IT is one of he most important seabird observatories in the world, but its very future was called into question when fire ravaged through it and left it no more than a pile of rubble.

But now the world-renowned Fair Isle Bird Observatory (FIBO) is set to rise again after planning permission was granted for a new project to replace it.

The biggest building on Scotland’s most remote inhabited island was destroyed by the fire in March 2019.

Having gathered bird census data since 1948, the observatory monitored trends in climate variations, and managers confirmed the vital data had been saved thanks to digitisation and back-ups.

Husband-and-wife team, warden David and administrator Susannah Parnaby, who staff the observatory, were unharmed, as were their two daughters.

But original artwork and handwritten diaries from pioneering Scottish ornithologist George Waterson were lost.

The Parnabys were able to move into the vacant schoolhouse, while other staff stayed in a flat in the south lighthouse, provided by the National Trust for Scotland, who own the island.

Recording of the data collected continued throughout the 2019 season with the same number of bird watching staff as previous years, although FIBO did lose out on additional data provided by guests.

Now all the records will be sited in a new building which will be located on the same site where the old observatory and guesthouse burned down last year.

It will include 25 guest rooms and will feature a pair of gable-ended two-storey buildings connected by a single-storey linking area.

The destruction of the observatory last year caused a huge impact on the remote island – not least because it was a big draw for visitors. No one was injured in the blaze.

The plans for the replacement observatory were put together by Glasgow-based architect company ICA and were given the go-ahead this week by Shetland Islands Council planners.

Its decision notice said: “The proposed development is considered to be appropriate in terms of its location, scale and design and it has been demonstrated that the development will not have a significant adverse impact on the natural environment, nor upon the visual amenity of the surrounding area.”

It was also noted that it would “play an important part in the social and economic life of Fair Isle”.

Fair Isle Bird Observatory Trust director Karen Hall said: “It’s great to have achieved this milestone in the rebuild of the Fair Isle Bird Observatory. 

“We’d like to thank the SIC’s planning staff and consultees for turning this around in good time, particularly given the circumstances we are all working under.

“We are currently developing the funding package and tender documents for construction with the hope to start ground works later this year.

The new building, meanwhile, will effectively be the fifth version of the Fair Isle observatory.

The first was opened in 1948, with a new building then opened in 1969 before being extended in the 1980s. The last observatory was built in 2010.

New of the rebirth of the observatory comes as a new book is being released which celebrates the iconic puffins across the UK , with Fair isle being home to a sizeable population.

Although there are around 450,000 puffins in the UK, the enigmatic seabird is on the Red List of endangered species due to their continued population decline. 

Edward Hancox, 39, is crowd-funding the book via Kickstarter, and says that he got the idea whilst rescuing puffin chicks, known as pufflings, on the Icelandic island of Heimaey. 

He said: “Heimaey is famous for its puffins, but after hatching they often get confused by street lights in the town.

“Local children collect disoriented pufflings in cardboard boxes, before releasing them safely out to sea.”

He decided to visit colonies across the UK to see them first hand, and see the issuesthe birds were facing.

Called Every Last Puffin, the project is based on visits to puffin colonies from all over the UK, including Shetland, Orkney, Caithness, Treshnish Isles and St Kilda.

Mr Hancox said: ‘It’s not all bad news, there has been some resurgence in numbers in places such as Lundy and the Shiant Isles.”

Every Last Puffin is being crowd-funded until June 1.