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Eastgate bosses are willing to challenge Academy Street plans in court

By Scott Maclennan

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Julian Diamond, Scoop Asset Management. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Julian Diamond, Scoop Asset Management. Picture: James Mackenzie.

One of the staunchest and most robust positions taken up during the Inverness BID event on Academy Street was by Julian Diamond, representing the owners of the Eastgate Centre – he said if the scheme progresses then a judicial review would be pursued.

If such a review were to go ahead it would deal a heavy blow to the council's plans as the scheme administrators Sustrans could baulk at making a funding award for proposals that were in the hands of lawyers.

Mr Diamond of Scoop Asset Management said that the position stems from the lack of respect shown by Highland Council to stakeholders to the point that he even disputes that a proper consultation took place.

He also pointed out the commitment made by Scoop which has invested £100 million in the city centre, not including the recent £2 million food hall revamp.

It has not been 'handled particularly well'

“To be perfectly honest, we don't think it's been handled particularly well,” he said. “There are different aspects to this, but there's been a lack of communication. We don't believe that there has been a formal consultation undertaken properly.

“And therefore if this goes through in a vote in late August we will be pursuing a judicial review against this.”

He added: “You cannot call what happened a consultation. In our opinion, the third option just materialised from what was known as option B so we can still really consider that an option A and an option B. Option A which was put to everybody in the spring of 2022 was a real feel good factor for everyone concerned in the city centre.

“Everybody wanted to say improvements to its streetscape, especially a street like Academy Street, which is a gateway to Inverness from a public transport perspective but more importantly it also provides the west to east cross route of the city centre.

“There was no question with the original proposals that that was going to change, however, at a council meeting in late October last year a vote took place and it was decided that Option B would be adhered to.

"No one had actually been told about option B at that point and it was only after an outcry that measures were taken to the third option that you referred to earlier and a display for a limited period over three days happened in early March this year.

“But that in no way was a formal consultation.”

“One of the main points is the lack of an independent economic impact assessment and on that basis we believe that the traffic routing proposals will have a negative impact on the businesses of the town centre.

“We don't know for sure but neither do the council and the Department of Transport states that if in a proposal there is a possibility of a negative impact then it should be accompanied by an economic impact assessment, well where is it?”

A way back?

Despite Mr Diamond’s frustration he still sought to leave the door open for a way back for the local authority to work with the private sector to create a plan that works for everyone.

He said: “It's something that throughout my career I've felt quite passionate about, to be honest in terms of town centre regeneration and trying to knock the heads together of both the public and private sectors to actually sit down together and come up with a joint plan and not just the plan of the local government.

“So the current proposals, which they haven't told the public in their glossy brochures, will effectively divide the city centre in two making it very difficult for shoppers to get in and out.

“And that might not be at first, but it will be over time. And the problem over time is that the person will decide they can't be bothered anymore and so these numbers, they might not all happen overnight but they could gradually.

“And for what? For absolutely no reason at all, we all get we have to look at our Green measures going forward but rather than being dictated to by this all or nothing plan, which seems to be what's happening here then let's sit down, let's talk about it. let's have an economic impact assessment done and see if we can come up with something that works for everyone.

“I'm sure that the council ultimately doesn't want the town centre but city centre businesses to fail and so why be so blinkered of going down this room where you're not prepared to listen to those people?”

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