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Inverness rugby club calls out 'systematic failure' after more than 20 years with no home ground

By Federica Stefani

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Inverness Craig Dunain trains at Merkinch Nature reserve in Inverness but have been without their own home pitch for over two decades.
Inverness Craig Dunain trains at Merkinch Nature reserve in Inverness but have been without their own home pitch for over two decades.

An Inverness rugby club has shared its "anger and frustration" at the halt of plans for a new home ground after being left without one for 23 years.

A club statement shared by Inverness Craig Dunain RFC last night called out the "continued and systematic failure" of Highland Council and elected representatives to engage and support the club.

With two senior teams running (a men and a women's team), the club lost their home ground in Westercraigs to a housing development by Robertson Homes.

An aerial visual of the proposed sports pitch.
An aerial visual of the proposed sports pitch.

Their hopes for a new home on the new all-weather pitch at UHI, which saw planning permission granted in May last year, were crushed after Highland Council revealed last week that the £1.3 million project had been put on hold amid spiralling costs.

The statement said: "Whilst we fully appreciate that there are funding issues affecting many developments across many sectors in this difficult financial climate, we need to be very clear about the anger and frustration we feel.

"It is not just about the shelving of this project, but about the continued and systematic failure of some MSPs, Elected Members, The Highland Council and others – who are too numerous to list – to support and engage effectively with us over the years."

As part of the original agreement, Robertson Homes were due to provide new sports facilities for the area to make up for the loss of the rugby pitch.

However in 2016 it was agreed that the developer would instead make a financial contribution towards a new facility to be created in Inverness.

The statement continued: "We were not included in this discussion, despite planning minutes stating that we should be.

"Subsequently, we are seven years later and we have seen zero benefit from the payments, which were due to be part of the funding for the new UHI facility – all be it only a small one."

The club has been moving to various facilities for training and games across the years, and is currently training at Merkinch Nature Reserve.

Without having its own home ground for official games – and rugby posts being removed from Bught Park and Inverness High School – ICD teams had to rely on neighbouring clubs at Ross Sutherland, Moray and Highland for the past two seasons.

In their statement the club raised concerns over the shrinking of sports facilities in the city and that this is not allowing choice to residents in the area for sports activities which are "key to their health and well-being."

If concludes: "We are sure that some in the Council hope we will just go away and cease to exist. They have clearly failed to understand and underestimate our resilience and determination.

"We love the game and have continued to thrive and provide a welcoming and inclusive environment despite all the challenges thrown at us over the years.

"We never asked for a Rolls Royce solution in the form of an all-weather pitch. Is the provision of one grass pitch and changing rooms too much to ask for?"

A Highland Council spokesman said: “We are discussing potential solutions with the club, and these will continue.”

They confirmed that costs and plans are being re-assessed.

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