A PLAN to boost cycling alongside one of Inverness’s busiest access routes has been branded unworkable by businesses and management of the city’s Business Improvement District (Bid).
The bike dual carriageway plan, which is at concept stage, will increase city centre traffic jam misery for motorists, and drive shoppers to the out-of-town retail parks, it is claimed.
Last-minute design tweaks brought on by protest have failed to totally placate businesses on Millburn Road and Academy Street, including the Eastgate Centre, M&S and Morrisons.
A U-turn has been performed over plans to scrap the right turn slip lanes into Morrisons superstore and to the back railway station and car park, and Millburn Road businesses have been assured their loading bays can be worked into the design.
Management of high profile businesses are upset that Highland Council did not directly involve them in the consultation process right from the start – to the extent that a council consultant involved was not aware of a vital truck delivery route to Eastgate 1, which brings goods to the M&S side of the shopping complex.
Opponents say that proposals to reduce Millburn Road from dual-carriageway status to single lane in each direction, including a bus-only lane from Millburn roundabout, to facilitate a two-way cycle lane, will create pinch points and lead to even worse city centre traffic snarl-ups and deter vital shopping footfall.
But on Monday members of the Inverness city committee will be asked to give its approval in time to beat a deadline that is part of a Sustrans and Scottish Government competition to win £3 million towards encouraging active travel. The final design stage will begin after the funding decision is known.
Mike Smith, Inverness Bid manager, said: “There was no direct contact or consultation with the major businesses, namely Eastgate Centre, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons and Royal Highland Hotel, nor the many others in the area, to provide them with an opportunity to engage.
“Despite some design changes the view of the businesses is that they didn’t address the overall issue that it all makes it more difficult for people to drive to access the city centre, cause more congestion and put people off. We are not against active travel, but the proposals are not feasible as they stand.
“We are seeking an undertaking from the council that all the businesses concerns are properly addressed. The whole thing has not been thought through with businesses in mind.”
A council spokeswoman said: “We have made significant efforts to address the concerns raised. It is therefore disappointing that some remain. There is always a challenging balance between those who want to walk and cycle to the city centre and those who choose to drive.”