OUTSIDE funding of £500,000 has been secured to allow Shetland Islands Council to upgrade 1.5km of paths around the Clickimin Loch.
The money comes from UK charity Sustrans and will boost the local authority’s efforts to make it easier for pupils to walk and cycle to the new Anderson High School at lower Staney Hill.
In line for improvements are the path running adjacent to the loch’s east side between the Clickimin Leisure Centre and the Tesco roundabout, and the path between the leisure centre and Westerloch.
Sustrans, which works to ensure more people are able to travel by foot or bike, is to provide half a million pounds to pay for three-metre wide tarmac surfaces and new lighting to be installed.
The SIC had already planned to upgrade some paths immediately surrounding Clickimin as part of the £42 million new AHS project. That meant it was able to secure matched funding to “upgrade all paths at no additional cost to the council”.
A report from road safety officer Elaine Skinley stated that planning approval for the new AHS buildings may have included a condition to upgrade paths around the loch, meaning it made sense to bid for financial help from outside Shetland.
The local authority’s policy and resources committee unanimously backed the project on Monday afternoon.
Political leader Gary Robinson – a keen cyclist himself – said SusTrans had “a pot of money that we should be getting into”.
He said one of the big advantages of the lower Staney Hill site over the existing Knab location was that 90 per cent of bairns could walk or cycle to and from school all year round.
“This fits entirely into the project to build the new school,” Robinson added.
Some councillors, including Shetland North member Alastair Cooper, questioned the need for paths as wide as three metres.
“We’re going to end up with a footpath around the loch that’s better than any of the roads in Northmavine,” he suggested, going on to wonder whether the paths’ width might result in “joyriders with motorbikes and whatnot”
Skinley said that from past experience of problems elsewhere with scramblers, when neighbours reported anything untoward the police were “usually there quite quickly”.
Several others, including North Isles councillor Gary Cleaver and Shetland Central member Vaila Wishart, commended Skinley’s efforts in securing external funding for something Wishart said would “improve the look of the area”.