Council / Old Eric Gray centre to be demolished

Councillors also approve plans to relocate services from the Knab

The old Eric Gray building is to be demolished. Photo: Shetland News

THE OLD Eric Gray Resource Centre in Lerwick will be demolished after councillors gave their backing to the proposal.

However, councillor Peter Campbell said more thought should have been given to alternative uses for the building.

A business case on the £200,000 demolition was heard by members of the full Shetland Islands Council on Wednesday.

The old Eric Gray building at Seafield has been largely empty since the new building opened across the road earlier this year.

It is currently accommodating early years children from Sound until building work at the primary school is completed, with October slated as the return date.

Councillors were told that no demolition works would begin until the site is fully vacated and no longer required for this purpose.

The building is earmarked for demolition because the council has not identified any long-term service need.

Campbell said had things move slightly faster, the council could have found itself with a “major problem” over housing the Sound bairns.

He said the Eric Gray building being available “saved a lot of embarrassment”.

Council chief executive Maggie Sandison insisted the local authority had contingency measures in place in relation to the expansion of early leaning and childcare and its associated building works.

She said there was other alternative accommodation available other than the old Eric Gray centre.

Sandison also reiterated the need for the council to trim its portfolio of buildings.

“The council has a very large estate and it has less and and less money to maintain and operate that estate,” she admitted.

Campbell also asked what consideration had been given to alternative uses, with assets, commissioning and procurement manager Robert Sinclair stating that as the building had been designed for a certain purpose it was difficult to “repurpose”.

The value of the old Eric Gray site when cleared is estimated at £360,000.

The old centre was built in 1978 and the service provides specialist supported vocational activities for adults with learning disability, autistic spectrum disorder and complex needs.

It was replaced earlier this year after being deemed no longer fit for purpose.

Council leader Steven Coutts moved the recommendation to go ahead with the demolition.

“Clearly we have no need for his building,” he said.

COUNCILLORS, meanwhile, also gave their approval for plans to relocate services from the old Anderson High School site.

The project, costing around £765,000, will see services like ASN, the Bruce Family Centre and environmental health/trading standards move elsewhere in Lerwick as the site gets set for redevelopment.

The plans include refurbishing the old HNP building on Commercial Road to provide store space, while environmental health and trading standards could move to 66 Commercial Road.

There are also plans to refurbish offices at Montfield to re-home psychological and educational outreach services, the Bruce Family Centre and the assisted support base.

The annual revenue savings from the proposed changes are £267,000, meaning the relocation could pay itself back after three years.

Westside member Theo Smith issued a note of caution, however, over the potential workload.

While he said it was a “splendid idea and well thought out”, he questioned if the council had the workforce to carry out the project.

“I’m fearful that we may be taking on too much within our own resources,” Smith said.

Assets, commissioning and procurement manager Robert Sinclair said that while it was a good point, he was confident the targets would be achieved.

“We have already farmed some of it out to external consultants,” he said.

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