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YOUR VIEWS: New life for the Old High in would reap benefits – from the letters page of the Inverness Courier

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Reflections at Muirtown Basin. Picture: Jennifer Laws, Inverness
Reflections at Muirtown Basin. Picture: Jennifer Laws, Inverness

It was great to be reminded of all the terrific investment in our city in the paper recently. A splendid antidote to the doom and gloom!

I’ve had the privilege of being involved in many of these projects (West Link, castle, UHI etc) and the commitment of the Highland Council team and others has been a joy to be part of – almost always rising above the negative noises of those who yearn for a mythical golden age. There is still much to do and I welcome the joined up approach being taken by all concerned. Some things have taken far too long as they wind their way through – reshaping the station for one – promises were made and press releases sent out over a decade ago but we are still waiting. Many more great ideas have withered along the way – but the trend is definitely positive!

Such plans have to be flexible, and I appreciate there is always more to do than resources allow, but I would urge the parties involved to consider one rather urgent addition. You will be aware that the Old High Church at the bottom of Church Street is at risk, having (not unexpectedly) been put on the market by the Church of Scotland. It is in my view too important to be left to rot or suffer the indignity of drastic conversion.

It has long been my favourite building in the town. It looks great on its mound above the river and features in countless photos.

It is one of the few genuinely old buildings we have left, it tells us countless stories about Inverness from St Columba onwards and its interior is hugely atmospheric. It needs work of course, but it could become the magnet to draw more visitors to the ‘old town’ – perhaps as a book-end to the castle visitor centre? Modest conversion could make it into a new public venue if only to give the rare Willis organ a chance to show off!

Perhaps a ‘diaspora’ centre and something for St Columba pilgrims could give it a new public purpose. We need more such places for locals and visitors. First and foremost it will need a viable business plan to make it sustainable but with a bit of imagination that isn’t beyond us surely?

I had hoped that the organisations with a brief to care for our built heritage might have taken an interest, but the City of Inverness Heritage Trust and Civic Trust seem to be leaderless and mute on this, as far as I can tell.

I have lent some support to the Friends of the Old High Church group, who are doing their best to put together a plan, but this is new territory for them and they need to know that the community is behind them – and perhaps some experienced business folk to lend a hand?

Thomas Prag, Inverness

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