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Disappointment voiced by community-led group at proposals for Northern Meeting Park in Inverness which was built as world’s first Highland Games stadium

By Val Sweeney

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A public consultation is being held into plans for the Northern Meeting Park and Bught Park in Inverness.
A public consultation is being held into plans for the Northern Meeting Park and Bught Park in Inverness.

Disappointment has been voiced by a community group after plans were unveiled for the refurbishment of a nationally-significant site in Inverness.

The public has been invited to have its say on multimillion-pound redevelopment projects for the Northern Meeting Park – which was built in 1864 as the world’s first Highland Games stadium – as well as Bught Park.

But members of the community-led Northern Meeting Park Group says it is "extremely disappointed".

It maintains the plans displayed by Highland Council and High Life Highland will leave the meeting park's grandstand as an uninsulated store despite receiving money from the UK government's Levelling Up Fund to invest in the park to help "drive the environmental, cultural, and economic regeneration of Inverness".

They are also concerned that the proposals do not go far enough to open up the green space to greater public access.

The group states: "We have been campaigning for years to see the building and park, which have been neglected by the council for decades, made into a vibrant facility for local people and visitors.

"An options report prepared after extensive local consultation earlier this year identified all sorts of exciting and new things which could have been developed at the site, including a museum of Highland Games, concert/events facilities, cycling hub, outdoor children's play area, and a dedicated football pitch for the three local schools who use the Northern Meeting Park as they have no playing fields of their own.

"Instead, the proposals are to use the Levelling Up Funding to improve the current toilets/changing rooms (much needed), to leave the rest of inside of the grandstand building as a store, to convert a large area of grass into hard standing, and to build a generic pavilion whose uses are currently unspecified and definitely not customised to the range of activities/services identified in the public consultation exercise carried out earlier this year.

"There is also no proposal to make the Northern Meeting Park green space available outwith booked events either, despite the overwhelming support this suggestion has received from local people.

"The Northern Meeting Park is important to Inverness historically, culturally and architecturally.

"No other city can boast the world's first purpose-built Highland Games stadium, and its long history of events and sport for more than 150 years.

"The building is also of regional, and, arguably, national importance, due to its design and the fact that it has hardly been altered since it was built.

"We think it deserves to be more than an uninsulated store with toilets, showers and seating."

Initial designs to be unveiled for two major city developments

A total of £5.2 million has been earmarked for the meeting park, including refurbishment of the grandstand and a new pavilion with a function room, plus ground source heating.

An allocation of £7.1 million has been set to refurbish the Bught Park Stadium grandstand, and build an interactive museum of shinty and improved infrastructure for more large-scale outdoor events – all supported by ground source heating.

The first consultation event took place today at Canal Park in Inverness while a second will be held this evening at the Cameron Youth Centre from 6.30pm-8.30pm.

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