No council backing for campsite
The council has given a lukewarm response to moves to establish a new caravan and campsite at North Lochside.
Shetland Caravan Club is backing the site originally on a list of alternative sites to the nearby Clickimin one which was closed to allow construction of the new Anderson High School.
The proposed new area, between the school roundabout and the halls of residence, is, at 1.6 acres, slightly bigger than the old site and would be ideal, according to the caravan club.
The plan for a Lerwick site has also won the backing of many community councils though some have not had time to respond to a letter from the caravan club.
But the council has said it has no plans to lease or sell the site.
The club gave its backing to the plans following a meeting on Monday night and wants the council to develop the site, used as a laydown and rock-crushing area by the school’s builders, or at least approve it in principle for use as a campsite.
The club’s case is made in this week’s <i>Sounding Off </i>by Bobby MacLeod, who was one of the original club founders in 1992.
Since then, he said the provision of the Clickimin campsite spurred caravaning as an activity throughout Shetland and the growth in local motorhome hire as well as the development of camping and caravaning sites throughout Shetland.
Mr MacLeod said Clickimin had been “the king pin site of all the sites.”
He added: “If you think of Shetland caravan sites as a network, it was the main site.
“Your caravan became your party house as well. You met tourists there, folk that was come up from south, and they would sit and speak about other sites and where was best to go to.
“If you were a tourist you would come to the Lerwick site first. You would go out and do your shopping and get yourself organised, go out and maybe go and scout the other sites and see where you wanted to go.
“Instead of that, if they come up now they have to go out of Lerwick somewhere to find a site. Some of sites maybe cannot deal with motorhomes either, but the sewage facilities did exist at Clickimin.”
Mr MacLeod said Clickimin had been comparable with top-end camping and caravaning sites south. It had been developed originally with cash from Shetland Charitable Trust and then was doubled in size with £100,000 from the local enterprise company.
The public funding had been proved justified by the boost given to local caravaning throughout Shetland and to the tourism industry in general. Two static caravans had been pitched on site for hire to tourists in last few years of its existence.
Mr MacLeod said the Clickimin site, which was council owned but administered by the nearby Clickimin Leisure Centre, had been an invaluable asset for country people who wanted to visit town for the weekend. Since it closed the membership of the caravan club had declined significantly.
He said it would not cost a fortune to build a toilet block on the proposed site which had been compacted by the school developers and had both a fresh water supply and sewage outlets built in, as it had originally housed on-site portable cabins.
The caravan club would also be on hand to help guide the development with many of its members having learned from experiences with caravan and camping sites on the mainland.
Mr MacLeod said: “The builders are due to reinstate the site but it is not clear how it will be reinstated. That’s one of reasons we would like something now. If the opportunity exists, even if they [the SIC] cannot build it they could earmark it as a site and get a lot of the work done by the builders; and it might suit the builders too to just level it.”
The cycle path and right of way that bisects the site would form a natural boundary between the caravan park in the upper part and a camping area that could be grassed over nearer the roundabout.
The site could also be provided with a barrier, as is common on sites on the mainland, to stop casual traffic passing through and protect bairns playing or cycling on the site.
Mr MacLeod did not believe the site would be too close to the Anderson High School. The old site had been closer to the Clickimin Centre.
When asked for a response to the caravan club proposal for the North Lochside site, which was once part of the old town dump, SIC capital programme executive manager Robert Sinclair said: “The council has no plans to sell or lease this piece of land at present.”
Attempts to provide an alternative site following the closure of Clickmin have not gone smoothly. In 2014 the council had to back track on the offer of a site at Seafield in order to accommodate the new Eric Gray Centre, after caravan club members had gone as far as to draw up plans in the understanding they would get to use what had been a hockey pitch.