Plans to transform a derelict area in the centre of Inverness have won the backing of council planning officers.
Members of a planning committee will next week consider whether to grant permission for 16 new flats on Raining’s Stairs.
The £3million development would be built in an area which is currently derelict and has been plagued with anti-social behaviour in recent years.
The plans are being developed by Ark Estates and its sister company William Gray Construction who last night urged councillors to support the scheme.
Public opinion on the development appears split with 45 letters of support and 21 objections against the plans.
Concerns raised included its location within a conservation area and the visual prominence from Inverness Castle.
Applicant Willie Gray said: “We’ve been inundated with support from local residents and local businesses who are really keen to see something happening on this site. It’s become a real eyesore and people are afraid to use the stairs to access the town.
“The businesses are keen to see more visitors in this part of the town and believe it will help to improve the footfall as it’s a route to the town that people avoid at the moment.
“This project would help tidy up this old part of the city in advance of it becoming even more of a focus for visitors when the castle becomes a visitor attraction.”
The company initially applied earlier this year for 18 flats, though this has since been amended to include 16 properties and a commercial unit.
Raining’s Stairs serves as a shortcut from the Crown area to Castle Street.
The staircase itself will also be refurbished as part of the project, including a series of plaques with historical information about the pathway.
The project would provide a mix of tenures, while a quarter of the flats will be rented through the council or a housing association.
Councillors have been recommended to approve the plans when they meet next week.
Planning officer Keith Gibson said: “The site has lain vacant for many years and as a brownfield site provides and opportunity within the heart of the city for development.
“The use of this site to provide much needed residential accommodation, all of which will be delivered as a affordable homes is to be welcomed and meets the objectives of both council and national planning policy.”