Indoor sports centre grant leaves group in cash crisis
A COMMUNITY group has vowed not to give up despite losing out on more than £400,000 for a new indoor sport centre in Fort William.
Lochaber Sports Association (LSA), the organisation behind the plans for the £1.47 million training centre and community hub near Lochaber High School, is said to be ‘extremely disappointed’ to only receive £200,000 from Highland Council, after applying for £ 845,000 including VAT.
A report by the local authority’s director of finance, Derek Yule, recommended the lower amount be awarded, as an expected £400,000 developers’ contribution was lost when Tesco shelved plans to build a new supermarket at the Blar Mor.
The blow now leaves LSA with a hole of £700,000 after councillors voted to dish out the reduced grant by 36 to 29, with two abstentions, at the full council meeting last Thursday (October 29).
It is hoped the indoor mul- ti-use centre, which already has full planning permission, will be used by Lochaber High School and other community groups outside the sporting world.
Jane Blanchard, chairwoman of LSA, said: ‘We have no idea how to continue from here but be assured we are not giving up. This project is more vital than ever, shovel-ready and our community has invested heavily in its development. Thanks to all who have supported us on the journey so far and to our councillors who spoke and voted in favour of the project on Thursday. I have no doubt we will win through in the end.’
During the meeting last week, Lochaber councillors appealed to their colleagues to support the facility.
Allan Henderson proposed the amendment to grant LSA the whole £ 845,000.
He said: ‘If this project goes ahead the schools would benefit from it greatly, particularly the high school there and the community would be able to use it at night and weekends. We need to make sure every penny is in place so this can go ahead.’
Brian Murphy, councillor for Fort William and Ardnamurchan, drove home the importance of an indoor facility in the town, which is one of the wettest in Britain: ‘Almost everyone has cracked a joke about Lochaber’s weather. We always seem to be the butt of jokes about rain and that’s okay. We have lousy weather and we know that, but when we come and ask for a bit of help to do something about our poor training facilities all kinds of difficulties seem to be put in our way. The way things are now, it almost feels as if it’s Lochaber’s fault that Tesco didn’t go ahead.
‘Over the years I’ve seen numerous occasions, not just sports but roads and all sorts of things, when there has been European funding, Scottish government funding and Sport Scotland funding available and we have always made a point of making sure that we get that and that’s been done many times. I see no reason why we shouldn’t do it this time.’
Concerns were also raised about the possibility of LSA losing a further £ 500,000 pledged in principle by Sport Scotland as this was supposed to be dependent on the Highland Council grant.
But in a faint silver lining for the group, Sport Scotland has agreed to honour their pledge.
Ms Blanchard said: ‘Thankfully we haven’t lost the Sport Scotland funding but we still have £700,000 to find and no idea where to get it. This is a massive step backwards for us. I feel like we’re further away from our goal now, six years down the line, than we were two years ago.’
Council convenor Isobel McCallum called the facility a ‘ very worthy project’, but added: ‘Clearly members would like to support enhanced sports facilities in every part of the Highlands. We have, however, a very challenging financial situation with a reducing budget and increasing pressures.
‘ We have a limited availability of funds and we must cut our cloth accordingly.’
An LSA meeting was due to be held last night ( Wednesday) to discuss how to save the facility.
Be assured, we are not giving up.
DETERMINED: councillor Brian