By Andy Hargreaves

hugh town houses

Today marks the start of the Council’s official consultation on what should be in a new Local Plan for Scilly.

That’s the document required by law that sets out how land on the islands will be used to support the community and economy over the next ten years.

It will guide all the planning decisions made by councillors for the next decade.

The last one was written in 2005 and it’s not due to expire until 2020. But the Council says it’s now out-of-date because it doesn’t conform to the latest planning acts.

Councillors have also expressed concern that without an updated plan, it could leave the islands open to a “free for all” by developers.

Earlier this year, Senior Infrastructure Manager Craig Dryden said this would be “the most consulted document” in the islands.

The consultation will ask residents their views on a range of issues including housing, transport, infrastructure, the economy, energy management and the environment.

One of the most controversial areas is likely to be the goal to build up to 120 new homes on the islands over the next ten years.

The Council says these are required to allow younger people to get a foothold on the property ladder, to house entrepreneurs moving to the islands, and to allow older residents to downsize to more suitable properties.

A number of sites have already been earmarked for development, such as Telegraph, but the high cost of construction on the islands means some ‘open market’ housing might be required to make it attractive for developers to build here.

The Council is also looking to diversify the economy away from tourism by attracting people who work in the creative and technology industries, taking advantage of the improved broadband connection with the mainland.

The decline of shops and restaurants in Hugh Town could also be tackled by designating our largest settlement as a ‘town centre,’ meaning existing commercial properties could be protected from becoming housing.

And the Council says we could reconsider whether the whole of the islands should remain a conservation zone. This currently adds extra restrictions to householders, such as requiring planning permission for alterations to doors and windows or even painting your house a different colour.

The consultation period is open until the 17th July and the documents are available on the Council’s website. There will also be a series of public events across all the islands this month.

The Council are hoping to submit the new Local Plan to the government for approval next summer.