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Academy Street: Here’s what readers have to say on Highland Council’s traffic plans

Academy Street Inverness
A majority of readers have given their backing to the Academy Street plans. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

P&J readers have had their say on Highland Council’s plans to transform Academy Street.

The issue has proved to be a popular talking point on our social feeds and in our email inboxes since the proposal was unveiled four weeks ago.

We created a week-long poll to allow readers to let us know whether or not they support the plans.

A total of 848 people took part and 508 (59.9%) said they supported it, with 340 (40.1%) against it.

What do our readers think?

We also asked people to send us their views on the proposal.

The responses we got were similarly divided.

Here is what some of the supporters of the plans had to say.

Consultant anaesthetist Kristina Muir said: “I can’t believe businesses are against this plan.

“There is plenty of evidence from other cities that have reduced city centre traffic that business improves.

“The bigger picture here is firstly that we have to cut emissions or we won’t have a habitable planet.

“Everyone has a responsibility to do this.”

Highland Council’s visualisation of the new Academy Street. Image: Highland Council

Inverness GP Gordon Smith said the changes will “revolutionise and revitalise” Inverness city centre.

He added: “As a dad with a young child and a keen cyclist, I’m wholly in favour of this proposal.

“Infrastructure development with vision such as this may feel uncomfortable to some.

“But the enhanced community benefit is well established in mainland Europe and goes beyond simply reducing car numbers taking a direct route through our city.”

Crown resident Graham Tuley supports the proposal, but believes improvements are still needed.

He said: “Planning should be from the Shore Street roundabout to the Raigmore interchange so that cyclists have a two-way route all the way.

“Pedestrian crossings must be located so that visually impaired people can safely travel along and across the route.”

Poll encourages further debate about future of historic street

At the other end of the scale, we also heard from people who remain unconvinced.

Barbara Gray said: “I am a Green party voter and even I cannot see benefits in this.

“I believe that this change will cause accidents, gridlock, inconvenience and disturbance in many other parts of Inverness as well as impacting badly on the city centre businesses and their customers with little benefit to anybody.

“The city centre is a central business district, not a park to wander and cycle in.”

Academy Street has changed a lot since the start of the pandemic. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

Lydia Morrison was dismayed that the idea of a one-month trial was rejected. She believes that could prevent the council from making a “very expensive mistake”.

She added: “I feel it is a waste of time to say anything as the council have a tendency not to listen to local people.

“However, I dread to think where the thousands of vehicles using Academy Street as a through route are going to go instead.

“Has this really been thought through properly?”

Academy Street debate will rumble on

Highland Council issued a statement saying that other roads would be able to cope with reducing the number of daily vehicles on Academy Street from around 9,000 to fewer than 2,000.

But reader Malcolm Campbell is not convinced.

A map showing where traffic will go once Academy Street changes take place. Image: Roddie Reid/DC Thomson

He said: “If you force traffic away from the centre of Inverness – the surrounding areas will suffer with traffic jams and more importantly, declining air quality.

“I think the council leadership is deluded about the benefits of this scheme.”

Highland Council is satisfied with the results of the poll.

Economy and infrastructure committee chairman Ken Gowans said: “It is very encouraging.

“It indicates that more and more people realise the very real boost this will bring to the city.”

Inverness councillor Ken Gowans supports the changes. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Councillor Gowans added that a consultation on the plans will continue in early 2023 and carry on throughout the year.

As a result of this, more detailed proposals for Academy Street will be drafted by council officials.

There are still some details to iron out and given the strength of public feeling on both sides, it’s a good bet that we will be hearing a lot more about it in 2023.

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