Inverness Caley Thistle’s chairman says the club has a more secure future after plans for a battery storage plant were approved.
Councillors gave the go-ahead for around 52 battery storage containers, storing up to 50MW of electricity, to be sited at Fairways Business Park.
Planners had recommended councillors refuse the plans.
But Highland Council’s south planning applications committee voted 3-2 to approve the development.
A previous decision was deferred in November for a site visit.
Loss of open space
A report to the committee said after receiving new information, the council’s environmental health officer and ecology officer removed their objections.
But it said the plans did not adequately justify the loss of designated open space.
Committee chairman Thomas MacLennan put forward a motion to refuse.
He said the area is well used for recreation and would be a loss to the community.
But councillor Isabelle MacKenzie’s amendment to approve was carried.
She said the need for energy storage to help climate change and carbon net-zero targets outweighed the loss of green space.
The plans were put forward by ICT Battery Storage Limited, wholly owned by Caley Thistle.
The facility will be used to store excess electricity from the national grid and then release the energy during periods of high demand.
Profits will support the club and the community outreach programmes of the Inverness Caledonian Thistle Community Development Trust.
‘Far reaching and creative project’
Non-football income is needed to help sustain the Championship club.
ICT chairman Ross Morrison welcomed the decision: “It is a historic day for the club and our ICT Community Development Trust.
“I cannot explain how much work has gone into this far reaching and creative project.
“I was pleased to be there in person today at the Highland Council’s HQ to see democracy in action.
“To all of the Caley Jags fans in our 30th anniversary year, I now look forward to working harder than ever to deliver the bright future the club deserves to have.”
Mr Morrison said the club faced an uncertain future and was like “a big tank of water with a hole in it”.
Ross MorrisonBut he said the decision is a turning point for the club which has ambitions to return to the top flight of Scottish football.
“We’re not going to stop losing money as a full-time club in the Championship.
“We have just got to make sure we make money to support the club and that’s what were doing here.
“It’s a turning point for Caley Thistle. “We’ve got certainty and now we have got to make this work. It gives us a financial foundation.
“We were like a supertanker heading over a cliff. We’ve stopped it and now we can turn round.
“While we won’t go into profit, the losses will be very manageable and we are able to keep going.”
Lack of guidance
Some councillors raised concerns about the lack of guidelines on battery storage schemes and possible fire risks.
Mr MacLennan said it was a “real shortcoming” which meant the council faced a “grey area” when considering the application.
The Scottish Government is to be asked to urgently bring forward guidance.
Councillor Paul Oldham said while he supports battery storage schemes, he felt this plan was in the wrong place.
Inshes and Milton of Leys Community Council also said the area earmarked for the development was “totally inappropriate”.
It said it had “serious and legitimate concerns” about the plan, including safety and loss of green space.
This week respected sports coach and retired PE teacher Colin Baillie called on councillors to use funds from renewable energy developments like the battery storage scheme to develop sports facilities.
He supports plans by Inverness Caledonian Thistle Community Trust to redevelop a 10-acre site at Inverness Royal Academy (IRA) playing fields as a community sporting hub, close to the Fairways site.
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