Councillors have delivered a provisional verdict on plans for a new justice centre for Inverness that will ultimately provide the keys to free the city’s castle from court duty to become a fully fledged tourist magnet.
Residents will get their chance to comment on the proposal for a £23million legal complex at the former Stagecoach depot between Burnett Road and Longman Road at a forthcoming exhibition.
The council’s south planning committee gave its blessing for a pre-planning application but with an early proviso that it features quality architecture “befitting” such a project.
Existing buildings on the three-acre site will be replaced by courts, offices, cafe, ancillary accommodation and parking.
City councillor Roddy Balfour, a retired solicitor, urged colleagues to ensure the ultimate design was befitting of a regional capital.
“I know it may be a bit romantic to think back to the golden age of the Georgian period and the beautiful courthouse in Banff, for example, but we must have something of that standard,” he said.
A question mark remains over access arrangements after recent concerns about a possible tunnel being shared by defendants and witnesses.
Nairn Provost Laurie Fraser, a former policeman, wanted to know more about the layout to ensure people’s safety.
Committee vice chairman Dave Fallows said the detail would follow but appealed for adequate parking.
A spokesman for the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service said: “We’re committed to the delivery of a new justice centre in Inverness. The scoping work, centre design and engagement with partners continues while we seek to secure the right site.”