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Inverness public reacts in droves to controversial decision to cut traffic in city centre's Academy Street

By Neil MacPhail

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An image of what Academy Street might become.
An image of what Academy Street might become.

The decision to proceed with the controversial re-design of Academy Street in Inverness has sparked a huge online response ranging from fury to praise.

Members of Highland Council’s City of Inverness Area Committee on Monday (28 August 2023) agreed to the Making Academy Street a Place for Everyone project.

The approved design for Academy Street will see footpaths widened to the maximum possible; pedestrian crossing facilities increased along the length of street; and motorised vehicle access restricted to deliveries, public transport and blue-badge holders to minimise the through traffic allowed to pass through the city centre.

Comprehensive re-signage of alternative traffic routes and available parking opportunities to access the city centre will be introduced as will enhanced restrictions on surrounding residential areas whilst encouraging motorists to make better route choices on arterial and circulatory routes.

Council project officers will now finalise the proposed design, making any necessary minor amendments as required, and move forward with a Traffic Regulation Order, which will be subject to statutory consultation.

The council will also continue to discuss the project with stakeholders and prepare appropriate equalities and economic impact assessments as requested by businesses during the engagement process on this design.

Speaking about the decision, Leader of Inverness and Area, Cllr Ian Brown said: “I welcome today’s decision which follows months of debate and discussions with all relevant stakeholders, especially businesses, who were understandably concerned about any potential negative impact to them.

“I do believe that the proposed design strikes a careful balance based on all the opinions that have been expressed and that it will deliver sustainable transport, city centre regeneration, and will support the city centre economy. It will significantly improve opportunities for walking, wheeling and on-carriageway cycling, whilst ensuring that businesses can continue to operate as they do presently. An economic impact assessment will now be undertaken as the project progresses, building on the work developed to date.”

Depute Leader of Inverness and Area, Cllr Chris Ballance said: “Everyone agrees Academy Street needs revitalising. Plans have been considered, discussed and consulted on for years, and it’s time to act. This will turn Academy Street from a road to drive through into a place to go to.

"I’m delighted there has been so much support for the project from the public - less than a quarter of comments on the website were negative. We can now move forward to reinvigorate Inverness’ centre by making it a place for people.”

Reacting on Highland Council's Facebook page Helen Campbell said: "Oh well all the complaining from drivers. businesses didn't do any good. Highland Council thrive on shambles."

Ann Lynn said: "Aye like they really took peoples' for and AGAINST arguments. What about spending money on the roads...all the sunken drains on the distributor road I complained about a month ago."

And on the traffic pollution benefits she added: "Who actually spends much time in Academy Street, not like there's a lot of businesses. Optimize the traffic lights to reduce sitting traffic. Academy St has a rating of 29%NO2, well below the 40% limit. Friends of the Earth must have a finger in the pie.

Businessman John Frid saw some benefits however, saying: "There is a definite need to reduce the amount of through traffic using Academy Street. I certainly avoid shopping there due to the traffic.

"However, I can see why there are objections from some businesses and people with mobility issues (not just blue badge holders).

"The reality is that there isn't a solution that pleases everyone. We do need to do more to reduce the reliance on private vehicles, but for many this requires far better bus services (in terms of frequency, reliability, cost, areas covered, as well as times of first and last buses).

"Road layout changes are required, but must be part of a proper integrated transport policy (including a recognition that the current parking options are not great).

"Personally I don't believe that Highland Council isn't listening, but I do think that they are in a catch 22 situation where any proposal will be met with derision by one faction or another."

Another computer image of a future Academy Street.
Another computer image of a future Academy Street.

David Jack said: "Looks miles better than the existing polluted traffic jam. I'd actually want to visit! Plenty of parking in the multi stories."

David Woodward Smith liked the plan: "Looking forward to seeing the current noisy, polluted traffic jam be turned into a nice comfortable space to stroll about for shopping. Tables and chairs outside pubs and cafes, more greenery introduced, less noise pollution and traffic fumes.Almost sounds quite civilised!

Gar Miller was not amused: "The Council has become a dictatorship. Well done. More money wasted more businesses being closed down. Annoying we pay your wages wonder if I can opt out in my council tax that you so like to waste."

And Ali's Taxi, Kiltarlity asked: "How exactly is this “a Place for Everyone?” It doesn’t look like you have spoken to anyone."

Jamie MacIver was not in favour and raged at the council: "You mob are an absolute disgrace, I’ve heard about five people who agree with this and everyone else is against. "Who is looking into the people making these decisions and how it personally benefits them?"

David Body was in favour and said: "Everyone saying this will damage local businesses but I can’t see that as all the traffic is through traffic… it’s footfall that goes into shops and this can only help."

Lesley McAdam posted: "Brilliant, so overdue!!", but

Duncan John Macpherson pointed out: "Inverness is physically and geographically restricted. There are very few routes across Inverness. Restricting just one route puts more congestion on the other already over capacity routes."

"So you stop "traffic" going through Academy Street. So where does it go? Up through the Crown? Or just stops coming into the town!

So you think that cyclists and pedestrians will increase life back into the town? Get back to reality!

Scott Mackenzie commented: "Wow, more money spent in Inverness, does this council realise the size of the Highlands?" and Sandra Gitsham posted: "What a shambles The Highland Council is. Making yet another decision despite fierce opposition from the people it directly affects. I really hope people vote this corrupt shower out, you’re killing small businesses."

Referring to one of Inverness's twin towns Ali Mitchell said: "You can't drive a car through Augsburg...and it's easy to get around. It's a pity we don't have the same tram, bus connectivity."

Jonathan Miller suggested the decision went against the views of most people adding: “A place for everyone who agrees with us but sod the majority.

Val Down commented: "Why put Photographs of the Rose Street Foundry. It’s closed as are lots of other businesses and there will be more to follow.

"It won’t matter what you do Inverness town centre and the out-lying areas have gone down hill drastically thanks to the council and their hideous ideas."

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