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Athletics Inverness would welcome new sports facilities for east – if access issues can be resolved

A major sports facility has been in the pipeline for years.

New sports facilities for the east of Inverness would be welcomed – if current access issues can be resolved, an athletics group has said.

Athletics Inverness has said the creation of a high-class indoor facility would be “an absolute godsend”.

The group, set up by city-based coaches to resolve access issues to facilities, has said better arrangements than the current status quo would be required, otherwise the facility would not bring any benefit.

At present, athletes in the Highland capital are unable to access equipment such as hurdles and high jump poles unless attending dedicated coaching nights of recognised clubs.

Facilities welcome if access issues can be resolved

Charles Bannerman, one of the four coaches who formed the group, has said the lack of easy access has resulted in some travelling as far as Aberdeen in order to gain technical training ahead of competitions.

Mr Bannerman said: “Any facility would be welcome. Particularly if it is an indoor one and one that is more accessible than the current arrangements.

“We currently have a pentathlete who is training for the British Schools Pentathlon Indoor International. She has had to go to Aberdeen to get proper technical access to likes of high jump and long jump.

“In our weather, trying to do long jump and high jump outdoors at this time of year is very difficult.

“Even if the weather was suitable, unless you happen to do it on an Inverness Harriers training night, you can’t just walk in with your High Life card like you would with the gym because of the bizarre rules about giving access to equipment at the Queens Park.

“If there was something that was indoors with far better accessibility policy than what is currently available then it would be extremely welcome.”

At present, athletes can only run around Queens Park in Inverness outside of training nights.

Trying to prepare athletes for competition is ‘virtually impossible’

Mr Bannerman has said the current situation has made it “virtually impossible” for Highland based athletes to prepare properly for competition.

He says most accept that they will need to travel to compete.

However, travelling for training is an extra hindrance Mr Bannerman believes athletes could do without.

Mr Bannerman added: “Trying to prepare athletes for indoor competition in particular is virtually impossible in Inverness.

“In terms of indoors, there is absolutely nothing.

“If you want to do an indoor season in a technical event, you can’t do the technical practice. In other words, you can’t long jump, you can’t high jump and you can’t hurdle.

“Even if it’s just straight running, trying to sprint outdoors when it is 2C is not a realistic option.

“Access to the existing outdoor facilities has been a bone of contention for years.

“You can go pretty much anywhere else in Scotland and you can walk straight on.

“We have had athletes go to places like Grangemouth and Aberdeen.

“You pay at the desk and walk straight on and can do the long jump and high jump there.

“You could not do that in Inverness for reasons best known to High Life Highland.”

Athletes are unable to access equipment, such as that required for high jump

High Life Highland exploring opportunity to allow individual athletes access to equipment

High Life Highland has said it is working with Scottish Athletics to allow access to equipment for individual athletes.

A spokesman said: “High Life Highland is committed to working with all recognised partners to enable participation in all sports.

“In respect to athletics, High Life Highland works closely with sportscotland, Scottish Athletics and our local recognised athletics clubs to ensure safe and affordable access to all of our facilities and equipment.

“We are currently in the process of working with Scottish Athletics on specific training which will enable individual athletes to use the equipment.

“Individual athletes are always welcome to make use of equipment, including hurdles, as part of one to one coached, or club sessions.”

Group would welcome invitation to shape image for Inverness east

Mr Bannerman has said if invited to contribute to consultation for new facilities, Athletics Inverness would welcome the opportunity.

He concluded: “One of the reasons Athletics Inverness is in being is to react to initiatives like this.

“If invited to provide input, Athletics Inverness would be more than happy to cooperate with that.”

He concluded: “I understand that people from outside Inverness feel that Inverness gets everything. I suspect pro-rata if you look at the population that might not be the case.

“If there was something in Inverness then it would be a magnet for people from all round.

“Not only in athletics but in sport as a whole.”