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Pioneering centre for young people with complex needs set to rise from the ashes in Inverness

By Val Sweeney

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An artist’s impression of the proposed Haven Centre, to be built on a site at Smithton.
An artist’s impression of the proposed Haven Centre, to be built on a site at Smithton.

Ambitious plans to develop Scotland’s first integrated centre for young people with learning disabilities and complex needs have received £250,000 from Highland Council.

The corporate resources committee approved the capital funding towards the Haven Centre which will be built in Inverness at an estimated cost of £4.1 million.

The project, developed by the Elsie Normington Foundation, will comprise three two-bedroom respite flats, a community café, outdoor/indoor play centre with childcare facilities and several meeting spaces.

It will be located on a council-owned site in Murray Road, Smithton, previously occupied by Culloden Court Care Home which was destroyed by a blaze in 2010.

Inverness South councillor Duncan Macpherson welcomed the committee’s decision to release funds and said the Haven Centre would be a "wonderful phoenix rise from the ashes" development.

He recalled watching firefighters tackling the blaze 11 years ago: "I had two elderly family friends who were among the residents safely rescued from the burning building and they were thankful for the efforts of care home staff and firefighters, ensuring there were miraculously no casualties.

"The early evening time of the fire igniting in the roof space, certainly assisted in getting all 59 elderly and frail residents safely exited from their rooms.

"The consequences would have been unthinkable if this fire had occurred in the middle of the night."

He also thanked and praised the sterling work and tireless efforts of those involved in fundraising for the Haven Centre and raising awareness of the benefits it would undoubtedly bring.

The centre will be for children and young adults aged up to 30.

The project has now secured full funding including £1.7 million from the Scottish Government and £1.1 million from the National Lottery.

The council’s corporate resources committee chairman Jimmy Gray said the local authority was delighted to support the Elsie Normington Foundation to build the much-needed facility.

"We anticipate that the project will create 52 jobs during construction phase, and 19 full-time and 11 part-time through the day-to-day work of the centre once it’s operational," Councillor Gray said.

"In addition, I am thrilled that further volunteering, training and work placement opportunities are also expected."

Related story: Planned Haven Centre set to receive cash injection

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