Inverness city centre is set to undergo a multi-million pound transformation to make it more pedestrian and cyclist friendly.
The Accessing Inverness Project aims to “transform and enhance the streetscape” of the city’s busiest street by making it easier to navigate.
The plans- which go on display for the first time today – outline proposed improvements Academy Street including widening pavements, reducing traffic speeds and introducing more trees and plants.
The improvements aim to make it easier to travel between amenities including Inverness Railway Station and Falcon Square and the Bus Station – and enhance the look and feel of the city centre.
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Neil MacRae, HITRANS partnership manager said: “Some of the streets in the area we are looking at are all very dominated by cars and some of the footpaths are very narrow and we saw he opportunity by removing unnecessary road space and give that back to widening pavements. We can get a more pleasant environment for people to spend time and for businesses to take advantage of this.”
The far-reaching development, which would cost between £3million and £6million, is a collaboration between HITRANS, the regional transport partnership for the Highlands and Islands, and the Highland Council.
Fiona McInally, council programme manager, said: “This sort of design elsewhere in the UK has shown that it improves economic vitality, it encourages people to be more active and it makes the space friendlier and prettier as well.
“The outline potential is between £3 million to £6 million for the scheme including Academy Street, Struthers Lane and Falcon Square improvements all the way around. The station is due for a £6 million upgrade that Scotrail and Transport Scotland are looking at the now and the market is getting a new façade out the front with new glazing so it’s a huge opportunity to tie in and make Inverness a beautiful place to be and get people in the town centre again.”
Mock designs of what the town will look like have now gone on display at the Victorian Market Hall as part of a seven week consultation process which will end on January 18.
Market manager Jo Murray said she is hopeful the improvements will help improve footfall into the market. She said: “From my point of view it is going to transform the access into the entrance into the market from Academy Street, there is no doubt about that.
“One thing we have noticed of late is that we have a slight reduction in footfall from the academy street side because of the lack of buses being stopping. This will improve that. It will transform that end of our market.”
Provost Helen Carmichael welcomed the plans as part of efforts to regenerate the city.
She added: “This is hugely important project in our ambitious plans to regenerate the city centre. What a boost the city will get through the upgrade of the railway station and greatly improved links from Falcon Square, Academy Street and Farraline Park.”
Stuart Hay, Director of Living Streets Scotland said: “Academy Street is an important area for pedestrians and needs to be brought up to standard; this investment has the potential to deliver positive change.
“However, great care will be needed to ensure there is sufficient space for those on foot and to ensure no conflict with other modes of transport.”