How Good Is Our Place? The Shetland Results Are In

by Alastair Hamilton -

Back in October 2016, I reported on the use of a new tool that allows communities to assess the qualities of their home area. The Place Standard, as it’s known, has been developed by the Scottish Government and its partners to help in the task of planning communities’ futures. The tool allows residents to assess their area against a number of criteria.

The Shetland Place Standard project saw 939 responses to a questionnaire in July 2016, asking people right across the islands about their place and what they think could be improved, on 14 different themes. The final report has now been produced, containing a summary of the responses and an analysis of each of the seven localities in Shetland.

Shetland Islands Council’s Chair of Development, Alastair Cooper, feels that it has been really helpful. “The Place Standard project was innovative in making the connection between how places affect our sense of belonging and well-being. The substantial data gathered, with over 4,800 comments received, is a valuable source of information to help us plan for Shetland’s future in many areas, such as housing, transport and the economy.”

it has been really helpful

By scoring their home area, residents have indicated how much room there is for improvement in terms of such criteria as “moving around”, “feeling safe” or “work and local economy”. The higher the score, the more satisfied people are, so a score of 1 indicates that a lot of improvement is required whereas a score of 7 implies that none is needed.

The results do make interesting reading, whether you’re already living in Shetland or are interested in moving to the islands.

On average, Shetland scores particularly well on ‘natural space’, ‘feeling safe’ and ‘identifying and belonging’, which comes as no surprise. The lowest scores, of just under 4, were associated with ‘moving around’ and ‘public transport’; reflecting the transport issues that arise in rural areas.

Presented in graphical form, the results allow an at-a-glance comparison between each locality and the Shetland average, though it appears that the variations are mostly relatively small. Here are two of the graphs, the first for Lerwick and the second for the North Isles of Yell, Fetlar and Unst.

We can see from these graphs that Lerwick and Bressay score better than average on ‘moving around’, ‘public transport’, ‘social interaction’ and ‘work and local economy’. On the other hand, the district scores a little below average on ‘natural space’, ‘traffic and parking’, ‘streets and spaces’, ‘feeling safe’ and ‘housing and community’. However, it’s striking that the difference from the average is no more than half a point on the scale.

The North Isles’ scores are noticeably above average on ‘natural space’, ’traffic and parking’, ‘influence and sense of control’, ‘feeling safe’, ‘identifying and belonging’ and ‘housing and community’. The scores that are lower than average are on ‘public transport’ and ‘work and local economy’. Again, though, the scores differ from the average by little more than half a point, mostly much less.

Elsewhere in Shetland, there were very few significant variations from the norm. The exception was Whalsay and Skerries, where residents gave particularly low scores on ‘public transport’ and ‘work and local economy’. On the other hand, they gave slightly higher ones on ‘care and maintenance’ and ‘play and recreation’. The Central Mainland gave higher-than-average ratings to ‘public transport’, among other factors.

These results and the thousands of comments will be fed into other strategies, including the Local Development Plan, the Local Housing Strategy, the Shetland Transport Strategy, the Local Outcomes Improvement Plan and work on health and social care.

Shetland has been at the forefront of Place Standard work, with staff from the Council being involved in the development of the approach. The tool has also been used during the development of proposals for a major new housing development in Lerwick.

Meanwhile, the Shetland Place Standard project has been shortlisted in the 2017 Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning. Twenty two projects across Scotland have been shortlisted, in four categories of Partnership, Place, Plans and Process. The Shetland Place Standard is nominated in the “Process” category, as well as in the People’s Choice in Planning Award.

Councillor Alastair Cooper, Chair of Development said: "I’m delighted to see the project shortlisted for this national award and I’d encourage the public to vote for it in the People’s Choice category.” You can vote here until the end of October 2017.

Shetland has previously picked up one of the Scottish planning awards; in 2008, the Lerwick waterfront regeneration project took the overall prize.

Posted in: Community