It only officially opened four years ago, but plans have been lodged to shift the Clickimin’s emergency landing pad often favoured by the coastguard helicopter in emergencies.
Shetland Islands Council’s capital programmes service is seeking to do away with the site, launched amid much fanfare in May 2010, and build a new one on the playing fields south of the leisure centre.
Should it be approved the new helipad will consist of a 10 metre diameter landing circle, together with an access road from South Lochside with a turning head.
A request to relocate the landing area is being made by SIC as it pushes ahead with plans for the new £42 million Anderson High School in the area.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency says it would no longer be safe to land at the existing site, even if the new school was to be built further north.
It insists the high concentration of people who will be in the area when the school is built mean the landing pad must be moved.
The MCA also highlights risks that could arise during the construction phase, with tower cranes and loose building materials providing unwanted obstacles for Oscar Charlie.
The idea for a new landing pad has been given widespread support from NHS Shetland, the Scottish Ambulance Service and the local coastguard team.
Director of public health, Dr Sarah Taylor, said the site made a big difference in emergency situations.
“The emergency landing site continues to play a crucial part in the NHS response to medical emergencies, supporting the emergency medical retrievals, both from the Shetland outer islands and remote communities where land transport or alternative fixed wing aircraft is not possible, or the time requirements of the emergency response make it unfeasible.
“In the past when we have explored alternatives out of Lerwick we have made the case that they bring an additional length to the response time and pressure on local resources that we believe reduces the safety and quality of the health service response to emergencies.”
Paramedic team leader for the isles, Peter Smith, insisted the landing pad had already made a big difference. He said it was “imperative” that an emergency landing area continued to be offered in Lerwick, preferably at the Clickimin.
“The current landing site is approximately 400 yards from the hospital, a road journey of one to two minutes. The alternatives of Tingwall and Sumburgh are seven and 27 miles away, with journey times of 10 and 35 minutes, at best, respectively.”
Shetland Coastguard’s Neville Davis said: “I fully support the provision of a new emergency landing site if the current site becomes unusable due to the proposed building of the new Anderson school.
“The emergency landing site is of benefit to all the emergency services, the casualties involved in delivery to the emergency landing site and to the whole population of Shetland by minimising ambulance time in dealing with helicopter borne casualties bound for the Gilbert Bain Hospital.”
The Clickimin has been a favoured landing spot for the coastguard helicopter for many years.
But in 2005 the preferred landing area was lost when the Clickimin’s running track was redeveloped in time for the island games.
The new landing pad was finally opened five years later. At the time chairman of NHS Shetland, Ian Kinniburgh, said the chosen Clickimin site was “ideal”.
The landing pad had cost around £85,000 to construct, using money from the Scottish government, NHS and ambulance service.