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Inverness city centre should not be 'no-go area' for cars business leader says

By Alasdair Fraser

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Colin Craig (59) outside Oil and Vinegar, Inverness....Picture: Callum Mackay..
Colin Craig (59) outside Oil and Vinegar, Inverness....Picture: Callum Mackay..

A business leader is urging Highland Council to avoid making the city centre a “no-go area” for car drivers as it considers changes in response to coronavirus.

Colin Craig, who runs the Oil and Vinegar delicatessen in Union Street, is concerned local independent businesses could be hit in the rush towards greater pedestrianisation.

The council bid for Scottish Government Spaces for People cash includes proposals for a temporary evening closure of the Old Town to traffic.

Among a raft of measures promoting social distancing, cycling and walking, it raises the possibility of full pedestrianisation of Academy Street, Union Street, Queensgate, Church Street and Fraser Street.

While the measures would be temporary amid the Covid-19 crisis, council officials hope they could be a template for a greener transport system.

Mr Craig (59), who is also vice-chairman of Inverness Business Improvement District (BID), said: “One fear of mine is the drive towards pedestrianisation could leave Inverness with a lovely clean Old Town environment, but nothing left within it.

“I certainly know others who would view full pedestrianisation with a lot of concern.

“We all have customers who, for their own reasons, want to use their car to get in and pick up an order they’ve placed. It could be just something too heavy for them to carry.

“If you’re elderly or have mobility problems it is going to be very difficult, but there are a larger number of people who just want to use their car for convenience.

“This obsession with buses is fine, but if we are being discouraged from using public transport because of social distancing, people need to use their own cars as well as feet and bicycles.

“We’d be concerned if the city centre becomes a no-go area for people who drive a car.

“They will just go to the out-of-town retail parks and the independents in the city centre will be the ones who suffer.”

Mr Craig is a walker and cyclist and added: “Nobody wants gridlocked streets, but there has to be compromise to allow the private car, for good reasons, into the city centre.”

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