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Council / Old Anderson demolition work to begin next week as meeting hears site is ‘absolutely about the future’

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

DEMOLITION work on the former Anderson High School site is set to begin on Monday (10 May).

The update was given to members of Lerwick Community Council last night (Monday).

Shetland Islands Council’s (SIC) manager of assets, commissioning and procurement Robert Sinclair said contractors might be seen setting up accommodation this week.

The first phase of demolition will involve separating the links between the buildings to be retained and those to be demolished. It will take around 18 weeks to complete, and local contractor Tulloch Developments will carry out the work.

The second phase – to demolish all unwanted buildings on the site – is expected to begin in the second half of 2021, and take up to a year to complete.

The phased redevelopment of the site is expected to take around 10 years and it has already attracted around £9.1 million in government funding through the islands growth deal.

The main crux of the site will be housing, but there will be other elements – including an arts and creative industries hub, while student accommodation has been mooted too.

New Life Church, meanwhile, is in the process of taking on the science block.

Sinclair said by spring next year the council will have to make decisions on how much and when to invest in the later stages of the scheme.

The SIC, which is the driving force behind the project, has already committed £3.374 million towards demolition and the designing of infrastructure.

Development director Neil Grant said around one third of the islands deal funding relates to the creative hub.

The rest, he said, will go towards “adding value” to the site in areas such as futureproofing housing.

“The money that we’ve got from the islands growth deal is to provide housing to a future standard,” Grant said.

“It’s to provide low carbon housing, it’s to provide housing that’s suitable for connectivity both in terms of physical connectivity and active transport connections to the town, but broadband connectivity [too]. It’s also for housing that people can work from.”

He added that some of the funding would go towards making “spaces on the site special” in the hope of boosting community engagement and wellbeing.

Community councillor Stewart Hay commented that the Knab site could offer a “microcosm for future Shetland” in how to live and work in years to come.

Grant said he “totally agreed” and highlighted that the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic has created significant changes in how people work and live.

“This site is absolutely about the future,” he said.

Sinclair, meanwhile, said he hoped there would be a positive resolution to the DVSA having to find a new location to hold motorbike and large goods vehicle tests before demolition starts.

The large tarmac area at the top of the site has been used for this purpose for a number of years and Sinclair said the council has already given the DVSA a number of extensions since the old Anderson school closed in 2017.

He said he understood the DVSA are in discussions with a private sector provider regarding an alternative area.

Some members of Lerwick Community Council, meanwhile, expressed concern that no new parking spaces are being proposed as part of New Life Church’s takeover of the science block.

However, some members also had sympathy for the applicant – with a discussion ensuing on active travel and the transition away of cars.

A change of use planning application has been submitted to the SIC for the building, with the local church wanting to turn the redundant block into a place of worship and community hub, which would include a cafe and soft play space.

The local church is going through the asset transfer process with the council.

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