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Bught Park is set for a major upgrade as nine proposals are brought forward for improvements including expanding the stadium, making it more accessible as well as creating artificial pitches but all that depends on whether Highland Council can get UK government funding

By Scott Maclennan

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Bught Park is the subject of a feasibility study looking at its future. Picture: James Mackenzie
Bught Park is the subject of a feasibility study looking at its future. Picture: James Mackenzie

A MAJOR revamp of Bught Park could be on the cards – if Highland Council manages to secure funding.

Nine potential options – ranging from no change to an indoor athletics centre – have been discussed as part of a review funded by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the council, which owns the land.

Inverness councillors will discuss the feasibility study, which is yet to be finalised, at a committee meeting on Thursday.

Proposals are based on assessments of how to best use the park, as well as the current standard of facilities and usage.

Bught Park Users Group and other local people have been involved in assessments so far.

The options range from doing nothing to ambitious suggestions for flood-lit sports fields hosting everything from shinty, hockey and American football to a stadium extension and improved infrastructure.

Malcolm Macleod, the council’s executive chief officer for infrastructure and environment, underlined the importance of the Inverness site, saying: “This is the centre of the principal area of sports provision in the city and is a key historic base for sports and culture in the city.”

But the major issue is finance because the local authority is banking on levelling-up funding from Westminster. However, due to the methodology used south of the border, the Highlands is in the lowest category to get investment so the cash is far from guaranteed.

“It is the intention that the development of the Bught Park facilities should form part of a Levelling-Up Fund bid,” Mr Macleod said.

None of the costs for any of the options have been revealed.

The status quo option has been ruled out by those involved in a consultation. It is only included to benchmark the effect of doing nothing.

“Current facilities are ageing, not fit-for-purpose and do not meet modern day standards,” Mr Macleod said.

“They will likely only fall into more disrepair if investment continues to be limited and/or done on an ad-hoc basis.

“Bught Park is a high-profile strategic asset for the city, and the current condition/quality of facilities do not reflect this.”

Other proposals that have been discussed and rejected included separate options for full-sized floodlit synthetic grass shinty and football pitches. Consultees believe efforts should continue to find an alternate location for such a shinty pitch, should funding become available, but they said similar facilities for football existed in the city.

Two other options to be dismissed include a tennis centre with four indoor courts and an indoor athletics centre with a 70-plus metre indoor straight. These were deemed to face planning permission challenges and strong resistance to the loss of green space.

One option that “should proceed as a minimum” according to those involved would see basic maintenance and upgrade work done – not to do so risks leaving the facilities unusable, Mr Macleod warned.

That would mean an investment in the existing stadium, upgrades to the changing blocks and grandstand to make it more accessible and comfortable, a full fire risk assessment, and installing CCTV.

A further proposal would see an extension to the existing stadium to create new changing rooms and club accommodation to serve as a home to multiple sports clubs including shinty and hockey.

That could include a club lounge, bar, kitchen, medical area, offices or meeting rooms for club and coach development activities and broader community use and accommodation to support events and even a heritage element focused on shinty.

Consultations found that was the preferred option though an additional variant – with the building of a new club pavilion separate from the existing stadium – should be considered alongside it.

An option to add basic infrastructure to help reduce the set-up and take-down time for events should also go ahead, stated those involved, because it would help minimise disruption to sports activities.

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