SERIOUS safety concerns have been raised after a man was hit by a falling pane of glass at an Inverness shopping centre.
Incredibly it’s the third such incident in a few months at the Inverness Centre on the eastern approach to the Highland capital.
Now angry customers and politicians are demanding to know what is going on at the busy retail park which is home to household names like Boots, New Look and Vue Cinemas.
But management at the park, which was closed after Tuesday’s accident, refused to answer any of the questions put to it.
In the latest incident outside the New Look store, a man in his 30s was taken to Raigmore Hospital by ambulance with facial injuries after a giant pane of glass crashed to the ground from above the entrance to the clothes shop.
Staff told eyewitnesses that it was the second time in a matter of days that a pane had fallen and smashed. Nobody was hurt when a pane crashed down on Sunday.
A similar incident also occurred at the retail park in June. Then shopper Elizabeth MacKay was entering the Next store when a pane from the glass canopy there crashed down, missing her by inches.
Megan Hart, from Newtonmore, saw what happened on Tuesday and narrowly escaped the falling glass, exiting the shop at the same time as the injured man.
"We were walking out of the shop – he went right and I went left and then I heard a massive noise and tensed up," she said.
"There was glass in my hair and when I turned around there was the man on the ground with blood coming out of his head."
The 22-year-old added: "One of the workers said it happened two days ago to the other panel of glass. Why didn’t they check them? It is so bad!"
David McGrath, chairman of Smithton and Culloden Community Council, said: "It seems incredible that this has happened again, and possibly on two occasions, since the first incident in June.
"I would have hoped that a complete re-assessment of the whole canopy set-up was carried out after the June incident, and one should definitely be done now. Independent engineers should be brought in."
Mr McGrath, who has an engineering background, added: "All the retailers in that row will be screaming blue murder at losing even one hour of trading especially as we approach Christmas, but I think the best option in the circumstances would be to get a squad or workmen in to remove the canopy glass until the situation is reassessed.
"In the interests of public safety there should be prompt remedial action."
Workmen were on site yesterday after a temporary closure of the area was announced following the incident.
A spokeswoman for Highland Council confirmed that officers were on site to inspect the scene yesterday but said the environmental health team were not aware of claims a glass pane had also fallen out on Sunday.
A spokeswoman for the retail park refused to confirm or deny that the latest incident was the third pane of glass to fall there.
She said the cause of the incident was currently being evaluated and added: "The safety of our customers and staff is our highest priority."
Despite also claiming that both police and ambulance were called in the wake of Tuesday’s incident police said yesterday morning that they had not been in attendance and the incident had not been reported to them.
Isabelle Mackenzie, Highland councillor for the Millburn ward, which includes the retail park, said: "Obviously they have taken appropriate action now but I would highlight that if it was a particular structure that fell a few days before they should have taken precautions.
"They will now need to have a good look at the situation and check the structure.
"My main concern is for the person that was injured at the time – it would have been an incredible shock to all of the people there."
She said she hopes the incident will encourage all landlords and shop owners, including those in the city centre, to better inspect their buildings.
"Many landlords in the city centre are absent and anything to do with glass needs to be checked and of the highest safety – we need to be looking out for the public," she said.
And she added: "Why wasn’t it flagged up and checked properly before this accident? There are codes of practice that need to be followed and there needs to be communication."
See today's Inverness Courier for the latest on this ongoing story.