Over 70 acres of land earmarked for the new Anderson High School and major new house-building projects has been purchased by the property arm of Shetland Charitable Trust.
After protracted negotiations Shetland Leasing and Property Developments Ltd (Slap) was finally able to announce the purchase this week of 30.5 hectares to the north of the old Staney Hill Road, land between Pegasus Place and Unicorn View and the rugby pitch at Clickimin, reaching the old North Road, Voder View and Burnside.
The heathery hill land was purchased from Olive Boreland, the niece of the late Lady Nicolson of Fetlar, following a long drawn out process.
Slap company secretary Jeff Goddard said he was unable to divulge how much the land had eventually changed hands for, but chairman Jim Henry said: “Legal complications have made this acquisition quite a slow process, but the milestone has now been achieved. Slap is very excited about the prospect of new council houses being built.”
Slap and the SIC are jointly exploring the possibility of burnishing the public housing stock – along with private sector developments – as the local authority seeks to spend around £20 million over the next five years in an attempt to ease a shortage which sees around 900 people on a waiting list for accommodation.
There has been talk of building 70 new council houses on the land purchased by Slap, but it is unclear how much money will be available given the council is keen to commit to a new scheme to renovate Hoofields – a project for which funding is still subject to some uncertainty.
Mr Goddard said there were potentially “all sorts of interesting things” which could happen in the area over the coming years. It could be a candidate site for some of the new care facilities which the SIC wants to build before the decade is out, for instance.
While a final decision on whether to go ahead with building the new AHS at lower Staney Hill will not be taken until later this year, should it remain councillors’ preference then the loose plan at this stage is for it to be built and paid for by the SIC, with Slap then buying and leasing the building back to the council.
Slap – a wholly-owned subsidiary of the charitable trust – owns around £17 million in assets, including the SBS Base at Gremista, the airstrip at Scatsta, Shetland College, the NAFC Marine Centre in Scalloway and a string of properties in Lerwick. It delivered a welcome boost to the community’s funds last year after turning a profit of almost £4 million thanks in part to additional rent from Scatsta.
Meanwhile, the charitable trust’s coffers in general are now much healthier than 12 months ago as the stock market has picked up following a huge slump which ensued after the collapse of American investment firm Lehman Brothers in September 2008.
The trust’s investments started the 2009/10 financial year valued at £146.8 million but when the UK’s new financial year began last week that figure stood at £179.7 million, a growth in value of some £32.9 million. It is the highest valuation since June 2008, though the funds still have some way to go if they are to recover to the £215 million at which they stood at the end of 2007.