Proposed car ban in part of Inverness city centre receives mixed response
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A suggestion that part of Inverness city centre should be pedestrianised to create a cafe and restaurant culture has prompted a lively public debate.
The Courier revealed last week that city councillors will be asked on Thursday to undertake a "reimagining of the city" to encourage more people into the centre and support existing businesses.
The idea is being put forward by Councillors Ron MacWilliam and Glynis Campbell-Sinclair who are calling for the possible pedestrianisation of Union Street and Queensgate to be investigated.
Their aim is to start a public conversation – and the bold proposal has already sparked a range of views in favour and against.
Opponents, including Malcolm Fraser, proprietor of Duncan Fraser Fish and Game in Queensgate Arcade, say it would be disastrous for businesses in the area.
"Given how fragile retail is with this pandemic which is still going on, it is very short-sighted to be even discussing or entertaining this idea," he said.
"Pedestrianisation has been tried up and down the length of the country and is shown to be detrimental to retail.
"They talk about a cafe culture but we don’t live in the south of France. It beggars belief."
If such a measure was adopted, it could also have implications on bus routes.
A spokeswoman for Stagecoach said: "Full pedestrianisation of Union Street or Queesngate would call for a major review of the existing bus network.
"If the proposal is approved for consultation, we will work closely with Highland Council to identify the most appropriate way to maintain attractive connections by bus in and around Inverness."
Inverness Taxi Alliance chairman Andrew MacDonald was in favour of pedestrianisation and said it could help to reduce pollution in the city centre.
"I think the whole city centre should be pedestrianised," he said.
"For the first time, we could do something sensible about addressing pollution."
Mr MacDonald said his seven vehicles had been fitted with hydrogen units to try and cut down on pollution which has blighted parts of the city centre.
He believed if Union Street and Queensgate were pedestrianised, access should remain for public service vehicles but also suggested re-introducing one-way traffic along High Street.
The proposals to be presented to councillors also include a deep clean of streets and planting of trees and shrubs to make it a cleaner and greener place.