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New Inverness marina development could open up new investment

By Alasdair Fraser

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Artist's impression of The Treehouse building, which is under construction at Muirtown Basin.
Artist's impression of The Treehouse building, which is under construction at Muirtown Basin.

AN ambitious new community marina development being built in Inverness can unlock many millions of pounds of new investment over the next decade while bringing lasting health benefits to the city’s less-affluent neighbourhoods.

That is the view of Chris Breslin, head of regeneration and enterprise for lead investor Scottish Canals, drawing striking parallels to a canalside revitalisation project in north Glasgow.

Ground-clearing work is under way for the £5.2 million Carse Hub, a major waterside employment, community and outdoor venture beside the Caledonian Canal at Muirtown Basin.

Scottish Canals is holding an online public meeting at 7 o’clock tonight as a chance to hear from those involved, including Robertson Construction, about the delivery of the project.

The development will feature community meeting space, training space, offices, outdoor and water sports berths and storage, tourism, a canal college, and a café, with enhanced access to surrounding commercial areas and the Merkinch Nature Reserve.

In two phases, the Scottish Government body and partner investors will create two buildings, The Treehouse and The Boathouse, as part of broader moves to revitalise the area through better connectivity and infrastructure, and as a catalyst for future inward investment.

Mr Breslin, enthused by the potential of the project to boost the city’s recovery from the ill-effects of the pandemic, pointed to the lasting benefits of a Forth and Clyde Canal development in Glasgow.

Site clearing work has started. Picture: Gary Anthony
Site clearing work has started. Picture: Gary Anthony

It bridged run-down industrial and residential areas with the newly created Claypits Local Nature Reserve, with significant social, economic and health benefits.

Mr Breslin said: “Since we began investing in the north Glasgow canal, around 15 years ago, it has drawn in hundreds of millions of pounds of additional investment – in infrastructure, housing regeneration, cultural industries, canal-related projects and green space improvements.

“The initial work and investment has been a catalyst for so much of lasting value to the communities there.

“The starting point was us making the connections between communities and the canal better.

“That starts to change how the whole area is viewed and perceived, giving the whole area an uplift.

“I’d say there’s a very close correlation between what we’ve been doing in north Glasgow and what we’re about to do in Inverness in starting to change the dynamic of that area.”

Furthermore, a Glasgow Caledonian University study identified great health benefits to the population living near the north Glasgow canal improvements.

Health inequalities between deprived and affluent communities were reduced, while there was a three per cent faster decrease in mortality rates compared to non canal-side areas.

In Scotland, 1.5 million people live within two miles of a canal.

Mr Breslin added: “There is a strong link, we believe, between positive investment in canal-side regeneration and health improvement in north Glasgow.

“Such has been the compelling nature of the evidence here, people at the World Health Organisation (WHO) are interested now.

“It really does justify similar investment in Inverness.”

Site clearing work has started.
Site clearing work has started.

Funding partners in the Carse Hub project include Highland Council, sustainable transport charity Sustrans, the Scottish Government’s regional capital grant fund, Inverness Common Good Fund and NatureScot’s green infrastructure fund.

All funding, around £3.4 million, is in place for phase one of the Carse Hub, to be completed next spring.

Scottish Canals’ co-ordination of fundraising for phase two, estimated at £1.8 million for The Boathouse building, continues. It should be finished by late 2022.

Bodies that have expressed an interest in using the new hub once completed include the University of the Highlands and Islands, Merkinch Community Council, South Kessock Residents’ Association, Scottish Canals and some social enterprises.

Scottish Canals’ training and employment programme could also bring new opportunities to unemployed 17 to 19-year-olds in the Merkinch and North Kessock areas.

Tonight’s online public meeting will feature a series of presentations followed by a Q&A with senior members of staff from Scottish Canals on hand.

n To register for the meeting, email communications@scottishcanals.co.uk

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