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Walk this way! Man behind 147-mile Inverness to John O'Groats Trail reveals vision to create new waterfront walking route on disused land in Highland capital


By Ian Duncan

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An artist’s impression of how the land could be redeveloped. In the top right corner is the Longman Roundabout. Just below that is the new recycling facility, represented as a white rectangular building. Just behind that there are woodland trails/paths surrounded by trees and other greenery. Following the coastline there is a footpath and a road leading to a hotel. There’s a reclaimed sandy beach with pontoon for watersports and/or boats. As you follow the road round there is a renewable energy expo. The footpath carries on out of the frame, continuing with a possible pedestrian link to Inverness Shopping Park.
An artist’s impression of how the land could be redeveloped. In the top right corner is the Longman Roundabout. Just below that is the new recycling facility, represented as a white rectangular building. Just behind that there are woodland trails/paths surrounded by trees and other greenery. Following the coastline there is a footpath and a road leading to a hotel. There’s a reclaimed sandy beach with pontoon for watersports and/or boats. As you follow the road round there is a renewable energy expo. The footpath carries on out of the frame, continuing with a possible pedestrian link to Inverness Shopping Park.

The man behind the 147-mile Inverness to John O’Groats Trail is hoping to create a new waterfront walking route in the Highland capital.

Jay Wilson says that disused land between the Caledonian Stadium and Inverness Shopping Park could allow city residents and visitors the chance to enjoy the coastline more.

The project is still in the very early stages and organisers will need to source funding as well as recruit an army of volunteers with the skills and enthusiasm to build stiles and bridges and maintain fences and way-markers.

Mr Wilson said that, while Inverness is a coastal city surrounded by water, it has no waterfront – with no waterfront pubs or hotels, no boardwalk, esplanade or pier.

He added: “Yes, there are harbours, but they are all industrial areas or private marinas closed to the public.

“I moved to Inverness in March 2020, just before the first lockdown, and one of the first areas I wanted to explore was the seaside on the other side of the A9/A96.

“The Inverness community should be discussing whether to keep this as open parkland or allow development such as waterfront cafés, pubs and hotels. Instead the city is quietly planning an industrial park by the sea.

“Why has this area been hidden from us Invernessians, and why do our leaders never talk about it, nor plan to open it up to public use?”

He said the area included a site of mostly green space, including mature woodland and open grassland, covering about one square kilometre.

Mr Wilson said the land ran for two miles along the Inner Moray Firth and about half of it was a closed landfill site which had been made safe and supported a green landscape of trees, grass and gorse.

He said there were examples in other countries where former landfill sites have been turned into public parks and the only new use for this site was a new recycling facility which is currently under construction.

“So worse than being neglected, the waterfront is actively going to be further marred by the siting of an eyesore for public use,” he added. “Why has there been no serious discussion of possible better uses of this important side of our city?”

Paul Shercliff, a local walker and NHS employee, is also in favour of the proposal. He said: “Besides Merkinch Nature Reserve, there’s nowhere in Inverness where the public can look out over open water.”

Mr Wilson has contacted David Haas, Highland Council’s Inverness city area manager, and was told the matter was being discussed within the planning team.

Mr Haas said the former Longman landfill site was allocated in the adopted Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan, and its update was currently out for public consultation.

“This land is in the ownership of the Highland Council,” he added. “Part of the site is allocated for mixed use, and was recently subject of a successful de-licensing application to SEPA.

“This means design and planning work can progress to deliver the mixed-use allocation. The other land is partly allocated for industrial use and partly identified as protected greenspace, both remain under SEPA license due to active gassing, as they are the more recent parts of the landfill.”

He said that he would be happy to find out more about the options for the site.

Jo de Sylva, the chairwoman of Visit Inverness Loch Ness, said: “Inverness is such a vibrant and interesting town and it’s important we continue to invest for the benefit of residents and visitors alike.

“The proposed development of the waterfront for recreation and tourism is an incredibly exciting prospect and one that would be a worthy addition to the city.”

Mr Wilson has organised a walk of the site starting at 2pm on Saturday. People should meet in the car park of the Snow Goose. To find out more, email jbw243@gmail.com


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