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Knab student accommodation idea gains momentum

One of the old AHS hostel blocks has been suggested for student accommodation.An aerial view of the Knab site.

OFFICIALS from the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) are set to visit Shetland in mid-June as moves continue to be made locally for student accommodation to feature at the old Anderson High School site.

Shetland Islands Council’s development director Neil Grant said hosting student accommodation at the old boys’ hostel would be a “good option” for the Knab site in Lerwick.

Previous plans for an 80-bed UHI student accommodation block from developers at Cityheart at Commercial Road in Lerwick appear to have fallen flat following concerns from European funders relating to Brexit.

Grant told members of the isles’ college board on Wednesday that a “compelling case” for the Knab site now needs to be put together before June’s meeting with the UHI.

A masterplan is being drawn up for the old Anderson site – which was largely vacated in October – by Edinburgh based architects 7N, and there is optimism that student accommodation will feature in the final plans.

“We’ve been working recently on the future use of the Knab site at the Anderson High School that’s recently vacated, and one of the buildings is the old boys’ hostel,” Grant said after the meeting.

“One of its future uses could be student and keyworker accommodation. In fact, that’s in the masterplan that’s being developed, that looks like the most likely use of that building going forward.”

Grant added that the Knab site is forming part of a discussions over a mooted ‘islands deal’ which could see the Scottish Government financially support economic growth in Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles.

“The another line of inquiry at the moment is through the UHI,” he continued.

“We are currently having discussion with the UHI about the Knab site building and the old boys’ hostel possibly being used as an option for student accommodation.

“We think it’s a good use of that building on the Knab site. If the UHI through Cityheart had progressed with the student accommodation on Commercial Road a couple of years ago, then that would have been fine, but our understanding is that there’s difficulties with that project in terms of its progression and its funding, and we’re proposing that this would be a good option for the Knab site.”