TWO communities in the Inverness area are celebrating a £1.3 million windfall for ambitious projects to regenerate their areas.
Long-held plans to develop an outdoor social and training centre and a cafe on a derelict site next to the Caledonian Canal at Merkinch have been given an £850,000 boost while the rural community of Strathdearn has secured £500,000 towards a £2.5 million complex featuring sports facilities, a community-run shop and a cafe at Tomatin.
The money has been awarded by the Scottish Government’s regeneration capital grant fund which supports community projects in disadvantaged and rural areas to tackle inequality and support inclusive growth.
Merkinch community leaders are delighted plans for the outdoor hub on a brownfield site in Carsegate Road have taken a step forward.
Led by Scottish Canals in partnership with Highland Council, the project arose from a broader consultation four years ago with residents in Merkinch, South Kessock and Muirtown about how their areas could develop.
Christopher Breslin, head of regeneration and development at Scottish Canals, said since then the organisation had been working to secure funds.
"This grant means that we can now get much more involved with local groups and the community to make the project a real success," he said.
"The creation of this outdoor hub will bring new activities to the area, connect local people with the opportunities offered by the water, encourage them to get active and create a vibrant outdoor hub that will deliver lasting benefits for the people of Inverness."
It will also provide the Inverness Sea Scouts with a new base to replace their currently decaying building and talks have also been held with other groups including the local canoe club, Merkinch Men’s Shed, South Kessock Residents’ Association and a cycling social enterprise. It is hoped it will generate new jobs.
Mr Breslin said that during the public consultation youngsters had highlighted the lack of facilities, including a cafe.
"They said there was nowhere to go for a coffee and cake," he said. "This will give people somewhere to go if they have been for a walk along the canal."
Further community consultations will take place and it is hoped the project will come to fruition by the end of next year – depending on further funding.
Inverness Central councillor Bet McAllister welcomed this week’s funding announcement.
"It is going to do so much for the people of the area," she said. "Having a cafe there for people walking along the canal will be brilliant."
The Tomatin project is led by Strathdearn Community Developments (SCD).
The complex will provide a place for community council and SCD meetings and be available for weddings, ceilidhs, fitness clubs, a gardening and natural history club and other local groups. It will also showcase local food and drink, arts and crafts and traditional music events.
SCD chairman Richard Cooling hoped work would start in early summer for a 2019 opening.
"With a thriving primary school and young families moving into the area, healthy visitor numbers at Tomatin Distillery and improvements to the A9, the project will really make Strathdearn one to watch," he said.