Plans for a new community cafe and soft play centre in Quarff have moved a step forward, after a meeting of the SIC’s policy and resources committee this week.
Quarff Primary School closed in 2003, but registered charity Shetland Community Cafe and Soft Play is wanting to transform the site, with a play area, a chance for a cuppa and accommodation for visitors.
Councillors on Monday agreed to give the cafe and soft play group a two-year lease for the building, and the group hopes to buy the site in future by attracting funding.
Group chairwoman Shona Wishart said the building has been unused for the last three or four years and was on the council’s list for disposal.
The group was formed in September 2013 with a view to taking over the building and has looked at various options, including an asset transfer from the SIC.
In order to enter into a lease agreement with the local authority the group needed to be a registered charity. In December it was given charitable status. The group has developed a business plan and is wanting to create something which will benefit the community.
Huts on the site would be demolished, if lottery funding was successful, and a cafe and soft play area would be built in its place.
It is hoped the school house building can be renovated and rented for use while the project progresses.
Funding is being applied for to carry out a feasibility study. On the back of that the group is then hoping to enter into the process of buying the whole site.
Mrs Wishart said this week’s decision was like getting a new lease of life for the project.
Thirteen members are on the committee and the charity has about 40 to 50 volunteers. They hope the cafe and soft play will bring in folk from all over Shetland, as well as tourists.
If the project comes to fruition the group hopes to use the school house as accommodation for holiday lets and for tourists and locals.
A play park and multicourt is also planned for the site.
Mrs Wishart said she had received “ a lot of positive feedback” about the plans and there was a will in the community to see it kept as a community facility.
The group will hold its annual meeting on Sunday 1st March at 8pm in Cunningsburgh School. Mrs Wishart is hoping to recruit new members and also plan a schedule for fund-raising this year.
About £5,000 has been raised by the group so far, with fund-raising events ranging from fish and chip nights to Sunday teas and most recently a soup and sweet afternoon in Quarff Hall which raised a further £350 for the group’s coffers.