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.