Talks to be held over extending Clickimin to cope with school PE pupils

A view from the air of where the new school will now go. Click on image to enlarge.
A view from the air of where the new school will now go. Click on image to enlarge.

Extending the games hall at Clickimin Leisure Complex by 50 per cent is one of a number of options being “seriously considered” for providing physical educa­tion to pupils attending the new Anderson High School at lower Staney Hill.

The idea being floated is for the existing games hall at Clickimin, which consists of six badminton courts, to be expanded into nine courts with two thirds of the area being set aside exclusively for use by pupils during school hours. It would then allow the additional space to be hired out to sports groups in the evenings and at weekends.

The existing hall could be used in some capacity without an extension being built, but Shetland Recreational Trust has been clear that – particularly in the winter – parts of the existing hall will not be available for school use.

PE teaching staff would prefer a purpose-built department within the new buildings because of concern over the time it would take pupils to walk down to Clickimin between lessons, that it would leave the department isolated from the general working of the school and compromise their ability to teach the curriculum.

New school may take seven years – claimPupils and teachers could have to wait until 2016 before the new Anderson High School project is completed, according to a councillor with extensive knowledge of the building trade.

West Side councillor Frank Robertson told The Shetland Times that based on a lifetime’s experience working in the industry he believed it could take between six and seven years for the necessary preparations and construction work to be carried out.

He expects it could take around three years before a contractor will be on site at the lower Staney Hill and, based on a project costing in the region of £40 million, estimates that it would then take up to four years for the building work to be finished.

Mr Robertson said: “The total period from the point that we started at [in September] could be seven years and that is everything running reasonably smoothly. I know that other people have different ideas but I’ve been in the construction industry all my life – it’s always the unforeseen that jumps out.”

He said the amount of work which needs to be done – including a review of accommodation, an initial feasibility study on the site, concept designs, the acquisition of the site and all the requisite architectural, engineering and civil input into the project, the drawing up of detailed designs, submitting tender documents and gaining planning permission – would inevitably make it a lengthy process.

“That all takes time,” he said. “Just from experience, I have found that it normally takes from the time the go-ahead is given until you actually get on site, you’re looking at a period of three years – and that is minimum. The construction period will depend on the contractor and whether the contract is phased.

“Certainly we’re looking at a project in the region of £40-odd million – it may be cheaper – so you’re looking at a four-year period from the initial start of construction until such time as the building is all complete. That’s based on spending in the region of £10 million a year on the site, which is pretty good going. They might manage £15 million a year, which would reduce down to three years [but even then] you’re looking at a six-year period.”

Mr Robertson said he was not at all opposed to building at lower Staney Hill, which he described as a “very good site” both strategically and logistically. He hopes that much of the heavy construction traffic can be routed over the Staney Hill via the Cunningham Way rather than interrupting the flow of traffic along Lochside. The unknown quantity, he said, would be the amount of rock that requires to be taken out of the side of the hill in order for construction to proceed.

Having started looking at the site afresh, officials are understood to be satisfied with a comprehensive survey carried out in 1993 and see no need to carry out another one. They anticipate it will take between 18 months and two years before the construction phase, which they hope can be completed in two years, can begin.

Mr Robertson is sceptical about that kind of timeframe but said it would be “excellent” if things can be progressed that quickly. “I am giving the average-to-worst scenario but if they feel they can have it open by that time, good going. The construction time would depend on the capability of the particular contractor, how much they could do in a year on that site. Because it’s a new site, they have an opportunity to do more than they would on a constrained site.”

But some feel an enhanced leisure complex, incorporating additional office space for PE teachers, would make more sense from a wider community perspective and should also prove substantially cheaper than building brand new halls. It would possibly create the potential for staging concerts with an enlarged capacity of 2,000 or more.

Discussions are still at an early stage with a meeting between council and SRT staff due to take place next Wednesday to discuss the idea further and try to find a solution which would satisfy all three parties.

Executive director of education Hazel Sutherland said: “Discussions over the use of Clickimin facilities are ongoing at the moment and we’ve got a meeting next week to try and work through those options.”

A raft of other issues related to the lower Staney Hill site are being worked through in an area of Lerwick which seems set for significant redevelopment over the next few years. With major plans for housing redevelopment at the north end of Staney Hill, negotiations are ongoing in terms of where best to build roads to service the school and new homes.

Ms Sutherland said: “The interesting thing is how we approach the site and the opportunities, what should go there and how it all connects to Lerwick so that the school doesn’t sit on the side of the hill and be disconnected. It needs to be at the heart of the community as best it can.

“That will involve discussions with all public sector providers as well as the nearby neighbours and other interested parties. Connecting the transport system in terms of roads, buses and so on is also key and that links into the ideas for developing the North Staney Hill site for housing and other facilities.”

The rethink on where to site the school means that the SIC’s blueprint for education, designed to comply with the Scottish government’s curriculum for excellence, will be factored in before the final size of the building is determined. Members agreed in September to shift the school across town from the existing Knab location after a tidal wave of opposition from concerned parents and teachers about the potential disruption to pupils.

It is expected that the new AHS and Brae secondary school will be the only schools in Shetland which will offer the recalibrated standard grade courses, which will only begin at the end of S3 rather than S2 as is currently the case. Pupils are to be given two years to complete their highers instead of one and the schools service is examining the possibility of more practical vocational training for some of the less academically-inclined pupils who have to stay at school until the age of 16.

Ms Sutherland said: “The blueprint will help determine the size of the school. We are approaching architectural and educational advisors to help us with the shape of the school and how it will function, the number of classrooms, the size and how it fits within that site.”


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