AN AMBITIOUS plan for the site of the old Anderson High School is to go for further consultation after a design brief was unanimously approved by councillors for further consultation.
Members of the Shetland Islands Council development committee were impressed by a presentation of what the future of the extensive site of the old school, which contains several listed buildings, could look like.
Ewan Anderson of 7N Architects outlined a mixed and “balanced” development of housing, commercial development and reuse of the listed buildings with plenty of open space. Part of this could be paid for by an “islands deal” from the Scottish Government, but the committee heard the scheme should not be contingent on such funding.
Anderson said that the project was a “big deal” for Lerwick. The relocation of the school to the opposite side of Lerwick had “changed the whole dynamic of the town” and the council was managing this in a “very positive way”.
The masterplan, which is intended for guidance, will be advertised and then quickly proceed to consultation with “stakeholders”. These should be the entire Shetland community, said Lerwick North councillor John Fraser, who moved the report.
The entire site could take 10 years to redevelop, with demolition of old buildings slated to start in 2020.
Development chairman Alastair Cooper said that the plan was the “most significant thing this committee will consider in this council” and that the Knab was the last big site in Lerwick” as well as being a sensitive area, given its past usage as Shetland’s main school.
The masterplan has “the potential to deliver 120 to 140 new homes” of different types, but mainly aimed at smaller and downsizing families, with one, two and three bedrooms. These will include houses for older people, social housing, “affordable” housing for workers, student accommodation and self-build.
Suggested uses for buildings that are proposed for redevelopment include an arts centre and innovation hub for the Anderson Institute; hospitality training and a hotel for the Bruce Hostel; student/apprentice accommodation for the Janet Courtney hostel and a gymnastics club/business start up space for the science building.
One of the main features of the plan is a “central spine” – a pedestrian precinct running west to east and downhill through the site, flanked by stained wooden houses. A dense bank of housing on the west side will provide shelter for the rest of the scheme.
The designers have taken a “placemaking approach” and “weaving the old with the new” in the plan, with attention paid to open green spaces and tree planting, even civic gardens or a “sculpture park” in front of the Bruce Hostel.
West Mainland councillor Theo Smith questioned whether there was enough parking space in the blueprint and doubted people were ready to give up on “two cars and a caravan” yet.
But Cooper said that the council had a duty to be pushing things along and the development could be a “step change” to low carbon living. Furthermore young people were far more “carbon conscious” than middle aged and elderly people.
Executive manager of assets Robert Sinclair said consultation on the site went back to 2014 but an eight week consultation based on the master plan would get underway shortly.
Development director Neil Grant said that town centre association Living Lerwick had been involved in the process and were supportive of the plan.
Work is likely to progress from the bottom of the hill on the east side, largely as a result of building “logistics”, but also to allow priority redevelopment of the retained assets.
Executive manager of housing Anita Jamieson said that the design would have to address what housing demand would be like in 10 years time and the emphasis in building would be on energy efficiency and good quality.