McArthur joins Housing Minister on visit to Shapinsay

16 Feb 2024

Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur today joined Housing Minister Paul McLennan on a visit to Shapinsay to meet members of the local development trust and find out more about a range of local housing projects being taken forward on the island. The visit follows earlier meetings Orkney’s MSP held with the Minister and local housing stakeholders to discuss the need and opportunities for affordable housing development in the isles.

The visit was hosted by SDT Chair, Ashley Boyd and SDT Manager, Lisa-Marie Muir who were able to show the Minister and his officials the outcome of recent projects delivered in Balfour village, including the refurbished Smithy Café, which has proved enormously successful since it reopened, popular with visitors and local residents alike. Over coffee in the café, Ashley and Lisa, along with SDT Finance Director, Davie Campbell talked through the plans for further ambitious projects in and around the village, opening up opportunities to attract and retain population on the island.

Discussion also focussed on what support Scottish Government and its agencies, as well as Orkney Islands Council might usefully offer to support these and other projects, not just in Shapinsay and the other isles but across Orkney as a whole.

Commenting on the visit, Mr McArthur said:

“There is a growing housing crisis across the country, with demand for almost all types of housing outstripping supply. As ever, though, there is a specific islands dimension to what we are seeing nationwide, not least with significantly higher costs on the smaller isles and difficulties in attracting labour.

“However, it was really encouraging to see what is happening in Shapinsay, where the local community is taking a lead in trying to address their current and future housing needs. There has been an impressive amount of creativity as well as a lot of hard work, which is really starting to deliver results. That is something we are also seeing in other island communities, whose needs may be similar but which require a tailored approach.

“It was clear the Minister and his officials were impressed by what they saw and that Orkney is taking a lead when it comes to finding innovative ways of identifying and meeting local housing needs. However, going forward this will require sustained support from the Council and Scottish Government, but Shapinsay is demonstrating what can be achieved when this happens.”

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