By JOHN ROBERTSON
Two local contractors are in the running to build Lerwick’s biggest office block – a £6 million headquarters for SIC social services at the North Ness in Lerwick. They and a foreign contractor have been shortlisted from among 15 interested parties to provide design- and-build proposals. The preferred contractor will be chosen by the end of April.
The new building will go on the site where WAG Construction’s base once stood, which was bought by Slap, the Shetland Charitable Trust property company. Slap’s financial controller Jeff Goddard said once costs were known the council was expected to sign a lease to rent the offices. They are intended as a base for more than 100 people involved in social services and adult learning. Plans for the building were first revealed in The Shetland Times in 2007.
When social work employees move they will vacate three old buildings in town, at Quendale House on Commercial Street and one on each side of the road in St Olaf Street. The properties are likely to be converted into much-needed housing.
Meanwhile, a series of problems with the newly acquired Solarhus office block at the North Ness have prevented council and HIE Shetland staff moving into it. They were meant to flit from the economic development building months ago but the rescheduled date of early next month is now starting to look doubtful after more difficulties were encountered this week. Economic development staff members have also rebelled against the move from their impressive building where they have spent just three years but their wishes have been overruled and housing service staff will move into their places when they depart.
The troubles experienced with the Solarhus may come as a surprise after the favourable publicity given to what was heralded as an innovative three-storey eco-building for the town waterfront. The Solarhus was being built by German company Scot-Actec and local firm DITT for Highlands and Islands Enterprise when the German owner died suddenly and problems arose over payment for the work. Eventually it was bought by Slap for over £1m.
According to informed sources the building has heating and space problems, bits blew off it last year and it failed a drainage test this week. One said: “It’s a total disaster. It’s a building that should never have been put up in Shetland. It will never last in the weather.”
Mr Goddard admitted there had been difficulties in taking over a building which had run into problems during its construction but it was “not a surprise” that extra work needed done to make it ready for occupation. There has been a problem with missing certification for the lift, he said, and the drainage needed more investigation to find out whether there was a leak or simply that not all pipes had been sealed prior to the pressure test being carried out this week.