Eric Gray decision draws applause

Around 20 parents and supporters gave the council a hearty round of applause as plans to build a replacement for the Eric Gray Centre were ushered through a meeting of the full council.

Councillors approved a motion by social work chairman Cecil Smith and seconded by Allison Duncan for a “rigorous time scale” for a 1,800 square metre replacement centre at the Seafield hockey pitch.

The new building will be designed with wheelchairs in mind, with corridors wide enough to allow two chairs to pass and specially designed toilets. Options to refurbish and extend existing facilities at Eric Gray Centre and Gressy Loan, listed in a report for social services and policy and resources committees, were rejected by the councillors.

The money to build the centre will be borrowed but the pay back will have to come from departments’ revenue budgets and directorate savings, SIC finance director James Gray told councillors, in reply to a question from North mainland councillor Drew Ratter.

Vaila Wishart – "a critical time for education"

Vaila Wishart – questions over finance.

Central mainland councillor Vaila Wishart questioned whether the projected £4.5 million cost of the building could be reduced without a reduction in “facilities”. Councillor Jonathon Wills was reassured that there would be no compromise on the function of the building even if the design was to be revisited.

Councillors also heard that altering the detailed plans should not make any difference to the time table for progressing the building. But money will also be sought from external sources to reduce the burden on the council.

SIC chief executive Mark Boden said that there was no reason the council could “not go back and look” at the plans, but funding the project could put pressure on the revenue of the social care directorate. Councillors also heard that the cost could be spread over several directorates.

Mr Smith thanked colleagues for the work they had put in to the project and paid tribute to the families for their “understanding and patience.”

About Peter Johnson

Reporter for The Shetland Times. I have also worked as an employed and freelance reporter and editor for a variety of print and broadcast media outlets and as as a freelance photographer and film maker/cameraman. In addition to journalism, I have experience in construction, oil analysis, aquaculture, fisheries, the health service and oral history.

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