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Council / Demolition of old Anderson buildings given go-ahead

An aerial view of the Knab site. Photo courtesy of Shetland Islands Council.
An aerial view of the site which is due to be redeveloped. Photo: SIC

COUNCILLORS have approved spending £1 million on demolishing most of the buildings at the old Anderson High School ahead of the site being redeveloped.

Only the three listed buildings – the Anderson Educational Institute, the Bruce Hostel and the Janet Courtney Hostel – and the former science block will be saved.

Councillors also gave their backing for the masterplan for the site being adopted as guidance for future development in the area.

However, there is set to be extra emphasis on traffic management after concerns from local residents were relayed in the chamber from Lerwick councillors.

Demolishing the buildings on the site will result in annual revenue savings of £260,000 for Shetland Islands Council, meaning that the cost it will be paid back over four years as a spend to save scheme.

It is also estimated that the site value will also increase by £1 million when cleared.

Councillors were told in a report that the reduced activity on the site has resulted in increased levels of vandalism and antisocial behaviour, while the empty buildings pose a “significant health and safety risk”.

They were also told that there may be an “unquantifiable benefit to the Shetland Island economy” through the demolition contract appointment and associated services.

Some concerns were raised in the council chamber, however, over the impact demolition trucks will have on the neighbouring area and roads like the roundabout at the top of Church Road.

A masterplan for the Knab site, meanwhile, was formally adopted as guidance for future development in the area.

An image from the masterplan showing what a redeveloped Knab site could look like. Image: 7N Architects

Councillors approved the plan, which was created by Edinburgh based architects 7N over the last few years, becoming supplementary guidance to the local development plan.

They were told that the revamp of the site is likely to take place in phases, perhaps over 10 years, with the council acting as the developer behind the project.

The details of the masterplan were unveiled in March and the design brief included a mix of housing, commercial development and the reuse of the listed buildings.

The masterplan, which went out to public consultation, could deliver over 100 new homes of varying sizes.

Suggested uses for buildings that are proposed for redevelopment include an arts centre and innovation hub for the Anderson Institute and student/apprentice accommodation for the Janet Courtney hostel.

The Janet Courtney Hostel will close in summer next year ahead of the opening of the new Anderson High school and associated halls of residence.
The Janet Courtney Hostel will not be demolished. Photo: Shetland News

The plan came up in front of the council’s development committee on Tuesday morning before getting an airing at the full council meeting which followed immediately after.

Lerwick North councillor John Fraser felt that moves should be made to explore whether the Janet Courtney Hostel can be delisted to provide more options for development.

Lerwick South member Peter Campbell, meanwhile, tabled an amendment highlighting the need to study more closely the impact on traffic the development will have.

He said local residents were concerned over the existing access points to the area, with the flow “already congested”.

“The residents in the area have been very concerned with the impact that traffic will have on them and the access to their properties,” Campbell said.

Roads manager Dave Coupe said these issues should be resolved over time when individual planning applications come in for sections of the development, but Campbell said it is better to deal with the issue from the beginning.

Coupe added that traffic congestion should be “spread out during the day” instead of at two major peaks in the morning and late afternoon due to the school no longer being open.

Fellow Lerwick South councillor Cecil Smith sought assurances from council chief executive Maggie Sandison that local residents would be engaged throughout the development – something that she guaranteed.

As the discussion went into debate, North Mainland member Alastair Cooper sought to move the recommendation to implement the masterplan as guidance, saying that the development will evolve naturally over the next decade.

Fraser tabled an amendment to make council officers explore delisting the Janet Courtney Hostel, although he said he was not advocating either the retention or demolition of the building.

He suggested it was a “dereliction of duty” not to explore all options for the benefit of the community.

Fraser’s amendment, however, was outvoted by 13 to five against Cooper’s motion.

Campbell’s amendment was then tabled for further consideration to be given to traffic flow in and around the site, provision of the public bus service to the area and the impact on increased traffic on surrounding roads.

His amendment was supported by his Lerwick South peers Cecil Smith, Amanda Hawick and Beatrice Wishart, with the latter saying as the councillor living closet to the development, she very much understood the residents’ concerns.

Cooper’s motion and Campbell’s amendment went head to head in a vote, with the amendment scraping through with nine votes against eight.

With the matter resolved, Cooper then took the opportunity to highlight that the masterplan was one of four nominated for this year’s Scottish Design Awards.

The awards ceremony is due to be held on 22 August.