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Highland Council blunder over riverside hut as part of Inverness artwork plans

By Scott Maclennan

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New plans feature a new fishermans' hut.
New plans feature a new fishermans' hut.

Revamped plans for the controversial River Ness artworks centrepiece have inadvertently been put online after a blunder by Highland Council.

The local authority mistakenly applied to itself for planning permission to replace the fisherman’s hut at the site.

The plans included completely new images for My Ness – also known as the Gathering Place – which has left critics scratching their heads sa to why no information has been made publicly available before now.

The application has since been removed from the council’s website.

Members of the Open Ness campaign group against the artwork want to know what prompted the design changes and why it appears less accessible for disabled people.

Originally, it was to be an unbroken semi-circle on the Bught Park side of the river, but now that is embedded in the riverbank with a walled promontory leading out over the river.

Open Ness member Evelyn Grant said the “radical change” was “less bad” but still problematic: “I haven’t seen anything about that until now. The last iteration of the Gathering Place was a continuous wall but the changes are quite significant.”

She also feared it would not be appropriate for people in wheelchairs.

The project had already been delayed so a costly redesign looking at access for people with disabilities could take place.

Fellow Open Ness member Helen Smith questioned the cost of the new hut and who would be paying for it.

She was also keen to know whether there was a business case to justify why council or Inverness Common Good Fund money should be spent on it at a time when the local authority is facing a budget black hole due to the coronavirus pandemic.

She said: “Wouldn’t the council or the Common Good Fund money be better re-allocated to helping to plug the £87.5 million budget gap?

“It is not too late for the council and the Inverness Common Good Fund money for the artwork to be reallocated to something more essential and wanted by local people.”

Construction of the artwork was due to start this spring.

A council spokesman confirmed the project was on hold while Covid-19 is ongoing, adding: “The application lodged for the fisherman’s hut has been withdrawn because it incorrectly showed the council as the applicant and is not part of a council project.”

Related article: Spot the difference: Inverness riverside artwork plans changed by Highland Council

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