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Call for new charter to improve city access

By Gregor White

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A COALITION of disability and mobility organisations has called on Highland Council to make Inverness more accessible.

The Putting Inverness Streets Ahead manifesto was launched on Thursday.

Attended by charity representatives and local councillors, the call was made to make the Highland capital fit for the 21st century.

The manifesto has been produced by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) in collaboration with groups including Autism Rights Group Highland, Guide Dogs Scotland and the Highland Cycle Campaign.

It sets out a range of barriers it says prevents Inverness being truly accessible to all, including too many bollards of different types and heights, unfenced cafe tables and chairs spilling into pavement areas and refuse bins on narrow pavements forcing pedestrians onto the road.

The coalition want the council to adopt a Street Charter which would dictate conditions to be applied to any future planning or licensing applications.

RNIB Scotland campaigns manager Dr Catriona Burness said: "For too many people our streets remain a daily obstacle course.

"We believe a Street Charter would help to enhance the quality of life for residents and, vitally, boost the reputation of Inverness as an open and welcoming tourist destination.

"As ‘The Gateway to the Highlands’ Inverness plays a pivotal role in promoting the region as an attractive place to live, work and visit.

"But a vital element for any successful 21st century Scottish city must be inclusivity – a city that is open and welcoming to everyone – and the key to inclusivity is physical accessibility."

She added: "A Street Charter would help to avoid entrenching flawed designs that could blemish Inverness for a generation or more."

Brian MacKenzie of the Highland Cycle Campaign said the drive to get things right first time made good financial sense for cash-strapped local authorities.

"For example, a 2015 House of Lords report on ‘shared spaces’ (where roads and pavements are levelled allowing vehicles and pedestrians to use the same area) warns that ‘councils are risking public safety with fashionable simplified street design’ and notes that ‘more and more local authorities are forced into expensive remedial work, often restoring crossings they have themselves removed’," he said.

The manifesto states: "A Street Charter would offer planners and consultants a template for inclusive design, potentially saving the council money by cutting down on objections to plans or completed developments."

And it adds: "A Street Charter would also make for a more pleasant environment for people who don’t have disabilities as clutter-free streets and logical street layouts would make getting around easier and more appealing."

Highland Council introduced a new policy in April, requiring trade waste bins to be kept off city centre streets outside of specified collection times.

This was in response to complaints about them being both unsightly and obstructive.

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