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Significant leak at lighthouse tearoom

The Sumburgh Head visitor centre and nature reserve - all photos: Hans J Marter/ShetNews
The Sumburgh Head visitor centre and nature reserve, with the affected room seen on the bottom right of the photo. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

THE STEVENSON Room at the Sumburgh Head Lighthouse – which offers panoramic views across the sea – is likely to be out of action for a number of months after suffering significant water damage in recent bad weather.

Mat Roberts, chief executive of owners Shetland Amenity Trust, told trustees at the organisation’s latest meeting on Friday that a big concern surrounding the ingress is that the site’s main incoming power supply is located beneath the room.

It comes after bad weather also caused damage last year to the roof of a machinery room in a different building at the lighthouse complex, which was relaunched in 2014 after a £5.4 million redevelopment.

The Stevenson Room provides striking panoramic views over Sumburgh and the sea, and it includes cafe facilities as well as space which can be rented out for events like weddings, concerts or meetings.

But with a “significant ingress of water” coming in below the large windows, seating and floors have been stripped back to find the source of the problem and temporary measures have been put in place.

Speaking after Friday’s meeting, Roberts said that “it is our position at the moment that it is a defect issue” – meaning the responsibly for correcting it would be with the contractors or architect.

The main contractor for the whole project was Northern Irish company Corramore Construction Ltd, while Groves Raines Architects was involved in the design.

Thankfully for the staff the Stevenson Room had already been closed for winter by the time the problem had been discovered, so no trade was affected.

“It appears to be coming from underneath the window,” Roberts added.

“Unfortunately there was a risk because underneath the Stevenson Room is the main incoming power supply and we wanted to make sure that there was no risk to people working in the building.

“We have isolated the various spaces and sub contractors and the architects are coming to visit next week to look at a permanent solution.”

Roberts said the room is not likely to be open again in time for Up Helly Aa tourists at the end of January, while the target is to reopen for the 2019 season at the of March.

“This is Shetland, this is Sumburgh Head, we have weather,” he said.

“It’s not always helpful weather and if we have to do significant works we will be trying to do that in very high winds with potentially a lot of rainfall.

“That could slow things down and we are unlikely to be open for Up Helly Aa, and it will be tough to open for Easter, but that will definitely be our target.

“We have plenty of space at Sumburgh Head, so we can make alternative provision, but obviously the panoramic views from the Stevenson Room are spectacular and unique, and what brings a lot of people to Sumburgh Head is that there is this incredible view in a sheltered environment and a great cup of coffee, and we want to keep that going.”

Roberts said that the issue in the machinery room caused last year will also be explored again when architects and sub contractors visit next week.

“We will be doing another site visit to work out what is going on with the roof,” he said.

“There is some debate as to exactly what the cause of the problem is. We believe that it is a construction issue.”