A KEY Inverness city centre site will be freed up for redevelopment after Royal Mail confirmed it is to relocate its mail centre and delivery office.
The move from its cramped base in Strothers Lane – currently the only fully manual mail centre left in the UK – to a new site in Seafield Road is expected to take place during 2019-20 and represents investment of £6.6 million.
The announcement ends speculation surrounding the planned move first highlighted in the Inverness Courier more than a year ago.
Politicians and city leaders have welcomed the news, saying it will help protect the 274 sorting office jobs and also open up an important opportunity for development in the city centre.
The current office is next to Farraline Park bus station and close to the train station where the first phase of a major refurbishment will begin later this year.
Fraser Grieve, Highlands and Islands director for the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, said there was a chance to achieve a long-held vision for a proper integrated transport hub.
"It opens up the potential to look at whether that site could be a better location for the bus station and free up the area for a square," he said. "It gives a whole opportunity to look at that central space and how it flows."
Royal Mail plans to market the site following the move but Mike Smith, manager of the Inverness business improvement district, hoped Inverness Common Good Fund would appraise its options for acquiring the site saying it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to look at how the area was developed.
"It would be a shame if it was left to the market to decide its future use because it is a critical factor in improving the whole area locally," he said. Stewart Nicol, chief executive of the Inverness Chamber of Commerce, also urged city leaders to seize the chance to develop something iconic, whether it was a state-of-the-art travel centre or green space.
"We should just not presume we are going to get another office in there," he said.
Inverness and Nairn MSP Fergus Ewing described the investment by the Royal Mail as "very positive news" for the Highland capital while Inverness MP Drew Hendry said he was looking forward to hearing more from Royal Mail about its investment plans.
"Vacating the current building also opens up the exciting possibility of redevelopment around the bus and train stations which is well overdue," he said.
The Royal Mail’s new site will have more than double the amount of operational indoor space and is set to include new automated sorting, as well as parking space for its fleet, customers and staff.