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Haven Centre plans in Inverness clear crucial hurdle

By Val Sweeney

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A CGI of what the Haven Centre will look like.
A CGI of what the Haven Centre will look like.

A BOLD vision to develop a pioneering centre in Inverness for children and young people with multiple and complex needs has taken a major step forward with the granting of planning permission.

The proposed Haven Centre – a first for Scotland – will feature respite flats, a specialist play centre, community coffee shop and garden and will be built on a derelict site in Murray Road, Smithton.

There will also be supported housing constructed by Highland Council at the site.

Those spearheading the Haven Appeal, which was launched by the Elsie Normington Foundation, said it was a significant milestone and also revealed it has been able to revise its fundraising target from £4 million to £3.5 million. So far, £1.2 million has been raised.

Foundation chairwoman Elsie Normington described it as wonderful news and said the charity was more determined than ever to push on and reach its goal.

Elsie Normington at the site in Smithton.
Elsie Normington at the site in Smithton.

“We are delighted that after the official launch of our plans in February 2017, the planning department has now given its full permission for this important site development,” she said.

“Our charity is now in a stronger position as we progress forward to see our plans become a reality.”

The next step is for the charity to buy the site – previously occupied by the former Culloden Court Nursing Home which was destroyed by fire in 2010 – from the council in the near future.

Mrs Normington said the coronavirus restrictions had highlighted the isolation experienced by families with children with complex needs and how desperately needed the Haven Centre is.

“During this time of isolation due to the pandemic, we know that many people are struggling right now,” she said.

“However, we are also aware of the many families with disabled children and complex needs whose isolation is hugely augmented during a time like this – where they have to care 24/7, putting a massive pressure upon these families who we want to serve and provide the facilities they so deserve.

“The isolation is 100 times more desperate for parents of children with special needs.”

Mrs Normington, who held an online meeting with other appeal members this week, said they were determined to push onward despite the current difficulties.

“This is a time for innovation and we are looking for virtual fundraising ideas to keep the money flowing in towards this much-needed project,” she said, and invited the public to get involved.

“We are progressing. We are moving forward. We are not standing still.”

Appeal co-ordinator Martin Baldwin said the project had managed to revise its target as it would not need to pay VAT on some elements of the development.

A CGI of what the Haven Centre will look like.
A CGI of what the Haven Centre will look like.

He also said the granting of planning permission would trigger access to potential funding.

“Although we are aware of the challenge, the fact we have planning permission and can buy the land adds more motivation,” he said.

“The impact of the coronavirus is challenging, but I hope we can navigate through it and see the fulfilment of this.

“We are very aware most of the people who would be using this centre are the ones who are isolated anyway.”

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