A study exploring nine potential options to enhance Bught Park in Inverness was scrutinised by councillors today.
Highland Council leader Margaret Davidson told the city of Inverness area committee that the popular park is in desperate need of a facelift.
But only an “exceptional” bid with full backing will unlock the £20 million fund needed to carry out the work.
Ms Davidson said: “It’s £20 million, it could go a long way across the sites that we have spoken on and the Bught is one of them.
“God knows it needs it.”
The study, carried out by Highland Council and the Bught Park users group, was conducted between October and December last year.
It has been funded by the local authority and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
‘A key historic base for sports and culture in the city’
The council says Bught Park is a “critical resource for both local and Highland communities” with the open space described as “a key historic base for sports and culture in the city”.
Within the report put before councillors, it was stated that the current facilities are “ageing, not fit for purpose and do not meet modern day standards”.
The grandstand at Bught Park is believed to date back to the 1920s and was described by councillors as “tired” – with concerns raised over its safety.
What are the nine options?
Nine options are on the table, one of which is to “do nothing”, leaving the facilities as they are.
However, the council’s executive chief officer for infrastructure and environment, Malcolm Macleod, told the committee this is “not really an option in terms of the quality and importance of the venue to future sports and cultural events”.
Under the eight other options, proposals include:
- improving the existing stadium facilities only
- extending the stadium
- developing a new changing and club pavilion
- creating a synthetic grass shinty pitch
- creating a synthetic grass football pitch
- enhancing facilities to improve infrastructure for events
- build an indoor tennis centre
- build an indoor athletics centre.
The council has stressed the feasibility report is yet to be finalised, however, a mix of the options addressing the stadium’s quality and accessibility issues, expanding of the existing stadium and the development of a new changing and club pavilion are the preferred options moving forward.
A bid is due by June 18.
‘It is a huge investment’
Concerns were raised by city councillors over the consultation in preparing bids.
Councillor Bill Boyd, who lives close to the park, queried the level of involvement with elected members and community councils.
He said: “I believe fundamentally there should have been more engagement with the local councillors, myself, Alex and Graham, and the community councils.
“It is a huge investment that is going to be made. We really needed to have more consultation.”
Concerns were also raised by fellow ward councillor Alex Graham on the pressure investment could bring to an already strained traffic management system.
He added: “Please let’s not overload the local area with a large number of big events which bring in a big number of traffic and cause parking problems in the area because the area doesn’t have the parking infrastructure to support large events.”
He welcomed the odd occasion but warned to shy away from “frequent events” that may put strain on parking in the local area.
Is the east side of Inverness being forgotten about?
Others on the east side of the city raised concerns about a lack of investment in sporting facilities despite a huge rise in population.
Councillors argued that new housing has already placed pressure on infrastructure, with more investment needed in other parts of the city.
“We are starting to feel like the poor relative over here in Inverness East.”
Councillor Glynis Campbell-Sinclair
Councillor Glynis Campbell-Sinclair said: “We are starting to feel like the poor relative over here in Inverness East and we always seem to be, these past 10 years, at the back end of the queue for supporting our residents with suitable infrastructure.”
She urged planners to learn from past events and the strain they have placed on infrastructure around Bught Park.
Inverness South councillor Andrew Jarvie voiced his concerns over the lack of consultation and what he feels is a recycling of previous proposals.
He described the process as feeling “a bit half measured” adding: “There is nothing we can meaningfully do as local members to influence or change this.”
The committee agreed to progress the study.
It will be included in a bid for levelling up funding and a further meeting will be held to address concerns about to the lack of development of facilities in the east of Inverness.