HUNDREDS of people have responded to a survey asking for their views on Inverness city centre.
The reaction to the online survey, organised by the Inverness City Centre Improvement (ICCI) group, far exceeded expectations, with more than 1400 people providing their opinions.
The survey closed on Friday and, while results are still being analysed, most respondents said they felt the centre was safe and they would recommend it to visitors.
However, organisers say there is also a clear call for action on several fronts, including:
Better tackling of litter and general "untidiness";
Better parking, including improved provision for families and disabled drivers;
Reduction in parking charges;
Greater variety of evening entertainment options;
Stronger action on the number of people drinking alcohol in the street.
ICCI was started earlier this year by Linda Kirkland, a local resident and former NHS Highland manager, concerned at what she saw as the decline of the city centre.
She said she was amazed by the level of response to the survey, which was launched to back up the group’s calls for action and give them a baseline to work from.
"Altogether we got 1441 responses, which is pretty incredible," she said. "I think even the council would be surprised to get that level of response to a survey they did and for us we’re just absolutely delighted.
"The main thing is that I don’t think this number of voices can be ignored, so hopefully it’s the beginning of real focused and concrete action being taken.
"The city needs to be cleaner, there need to be better facilities for families and the disabled and there are ongoing concerns about the amount of drinking and what even appears to be drug taking in the area on a regular basis."
Mrs Kirkland is now pushing for a joint meeting with city centre leaders to form a proper plan for improvements.
ICCI has written to Inverness Business Improvement District chairman Peter Strachan and manager Mike Smith as well as Highland Council director for development and infrastructure Stuart Black, city manager David Haas and Eastgate Shopping Centre manager Jackie Cuddy in the hope they can all get round a table together.
Mrs Kirkland had previously said she was surprised at the lack of a "coherent plan" for the city centre.
This week she said: "The idea now is for us all to go over the results of this survey together," she said. "We are now able to show in black and white exactly what the issues are for the public and we now need to get a plan together for tackling it, including making clear exactly who is responsible for what."
As the Inverness Courier reported last week, there have been calls from city leaders for more to be done to tackle violence and drunken disorder in the city centre.
Last week Police Scotland reported seven people had been charged over a period of days with breaching alcohol bylaws in the area.
Several more had been similarly dealt with over the weekend.
Mrs Kirkland said: "That and the number of HMOs (houses in multiple occupation) in the area are another cause for concern, so if that is now being tackled more seriously that’s a good thing. Drink and drugs are a big concern for a lot of people."
Inverness Central councillor Richard Laird said he was delighted that the survey had garnered such a huge response.
"Credit is due to the group for this piece of work," he said. "It’s always good to see as many people as possible taking on an issue we’re all aware has been a problem for some time.
"The city centre belongs to us all so it’s good to see people coming forward with ideas.
"The council is looking at the issue of HMOs and there have obviously been long-running plans to tackle the Victorian Market which are now coming to fruition.
"The financial challenges the council faces aren’t going to go away, but we should be doing whatever we can to change things for the better."