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Community / Fresh planning approval for Fair Isle Bird Observatory rebuild

Image: Colin Armstrong Architects

THE REBUILD of the Fair Isle Bird Observatory has received a major boost after its latest design receiving planning permission.

In its decision notice the council’s planning service said the £7.4 million development has a “key role in promoting the environment, is a focus for tourism and provides a source of employment in the island”.

The previous bird observatory was destroyed by fire in 2019.

Life after the Fair Isle fire

The Fair Isle Bird Observatory Trust has always been keen to build a new one in its place – but it hasn’t always been plain sailing.

The trust already had planning permission for a replacement observatory, but its team had to go back to the drawing board after the tender for the work came back too expensive.

Fresh plans were then submitted with a reworked design, which includes 29 guest rooms for visitors and staff.

The trust has appointed English company IDMH – or Ideal Modular Homes – to build the latest design. It said the company was awarded the contract after a “lengthy and rigorous tender process”.

The project has already secured more than £2 million in funding in addition to over £650,000 from the public.

The latest plan is for a modular building which will largely be constructed off Fair Isle. It has been designed by Colin Armstrong Architects.

The new design is said to be “much closer to the arrangements of the previous observatory”, which had been open for less than ten years before the fire.

The observatory was first established in 1948 and has played a vital role in Fair Isle, which is located roughly halfway between Orkney and Shetland and currently has a population of around 50.