THE dream of building a swimming pool to serve people on the Black Isle has been rekindled.
And with Highland Council elections approaching, there are feelings that prospective councillors’ minds could be focused on the project again.
A previous bid to turn the notion of a pool at Fortrose into reality fell foul of funding problems. More than £70,000 was raised through local efforts and a comprehensive business plan was produced.
An application was made for Big Lottery funding in 2009, but having failed to obtain a crucial guarantee from Highland Council to cover the £70,000 annual running costs, the lottery application fell flat on its face.
But now Black Isle Swimming Pool Foundation chairman Roy Sinclair has invited prospective and sitting councillors, represetatives of Hi-Life Highland, Transition Black Isle, schools and other interested parties to a meeting later this month.
Its purpose will be to discuss the future of the efforts made by the foundation over the past 22 years to build a swimming pool on the Black Isle, and to suggest options for the future. Outlining the background to the project, after the failed bid for funding, Mr Sinclair says that of the initial £70,000 raised through community efforts, around £60,000 remains after payments over the years for professional and other services.
He says in his letter: “Following consultation with community councils, and in view of the continuing high level of support for a pool in the area, the foundation decided in 2010 to keep going, but in ‘hibernation’ mode for a period of five years.”
That would secure the assets for the future, maintain the legal and charitable status of the company formed when the project was first mooted and, crucially, keep the planning permission in place, he adds.
And the foundation’s trustees have now decided the time is right to consider the future afresh.
Mr Sinclair outlines two option in his letter, the first being to wind-up the foundation and distribute the remaining funds to other charitable bodies.
But the second option keeps alive the plan to create a swimming pool “and associated facilities” on land adjacent to the leisure centre in Fortrose.
He points out: “There have been many changes in the area since the foundation was set up.
“Notably there has been a large increase in the population, with many more young people and children living on the Black Isle.
“The popular demand for a swimming pool has not diminished and has probably grown. There is therefore an opportunity to re-energise the effort and consider possibilities for a community-owned swimming and health facility meeting its annual costs from income. The remaining trustees firmly believe there is such an opportunity, and would be prepared to continue temporarily with new members to provide guidance and make their experience available.”
A former foundation chairman, Stuart Edmond, who lives in Fortrose, is still keen to see a pool built in the village.
But he said: “My own view is that the only way to get a pool for the Black Isle is for the people themselves to do it.” He had recently spoken to a Rosemarkie resident who had spent £30 to £40 on a family swimming trip to the pool in Alness, which is part of a community complex, he said.
“It would be far more economical for people on the Black Isle to have their own facility. It would cater for everyone from babes in arms to grannies and grandads,” he said. In line with Mr Sinclair’s letter, he pointed out that the current trustees were getting “long in the tooth” in their 70s and 80s.
“I hope the younger generation will grasp the nettle and take the project forward,” he said.
The meeting to determine the way forward will take place in the Dolphin Room at the Black Isle Leisure Centre in Fortrose at 7.30pm on Wednesday, April 26.