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The battle by Castle Street traders hit by a slump in customers due to council Covid social-distancing measures, has entered a new phase

By Neil MacPhail

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Denise Collins is campaigning to get more public car access to the council carpark on Castle Street. Picture: James Mackenzie
Denise Collins is campaigning to get more public car access to the council carpark on Castle Street. Picture: James Mackenzie

DENISE Collins, of the Castle Gallery, is leading a renewed call for Inverness Town House car park to be available to the public 24/7 and not reserved for exclusive daytime Highland councillor and council staff use.

She points out the car park is seldom full, and often seems to be used as a “store” for council vehicles.

The council took advantage of Scottish Government funding to bring in Spaces for People designed to assist social-distancing – and an array of bollards and barriers were installed plus a one-way traffic system round Inverness Castle.

The issue divided citizens, but this summer councillors rescinded the Castle Street measures.

But Mrs Collins and neighbours are not happy.

Castle Street Town House Car Park. Picture: James Mackenzie
Castle Street Town House Car Park. Picture: James Mackenzie

She said: “Although the bollards have gone, the street is still one-way as we are awaiting new traffic lights. Customers to the shops and cafés in Castle Street have not returned.”

She has photographs taken of the Castle Street car park between September 3 and October 14 between 8am and 5pm, Monday to Friday, showing the underuse of these private parking spaces.

Mrs Collins added: “These parking spaces could be put to much better use to encourage the general public back to shop at the local independent shops and cafés in Castle Street and nearby.

“It is such a waste.

“I have seen many vehicles enter the car park and come back out again when they realise they can’t park there Monday to Friday, 8am-5pm.

“It is reserved for councillors and council vehicles, many of which do not seem to have moved from their spaces for days.”

Mrs Collins said better use can be made of the spaces if available to the public.

“Takings from parking charges would rise,” she said.

“This would not preclude the use of the car park by councillors, but they should take their chances on finding a parking space like the rest of us. Better still, in the run up to Christmas, to help local independent businesses on Castle Street recover from Covid, the car park should be made free to use for everyone.”

David Traill, of Graham’s outdoor shop, said: “This car park is criminally underused, and if repurposed for customer use would provide a useful income stream for a council that consistently operates in deficit.”

A council spokesman said the car park was available for the public outwith usual business hours from Monday to Friday.

“As we move towards the reopening of offices, the Town House is being used operationally by services who require access to vehicles for business purposes,” he added.

“The car park is also being used as a base for vehicles used in the provision of welfare support during the pandemic. This means that it is not practical to open the car park for public use during weekday business hours.

“We have to achieve a balance so as to maximise the ability of council services to deliver, which is in the public interest, while doing what we can to help promote a vibrant city centre, which the Common Good Fund supported joint marketing campaign delivered by Inverness Business Improvement District and the Inverness Loch Ness BID is achieving.”

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