A prominent eyesore building in the heart of Inverness could be transformed under new plans being drawn up by city culture chiefs.
They are proposing a major makeover for Inverness Museum and Gallery (Imag) and the surrounding streets to make them more attractive to visitors and safer.
Highland Council has lodged a full planning application for the revamp, which is viewed as a vital part of efforts to rejuvenate the city centre and turn Inverness Castle into a tourist magnet.
Castle Wynd would be pedestrianised under the scheme, with a series of metal “fins” installed that would be fitted with LEDs to create a variety of lighting effects.
A new lighting system has also been proposed for the museum building, and is described by the designers as offering “a bold, striking statement, yet elegant, robust and sleek”.
The lights would be capable of “synchronised colour change and pattern shift”, and could use sensors to light up as people pass, improving safety in Castle Wynd and Castle Steps.
Projectors would be installed capable of beaming large scale static images onto the elevations of the museum building on Castle Wynd and Bridge Street, with images potentially changing hourly or daily for an event such as Burns Night or Valentine’s Day.
The staircase leading to the carpark at the rear of the Town House would be fitted with a new handrail with integrated lighting, while repairs and painting would be carried out on Castle Wynd, Castle Steps and nearby buildings, including the public toilets.
New signs have also been proposed to try to make the museum and gallery more attractive.
A design statement, lodged with the application, states: “Many of the areas to be addressed are in various states of disrepair, or present unsightly views to passers by.
“In particular, the service areas of both the Imag and Shapla Restaurant are fully visible to the public.
“The Castle Steps are currently not a desirable route for pedestrians due to their condition, and Castle Wynd currently prioritises vehicles over pedestrians.
“The Imag entrance location is not immediately apparent to visitors, and the signage does the building no favours.”
The statement adds: “The Castle Steps and Castle Wynd present an opportunity to create appealing pedestrian routes that connect Bridge Street (and the high street), the river, the castle, and the museum.
“The overall site is positioned in a central location and has the opportunity to make a significant visual impact on the heart of Inverness.”
The plans, drawn up by Threesixty Architecture, have emerged after the local authority was forced to abandon a controversial proposal to instal gold cladding over the museum building last year.
More than 4,000 people signed a petition opposing the initiative, which was expected to cost £500,000.
Stewart Nicol, chief executive of Inverness Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the fresh vision last night.
“I think it sounds quite attractive and a good improvement to what we have got,” he said.
“If we’re not going to do a complete rebuild and start afresh, it’s positive we’re doing something to make it more attractive and modern looking.
“It’s really quite important to be doing that, especially with the ongoing improvements at the castle and the opening of the viewing tower.
“There’s more visitors coming and going, so it’s better to be doing something positive with the city centre than just leaving it.”