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Highland Housing Alliance (HHA) to begin work to transform notorious eyesore in the shadow of Inverness Castle

By Philip Murray

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Pictured from left are: Gail Matheson (HHA Chief Executive) The Provost of Inverness Helen Carmichael, Claire Dolan (HHA Development Officer, Thom Macleod (Managing Director of Compass Building & Construction Services Ltd).
Pictured from left are: Gail Matheson (HHA Chief Executive) The Provost of Inverness Helen Carmichael, Claire Dolan (HHA Development Officer, Thom Macleod (Managing Director of Compass Building & Construction Services Ltd).

A NOTORIOUS eyesore will be brought back into meaningful use after work to renovate the derelict building begins next month.

The Highland Housing Alliance (HHA) has acquired the derelict city centre property at 51-53 Castle Street in Inverness.

And it plans to "sympathetically" transform it into eight flats, with a retail unit on the ground floor that will be owned and leased by HHA.

The Castle Street restoration has been made possible by a £1.2 million Scottish Government Partnership Support for Regeneration grant, with City Region Deal funds also utilised.

Emergency works were carried out on the building after it fell into serious disrepair whilst under the previous ownership.

HHA said it was keen to preserve the building which looks onto Inverness Castle and forms part of the historic Castle Street front.

Scaffolding currently supports the dilapidated late 18th century building structure, and HHA has engaged with a local firm to undertake a careful rebuilding process using the original stonework. This will see the façade of the building rebuilt to match the existing, re-using the original stone. It added that due to safety reasons, the façade will have to be rebuilt.

Compass Building & Construction Services Ltd has been appointed to carry out the work and is confident of overcoming the significant challenges which the three-storey property – listed on the Buildings at Risk Register – presents.

Joining Compass on the project is a locally based team comprised of quantity surveyors, architect, engineer, and clerk of works.

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “This unique regeneration project, supported by £1.2 million from the Scottish Government, will both provide new homes for people in the heart of Inverness, and help to reinvigorate the city centre.

“As housebuilding safely resumes, partnerships such as this between the Scottish Government, Highland Council and HHA will sustain our construction industry, stimulate growth and help us continue on our ambition to ensure everyone has a safe and warm place to live.”

Gail Matheson, HHA Chief Executive, said: “We are excited to be regenerating this building on Castle Street and to stop such a historic Inverness building being lost altogether. We will be retaining lots of the building’s key characteristics such as the pend entrance, stonework, original footprint of the building, and a historic stone discovered at the rear of the site which will become a feature of the restored building.

“We have worked hard to re-establish a vision for its viability at the heart of the community and city centre. We were fortunate that our design team was able to uncover a lot of information on the property which has helped us form the vision for the regeneration and preserve some key aspects. This is a great development opportunity for HHA and fantastic to be part of the restoration of this building.”

The Provost of Inverness Helen Carmichael said: “This is terrific news at a time when it is more important than ever before that we provide new opportunities for people to live in the heart of Inverness as part of the wider regeneration of the city.

“It has been sad passing the site and seeing, what was once, a prominent building become so derelict, so I really look forward to seeing the dramatic transformation to give it a new lease of life. I am sure the work will be of the highest standard and will prove that here in Inverness creative eye catching, well-built new homes can play a huge part in bringing people back to living in the city centre.

“I’m sure that once completed the building with complement the multi-award-winning homes HHA completed, in partnership with the council, at the nearby Raining’s Stairs redevelopment.”

Thom Macleod, Managing Director of Compass Building & Construction Services Ltd, said: “Having been extensively involved over the last three years in the works to make the building safe, secure and watertight – we are now to be responsible for the careful dismantling, modernisation and reconstruction of this well-known landmark. We have spent a significant amount of time planning how the development is to be taken forward through liaison with key stake holders from the Local Authority such that we have a clear and coherent plan in place for the safe and successful delivery of this exciting project.

“The investment being made, leading to the award of this project, will underpin many local full-time construction jobs and also crucially apprentice positions within the multidisciplinary Compass Group at a time when we are seeking to re-start both the industry and economy, this is most welcome indeed”.

Related news: New vision for derelict Inverness city centre building in the shadow of Inverness Castle.

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