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Highland Council’s plans for Inshes Roundabout will make little improvement fears Charles Bannerman

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Inshes Roundabout.
Inshes Roundabout.

IN my last column, I compared green energy with moving the deckchairs on the Titanic and I return to this metaphor today in relation to Highland Council’s plans to reconfigure the Inshes roundabout.

Yes, the current format is a complete nightmare, but will changing this to four exits with traffic lights really make much difference?

Let’s zoom back and look at the bigger picture. This roundabout is the strategic centre of a seven-mile arc of Inverness highway from Harbour Road through Perth Road, Inshes, Culduthel and Holm Mains down to Tomnahurich Cemetery, with a spur up to Simpsons Garden Centre.

Splitting that into two parts, I am perpetually astonished at the amount of infrastructure that’s packed in from Simpsons, down through that roundabout to the Fluke. It’s little more than a mile, but it includes a university campus, a major hospital, Drakies housing scheme, a large supermarket, police northern headquarters and a business park. All that, plus often heavy traffic to and from Culloden, and now proposals that the Inshes Retail Park should be extended.

The relative sparsity of premises between the Fluke and the Millburn Roundabout is no relief because traffic from Inshes is frequently piled right down there anyway. How on earth do Raigmore Hospital’s emergency ambulances cope with this mayhem? Respect to these paramedics!

Continuing towards the Longman, once you negotiate the level crossing that often grinds Millburn roundabout and Millburn Road to a halt, you are then into the frequent gridlock of the packed industrial estate.

So let’s return to Inshes and now head along the Southern Distributor Road (SDR). I’ve lived on that road for 12 years and the increase in traffic has been phenomenal, with crossing settings also stopping traffic for longer than pedestrians need, hence increasing tailbacks. These are unsurprising given the road’s supermarkets, housing and schools plus its major role as a through road, so standstills are becoming ever longer and more frequent.

The poor old Inshes roundabout is therefore getting hammered from all sides and the stretch to Tomnahurich can only get worse as the massive Ness Side housing scheme on the West Link fills up. And what about the 800 houses once mooted for Fairways, and the proposed Lidl store? The extra delays from pedestrians using multiple crossings on the SDR alone are a major worry as this arc of vehicular chaos from the fire station through that strategic Inshes roundabout and across to Tomnahurich gets ever more packed with infrastructure.

It’s the sheer volume of traffic the Inshes roundabout has to cope with that’s the fundamental problem, and I don’t see the new East Link from Smithton to Cradlehall doing much more than relieving the Raigmore Interchange.

I therefore make no apology for re-using the deckchairs metaphor because the fundamental problem doesn’t appear to be Inshes roundabout at all, but the sheer number of premises that arc of road is expected to serve.

Inverness’s traffic flow has, pardon the pun, been a car crash for years, as the late and unlamented Lego Brick Road round the castle also showed so graphically. But planners have additionally packed so much into that arc between Longman and Tomnahurich that I really don’t see tinkering with the Inshes roundabout as making much of a difference.

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