Call for next stage of Inverness city centre's Eastgate Hostel to be tackled as owner remains quiet on future plans
THE owner of Inverness city centre’s most prominent eyesore has refused to give details about future plans for its rebuild.
Work to remove scaffolding from the former Eastgate Hostel was finally completed this summer – six years after the premises were gutted by fire.
But city businesses and community representatives remain in the dark about when the next phase will start to develop two houses on the first and second floors and a shop on the ground floor.
When approached by the Inverness Courier this week Imtaiz Ali – who owns the building with Mr Cheng – refused to outline the timescales for restoring the boarded-up building.
“Why should I speak to you?” he said.
Accusing the Courier of previously giving negative publicity to the long-running saga he added: “I am not going to explain anything to you. It has been a witch-hunt.”
He said “something” would happen with the building.
“The façade has been made safe and all thescaffolding is off the street,” he said. “There is something in the process of development.”
But chiropodist Jim Crawford, whose business is close by, fears the situation could now drag on for several more years.
“I have not heard anything,” he said. “I have been looking at the building. It has been reinforced to such an extent there seem to be no plans to take it down any time in the near future.
“I don’t think rebuilding is on the cards – certainly not this year.
“It is shocking just to leave it like that.”
He could not envisage work beginning during the winter and speculated the earliest possible chance of a start would be next spring – which would mean work being carried out during the peak summer tourist season.
Mr Crawford felt the building should be acquired under a compulsory purchase order for the Inverness Common Good Fund and maintained the outlay could be recouped in five to 10 years from rental income.
“I would suggest Highland Council’s Inverness city committee revisits this and completes it themselves – it might be the only way we get it finished,” he said.
Pat Hayden, chairwoman of Crown and City Centre Community Council, would also like to see the rebuild completed.
“Now they have removed the scaffolding, it may just sit as it is for quite some time – I do fear that,” Mrs Hayden said.
“We are all very glad that the scaffolding is down but the next stage has to be tackled.”
David Haas, the council’s city manager, said the responsibility of moving things forward lay with the owners.
“We have given every support and assistance to the owners of the building to ensure the scaffolding was removed at no cost to the public purse,” he said.
“The building is in private ownership. It is the responsibility of the owners to move it forward. From discussions, we understand it is their intention to continue the programme of investment in the site once they are able to determine the best way forward.
“We are obviously very keen as a council that the site is put into full use.”
He said although the council had powers to serve dangerous buildings and waste land notices requiring owners to take action to address issues neither applied to the Eastgate Hostel.
“Going forward, we would like to think the owners will be in position to do so as soon as practically possible.”