Home   News   Article

Controversial Academy Street plans approved by Highland Council

By Scott Maclennan

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!
The full Highland Council has now given the go-ahead for progressing plans on changing Academy Street.
The full Highland Council has now given the go-ahead for progressing plans on changing Academy Street.

Highland Council’s controversial plans to revamp Academy Street first divided the city and has now divided the region’s councillors – but will go ahead after an 11th hour challenge.

Lib Dem councillor Alasdair Christie had sought backing for a two-month trial of the proposed scheme to limit traffic access and a full economic impact assessment of the plan. But that bid was voted down by 33 votes to 35, with two abstentions, when the matter was discussed at a full meeting of Highland Council today.

That was after councillors on the city committee had voted 12-10 in favour of pushing ahead with the plans on August 28.

Under the scheme pavements will be widened and most traffic will be unable to use Academy Street as an unbroken through route.

As previously reported, the proposals provoked uproar among businesses, led by Inverness Business Improvement District (BID).

Ahead of today’s vote Cllr Christie told members: “My proposal is that we start with that impact assessment. It’s logical, isn’t it? It’s straightforward. We review it at the area committee and then we choose an option.

“Then we trial that option for two months to see where the displaced traffic goes. What’s it going to do to the long run of Harbour Road, Bank Street, Castle Street, Castle Road?

“And importantly what’s it going do when it goes through the residential area of Crown? A trial will give us all the information and the money is available for a trial.

“After the trial, because this issue has ignited so much feeling in the community and in the city I’m suggesting that we have some form of advisory referendum or survey to be determined by the area committee.”

Cllr Ken Gowans gave a name-check to The Inverness Courier in his address, backing the proposals as they stood.

He said: “In 2014 The Inverness Courier launched an attempt to accelerate and inform the process (of city centre rejuvenation) with a welcome initiative called ‘Reinvent the City Centre’.

“Again well-meaning discussion took place, but with little progress – so little progress, that The Inverness Courier felt the need to reinvigorate their initiative just three years later.”

He continued: “Members, please don’t vote to stop progress, (don’t) vote to keep Academy Street one of the most congested and polluted streets in Scotland – that would be a backward step.

“Alternatively, you can, today, at long last, vote to bring benefit to the city and the Highlands – vote to reduce pollution, vote to reduce traffic flow, vote to reduce the health risks and the known dangers associated with poor air quality, vote to dramatically improve the city’s appeal.”

Bid director Lorraine Bremner MacBride said after the meeting: “These proposals have been voted for again based on incorrect facts and with a large section of the city centre business and wider community having had their individual and collective voices and needs ignored.

“It is entirely misleading to suggest that statutory consultation at the later Traffic Road Order stages is a satisfactory consolation for the significant defects in how the procedure has been carried out to date, or for the previously admitted to lack of proper consultation at the crucial formative stages.

“We would highlight that it is the Department for Transport itself that recommends a great deal of effort must be put into the preparatory stages of plans in respect of time/place specific economic impact assessments as there is no national dataset which can be used for comparative purposes – meaning sentiments conveying ‘if we build it they will come’ are in point of fact at this time flippant and unsubstantiated.”

Scoop Asset Management, owners of the Eastgate Shopping Centre, previously threatened legal action if the plans went ahead, and today confirmed they are reviewing the council decision with legal counsel.

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More