Councillors have voiced support for a brand new £5.6 million day care centre to replace the existing Eric Gray and Gressy Loan buildings.
This morning’s social services committee meeting came out in favour of constructing a new “hub” building on the old hockey pitch at Seafield in Lerwick.
Doing so should help meet growing demands of adults with learning disabilities, complex needs and autism.
The committee had been asked to consider a range of alternative options, including modifying and extending either the existing Eric Gray Centre or the Gressy Loan base.
Building from new will see the service’s budget increase from just below £1.36 million to £1.87 million a year, thanks largely to staffing costs and borrowing.
But members heard building from scratch was the best way of providing the service in the long-term.
A detailed report by director of community health and social care Simon Bokor Ingram pointed to 129 clients expected to use the service by 2038, compared with 68 currently.
Even before 2018 an anticipated 80 folk will be using the service and the Eric Gray Centre is expected to reach capacity as early as next year.
The meeting was told the authority would have to fork out £20,000 for any feasibility study it carried out before any refurbishment was completed on the existing buildings.
Failing to put up a new building would also mean decanting clients to another location. However, the report said the council had no properties available which could support all existing service users without any “significant alterations”.
The new building has already had a difficult gestation. Last December concerns were raised over the time it was taking to get a replacement Eric Gray Centre up and running.
That led to the former hockey pitch at Seafield being earmarked for the new centre.
At today’s meeting chairman Cecil Smith moved the new building be approved. Speaking afterwards he said it was the right thing to do.
“I think it’s important because this group of people have been promised a new building for some years now … they have always had knock-backs, but have been very understanding,” Mr Smith said.
“We looked at consideration of refurbishment of old buildings, decant and the cost of adaptations to other buildings. I don’t think that was a good idea.
“We need to think along the lines that if we are refurbishing an existing building and also having to put in adaptations … there will be a delay in the service of about two years plus.”
The decision still has to be ratified by this afternoon’s policy and resources committee meeting and also the full council.
But trustee of the recently-reformed pressure group Special Needs Action Group Shetland (SNAGS), John Hunter, said he had been encouraged by the morning meeting.
“I’m extremely pleased, I think that’s all you can say, that the council has found a way to go ahead,” Mr Hunter said. “It was originally planned and got knocked on the head when the council realised they couldn’t afford all the projects they had planned.”
Fellow parent Kenny Groat added: “We’re pleased things are moving again. It was really unfortunate that we nearly lost the site at Seafield, but now there seems to be a firm commitment by a number of councillors to see this project through to fruition.
“It will be good for the service users and also the carers and staff to have a purpose-built building which will cater for all special needs young adults in the whole of Shetland.”
Mother Rebecca Sinclair said it was important to bear in mind the feelings of service users.
“They really want to be together – they want to be with their friends, and to be on the same site together, rather than split up and dispersed. They have voiced that really clearly and strongly, that that is what they want.”