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Trust commits to new Fair Isle Bird Observatory despite setback

Fair Isle Bird Observatory
Fair Isle Bird Observatory

A charity aiming to rebuild the fire-ravaged Fair Isle Bird Observatory says it remains committed to the project despite having to re-start the process and make redundant its only two paid staff.

A new £7.4 million centre was planned to replace the observatory that was destroyed in a blaze in 2019. A fundraising appeal for £650,000 had raised £543,575 by earlier this month.

However, the Fair Isle Bird Observatory Trust (FIBOT) said Covid and Brexit has exacerbated building challenges on the island and the only company to submit a tender for the rebuild was several million pounds over the projected budget.

FIBOT now face a new tendering process but hope work can start next year with a re-opening in 2023.

A statement said: “The trust remains fully committed to building a new observatory on Fair Isle and we have no doubt that we will succeed.”

FIBOT, which had a £80,000 deficit in 2020, has made redundant observatory warden David Parnaby and his wife Susannah, the centre administrator.

Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael said: “This news is a blow for the people of Fair Isle – especially David and Susannah Parnaby who are a valued part of the community there.

“There is a big well of goodwill for the observatory and the trust that runs it.  The time that has now been built into their schedule should be used to have a look at the difficulties they have encountered and how we can get over them.

“If things need to be done differently then I am up for helping them to do that.”

Author Anne Cleeves, the observatory’s patron, has backed the rebuild plans.


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