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Decision due on Inverness riverside artwork

By Scott Maclennan

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An artist's impression of part of My Ness.
An artist's impression of part of My Ness.

A LATE intervention in the debate over the controversial River Ness artworks project has divided opinion ahead of a crunch Highland Council meeting on the subject.

Eden Court chief executive James Mackenzie-Blackman used a blog post to defend the My Ness proposal set to be debated by the council’s city of Inverness area committee today.

In the face of significant public opposition to the scheme, he said: “I can’t help but think that so often it is the vocal minority that drown out the opinions of a silent majority.”

And he added: “We need the elected members of the Inverness city committee to hold their nerve and ensure that we continue to build and develop a city that is forward-thinking, ambitious and creative. We also need folk from the city, and the wider Highland region, to step forward, as I am here, and say we welcome investment in culture – that we see why that’s important.”

While his comments drew widespread support online, the OpenNess campaign group took him to task on several points.

The group’s Helen Smith said: “Mr Mackenzie-Blackman seems to think that the people opposing the Gathering Place/My Ness do not understand the value of public art and that we do not want Inverness to thrive.

“What we oppose is a design lacking in originality, which takes no account of the special wildlife and history of the Ness, which does not allow wheelchair users access to the proposed structure, which does not seem to have investigated fully the implications of building a large concrete structure on a flood plain, and which has been developed behind closed doors without engaging local people in the design and location.

“We are not a shower of uneducated, uncultured yokels in Inverness. We just think that the Gathering Place/My Ness is the wrong project in the wrong place.”

Highland Council is bracing itself for what could be a stormy meeting today.

OpenNess is set to protest outside council HQ from 1pm and the council has organised an overflow room to cater for an expected large public turnout for the meeting that starts at 2pm.

Keep an eye on this website for updates.

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