Work on the new bird observatory in Fair Isle is set to be finished by the end of the year – several weeks ahead of schedule.
The £4 million eco-friendly building, which was constructed in pods in Orkney and shipped to the island in the summer before assembly work began on site, is likely to be open for public use by the spring.
With 28 construction workers in the island, the building is due to be finished by Christmas. Fund-raising is ongoing for two new generators, internal fittings, interpretive boards and equipment for the conference room.
Warden Deryk Shaw said that the Fair Isle Bird Observatory Trust (FIBOT) was delighted with the works being so ahead of schedule. He said: “We are pleased with all the funding we have received to date, which will go a long way towards helping to retain and expand our activities.
“We spent a year looking into the feasibility of renovating it, but realised that the most cost effective solution was to build a new centre. We look forward to the building opening for business in the spring. With the growth of eco-tourism, the island now attracts more people than ever, from twitchers on the look out for rare migrants to island enthusiasts. The new observatory has a crucial role to play in the island’s future.”
The trust is confident that the development could provide more employment opportunities in the future, including two long-term posts secured through extra visitor spending in the island.
Stuart Robertson, area manager for Highlands and Islands Enterprise, which gave £400,000 towards the building, said: “Not only does Fair Isle Bird Observatory play a key role in keeping this fragile community viable, it plays an important part in Shetland’s tourism industry as a whole.
“Our assistance fits with our policy of supporting social enterprises which show growth ambitions. The trust’s plans will extend the visitor season, raise the quality of experience and widen the appeal of the area to general tourists as well as to its bird-watching customer base. It is very important that remote communities like Fair Isle are given the opportunity to sustain themselves, and without the observatory this would be extremely difficult.”
Synergie Scotland and AH Wilson are the contractors working on site. Funding for the project was also awarded by Shetland Islands Council (£1.15 million) and Scotland Rural Developmnet Programme SRDP (£1.9million). FIBOT itself has invested £250,000 of its own money and raised more than £100,000 through its ongoing appeal.