwall.
“We’re actually increasingly urbanising Orkney. We’re changing the geographical spread of people. I’m slightly disappointed we’re not seeing any housing in the North Isles at all.”
The council’s head of housing, Frances Troup responded, saying the council has already built in Westray and Sanday.
Not enough demand in the outer isles for new builds
She said the council doesn’t have any islands with enough demands to have the council build anything there. The Rural and Islands Housing fund will cover any future demand in those areas.
She said: “Roughly half of our waiting list is in Kirkwall and, when we’re looking at priority passes as well, the level there is vast. That’s why we’re building so much or looking to build so much in Kirkwall.
“We’re sitting with around 500 households in Kirkwall with a need for housing there. That’s out of a waiting list total of about 850.”
However, she said the council does have plans for projects outwith the county’s main urban centre. The council is looking at acquiring an area outside Kirkwall for a scheme with both mid-market rent and social-rented housing.
The future of the projects depends on how much funding is available from the Scottish Government.
Many of the developments will rely on the Scottish Government’s Rural and Islands Housing Fund continuing.
The Strategic Housing Investment plan now goes on to full council before being submitted to the Scottish Government.