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Business / DVSA finds off-road test area in Lerwick – but search continues for motorbike site

Motorcycle and large goods vehicles training and testing took place at the old Anderson High School car park for many years. Photo: Shetland Motorbike Training

AN OFF-ROAD test site for HGV drivers has been earmarked by the DVSA [Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency] in Lerwick – but it is still on the look-out for land for motorbike tests.

The UK Government agency has been without a dedicated test site since being moved on from the old Anderson High School a number of years ago.

The DVSA has also now ditched ill-fated plans to use land at the former Scatsta Airport for tests, which never came to fruition.

A spokesperson for the DVSA told Shetland News that it is now in the process of setting up the necessary paperwork to use a site at the Anderson Base in Gremista for off-road HGV tests (3a).

It is understood that lines still need to be painted on the site before it can be used. Haulage company Northwards also works from the Anderson Base.

While the site is set up, the on-road part of the HGV test – 3b – is being carried out from the driving test centre in Lerwick. This is at Islesburgh House on King Harald Street.

“However, we are still looking for land to conduct motorcycle testing from,” the spokesperson added.

“As part of our dedication to driver and rider testing on Shetland, we have extended our search beyond the current market. This includes a call-out to landowners who may have something suitable.”

Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has long been a critic of the DVSA’s approach to a test site in Shetland.

Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael. Photo: Shetland News

Commenting on the latest development, he said: “At last we see a small measure of sense emerging from the DVSA but it is ridiculous that it should have taken so long to get to this point.”

The DVSA formerly used a tarmac area at the old Anderson High School for these tests but it had to leave ahead of the site’s redevelopment.

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The former Scatsta Airport was earmarked for a test site, but the proposed shift to the North Mainland prompted two local training companies to say they would not use the site due to its location.

Shetland Motorbike Training’s Steve Henry for example said the move was not viable and decided to call time on his business as a result.

Shetland Islands Council is the landowner of the Scatsta site in question and chief executive Maggie Sandison previously said she did not agree to lease the land to the DVSA because trainers said it is not the best location for a test facility.

She said last year that a “facility without a trainer is of no value to the community”.

“The availability of HGV testing and training is business critical to the council to maintain essential public services,” Sandison added at the time.

As such, the DVSA has never used Scatsta for testing – despite successfully going through a change of use planning process.

Carmichael said it was “patently obvious” that the Scatsta site was not suitable.

He claimed the DVSA “ignored all the evidence – and the views of the instructors, the council and the community – and left the isles without a testing base for over a year”.

“The senior management of the agency have to be accountable for this shambles,” the MP continued.

“They could also make a start on rebuilding the relationship with the Shetland community by sorting out the motorcycle testing facility.

“Ministers must also take their share of their share of the blame. The DVSA has clearly been failing for years now and ministers should have been asking questions instead of accepting assurances as the service provided to communities has crumbled.”

Carmichael suggested the DVSA should “take the opportunity to reset its approach to the isles” and said it “needs to work with the community and end this saga once and for all”.

Meanwhile the DVSA is keen to hear from anyone with 0.5 hectares of hard standing surface to rent for future motorbike testing.

Lerwick is preferred but “all options” in Shetland are being considered.

It would be used one day a week for MOD 1 tests, while space would be used for storage ie a portacabin. More details on the call for a site can be found here.

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