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Concern and support as plans unveiled for £800,000 Academy Street revamp as Highland Council launches a public consultation on plans for a 'a safer, more accessible and more attractive place to spend time in'

By Scott Maclennan

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How Academy Street could look near Filling Station.
How Academy Street could look near Filling Station.

Prioritising pedestrians and cyclists are at the heart of new plans to completely revamp one of Scotland’s most polluted, congested and least people-friendly streets.

But vehicle access will not entirely be kicked to the kerb despite the expansion of pavements as part of the £800,000 proposal to overhaul Academy Street in Inverness.

Highland Council aims to make one of the main arteries through Inverness a “more attractive and healthier place for people” after a successful application for Scottish Government cash.

Related Story – POLL: What do you think of proposed designs for Academy Street in Inverness?

Traders attending an Inverness BID business breakfast were told the objective is to “make Academy Street a safer, more accessible and more attractive place to spend time in; where businesses and retail thrive.”

To do that “people walking, wheeling and cycling will be our priority over vehicle movements” to boost active travel; tackle climate change; improve air quality as well as physical and mental health.

Pavements will be significantly widened, with a simplified two-way road layout but still allowing vehicle access – something of a bugbear for those needing deliveries.

How Academy Street could look near Blackfriars.
How Academy Street could look near Blackfriars.

The council has launched a major consultation to engage local stakeholders – city residents and businesses – as it looks to build on the hugely divisive Spaces for People scheme introduced during the pandemic.

But the local authority looks to have learnt from its mistakes by seeking out business opinion – Spaces for People was introduced with little to no engagement, sparking bitter disputes with traders.

That renewed engagement will be key according to BID director Lorraine Bremner McBride, who said the organisation is tentatively supportive.

“Our role is to facilitate the businesses getting their say,” she said.

“I think it is very positive that businesses are being consulted and they have the option to give feedback.

“In general terms BID is supportive, on the proviso that the council maybe go back and take some of the feedback from some of our members who have individual concerns about certain aspects of it.”

How Academy Street could look near School Lane.
How Academy Street could look near School Lane.

Billy McKechnie, who runs the Rose Street Foundry on Academy Street, said the business breakfast had gone well and, on the whole, the plans were generally well received by those who attended.

“The guys that have been doing the research have found that 50 per cent of the traffic that comes through Academy Street goes straight through Inverness – they don’t even stop in the city,” he said.

So instead of having Academy Street used as a “bypass,” Mr McKechnie felt it would be an improvement to expand footfall access and possibly have more space for tables outside.

He added: “I think it’s a good move for business and people coming into the city centre. The way the architects have designed it looks really good. Inverness needs something like that.”

Inverness MP Drew Hendry, who has been working on a strategy for the city, said: “Academy Street, in terms of the health and regeneration of the city centre, plays a pivotal and potentially a very exciting role, so it is important to get a good response to this consultation.”

The public will be invited to provide their feedback via an online event later this month.

People can also provide feedback by visiting this website and businesses are invited to take a survey by following this link

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

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