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Another workshop on uses for Knab site to be staged

| Written by Neil Riddell, local democracy reporter

An aerial view of the Knab site. Photo courtesy of Shetland Islands Council. An aerial view of the Knab site. Photo courtesy of Shetland Islands Council. A PUBLIC workshop is to be staged to further consider what the best options for the old Anderson High School site might be as consultants continue work towards drawing up a “masterplan” for the area.

The 6 March meeting will incorporate suggestions put forward before Christmas, including at a public event in November, before a draft plan is prepared and exhibited as part of a formal consultation in May.

Consultants 7N Architects have brought in the services of a qualified urban planner, Nick Wright, to act as a “facilitator” for the next round of discussions.

He was one of three representatives present at a specially-arranged meeting of Lerwick Community Council in the town hall on Tuesday evening.

Shetland Islands Council appointed 7N Architects last July, and the site has largely been sitting empty since pupils moved across town to the new AHS at the lower Staney Hill in October.

There continues to be a strong assumption that much of the site will be given over to new housing as the council seeks to sell off land to cover the cost of demolishing many of the remaining buildings.

Ewan Anderson of the Edinburgh-based architects told community councillors there was “clearly a very passionate group of people in the town that are campaigning for a hockey pitch”.

That threatened to overshadow the wider discussion back in November, but he said that on further probing it had emerged the campaign’s goal was a pitch somewhere in Lerwick but not necessarily at the Knab site.

Wright said developing the site could take as much as a decade. After May’s consultation reports will go before council committees, and there will eventually be individual planning processes so there are “lots of stages to go”.

He pointed out that the site “will not stay in good condition if nothing happens” in the meantime, so there are questions about public access and whether some areas need to be temporarily fenced off.

“The input from the community is really important to help form the right mix of future uses of this site,” Wright said. “I’d encourage anyone with views on the Knab site to come along to this meeting, to check that we are going in the right direction.”

In addition to housing, other ideas include facilities for pre-school and nursery children, various sporting groups, hotels, a small business hub, an arts and crafts workshop, and premises for classic cars.

Anderson said the team did not necessarily want to come away with “fixed uses for buildings”, which would also be reliant on funding whether from public money, community initiatives or private operators.

He said there had been a “very clear steer” that the listed old Anderson Educational Institute building was “of huge significance to the people of Shetland and a strong desire that should have some kind of civic use”.

In a statement on Wednesday, development committee chairman Alastair Cooper said: “The Knab site is a unique site for redevelopment and we’re keen to continue to engage the public in a discussion on how it could best contribute to the community for years to come.

“The Knab site has an important role in solving the many challenges facing us all as a community, from preserving our heritage to providing community facilities and homes.”

  • 7N Architects will hold a workshop at Lerwick Town Hall from 6pm to 8pm on Tuesday 6 March.

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