Inverness councillors united yesterday to refuse to sanction proposals for the Accessing Inverness city centre improvement programme – despite a looming funding deadline.
The Sustrans-funded proposals were prompted by a £6million overhaul of the railway station.
They involve improving the key access areas around the station, including Academy Street, Farraline Park and the junction between Falcon Square and Crown Street.
The proposals include widening the pavements in Academy Street to prioritise pedestrian flow, and effectively slow down traffic.
The council’s Accessing Inverness team says this would ‘increase pedestrian crossing opportunities’ enabling crossing lights to be removed, although there would be ‘pedestrian-priority’ crossings at junctions.
At yesterday’s City of Inverness area committee, councillors demanded more work to look at the impact of the proposals on people with disabilities.
Councillor Ron MacWilliam said: “Whilst there are many positive aspects to the design it remains fundamentally flawed because the basic principles of inclusive design have been ignored.
“I have spoken to people who are disabled, blind and partially-sighted as well as RNIB and whilst the consultation has gathered many of these views, the design has failed to adequately reflect them.
“I raised these issues with officers many months ago before the design went public and I cannot fathom why these obvious flaws were ignored then and why today a report was presented which is not competent and which did not include an equalities impact assessment as required by law.”
Depute leader councillor Alasdair Christie said: “There is a perception of not being listened to by those with disabilities. They must have a voice so they can walk along the pavements safely.”
Councillor Andrew Jarvie said: “This is one of the most substantial changes to any Highland road so to press ahead with all the outstanding issues is wrong.”
Accessing Inverness team leader Fiona McInally stressed that there was much further work, consultation and feedback to come on the designs but asked the councillors to sanction progressing the plans to the next stage in order to catch a new funding deadline by Sustrans.
Her request fell on deaf ears as councillors agreed a motion by council leader Margaret Davidson.
She said: “You need to report back to elected members and the public on a ‘you said, we did’ basis and undertake an equalities impact study. We’ve got some way to go before we can apply for funding.”