The new Anderson High School and halls of residence have been granted planning approval – over two decades after a first report on the project was raised in the town hall.
Members took 50 minutes to give the authority’s flagship capital project – the biggest this council will have to take – the green light when they met for a well-attended hearing in the town hall this afternoon.
Also approved, following a separate hearing, was the controversial moving of the emergency helicopter landing pad. But consent for that has been limited to two years to allow noise and disturbance levels to be monitored.
Speaking about the school plans chairman Frank Robertson drew on a detailed and lengthy report by planning official Richard MacNeill. Mr Robertson said the committee had been presented with a “once in a lifetime” opportunity provide a school that is “welcoming” and “safe” at the Clickimin.
“It’s 21 years since the first report was presented to the council recommending that a new high school be constructed at the Lower Staney Hill or the Clickimin because of deterioration of the present building and the fact it was facing a maximum expenditure period.
“We are looking at the possibility of a new high school for the whole of Shetland. This will be the core of an educational complex that will serve Shetland for the next 100 years.”
Questions were asked about the lengthy list of conditions – 26 in all – which must be addressed before development can proceed, and the loss of parking spaces around Bruce Crescent to allow the new road-layout, including a roundabout, to be introduced.
Children’s services director, Helen Budge, said real progress was being made in the development of the new school.
She said the new Anderson High represented an “integral part” of Shetland’s future plans for education. With 89 per cent of S5 and S6 pupils attending the Anderson, the new school, she said, would be a development for a “great majority” of young people.
Local resident Sandy McMillan asked whether the school may be affected by toxins released in the area of the town’s old dump. He was told initial bore holes had shown no contaminated land would be disturbed during construction. Should any contaminated land be detected when the foundations were dug, the toxic material would be lifted and removed.
In the end the committee gave unanimous support for the new school. However, there followed debate on the landing pad, and the affect emergency landings would have on residents in Lochside. The report before members said any detrimental impact was outweighed by the benefit offered to the emergency services and the patients in their care.
Philomena Leask said property values may be affected if the landing pad was approved. She added noise levels produced by the Sikorsky S-92 helicopters had not been made available to residents concerned by the move.
“Who would want to live with a 28.8 imperial ton, noisy machine and put up with the disturbance of the Sikorsky S-92 helicopter landing in front of their homes any time of the day or night?” she demanded.
Speaking for his constituents, Jonathan Wills – who does not sit on the planning committee – asked why the derelict former pump-ashore fish farm, on the Ness of Sound, out by Pullar’s Loch had not been considered a suitable alternative. It was, he said, highly favoured by the pilots.
“My question is, why have they chosen this site that will cause the maximum possible disruption?”
Chief executive of NHS Shetland, Ralph Roberts, reiterated the importance of having the landing pad as close as possible to the hospital. He said diverting flights to Tingwall would increase the journey time for patients and leave ambulances tied up for longer than was necessary with patient transfers.
“We have clearly endorsed reasons why it’s essential; for many, the shorter the time it takes for the patient to be transferred to the hospital, the better the clinical outcomes.”
Calls were made for noise levels to be checked “in situ” to allow a clearer picture of the anticipated disturbance to emerge.
Gary Robinson called on the motion to be approved. He cited the landing pad in Aberdeen as being close to the ARI on Westburn Road, and other developments.
“I try to put myself in the shoes of the person coming in this helicopter,” he said.
But Malcolm Bell successfully sought for additional measures which will ensure a two-year time limit is put in place from the date of completion. That will allow noise levels to be kept in check.
Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.