COUNCILLORS in Shetland have given green light for the new £42 million Anderson High School and halls of residence to be built at the lower Staney Hill in Lerwick.
However, it looks increasingly likely that the new high school will not be ready to open its doors in August 2016 after officials imposed 25 planning conditions that must be met before construction work can begin.
The planning committee also approved plans to move the helicopter emergency landing site by several hundred metres from its existing site next to the planned school to a location nearer to residential properties at South Lochside.
Following objections from local residents, councillors decided to only grant temporary planning permission for two years with the obligation to carry out on-site noise level monitoring.
Following Monday’s two hour long meeting of the planning committee, head of school services Helen Budge said she was confident that a new AHS would be built, but could not confirm whether the school would be ready in two years’ time.
She said: “I am delighted as this is another step forward. We have to look very closely at all the conditions and look at our timescales for the work that we were hoping to be able to commence.”
Budge said that at present she was unable to say how long it would take to meet all the conditions imposed by planners.
Last month concerns were raised that the school would not be ready in time after main contractor Miller Construction was bought by rival Galliford Try plc.
Councillors were disappointed with the lack of information provided by the developer, which left officials with no choice but to impose conditions that would allow them to closely monitor the project.
HubCo North, which builds the school on behalf of the council and the Scottish Future Trust, had hoped to go ahead with constructing a roundabout and access roads straight away. But that will now be delayed until detailed designs have been submitted and approved by the planning authority.
The planning application for the four-storey 1,180 pupil school attracted 14 letters of objections as well as two petitions.
Local resident Sandy Macmillan did not receive an answer to his question as to why the school could not be moved to the north of the site at Clickimin thereby leaving the campsite and the helicopter landing site untouched.
However, he got reassurances from the developer that the school would not be built on contaminated land. The site straddles land that was used as the local dump until the 1970s.
No other of the objectors present at the meeting took the opportunity to address the meeting in Lerwick Town Hall.
Councillor Jonathan Wills, who is not a member of the planning committee, was not allowed to address the meeting, as he was not speaking on behalf of a constituent.
Following a short break, the meeting then considered an application by the Shetland Emergency Planning Forum to move the emergency landing site to an area between football pitches at South Lochside.
Addressing the meeting on behalf of the objectors, local resident Philomena Leask urged councillors to either deny consent or to at least postpone consideration until on-site noise level monitoring had been carried out.
She also said that local people feared their properties would lose value once they were located close to a helicopter landing pad.
Other concerns included potential damage to property from the helicopter’s updraught, fear of increased insurance premiums and questions over who would be liable for potential damage.
Leask also said the coastguard helicopter was not always dealing with life or death situations, and wondered whether it cound not land at Tingwall or Sumburgh more frequently.
But several speakers representing Shetland’s emergency services insisted that there was no alternative to the chosen site.
NHS Shetland chief executive Ralph Roberts said it was “essential to have a site as close to the Gilbert Bain Hospital” as possible, adding that whenever the ambulance had to travel to Sumburgh or Tingwall it was not available to respond to any other emergency.
Local coastguard area commander John Webster said the new site was even better than the previous one, which would be vacated as soon as building work on the new AHS commences.
Following some discussion councillors expressed their unease with the fact the no on-site noise level monitoring had been carried out, but accepted that they could not delay planning permission for this to be done.
They granted temporary consent for two years and ordered for a noise level study to be carried out.
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