A new era begins for Voluntary Action Orkney

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Voluntary Action Orkney (VAO) is looking to secure new premises following the sale of Anchor Buildings. For more than 35 years, the organisation’s office could be found on Bridge Street in Kirkwall but that is all set to change now local businessman, Neil Stevenson has purchased the building.

When the Voluntary Action Orkney Board of Directors were informed that Anchor Buildings had a new owner, they had not expected the news to also bring an interesting and unmissable opportunity. Aware of the organisation’s search to find a location for a third sector hub, Neil had recently acquired the area of land that lies between the scout hall and Lidl on Junction Road in Kirkwall and suggested it as a possible site. Having looked at number of different properties over the years, directors at Voluntary Action Orkney found idea of building the hub very appealing. 

Gerry O’Brien, Chairperson at Voluntary Action Orkney, said: “We would like to thank Neil for coming forward with such an interesting proposal. It’s an amazing opportunity for the third sector in Orkney and one we felt we had to pursue. It would be a long-term investment for us which will benefit the local charities and community groups we support as well as the wider community in Orkney.

“There are a few different options for us to look at in terms of how we work with Neil, and we’re very much at the start of that journey. At the moment, we’re gathering the information needed to put together funding and planning applications. Ultimately, it’ll be once the funds are in place that we’ll know if we are able to go ahead with our plans.

“In our search for a new premises over the years we’ve worked closely with Orkney Islands Council, and they’ve always been very supportive in particular with the offer to redevelop Garden House for our use. This has been hugely appreciated by both past and present directors and we’ll be keeping them up to date with our progress.”

Hayley Green, Corporate Director for Neighbourhood Services and Infrastructure at Orkney Islands Council, said: “The years after the pandemic have seen a huge shift in patterns of office work. As a result, Voluntary Action Orkney’s needs have changed, and Garden House is no longer the best fit for them. We respect and understand that decision and wish them well in their new premises. As for the building, there are no immediate plans for Garden House, but we continue to explore its future with internal and external stakeholders.”

Morven Brooks, Chief Executive at Voluntary Action Orkney, said: “We’ve been looking at space for a while now. In that time, we’ve seen the way we work change significantly with more staff are working flexibly and remotely and it’s the same for many of the third sector groups and organisations we’ve talked to. In creating a third sector hub, we will be providing an affordable and practical space that can be used by local charities and community groups in many different ways. Some might use it as a place to operate from, others to hold meetings or access services and information. For this to be achieved, we need premises that is flexible and adaptable so being able to design and build it is a very attractive proposition.

“Anchor Buildings has been home to Voluntary Action Orkney and many other third sector organisations for such a long time, and it’s great to see it included in Neil’s redevelopment plans for Bridge Street.

“In the coming months we hope to be in the position to share more of details about our plans – it’s a very exciting time for the organisation and the wider third sector here in Orkney.”

Voluntary Action Orkney will publish up to date information on the progress of the new third sector hub development when it is available on their website www.vaorkney.org.uk and on their social media channels.  

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