‘Red letter day’ as contracts finally signed on new AHS project

Shetland education and the isles in general had a “red letter day” yesterday with the announcement that work is about to get underway “in earnest” on the new Anderson High School and halls of residence in Lerwick following the reach of financial closure on the project.

All contracts and designs have been completed and signed off, giving the go-ahead for the £55.75m school, which will be funded in large part by the Scottish Government through the Scottish Futures Trust (SFT). That would be the final hurdle cleared for the long-delayed project – plans for which were first mooted 20 years ago.

Council bosses and representatives of the hub North Scotland (hNS), which is delivering the project on behalf of the council, and main contractor Morrison Construction emphasised that the Shetland public have got the best deal possible from a project that is set to cost £55.75m in total.

SIC chief executive Mark Boden.

Shetland Islands Council chief executive Mark Boden was adamant that the figure did not represent a rise in costs from a 2012 generalised Scottish Futures Trust “metric” of £42m for such a project and that any deviation in price was due to the weather and the unique costs of building in Shetland.

The council will pay its AHS proportion of its £19m chunk of the costs off in revenue instalments over the next 25 years by which time it will own the building. Scottish Futures Trust will foot the bill for the rest. Arrangements for the halls of residence will be more conventional with the council paying its share in fewer instalments.

It had been the last chance for the SIC to get such an excellent value for money deal said Mr Boden who thanked the SFT for its input. Hub North will also bear the brunt of any financial risk on behalf of the council.

Children’s services committee chairwoman Vaila Wishart said that she was “absolutely delighted” the complex deal had finally been signed by children’s services director Helen Budge, acting for the council.

The four-storey school at the Staney Hill, which can accommodate up to 1,180 pupils, and the three-storey, 100-bed residential building have been designed by Ryder Architecture.

This Shetland Islands Council project is being delivered by hub North Scotland (hNS). Main contractors Morrison Construction have begun their site establishment work and will soon be starting their main earthwork operations. The project is scheduled to be completed by late summer 2017, several months after an earlier announced finish date of April 2017.

The rescheduled timescale was attributed to the delay in reaching financial closure, owing to the complexity of the project, and changes in European rules that had to be tidied up before it could go ahead.

The new Anderson High School will cost £42.01m and the halls of residence £13.74m. Two thirds of the funding for these will come from the Scottish Government, through SFT. The SIC will “principally fund” £3 million in additional works at Clickimin Leisure Centre.

SIC Leader Gary Robinson said: “We’ve reached a significant milestone in this project, and I’d like to pay tribute to the enormous amount of effort which our officers – along with all our partners – have put into getting us to this stage. Chief executive Mark Boden, along with director of children’s services Helen Budge and her team, have done outstanding work over the past couple of years to bring us to this point.”

Ms Wishart added: “The new school will be a real asset to Shetland, and bring enormous educational benefits to our young people. I’m confident that hub North Scotland will deliver a facility for Shetland which we can be proud of for many years to come.”

Hub North Scotland chief executive Angus Macfarlane said it was a” vitally important step” for the new school and was of great significance to the staff, pupils and community.

“As an organisation established to drive improvements to community infrastructure, we are fully committed to delivering a first class facility which will benefit generations to come,” he said.

Scottish Futures Trust schools programme director Grant Robertson said protecting local jobs, creating better schools and achieving value for money were just a few of the benefits being delivered through the Scotland’s Schools for the Future programme that SFT manages.

“I very much look forward to seeing the new Anderson High School open, and witness the real value of the programme with pupils being taught in modern, first-class facilities,” he added.


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.