OVER 500 people have signed a petition calling on Shetland Islands Council to ditch its plans to demolish the Clickimin campsite to make way for the new Anderson High School.
The petition was started on Sunday night by local woman Carina McLatchie, who said the campsite was a “fantastic” amenity for both the local community and visitors to the islands.
She stressed there was no issue with the new school being sited near the leisure centre at Clickimin, but she felt that with “a bit of innovative thinking” an alternative parcel of land could be used “so that it can sit in harmony with the campsite”.
The campsite land was sold to the SIC by Shetland Recreational Trust (SRT), which used to run the amenity, in March this year. It is now shut, though the council did agree to temporarily reopen it to accommodate caravans during Saturday night’s Relay for Life charity event.
That was the spur for McLatchie to launch an attempt to rescue the campsite. Plans for the new AHS were lodged with the council’s planning department in April and are expected to go before the planning committee this summer.
She said there had been a “great response” to the petition with signatures from as far afield as the US and New Zealand.
“The campsite has been a great local meeting point for the whole community,” McLatchie said. “It’s not only a great holiday destination, but is great for anyone who stays outside of Lerwick [to use during] events like the Tall Ships, concerts etc.”
She said caravanning was an increasingly popular hobby for people of all ages and provided an affordable way for young families to take a holiday without “spending a fortune going abroad”.
With a leisure centre and its café and swimming pool just across the car park, easy access to two supermarkets and “an abundance of walks on your doorstep”, she feels Clickimin is “the ideal location” for a campsite.
A variety of trees and shrubbery surrounding the site took “many years” to become established and all that would be lost, McLatchie continued.
“The campsite has a huge amount of potential, with scope for so much more to make it profitable and attractive to visitors,” she said. “Once the bulldozers go in there will be no money or priority on building a new campsite.”
She also felt unhappy that “in house decision making between the SRT and the SIC has been done without public consultation” which “seems very underhand”.
When the issue was discussed in 2013 council figures said one of the conditions of its deal with Hub North to build a £42 million new school was that it effectively had to be an off-the-shelf design requiring a flat, even surface. That meant plans to build into the side of Staney Hill had to be abandoned.
Council sources have also pointed out that much of the ground at Clickimin is “unusable” because it is part of the old town dump.
Last year a Shetland Caravan and Camping Development Group was created. In November its secretary Finlay MacBeath said the group hoped to lease council land at Seafield with space for 30 fully serviced caravan pitches and space for a further 20 tents.
SIC convener Malcolm Bell told Shetland News: “We’re prepared to work with individuals and groups who wish to establish a new campsite somewhere else, and we’re willing to help identify suitable alternative space.”
You can read the petition, which had attracted 519 signatures by Tuesday afternoon, in full here.
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