By RYAN TAYLOR
A DISPUTE over the former Tod’s warehouse in Lerwick is threatening the future of Shetland’s classic car collection.
The large shed in the town’s Gremista Industrial Estate has provided storage for over 50 vehicles belonging to members of the Shetland Classic Car Club for 12 years.
But the cars’ owners are being forced to make alternative arrangements following a row between the shed owners, wholesalers JW Gray, and Lerwick Port Authority.
The double warehouse has a small extension built on land owned by the harbour, on which the authority previously granted a ground lease to Gray’s. Plans had been hatched for the authority to buy the building from Gray’s to help it develop the waterfront in the area.
The talks subsequently broke down, and LPA has since decided not to renew the lease on the extension.
In May it gave Gray’s 12 months’ notice before the ground lease comes to an end. It is thought Gray’s may now be considering demolishing the extension altogether.
Even though the classic cars are not housed in the extension itself, they are still facing an imminent eviction order.
Chief executive of Lerwick Port Authority Sandra Laurenson said the termination of the lease had been a straightforward arrangement with JW Gray’s.
“Lerwick Port Authority’s involvement with the car club is nil. We’ve been leasing a small piece of land to JW Gray’s, and we are not minded to renew that lease when it expires in May 2009. We have given them 12 months to vacate the land.”
Iain Johnston of JW Gray’s refused to comment when contacted by The Shetland Times.
The classic car club, which has been together for around 20 years, has over 80 members and regularly attracts both local and national interest.
Chairman Mark Fuller said he did not know what plans Gray’s had for the building, although he added waterfront properties were always going to be seen as “quite desirable”.
He appealed for anyone with available storage space to get in touch with him.
“The deal that we’ve had has been great, and we’ve been kind of spoilt for quite a long time by Gray’s, but for whatever commercial reasons they want to change tack.
“It’s a shame it has come to an end because it was a cosy arrangement and it leaves us scratching our heads as to what to do next. As a small club there’s no way we could afford a building of that size.”
He said the club, and the classic motor show held every two years at the Clickimin Centre, had a “huge following”.
He added there were “two to three very old cars” with “a Shetland connection” that the club had managed to find storage for, although the future for the rest of the cars was still up in the air.
Last year’s Classic Motor Show at the Clickimin Centre was hailed as a huge success.
Organiser Maurice Mullay described it as “spectacularly successful” and “bursting at the seams”, with more than 3,800 people coming to see 500 exhibits.
Anyone who may be able to help with storage are asked to contact Mr Fuller on (01595) 697199.
Also out on a limb is the Shetland Caravan Club, as some of their caravans are also stored in the warehouse over the winter months.
Club chairman Jack Goodlad said: “There are various places where our members store their caravans but we don’t keep record of where they store them.
“There is a desperate shortage of storage in general though and any place that’s been available that’s not now available will have a knock on effect.”
The caravans, and the cars, have been given until the end of the year to vacate the warehouse.