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Community / Soft play centre and cafe planned for old Voe school

The old Olnafirth Primary School. Photo © Google 2020

A SOFT play centre could open alongside a cafe in the old primary school in Voe.

An application for planning permission has been submitted to Shetland Islands Council, with hopes to open in the spring.

The news will be music to the ears of many parents in Shetland, where there is no dedicated soft play facility.

Behind the plans are Michael Thomason and his wife Karen, who are teaming up with Addie Manson, his wife Sarah and daughter Abigail.

Michael Thomason said they are “overwhelmed” by the amount of people who have showed an interest in the project this week on social media.

“It’s been a problem in Shetland, there’s been nowhere to go with them [children] for a long time,” he said.

An example of what could be in store.

“Us and the other partners that’s in with us thought it was a fine opportunity. We had the Voe school anyway so we thought we’d go ahead and try it.”

A small soft play area can be found within Clickimin Leisure Complex in Lerwick but parents have longed for a standalone facility.

In the centre at the old Olnafirth Primary School there would be a two level, 100 square metre climbing frame with a sliding ball pit, as well as a separate dedicated baby and toddler area.

There could also be sensory equipment and easy access play items.

“We’re hoping to cater for everybody,” Thomason said.

The cafe would allow parents the opportunity to watch their children play while having something to eat or drink.

Thomason said there could also be plans for themed evenings in the cafe like steak or seafood nights.

The team behind the plans have already bought the contents for the soft play centre from the mainland and it has now been brought to Shetland.

The facility would bring some new jobs to the area as well as a timely boost for the village, which saw the closure of the Pierhead Bar and Restaurant earlier this year.

The team have applied to create 17 additional parking spaces between the school and the nearby huts.

Soft play centres are still closed in Scotland following the coronavirus outbreak, with the sector one of the last to reopen, but the hope is that things will have eased come the spring.

Thomason said Covid-19 restrictions have already pushed the Voe plans back a bit, with the business originally formed in May.

The Olnafirth Primary School, meanwhile, closed in 2014.

A couple of years ago plans were approved for a brewery in the building, but the company behind the proposal ceased trading.