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Furious councillors say Gathering Place is not wheelchair accessible, despite promises

The Gathering Place has proved controversial for a number of reasons.
The Gathering Place has proved controversial for a number of reasons.

There were angry scenes at the Inverness area committee, as councillors accused the local authority of breaking its own promises.

Councillors said they were given repeated assurances that the controversial Gathering Place public artwork would be adapted to make it wheelchair accessible.

These changes for accessibility included a turning circle at the end of the structure.

However, councillor Andrew Jarvie questioned whether the turning circle measured the 4ft (1.2 metres) it is supposed to.

Mr Jarvie said he had great trouble turning his own, compact wheelchair in the space.

‘Gutted and genuinely surprised’

Councillor Ron MacWilliam then said he had evidence from a member of the public which shows the turning circle measures 3.5ft (1.06m).

Councillor Emma Knox also provided anecdotal evidence that the artwork is not accessible.

Ms Knox said she was “gutted and genuinely surprised to find it’s not fully accessible” despite having been given repeated assurances that the design would be suitably amended.

Councillor Andrew Jarvie

Ms Knox said she previously criticised the structure because, like the Eagles song, “You can check in, but never leave.” Now, claims Ms Knox, it turns out you cannot even check in.

Ms Knox said several of her wheelchair user friends could not access the artwork.

She asked which disability and access groups were consulted on the design.

Council officers said the Inverness Disability Access Panel was consulted and no objections were raised.

Creative Scotland provided an additional £27,000 funding to ensure there was adequate turning space for wheelchairs.

However, the officers did not categorically state that the turning space is 4ft as agreed.

“The clerk of works inspected the works, and if it’s not built in compliance with the specification, we will take that up with the builder,” said a spokesman.

Councillor Ron MacWilliam repeatedly asked who would take responsibility for this “folly”.

Provost Helen Carmichael said the governance of the project was clear, and the Inverness area committee has a collective responsibility for it.

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