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Recovery plan for Inverness city centre

By Val Sweeney

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Falcon Square is in the area which could be developed or repurposed to provide a new civic space.
Falcon Square is in the area which could be developed or repurposed to provide a new civic space.

A new civic space in the centre of Inverness could be created as part of a masterplan to help with the city’s recovery and regeneration post-pandemic.

Consultants have identified an 18-step "manifesto for change" to rebalance, repopulate and reposition the city centre.

Although Highland Council has yet to reveal further details, potential projects include developing or repurposing the Eastgate Shopping Centre, Falcon Square, Millburn Road and the Crown Road area to provide a new key civic space.

Another idea is to connect the heart of the city with the River Ness along Baron Taylor’s Street and Bank Lane.

The potential projects formed part of a presentation by Threesixty Architecture to the Inverness city and area recovery group which this week received updates on a range of schemes aimed at revitalising the city.

It also follows recent calls from city MP Drew Hendry in the Courier for ambitious "out of the box" thinking to ensure Inverness has a city centre people want to visit as it recovers from the economic impact of coronavirus.

Provost Helen Carmichael said councillors on the recovery group were unanimous in their support for the “exciting and wonderful opportunities” presented.

Inverness Provost Helen Carmichael.
Inverness Provost Helen Carmichael.

She said: "All the hard work of council staff, business partners and consultants working for the council has come together and the timing is right.

"Never before have we been so aligned and ready to capitalise across the board with a shared vision on the recovery and future development of Inverness.

"I thank everyone involved and very much look forward to future progress reports and updates coming forward to the recovery group and City of Inverness Area Committee as we see welcome investment from the private sector combined with the efforts of the council and public sector partners to turn visions into reality."

The presentation by Rory Kellett and Anthony Hubbert, of Threesixty Architecture – which has been appointed to produce a city centre recovery project masterplan – included early analysis highlighting property heritage assets and conservation areas and the heights of buildings which might require sympathetic developments.

Property use, the relationship of public and private transport and walking and cycling access were also explored.

They also acknowledged positive achievements already made, including the development of Wasps Inverness Creative Academy, Inverness Justice Centre, Wyvern House in Academy Street and renovation work to the town house.

A council spokeswoman said: "The presentation to members has yet to be further explored with key players and workshops and reported back as a proposed strategy and action plan to a future meeting of the council."

The branding of Inverness will also be discussed further following a study by Kevin Murray Associates which revealed a shift in perceptions of the city in the last five to 10 years.

Councillor Bet McAllister.
Councillor Bet McAllister.

Inverness Central councillor Bet McAllister welcomed the idea of creating more civic space.

"I don’t think Falcon Square has realised its full potential," she said, and added Baron Taylor’s Street needed an uplift.

"It has always been quite a busy place, but it needs a bit of tidying up," she told the Courier.

"I am looking forward to things happening in the city centre. Some of it is long overdue, but we are getting there."

Inverness West councillor Bill Boyd wants to see Academy Street made more pedestrian-friendly.

"I think we should also have park and ride outside the city centre," he said.

"The main thing is to have a proper strategy and framework."

Related story: Rallying call to all for out-of-the-box thinking to shape future of Inverness city centre

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