A Highland community’s ambition of building a new £1.5million indoor sports centre appears unlikely to get off the starting blocks.
Highland Council yesterday agreed to a £200,000 contribution for the Lochaber project – well short of the necessary target.
The controversial decision left local councillors “devastated” and triggered fears that the long-awaited project was now on the brink of collapse.
Campaigners in Fort William vowed to fight on, however.
The Lochaber Sports Association (LSA) had sought £845,000 towards the cost of the project planned for the town’s high school.
But budget-cutting councillors concluded after a lengthy and passionate debate yesterday that it would be excessive in the current climate, instead voting 36-29 to approve £200,000 from the authority’s capital grant discretionary fund.
Speaking after the debate in Inverness, Caol and Mallaig councillor Bill Clark said: “I’m absolutely devastated. The project will fall now. There will be a terrible feeling of disappointment.
“To ask a small community to raise that type of money in a short period of time is just not going to happen.
“Time and again, the sports association were promised they would get the money for their indoor sports centre. The council have gone back on that commitment.”
Jane Blanchard, chairwoman of the Lochaber Sports Association, which has campaigned for a venue for the past six years, said: “It’s gutting. The vote was so close.
“As a community, we will never be able to raise that amount of money, but we still need a covered facility.
“We need to speak to (government agency) sportscotland (CORRECT) and find out where they stand. The basis on which they pledged funding, in principle of £500,000, has been removed.”
Initial funding requests were for £600,000. Of that, £400,000 was to have been provided by a developer contribution from Tesco before the retail giant scrapped its plans for a Fort William store.
The council’s contribution is conditional upon the full funding package being in place.
The current uncommitted balance is £1.4million.
Council convener Isobel McCallum said: “Clearly, members would like to support enhanced sports facilities in every part of the Highlands.
“We have, however, a very challenging financial situation with a reducing budget and increasing pressures. We have a limited availability of funds and we must cut our cloth accordingly.”