Work has begun this week on the first new public park to be built in Inverness for a generation.
Inshes District Park will cover a significant area of South Inverness. 29 hectares (72 acres) in total will be developed in three phases.
The park will eventually deliver a range of environments – from a flat and tended area near the bottom to a much more natural wild area in the steeper area at the top bounded by existing burns and even a small waterfall.
Phase 1 covers 8.3 hectares and occupies an area of fairly level ground behind Inshes Primary School, between Sir Walter Scott Drive and Stevenson Road.
Phase 2, of 6.3 hectares, is set in rising ground between Stevenson Road and the recently-constructed Milton of Leys link road.
Phase 3, the largest area at 14.4 hectares, initially rises steeply from Milton of Leys link road then levels off to the north western boundary of Milton of Leys.
Phase 1 and 2 will be connected across Stevenson Road by the existing pedestrian crossing.
Phase 2 and 3 are linked by a cycle/footpath bridge over the Milton of Leys link road constructed recently by housing developers.
The £600,000 contract for the construction of Phase 1 has been awarded to Hunter Construction (Aberdeen) Ltd, who moved on to the site this week.
The funding for the project comes from contributions made by the various developers of housing in the neighbourhood and also the Landfilll Communities Fund
As each house is built, the developer makes a contribution towards the purchase of the land for the park, the park construction and also its future maintenance. The current total stands at £1.2 million of which some £600,000 is available to develop the park, which includes £200,000 from the Landfill Communities Fund.
Local councillors are keen to explore ways of boosting the park fund so that things like a well equipped adventure playground and amphitheatre can be added to the park at an early stage. They are currently looking into the feasibility of setting up a community company to help develop and enhance the park for the longer term with community support.
As more funds become available from developers future phases of the park will be rolled out.. The timing will depend on the rate of development in Inverness.
The works in phase one involve the construction of 700 metres of primary paths which are 2.5 metres wide with bitumen macadam surfacing, sett edging and lighting. There is also 680 metres of 1.5 metres wide secondary paths which will have a hard gravel surface. Off Stevenson Road there will be an access into a car park with capacity for 33 cars set among landscaped mounds and swales.
From the car park there will be direct access to the school so parents may use this facility as a “drop off” point for their children. Immediately behind the school it is intended to fence off an area to be used by pupils as an environmental educational facility.
Carefully constructed mounds placed sympathetically throughout the park will ensure a natural pleasing environment with planting of grasslands, shrubs and native trees.
The proposed planting and grass regime reflects the need to minimise ongoing maintenance costs and to reinforce the semi-natural, agricultural pattern of the existing vegetation. Ecological diversity will be supported through the planting blocks of appropriate native tree and shrub species. Large areas of grasslands will be sown with appropriate conservation mixes to ensure a low maintenance grass cutting regime. Significant areas, particularly in the lower section will be maintained as more frequently cut grass recreational open space.
The exact layout and facilities to be provided in later phases have yet to be decided but a similar theme to Phase 1 will continue with the provision of primary and secondary paths linking to adjacent roads and pathways with
planting and landscaping throughout.
Provost Jimmy Gray, Chairman of the Inverness City Committee, said: “This is a significant development in Inverness and will provide us with an important green community attraction in a fast developing area of the city. I am pleased that the park is being funded, by a combination of developer contributions, and funding from the Landfill Communities Fund.”
The provost was joined by Inverness South Ward Members, Councillors Thomas Prag, Roy Pedersen and Jim Crawford at the ceremony to mark a start to work on the park. The local councillors have worked together to keep up the pressure so that the park becomes more than just a paper plan.
Councillor Prag said: “It is great to see this begin to take shape. The District Park at Inshes is an important city-wide project – local residents will be the first to appreciate it, but it’s going to be a welcome addition for all of Inverness. We are increasingly aware of the value of such spaces for health and social well being. Developer funds will provide the basics and pay for long term maintenance, but we think there is much more we can do, and we need to work on getting additional funds and ideas.”
Councillor Pedersen said: “Inverness is already the natural place to be for people and wildlife, with green, clean and seen spaces. This exciting project will provide green space in the city that is accessible to local people at the heart of local communities.”
Councillor Crawford said: “The District Park at Inshes has the added benefit for schoolchildren of being right beside their school – an asset they can readily use to develop environmental education.”
Head Teacher Richard Syred said: “The children will be excited by having this park on their doorstep and will take full advantage of the space allocated to them. We look forward to the many opportunities this new Park gives us for further developing our provision for outdoor and environmental education.”