Councillors reject looking at other sites for AHS
By JOHN ROBERTSON
A CALL for an independent assessment of alternative sites for the new Anderson High School was thrown out by the SIC this week.
Lerwick South councillor Jonathan Wills wanted the study done to find out the cost of building the 1,000-pupil school on a flat, greenfield site already owned by the council, such as at Seafield, to compare it to the estimated £49 million plan to build at the Knab.
He wanted the study to be based on the concept of an “exemplar” school, which is to a design approved by the government and used for various schools recently which he reckoned could be adapted for the Shetland weather. Government school-building experts would then assess the study results and give their advice to the council on the best way to proceed.
His main concern was the burden the school is going to place on the council’s future spending plans. He said it would consume a third of capital programme funds for more than a decade. He claimed over £3.5m would soon have been spent on the project yet there was currently no proposed design after three previous ones had been abandoned.
His idea was dismissed by 15 votes to three at Wednesday’s meeting of the Full Council which chose instead to hand the school project over to the services committee which will get the latest report on progress at its next meeting on 9th October.
Services chairman Gussie Angus said his main concern currently was the delay in appointing a new project manager for the school, which will not happen until December due to EU procurement rules. He thinks the preparatory work being done now should cease until the new manager is in place.
The school was discussed briefly at Lerwick Community Council on Monday when SIC executive director of education and social care Hazel Sutherland gave a presentation on the state of play.
Mr Angus was at that meeting too and told members that essentially no design now existed for the building despite all the work that has gone into it up to now.
Ms Sutherland said it would be at least another three months before a basic picture emerges to show whether a school at the Knab is affordable, technically buildable and can be done without causing unacceptable disruption.
SIC senior contract manager Robert Sinclair said the building would take two to three years to put up plus extra time to do the landscaping, play areas and other external works.
They still expect to start work next year but he said at the moment it was too early to say and a lot depended on how quick the application can be pushed through Shetland’s beleaguered planning department.
The financial target of £49 million is made up of a £40m building plus the professional fees already paid (£2.85m) and yet to be incurred as well as £1m to pay for the temporary classrooms likely to be needed if pupils have to be decanted from part of the existing school while it is knocked down. Mr Angus said the fees were “enormous”.
Dr Wills was at the meeting too and floated his idea of the exemplar school, one example of which is at Portree, he said. Its £28m high school is one of a number of public-private partnership schools to be built in the Highlands through a tie-up between the local council and builders Morrison Construction.
In response to a question about the original Anderson Education Institute building, Ms Sutherland said she personally hoped it could be incorporated into the new school. SIC officials were meeting architects in Edinburgh on Wednesday to try to move the project forward and ideas about the institute building were on their agenda.