Community / No reason to withdraw asset transfer application, church says

The science building at the old Anderson High School. Photo: Shetland News

THE CHURCH looking to take on a former school building in Lerwick says it has no reason to remove its asset transfer application after new concern was raised over its plans.

Campaigners Peter Hamilton and Kerrie Meyer claimed documentation for the old Anderson High School science block asset transfer application stated NHS Shetland and the council were “partners” of the New Life Shetland church.

They said NHS Shetland was not aware of a partnership being in place – and suggested this “invalidates” the application to the council, which owns the building.

But New Life Shetland pastor John Rollo said: “For the avoidance of any doubt we do not state in our application that there is a formal arrangement in place between New Life Shetland and NHS Shetland, and indeed none is required given the nature of our support.”

“We use the word ‘partnerships’ in our business plan to describe various situations in which we work alongside other people,” Rollo added.


“Our application simply states ‘New Life Shetland works together with the authorities, the NHS and other agencies and enterprises to improve the lives of people in Shetland’.

“Our business plan describes briefly our support of NHS initiatives as ‘Mental Health Support/Hospital Visits’.

“This work comprises (A) providing mental health support to individuals using NHS resources which are available in the public domain and (B) visiting people who are in NHS care in Shetland.

“We see no reason to remove our application and our planning application continues to await consideration.”

A spokesperson for NHS Shetland said: “NHS Shetland can confirm it has no partnership arrangement with the New Life Church. This has been clarified with Shetland Islands Council by both NHS Shetland and the church.

“There are a number of churches from a variety of different faiths in Shetland which have involvement in providing spiritual care to patients in line with the NHS Shetland Spiritual Care Policy.”

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Hamilton and Meyer raised concern in October about the proposed takeover of the old school building, which prompted a complaint to be initiated.

They expressed worry over the church’s alleged stance on homosexuality, marriage and sexual identity.

At the time Rollo said in response: “We believe that the good news of Jesus Christ is for all people regardless of background, sexuality, race or religion and all are welcome at all our services.”

New Life Shetland has been in lengthy talks to take on the science block at the former school site – which will be redeveloped over the coming years – as part of a community asset transfer.

The proposed use of the empty building is a place of worship, as well as a community hub with café facilities, counselling rooms and soft play for children.


Planning permission for the change of use has not yet been granted, with councillors deciding to defer the decision until more details emerged over parking.

Shetland Islands Council chief executive Maggie Sandison said on Thursday: “The council is obliged to handle asset transfers in line with relevant legislation therefore council business in connection with the New Life Church asset transfer decision will not be delayed or suspended.

“The council’s obligations under the legislation continues to apply regardless of the existence of a complaint.”

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