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Multimillion-pound new life sciences hub for Inverness in jeopardy

By Scott Maclennan

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A FLAGSHIP city healthcare project is under threat after construction costs were found to be significantly higher than expected.

The multimillion-pound project – made up of cash from the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal and £3.75 million of European development funding – aims to create a new life sciences hub at Inverness Campus.

A partnership between the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and NHS Highland, it would bring together academic, clinical and commercial interests in the health sector to develop new products and services.

In August 2018, HIE said it could create up to 189 jobs and it is planned to be co-located with a new NHS elective and primary care centre. However, a meeting of Highland Council’s environment, development and infrastructure committee is to be told today that the project is at risk.

Explaining a ratings scale used to assess progress of City Deal projects, a report states: “The life sciences innovation centre project has moved from ‘amber’ to ‘red’ because the price for the new build has come in significantly higher than expected.

“This puts the build and build times at risk.”

Without specifying what the new cost currently is, the report adds work is under way to reduce them.

However, it also states: “This will inevitably add delays, and these are still being estimated.”

Building work had previously been expected to start this year, ahead of a March 2021 opening.

A spokeswoman for UHI said it was confident the project would still go ahead.

“We have agreed to look at different affordable options to ensure we can remain on the same plots with an adjacency that would still fulfil the original aims of our collaboration,” she said.

She would not be drawn on new costs – citing “commercial sensitivities” – or on how the original budget costs had risen so much after a business case was agreed.

The NHS care centre is being funded with £34 million of Scottish Government funding as part of a new national network of treatment centres and a spokeswoman for NHS Highland said it remained a priority for the regional board, as well as NHS Scotland.

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