LOCAL training companies for motorbikes and large goods vehicles have warned that they may have close up if the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) does not find a new test site in Shetland soon.
The DVSA has failed to find new premises after being told it can no longer hold tests from 31 March onwards at the back of the old Anderson High School, which is due to be redeveloped by Shetland Islands Council.
Shetland Motorbike Training’s Steve Henry warned that if no resolution is found soon then he may have no other option than to close his company after over 30 years in business.
Drive Shetland’s Petur Petursson echoed those views and said he could have to sell off his large goods vehicle training truck if there is no movement on the matter.
It is believed that DVSA staff will be in Shetland this week to in an attempt to seek progress on the matter, while it is thought that the agency is currently looking at a potential new site off the old North Road near the holiday houses at the Decca.
The issue has been raised by Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael, who wrote to DVSA chief executive Gareth Llewellyn about the “shocking” lack of progress despite the agency knowing since at least 2016 that the Anderson site near the Knab would be redeveloped.
Motorcycle and large goods vehicle tests have taken place in the bus car park at the back of the old school for a number of years, and Llewellyn warned there are “limited locations” to move to in Lerwick.
Pupils moved out of the old school in October, and the DVSA said it was formally told in November that it had to leave by the end of March.
Henry said that there would be no motorbike training available in Shetland if there is no continuity after the Anderson site gets closed off.
“You’re not allowed to do any training on ground that’s not been classified, so if I lost the park up there at the Anderson High, and there’s not another one that’s been sorted out, nobody can be doing anything to do with bikes,” he said.
“I’ve done it for 30 odd years now, and we do have the highest pass rate in the UK. But if this doesn’t get resolved shortly, I’ll probably be giving it up.”
Henry estimates that it would cost around £2,000 for someone to travel off of Shetland to do training and tests.
“There were 130 odd [bike and truck] tests that were done last year in that park,” he said.
“If folk have to go south for it, they obviously will have their flights or boat, their digs for a week as they’ll have do all their training for it south, they’ll have to hire motorbikes or trucks or whatever, and then they’ll have to go through the tests.
“You’re looking at coming onto nearly £2,000 per person, so if you fit that into 130 folk, that’s a lot of money coming out of the Shetland economy.”
Llewellyn responded to a letter from Carmichael to say that the DVSA has been putting “significant resource” into finding a new site.
“Lerwick has been one of our most difficult relocations due to the naturally restricted boundaries and the limited locations from which we can test,” he said.
“We can only act within the commercial market and are reliant on land that becomes available.
“We have asked the council to look into the possibility of identifying alternative locations around Lerwick but nothing has been identified. Under these circumstances, it is regrettable that there will be a break in service.
“I can assure you that we are committed to providing a service in Shetland but this is dependent on securing new premises.”
Carmichael called on Llewellyn to visit Shetland in person to view possible sites.
“It is shocking that despite over 18 months’ notice that they would have to leave their current site, DVSA appear to have done nothing to ensure a continuity of service in Shetland,” the MP said.
“Forcing people to go to Orkney or even Aberdeen for motorcycle or LGV driving tests is an entirely avoidable crisis, and the way it has been handled by the DVSA is totally unsatisfactory.”
Shetland Islands Council said it had been “unable to identify suitable SIC-owned sites given the space requirements for the DVSA’s activities”.
Edinburgh architects 7N, meanwhile, held its latest public consultation in Lerwick on Tuesday as it continues to form plans for the Knab site.