21st February 2018
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Lack of funding means Quarff soft-play plan is non starter

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Plans for a new community cafe and soft play centre in Quarff have taken a serious knock after more than two years of planning.

Charity group Shetland Community Cafe and Soft Play wanted to transform the old Quarff Primary School – which closed in 2003 – into a multi-purpose community centre.

The group which wanted to create the soft play area at the former Quarff school. From left: Donna Cameron, Fiona Reid, Nicola Smith,Tracey Malcolmson,Kate Holt, Kristina Leask, Stephanie Bain, Shona Wishart and Susan Goodlad. Photo: Dave Donaldson

The group which wanted to create the soft play area at the former Quarff school. From left: Donna Cameron, Fiona Reid, Nicola Smith,Tracey Malcolmson, Kate Holt, Kristina Leask, Stephanie Bain, Shona Wishart and Susan Goodlad. Photo: Dave Donaldson

Their idea revolved around creating play areas for local children complete with a soft play area, play park and multi-court. They also hoped to provide a cafe service for the wider community.

Holidaymakers were to be catered for as well as it was suggested that the old school house could be converted into accommodation for visitors and locals taking breaks.

Councillors agreed early this year to give the cafe and soft play group a two-year lease for the building, with the group hoping to buy the site in the future by attracting funding. A number of fundraising events were held to finance the scheme including a toy sale and a clothes swap.

That money may now have to be donated to other charities as the group has been unable to enter into the lease agreement due to external factors.

The group posted on its Facebook page: “Our group are so sorry to report that due to circumstances beyond our control the Quarff School is no longer a viable option for us, and we have been forced not to enter into the lease agreement.

“We are unable to progress the project as the new Big Lottery programmes have now been released, and we have been told there’s a good chance our project would struggle to secure the funding it would need.

“We have mixed feelings at the moment, Shetland desperately needs a soft play centre, especially at this time of year. So many folk have supported us and been keen to see a soft play and a community cafe, that there’s a huge element of feeling we’re letting folk down if we give up.

“That said, after two years of working towards this goal, we’re all a bit weary, and not sure we’ll feel able to start again. We’ll meet in the new year to decide whether to donate the money we’ve raised, or try something else.”

When asked if the Shetland Islands Council would share information about buildings which they had available for rent or sale the group replied that the council “have offered to meet with us in the new year to discuss our options.”

They ended their post on the thwarted project on a conciliatory note, saying: “We wish to thank all of you for your help and support along the way. We genuinely believed the project at the Quarff School would have a chance, and are so sorry to have to give up”.

The community group’s chairwoman Shona Wishart was not available for comment.

The Shetland Times attempted to speak to the SIC’s development director Neil Grant about the council’s plans for the building.

Mr Grant was unavailable but a statement from Carol Anderson in the SIC communications department claimed the council was “continuing to explore its options”.

About Keegan Murray

Reporter for The Shetland Times. Interested in politics, literature and music. Born and bred Shetlander. Long suffering Newcastle United supporter.

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