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The truths they don't want you to read....

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

MacRae Hostel

It was good to see the diggers on site at the old MacRae Hostel site, as the planned development of social housing takes place in one of the few large sites still available in the centre of Stornoway.

The site has been an eye-sore for many years, not least after the hostel closed and before it burned down.

But with the new houses being built, the cleared site can now be brought back into constructive use.

The initial planning decisions on this scheme were taken some 5 years ago, and it was unsurprising that it attracted some negative comment. Not on the design, or the number of properties being proposed for the site - which were reduced after discussion - but on the issue of 'social housing' as a planning ideal.

Repeatedly, I found 'social housing' to be a major explosive issue for near neighbours and everyone they could drag into objecting, with petitions against the very concept on every site and at every planning permission application. Despite strategic plans making it clear that the land was zoned for that purpose.

Whilst the post-war generation revelled in the development of Council Housing and the undisputed good that it brought to communities and individuals, usually including themselves as snotty-nosed kids, Social Housing was a different matter.

You would think that the plans involved compulsory drive-by shootings, drug taking classes for the under fives, and the removal of intelligence and prospects from any residents by way of lobotomy and white cider.

Yet - almost without exception - these smaller schemes have avoided the pitfalls of the Cearns, and resulted in high-quality accomodation for young families and couples, as well as singletons, of almost every strata of society.

Yes, having 50 new residents on your doorstep, blocking part of your view and affecting traffic flows will be disconcerting to start with, but the prospect of young families having a good start in life can only be of benefit to the islands as a whole.

I look foreward to seeing the completed houses and flats opened, occupied and thriving.


Anonymous said...

yes.... but how many of these new houses will actually be going to local people? What is the demand if we only considered the local popualtion? Many people from the mainland have decided that to live on long term benefits up here is preferable than an urban hell hole. That is understandable, but for community cohesion it is not good.

A second issue is the new builds that are private houses. In short they are an eyesore and do not fit with the vernacular architecture. There are plenty of monstrosities flooding the islands. Obviously people need houses, but I would suggest a moratorium on individual new builds on crofts and institute a house buidling scheme where the houses are sold to individuals. Instead of people just putting up a few houses here and there, build whole new streets of roughly identical houses- surely it works out cheaper overall for materials, hooking up to infrastructure like electricity, pipes etc for a street of houses than individual ones scattered around the place.

Or at least cut the grants, and only give grants to those that spend extra time and money to build there house in keeping with the vernacular architecture.

Another issue is to ween people off their devotion to their cars. People may say they need them but for our island there are only finite points of entry and exit. That makes a large scale public transport network feasible(7days). The trouble is of course human nature. I have observed on these islands, many people have family feuds, petty disputes and the like going back years, so much so that they will double back on the street. These people need their cars as a psychological nesssesity. They will not want to give up their private space to share a public space.
Community cohesion is something I am interested in.

Anonymous said...

A planner from the council (and I am not going to name and shame - yet) told me 6 months ago that the mismatch of houses on the islands was now a feature in planning terms. Seemingly it adds to the character of the islands and is something the Council are keen to encourage.

I told them that I had never heard the like and was returned with a smug grin.

Add to that I queried the flush of homes in west Harris in all the scenic spots. "Local housing" I was told. My arse. Most are now holiday lets at Seilebost etc.

The whole system needs urgent review. I though we were supposed to be trying to be low carbon etc. So how does that fit with the mansions we now see in Newmarket, Sandwick and Gress?