Highland Council’s leader has welcomed a £20 million cash injection for projects in Inverness, but is seeking more for other schemes in the region.
The authority secured the funding in the first round of the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund, announced in the Budget.
A £19.8 million award was made to the Highland capital’s zero carbon cultural regeneration project, linking Inverness Castle, the Northern Meeting Park and Bught Park.
It will help create a wastewater heat recovery energy centre in Castle Street, that will be “a visitor facility in its own right”.
Cash is in addition to castle transformation funds
It will also provide heat energy for the castle, which is being transformed into a tourism hub, and potentially other adjacent properties.
The money is in addition to the cost of the castle transformation which is mainly funded from the Inverness and Highland City Region Deal.
The Levelling Up money will help renovate the historic Northern Meeting Park and develop another scheme providing ground source heat energy for the grandstand and pavilion.
A third energy centre will serve the grandstand and a new shinty centre at the Bught Park.
Councillor Margaret Davidson said: “Never has the need for regeneration projects to be as closely aligned with the Net Zero agenda as today.
“These projects will allow re-use and regeneration of key historical landmarks in the city, that will complement the already significant investment being made in the castle and other city centre projects.”
Camanachd Association welcomes upgrade at Bught Park
The upgrade at Bught Park has been welcomed by the Camanachd Association.
It could also see the creation of a new interactive museum of shinty.
Chief executive Derek Kier said: “The news of the levelling up fund is a true testament to the power of working in partnership and we look forward to playing a key role in supporting the next steps as plans for the Bught Park progress.”
Camanachd association director and Highland councillor John Finlayson added: “I am sure everyone across the Highlands, and within the game of Shinty nationally, are excited by the prospect of upgraded facilities at the Bught Park which will help sustain and develop our sport in the years ahead.”
Inverness Shinty Club’s Drew McNeil said the successful award is the “culmination of great work”.
He said an upgrade of the stadium is overdue.
Mr McNeil added: “If the River Ness is the life blood of the city, then the Bught green space area is its lungs and this funding has the potential to transform these two areas for everyone to enjoy, even more.
“A refurbished facility would give our ambitious development plans a boost and create a Shinty legacy for the city at the Bught”
While delighted at the Inverness award, Mrs Davidson said the council had submitted bids totalling £80 million to the Levelling Up fund.
These included plans to upgrade infrastructure on the NC500 tourist to support its continuing growth, and to increase capacity at Wick Harbour.
Other bids will be resubmitted
She said: “Although we are disappointed that our North Coast 500 and Wick Regeneration bids were unsuccessful, we do look forward to feedback from UK Government, and the opportunity to resubmit amended bids in future rounds.”
The council also plans to submit a bid for the Skye, Lochaber and Wester Ross constituency in the next round.
Mrs Davidson thanked staff and partners for putting together the bids.
“While we would all have wanted more of the Highland bids to be successful, we are thankful that Inverness Castle redevelopment bid has been awarded,” she added.
“The success of this bid reflects our ambition, aspiration and commitment to our communities in making a difference.
“This much-welcomed injection of funding will help to kick start our economic recovery and to promote growth, regeneration and investment on the ground in Highland.”