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BUSINESS INSIGHT: Inverness city centre regeneration must include car drivers

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By Colin Craig

Inverness city centre.
Inverness city centre.

Great to see the distinctly un-summery weather is not deterring ever-increasing numbers of visitors from across the globe to visit Inverness.

There is no doubt that tourism is a very positive contributor to the Highland economy, bringing much-needed income to businesses and employment opportunities for our people.

A greater challenge facing the city centre, however, is how to ensure that it can remain a key part of the lives of the Inverness community. Since my wife and I opened Oil & Vinegar in 2006, I have seen many changes in the way the retail landscape in Inverness has changed. There have been some magnificent new additions but also some notable departures and unfortunately the latter have led to an impression among some people that the city is not what is used to be.

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On a recent visit to Peebles I was delighted to discover a town centre very much alive – a mix of national and local retailers, aimed at both the local and the tourism market, cafes, restaurants, hotels and community facilities. One feature I especially noted was a large car park a very short walk from the main shopping area offering free parking (apart from Saturdays). On-street parking outside the shops was also available. A busy A-road running right through the centre did not seem to be deterring the many pedestrians and cyclists who were enjoying the commercial activities on show.

We need to remember that the current push to drastically reduce car use in town and city centres across the country will inevitably result in a reduction in the number of people accessing their centres. This is especially true for places like Inverness and Peebles who serve large countryside areas. Some drivers may switch to walking or cycling but many more are likely to stay at home and access business online or out-of-town retail.

A key to assisting regeneration of town and city centres is to understand the need to support all our stakeholders; walkers, cyclists and car drivers.

Colin Craig, is Inverness BID co-chairman and owner of Oil & Vinegar.

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