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Planning application for River Ness artwork lodged

Visual concept for My Ness.
Visual concept for My Ness.

Plans for a ‘Gathering Place’ at the heart of Inverness have taken a major step forward following the submission of a planning application.

The £240,000 artwork, entitled ‘My Ness’, was unveiled to the public back in May in a bid to transform the banks of the River Ness and provide a focal point for people to gather and enjoy the river.

The development – which will be located at the Little Isle Pool, Fisherman’s Car Park – is the central focal point of the River Ness Art Project –  replacing the controversial ‘tilting pier’.

Following months of consultation, a planning application has now been lodged with the Highland Council in a bid to bring the area to life.

Chairwoman of the Inverness City Arts Working Group Isabelle MacKenzie said: “I like the fact of it being individual to Inverness, with the prospect of seeing something mirrored both sides of the river Ness.

“I envisage there being an opportunity for a personal interest or people to have an attachment to the area, through the fishing, walking or gathering there for whatever interpretation we can have of the architecture Sans Facon will be creating especially for us to come and see, sit and reflect upon.”

Designed by artists Tristan Surtees of Sans Facon and OSA, the unique proposal outlines a circular amphitheatre on both banks of the river to help frame the area with various elements incorporated including a walkway, seating area and viewing point projecting over the water.

Mr Surtees said: “The work aims to complement the river and people’s relationship to it, to frame and invite others to appreciate it.

“A thin ribbon of stone frames the Ness, starting as an access, becoming a path to run along for a child, a bench for reading a book, a viewing point up and down the river, a back-rest for looking across it.

“In its upstream portion it weaves through the trees and bushes to offer a unique view up the river or back to the Castle and Cathedral.”

Deputy Provost  of Inverness Bet McAllister said: “It looks nice and the one across from it for the children, the stepping stones, a lot of people have said it’s dangerous but I don’t think so as their parents will be with them. For the children we need something like that. It will be somewhere people will want to go and get a cup of tea and coffee, it will be great. It’s something for everyone.

“We have to change for the time and have to go forward.”

Controversy 

For more than six years, the future of the city’s River Ness landscape has been a controversial topic.

The Highland Council unveiled plans to transform the area into a focal point for the city by creating a “gathering place” for local residents to meet up and enjoy the river.

In 2012, the Inverness City Arts Working Group was launched to steer the £760,000 project.

In their initial bid to transform the area, designers came up with the concept of a ‘tilting pier’ – costing in the region of £300,000. However the plans were met by extreme controversy from local residents.

Following objections from the public, politicians and visitors and the launch of a petition against the plans, the controversial project was eventually ditched.

Launching the project in June 2017 for a second attempt, designers geared up to start with a blank canvas to build up their proposal.

A few months later, the design for a circular amphitheatre on both sides of the river bank came to life; with residents showing support for the elaborate £240,000 design.

Incorporated within the plans, designers outlined an elegant walkway, seating area and viewing point projecting over the water between the existing trees.

What once was a controversial project,  the scheme is now showing promise as the final designs were lodged to the Highland Council for approval this month.

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