PLANS to upgrade Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary have taken a step forward after local building firm Shetland Construction and Developments Ltd was appointed to oversee the £400,000 project.
The refurbishment of the premises will include a visitor centre in addition to new facilities for seals and otters.
The sanctuary, which is run by Jan and Pete Bevington, has secured more than £300,000 from the Sullom Voe Association and nearly £100,000 from the European LEADER fund for the work.
Shetland Construction and Developments Ltd (SCD) has now appointed CASE Shetland to design the refurbishment work.
Jan Bevington said: “I can’t believe this vision I have been holding for more than 30 years is about to become a reality.
“Everyone by now must know what that vision is – to have fantastic facilities to care for Shetland’s wonderful marine wildlife.”
SCD’s Frank Sinclair added: “This is an unusual project and we are really looking forward to starting work later this year once CASE have worked out the details of the design and we have put the whole thing through the planning process.
“It’s not every day that you get to work on a wildlife sanctuary and it’s not an opportunity that’s likely to come again in Shetland so we are very happy to be involved.”
Funder Sullom Voe Association is responsible for policy relating to Sullom Voe Terminal and its partners include Shetland Islands Council (SIC), terminal operators EnQuest and oil and gas company Total.
The SIC is overseeing the project management of the sanctuary redevelopment on behalf of the association.
Building services team leader Steven Goodlad said: “Shetland Islands Council is delighted to have been able to help bring this unique project to the stage where work can actually commence on designing the building works and we’re looking forward to seeing what the design team come up with.”
The sanctuary began life in 1987 when Jan Bevington came across an abandoned seal on a beach at Hillswick.
It went on to play a major part in the response to the Braer oil spill in 1993, with the sanctuary taking in stricken wildlife while receiving help from nearly 400 volunteers.
Jan and her husband Pete have been kept busy ever since, regularly helping out in the rescue of marine animals.
She said that “we would never have reached this stage without the help and support of so many different people, especially those kind folk who generously donate to keep the sanctuary running on a day-to-day basis”.
“This kind of support gives us hope for the future of the sanctuary and Shetland’s wildlife, and gives us the confidence to continue this work we feel so privileged to be doing,” Bevington continued.