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SIC hopeful to re-occupy White House before Christmas

The SIC evacuated all it staff from 8 North Ness, the White House, on 20 September 2016. Photo: Andrew Gibson/Millgaet Media

SHETLAND Islands Council hopes to be able to again fully occupy its headquarters at Lerwick’s 8 North Ness before the end of the year.

Chief executive Maggie Sandison said the council had been involved in a ‘lessons learned exercise’ ever since the building, commonly referred to as the White House, was evacuated in September 2016.

Around 200 staff were relocated to other SIC premises after owner Shetland Leasing and Property Development Ltd ordered the council to evacuate the building following concerns over its structural integrity.

The council’s capital programme team was the first to move back into the building in spring this year after tests showed that there was nothing wrong with the building.

Last week the SIC applied for a building warrant to make alterations to the existing layout estimated to cost in the region of £100,000.

Sandison said that following these reconfigurations of the building more staff could be housed in the SIC headquarters. Lighting and heating issues are also to be sorted as part of the planned return.

The SIC has continued to pay rent of around £500,000 per annum since the building was vacated.

The move has also created additional cost of around £400,000 of which £163,000 were legal fees.

Sandison, who at the time was not in charge of the evacuation, said a ‘lessons learned’ report on the saga would eventually be made public.

“We are doing a learning exercise from this and, probably, and in due course, that will be a public report that will be presented to the council to conclude this issue,” she said.

“At the moment some of those discussions are still exempt as they relate to contracts, and we couldn’t have that discussion publicly, but some of them will eventually be available to the public.

“It will before Christmas, both the moving back plus the lesson learned exercise.”

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