Work is to start early in the New Year to improve one of Inverness’s busiest hotspots for tourists and taxis.
A new road and pavements will be built in Castle Wynd up to Inverness Castle, with upgrades of the steps leading to the castle and to the River Ness behind Upper Bridge Street.
New granite steps will be installed on the castle approach, along with new handrails.
The seasonal toilet block will be rendered and existing signage replaced.
Castle Wynd will be closed for an estimated 16 weeks from January 6, reopening by the end of April if the weather is clement.
The £373,515 contract for the work – funded by the Highland city-region deal – has been awarded to Wills Bros Civil Engineering Ltd.
The wynd will be closed to all vehicles except for access to Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, car parks, and refuse collection.
The news has not been welcomed by taxi drivers, who have been told by the council to leave their Castle Wynd rank and move to a four vehicle loading bay on Bridge Street.
They say rank provision in the city centre is inadequate, with Castle Wynd playing a key role in public safety on busy weekend nights by being able to accommodate up to twenty taxis picking up passengers and moving out in a smooth ‘conveyor belt’ arrangement.
Andrew MacDonald, chairman of Inverness Taxi Alliance (ITA) says the Bridge Street bay is too small and dangerous, leaving passengers opening their doors into two busy lanes of traffic.
Mr MacDonald said: “For passengers travelling to areas like Hilton, Smithton and Culloden there will be a financial penalty as drivers can’t access that side of the city without having to go a longer route, putting up the fare.
“Some drivers will be tempted to do a U-turn on Bridge Street as a result.”
Duncan Fraser of ITA said the move will turn the Highland capital into a flag-down city.
He said: “Young people will go in droves to the other end of town, and when they’re drunk, they’re impatient, and if there are several there will be trouble.”
A Highland Council spokesman said: “Care has been taken to ensure that we address the health and safety concerns associated with the operation of the rank at Castle Wynd with pedestrians and vehicle movement which often occur late at night when the risk is heightened.”