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Council aims to take advantage of 'major opportunity to regenerate the city centre'

By Scott Maclennan

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Craig Baxter (centre) taking questions from the audience with Inverness city manager David Haas (right). Picture: James Mackenzie.
Craig Baxter (centre) taking questions from the audience with Inverness city manager David Haas (right). Picture: James Mackenzie.

Just two Highland Council officers turned up for the Inverness Business Improvement District (BID) Your Voice Our Future event at Eden Court on Monday to defend the local authority.

The Inverness leader Councillor Ian Brown and deputy Inverness leader Cllr Chris Ballance were both there but neither of them chose to speak up unlike a number of other members and former councillors present. Instead it was left to Craig Baxter, the leader of the council’s sustainable travel team to shoulder the lion’s share of the local authority case next to Inverness city manager David Haas.

Mr Baxter made it clear to the audience that the redevelopment of Academy Street was just one element of the Inverness City Strategy to boost trade, footfall and generally improve the city and make it greener.

However, he also said that the aim of the current plan for Academy Street is to make it more difficult for people to travel into and around the city centre by car – which is the real point of division with businesses.

He said: “It is about making a prime destination, a really important place where people can live, work and visit but recognises the major challenges we have got in terms of our green transition and climate emergency and how we support people to move around.

“There has been stuff on social media about pedestrianisation, we cannot stress enough that this is about pedestrianisation. It is about the through flow opportunities for traffic that will then reduce the volumes through Academy Street to a level where cyclists can share the space.

“What that means is that it won’t be as easy to drive so we have to look at the positive aspects and balance that with this major opportunity to regenerate the city centre.

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