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Loch Ness village’s move for new community facility takes major step forward as Highland Council backs principle of the proposal

By Neil MacPhail

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Blairbeg Park with existing shinty clubhouse in background.
Blairbeg Park with existing shinty clubhouse in background.

Loch Ness-side shinty players changing in their cars because clubhouse facilities are so cramped, will hopefully soon be in the past.

A move to build a new facility in the village of Drumnadrochit has been progressed by Highland Council planning permission in principal for the project.

Glen Urquhart Rural Community Association (GURCA) want to change the use of the site of the former Scotmid shop, now demolished, with a view to erecting a community wellbeing and sports facility.

The land is adjacent to Blairbeg Park, the home of Glen Urquhart Shinty Club. (GUSC)

If they so wish, GURCA can now move ahead and prepare a planning application in detail to erect a building which will be a base for the shinty club as well as for other sports and community uses.

A report to the council planners from GURCA's consultants Reynolds Architecture Ltd states when applying for permission in principle said: "GUSC is a very active club with a healthy membership, a strong youth section and successful ladies’ section. The current clubhouse consists of two changing rooms (home and away teams) with showers and a kitchen.

"Some days there can be three games taking place on a Saturday – youth, ladies and men’s - and the limited changing means it is impossible for all the teams to utilise the changing spaces and so cars are used. This is not acceptable today.

"Additionally, the lack of changing facilities means it is difficult to provide separate changing areas for adults and children, so these games cannot be planned on the same day without a long break between to ensure safeguarding measures are put in place by separation between games."

The report added that the existing clubhouse is not energy efficient and not suitable for upgrading to sustainable means such as a heat pump.

Reynolds say building a new facility on the current clubhouse footprint is impossible because of its location in relation to the playing field and therefore the most obvious other location is the old shop site. There is strong community support for this proposal.

"A planning approval in principle will enable the community group to proceed to detailed design, community consultation and subsequent application for detailed planning permission to realise this community asset," ends the report.

The report says GUSC and GURCA – the glen’s Community Development Trust - have been working closely to advance the vision for enhanced wellbeing and sporting facilities in Drumnadrochit which would benefit a wide range of people.

In 2021 GURCA entered into a 99 year lease with GUSC for Blairbeg Park, allowing GUSC a longer tenure of the site to facilitate development of the facilities for the benefit of not only shinty but also other sports groups. GURCA has the ability to acquire land and buildings and as well as Blairbeg Park, owns Drumnadrochit Village Green; the Loch Ness Hub Building (acquired through a community asset transfer in 2020 and now leased to the Loch Ness Hub); Glenurquhart Public Hall; and Blairbeg Woods.

The application is currently under consideration by council planners.

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