THE new multimillion-pound Inverness Justice Centre has been recommended for approval, despite the number of parking spaces being halved.
The Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service (SCTS) will find out next week if it has planning permission for the purpose-built facility in Longman Road.
Officers have recommended that councillors give the court the green light, despite it offering only public parking for disabled drivers, and almost halving staff allocation from 83 to 47.
The centre, to be built close to the former Inverness College UHI building, will be the first of its kind in Scotland and will provide space for six courtrooms, allowing the sheriff court to move out of Inverness Castle – freeing that up to be turned into a major tourist attraction.
It will also see High Court cases heard in the Highland capital for the first time since 2013 and provide a base for other justice organisations, including specialist facilities for witnesses and victims of domestic violence and child abuse.
But the plans are likely to face criticism when they are discussed by the council’s south planning applications committee on Tuesday because the same committee called on SCTS to consider providing public bays when it first came before it in February.
The court service revised the design and changed the initially proposed V-shaped building to a single linear structure but hacked back parking provision even further, now offering just 47 staff bays, 12 disabled bays and space for 36 bicycles.
A report by council planning manager Nicola Drummond has recommended the centre be granted permission, saying the SCTS does not deem public parking necessary.
It states: “It is proposed that the development will be predominantly accessed by walking, cycling and public transport.
“The applicant anticipates that those using private cars will park at the Rose Street car park and then walk to the proposed development. The previous permission for the justice centre included a condition that some of the parking bays were made available for public use [but] the applicant considers that this is not necessary.
“Further, they have suggested that the prospect of publicly available car parking will create congestion and a risk to road safety in the event that members of the public arrive and are not successful in finding a space.”
Concerns had previously been raised about the safety of victims and jurors bumping into people accused of crimes while walking the 400m from Rose Street to the court.