A respected coach and former PE teacher believes income from a planned battery storage scheme could help fund sports facilities in the city.
The controversial £40 million proposal would see around 52 battery storage containers, capable of storing up to 50MW of electricity, sited at Fairways Business Park.
Planners are recommending councillors refuse the plans.
They will come before Highland Council’s south planning applications committee again on Wednesday.
The decision was deferred in November for a site visit.
Can sport benefit from renewables projects?
Colin Baillie MBE wants councillors to use community benefit from renewable energy developments like the battery storage scheme to improve sports facilities.
The former depute rector of Millburn Academy is honorary president of Highland Rugby Club. He is also a life member of Inverness Harriers.
He was given the Freedom of Inverness in 2018 to recognise his huge contribution to sport.
Mr Baillie 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.
Mr Baillie says sporting provision could be one of the first casualties of public spending cuts, but alternatives can be found.
He said: “The east side of Inverness is in urgent need of good sports and leisure facilities for all ages but particularly our young people.”
He said he was disappointed that plans for a £1.3 million all weather sports pitch at Inverness Campus have been shelved due to rising costs.
Funding model could be used across the Highlands
He added: “At the IRA playing fields, there is a great opportunity to meet the significant demand in this area of Inverness for grass pitches.
“Community benefit from the nearby battery storage facility could help complete the funding package.
“This funding model could be mirrored across the Highlands.”
Mr Baillie is concerned the Scottish Government and other bodies cannot adequately fund sports facilities due to public spending pressure.
“We need to consider an alternative source of funding.”
He quoted Highland Rugby Club and the new King’s Golf Club as recent successful Inverness projects.
He added: “Both of these projects benefited off the back of the Southern Distributor Road developments.
“These have added greatly to the facilities for sports and leisure in the west side of Inverness.
“We now need to grab this opportunity of community benefit from Fairways and do the same for the east side of Inverness.”
Battery storage plan could be ‘game-changing’, says football club
The Fairways plans were put forward by Intelligent Land Investments Group, shirt sponsors of Inverness Caledonian Thistle (ICT) FC.
Planning permission, land rights and grid connection agreements would be held by ICT Battery Storage Limited. That name is wholly owned by the football club.
Profits from the facility would support the club and the community outreach programmes of The Inverness Caledonian Thistle Community Development Trust.
ICT chairman Ross Morrison has said it would be a “travesty” if the plan is refused.
Without it, Caley Thistle could struggle financially.
But Inshes and Milton of Leys Community Council said the area earmarked for the development is “totally inappropriate”. They argue a new site should be found.
Its concerns include it being too close to houses, the risk of fire and the loss of green space.
A report to the planning committee says after receiving new information, the council’s environmental health officer and ecology officer have removed their objections.
“Nevertheless, it is not considered that the submission has adequately justified the loss of designated open space as a result of industrial development.”
A Highland Council spokeswoman responded to Mr Baillie’s comments.
She said: “It is not appropriate for the council as the planning authority to comment on a pending application or on one going through the planning process.”
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