An Inverness trader has spoken of her outrage after developers outlined aspirations to remove ‘the clutter’ from the city’s Victorian Market as part of controversial plans for its regeneration.
The £1.5 million project, masterminded by the Highland Council, will result in the displacement of 14 traders as part of a new vision to turn the faded market into a tourist magnet.
But the plans have prompted opposition from angry traders who feel the council are showing a lack of respect for their livelihoods and “killing our dreams”.
Seven months after Highland councillors backed the changes, developers have taken a major step forward by seeking Listed Building Consent from the local authority in an effort to breathe new life into the historic Market Hall and Fish Hall.
They say the first step will be “to remove the ‘clutter’ from the centre of the main hall space” by dismantling the existing retail units to create an open space that makes the market easier and more pleasant to stroll around.
Kasia Pogo, owner of the Saffron oriental food shop, is among those who have been forced to move.
She is preparing to open a new shop on Lombard Street after being served a termination notice in preparation for the works.
She said being described as “clutter” had been “heart-breaking” for those who have made their home in the market for so many years.
Ms Pogo said: “I think it shows a real lack of respect. It is absolutely shocking.
“I understand, as do all of us who have operated businesses from the back of the market, that something has to change.
“But not like this. Not the way it has been handled. Not this treatment of those in the market.
“From day one to this moment, there has been no respect and consideration towards us, the traders, the people and their businesses.
“Being called clutter is just heart-breaking. If you ask any trader from the back market, they will say exactly the same thing.
“There has been no communication, so few updates on what is going on, no meetings to discuss the next steps. There has been nothing.”
Inverness City Area Manager David Haas said the aim is to give “Inverness the best chance of success” through “creating something great for the city”.
He said: “The new refurbished market hall will offer an experience for the visitor that is going to be different from that which you get now.
“It is going to be exciting, vibrant and the important thing is, it is going to be a place to do business as well as a place to visit.
“It’s going to be a great space that people want to visit and stay in. That’s the key thing.”
He added: “We are respectful of the businesses that are in there at the moment and we are continuing to support them in the best way we can.
“We are taking all practical steps to do that.”
The regeneration would open up the market interior, creating a mezzanine floor with a central seating and eating area and providing views of the market’s impressive roof.
The market units will be located around the perimeter of the hall.
Developers have also pledged to retain the market’s historic elements, including its tone surrounds, arches and large timber gates.
The stone arches will become a particular feature of the main hall space following the renovation works.