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Highland Council examining how to create safe green routes to every Inverness school

By Alasdair Fraser

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New signs have been put in place in Caulfield North Road.
New signs have been put in place in Caulfield North Road.

Green routes to school form part of the new active travel network to be rolled out across Inverness.

The local authority landed £750,954 from the Scottish Government’s Spaces for People fund to transform local roads and pavements during the Covid-19 lockdown and recovery period.

The segregated cycling, walking and wheeling routes will initially link health centres, key worker hubs and other public buildings from east to west.

Streets including Millburn Road and Academy Street would be narrowed to traffic to allow broader pathways, while a single lane one-way system would operate around Inverness Castle.

As lockdown restrictions ease, there could be evening pedestrianisation of the old town to allow hospitality businesses to use street space for social distancing.

While the Covid-19 network would be temporary, officials have indicated it could form the basis of more permanent moves to reduce pollution, congestion and road safety risk.

With the total government funding pot increased from £10 million to £30 million across Scotland, the council confirmed proposals could be expanded.

Central to this, following talks with sustainable transport charity Sustrans, would be links to local schools which are set to re-open on August 11.

Malcolm MacLeod, the council’s executive chief officer for infrastructure and the environment, is spearheading the radical plan.

A spokesman for his team said: “Highland Council identified their bid as an initial bid. It was always anticipated that further bids would be made.

“The focus is on delivering those initial interventions, taking into account the feedback from the public on our portal and wider consultations.

“Feedback from Sustrans on the bid and future bids has been useful. The sites around schools have been highlighted and we will be considering what further funds and proposals may be appropriate.”

The Highland Cycling Campaign (HCC) and Lochardil and Drummond Community Council last week called for neighbourhoods in the southern part of Inverness to be included in the paths network.

HCC also wants main commuter routes into the city, as well as outlying towns and villages like Nairn, Fort Augustus and Beauly to be included.

The council spokesman said: “There is overwhelming support on the portal for the interventions proposed, but some criticism that we are not being ambitious enough.

“We are receiving good feedback and considering what further interventions may be appropriate both in Inverness and the wider Highland area.

“The grant is aimed at concentrations of people, so it is inevitable that the focus will be on our larger towns and villages.”

The council stressed decisions on potential street closures and evening pedestrianisation in the city centre would take longer to agree.

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