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New Eric Gray centre nearing completion

The work to build the replacement Eric Gray centre is progressing well. Photos: Chris Cope/Shetland News

THE NEW Eric Gray centre for adults with complex needs is on course to be completed by the end of September.

Contractor DITT is putting the finishing touches on the £6 million Shetland Islands Council building at Seafield in Lerwick, with the main work expected to be completed by July.

The new building will feature over 70 rooms, including a sensory space with fibre optic light installations, and it promises greater accessibility and mobility for users.

Construction on the long-awaited facility, which will replace the current Eric Gray centre on Kantersted Road, got under way back in 2016.

DITT site engineer Karl Bolt said the project has gone “fairly well” so far, with a formal completion date of 24 September on the horizon.

Councillor Emma Macdonald, who is a member of Shetland’s health and social care partnership integration joint board, added that the new facility will have a “positive impact” on users and staff.

“Where we’re at just now is we’re just finishing off the electrical and plumbing installations and the ventilation installations and come six weeks’ time, once all the service subcontractors are away, it’ll be over to us to finish the floor and put up ceiling tiles, finish up putting in the various sinks and kitchen units,” Bolt said.

“We’re going to have it finished come probably July and then we’ve got to get all our cabins and containers and all our kind of site set-up out of here so that we can do the car park, and finish off the external works around the building.”

Bolt added that “if anything, we’re actually slightly ahead of programme just now” – while he confirmed it is on budget too.

DITT's Karl Bolt.
“There have been savings throughout the project and also with any project there have been some cost increases, but it should I think balance itself out,” he said.

The building itself has quickly taken shape, with the various rooms and spaces set to be kitted out soon.

The spacious corridors and roof windows gives the centre an airy feel inside, while a polycrub has been erected on the north side of the building.

“There’s kind of a few unique rooms, and the one that probably attracts the most attention is the trampoline room,” Bolt said.

“There is going to be a soft play trampoline for the users that have the more mobility needs, mobility disabilities, so that will be good for them, because it saves them going to the Clickimin which is currently used by the school during term times.”

The current Eric Gray centre, effectively across the road from the new one, has seen its condition deteriorate over the years – with water not long ago having to be collected in buckets inside as it dripped through the roof following a bout of heavy rain.

A new centre had been on the cards for years and its construction has been strongly welcomed by the community.

“One of the big differences between this and the old building is the circulation space,” Bolt added.

“The corridors are all more than two metres wide, so what you’ll be able to do here is wheelchairs will be able to pass each other in corridors with no bother.”

Macdonald, meanwhile, said the investment in the new centre should futureproof the service for years to come.

“I think that the Eric Gray centre provides an excellent facility and the new centre will enable the work to continue for future generations,” she said.

“The new centre will have more space and this will have a positive impact on both service users and staff.”