Inverness councillors yesterday approved council officers’ proposals to apply for funding to progress plans for transforming Academy Street- but fell out about acting swiftly to protect the current pedestrian crossings as a condition.
Known as Accessing Inverness, the project’s priority is to improve pedestrian and cycling links from the railway station to the bus station and Rose Street car park.
It includes proposals to widen the pavement in Academy Street in order to slow down traffic and make the street safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
Early plans suggest there might be no crossings with signals, something that flagged up concerns at public consultations, and with local councillors.
Project manager Fiona McInally said the detail of the crossings ‘would be flushed out’ at the next stage of the design, but that council officers had fully taken on board concerns about the crossings.
Councillors were told that Sustrans had a new funding round with an imminent deadline which could 100% fund the next stage in the Accessing Inverness design work.
Councillor Andrew Jarvie, who uses a wheelchair, said he was concerned about this type of pressure.
He said: “ I am always very worried when officers say that in order to get what I and others want, we have to agree to move to the next stage.
“This salami slicing is how officers get bad projects past councillors and I don’t want us to sleepwalk towards something that a lot of us have concerns about.”
Councillor Emma Knox, who herself has mobility issues, reminded the council that it has a legal duty to protect certain groups, including the disabled.
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She said: “We need to specify the number of crossings that will be there and specify the type and design later. That’s what all the disabled groups have said.”
Councillor Ron MacWilliam raised an amendment asking councillors ‘to agree that the design will maintain the current number of controlled crossings on Academy Street and to engage closely with all appropriate interest groups to maximise inclusivity in the design process.’
His amendment was knocked down by 12 votes to 4.
Afterwards Mr MacWilliam said: “What I proposed today was that the council moves ahead instantly with a funding application but that the controlled crossings in the street are maintained to recognise the needs of blind and partially sighted, those with autistic disorders and others.
“It is certainly important that the aesthetic and shopping ambience of Academy Street is improved but this is also a golden opportunity for Inverness to be out in front with an inclusive design that caters for the needs of all.
“These changes will be permanent after all so there’s no point beating about the bush – the design has to be done properly.”