Orkney council’s planning committee has approved an application for seven new housing units, under two terraces, to be built in Stromness.
At a close vote, the committee members voted against the recommendations of planning officers, which was to refuse Orkney Builders Ltd‘s application to build at Cairston Road.
The application was partially retrospective as it asked for permission to knock down a building at the site.
This demolition has already taken place.
The council’s planning department took issue with the design of the units.
Specifically, the density of the units was a problem. The planning department said the buildings would have a density four times greater than other buildings in the area.
New houses would have density four times greater than other houses in area
The managing director of Orkney Builders, Stephen Kemp, spoke at the meeting.
He said the company had taken into account what the council were looking for. Naturally, he said, when you build one-bedroom units, the density will go up.
He said: “The idea is affordability. That rationale comes from seeing every single house we’ve built, that are three or four bedrooms, being purchased by somebody coming into the county and out-bidding local folk.”
With these houses, the company is trying to “hit the affordability mark” that would allow young people to buy a house and stay in Stromness, he said.
Young Orcadians being outbid by people coming into the county, says building firm’s managing director
If the company isn’t allowed to build at “a sensible density” that was “never going to happen”, he added.
Mr Kemp said he had seen the designs work in other areas of Orkney, pointing to Busant Drive, Kirkwall.
It came down to a close vote with six councillors voting to approve and four voting to refuse the application.
Leading the votes to approve were the committee chair and vice-chair, councillors Owen Tierney and Kristopher Leask.
Mr Tierney said he was reassured by what he’d heard.
He said: “The public need, for me, outweighs the concerns here.”
“I appreciate there are schemes that have been built that made places very unpopular. But this is not on the same scale as Meadowbank (in Kirkwall) so I think I could live with that.
“The need for young folk to get started in buying something they can afford is very critical and here’s a development doing its best to make that happen. The need outweighs the concerns.”