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Haven Appeal in Inverness gets £1.1m boost for ambitious project

By Val Sweeney

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Elsie Normington and David Sutherland at the Haven Centre site. Picture: Gary Anthony
Elsie Normington and David Sutherland at the Haven Centre site. Picture: Gary Anthony

A BOLD vision to develop Scotland’s first integrated centre for children and young adults with multiple and complex needs at a site in Inverness has received a “game-changing” £1.1 million grant.

The Haven Appeal, which wants to build the centre on a derelict plot in Smithton, has been awarded the grant from the Big Lottery Community Fund.

The good news comes hot on the heels of the project – which will feature respite flats, a specialist play centre, community coffee shop and garden – receiving planning permission.

It is also the culmination of more than three years of preparation and takes the appeal – launched by the Elsie Normington Foundation – beyond the halfway target of £4 million and opens the door for further grant opportunities.

Elsie Normington, chairwoman and founder of the foundation, is thrilled to have been selected for such a significant grant.

“This is absolutely wonderful news for the trustees of the foundation and all those involved in the Haven Appeal,” she said.

“We have worked so hard on our application and it is hugely rewarding to have received this joyous news.

“We are so grateful to everyone involved in the Big Lottery for recognising the real differences that our project will deliver for the children in our society who most deserve our help.

“Securing the brownfield site in the heart of Smithton and planning permission, together with the commitment of foundation trustees, the appeal committee, families of potential users and the backing of the Smithton community, were key factors in our successful application.”

Inverness Sheriff David Sutherland, chairman of the appeal, outlined the significance of the award.

“This is such great news and is the major breakthrough we have been looking for in our fundraising efforts,” he said.

“The Big Lottery grant is a game changer, taking us more than halfway to our target.

“It gives us real momentum for future money raising. This is a truly red letter day for everyone associated with the project.”

The Haven Centre will transform the site previously occupied by the Culloden Court Care Home which was destroyed by fire in 2010.

Since then it has lain derelict.

Mrs Normington was instrumental in setting up the foundation after launching her book The Silent Doorbell, which recounts the story of bringing up her son Andrew, who has a learning disability.

The aim is to create a specialist centre which provides badly needed services for children and adults aged up to 30 throughout the Highlands, as well as support for parents in their caring role.

The project will also include supported housing, constructed by Highland Council at the site, for young adults with learning disabilities to encourage a meaningful transition into adulthood and levels of independence.

The Haven Appeal is among 320 groups in Scotland to receive a share of £12 million in the latest round of awards announced by the Big Lottery Community Fund.

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