NEW proposals for the planned student hub in the centre of Inverness will be unveiled at a day-long public exhibition later this month.
They are expected to include more accommodation, a hotel, shops, offices and a civic square.
Controversial plans by Inverness Estates for the first phase, featuring an eight-storey 105-bed accommodation block in Rose Street, were approved by Highland Council planners last autumn.
People are now being invited to a day of workshops and discussion on Tuesday 29th January when they can give their views on the next phases of the hub which will eventually cater for 450 students using Inverness College’s new campus at Beechwood, due to open in 2015.
The planned hub forms part of the local authority’s City Centre Development Brief, aimed at revitalising the area in the face of stiff competition from out-of-town retail parks.
John West, chairman of Inverness Civic Trust, explained the first phase was approved under delegated powers with little local comment because no community council existed to represent the city centre.
Subsequently, concerns were raised about the height of the accommodation block although he acknowledged Inverness Estates had taken part in later talks to consider mitigating measures.
Given the density of accommodation within the building, Mr West said it was inevitable it would be high.
"We recognise that there is always going to have to be a bit of compromise," he said.
Inverness Central councillor Richard Laird, who is urging people to visit the exhibition, said it was right as many people as possible contribute to the plans for what is a very visible area of Inverness.
"The expansion of the UHI provides a great opportunity for the city but any student hub needs to be developed in a manner sympathetic to the character of this part of the city centre," the SNP councillor said.
"I would encourage everyone with an interest in how these proposals will affect the city to visit the workshops and make their voice heard.
"This development is going to be there for a long time so it is important to get it right."
Yesterday, Gary Johnston, consultant for Inverness Estates, would not comment on when construction of either phase of the project would get under way.