The heritage of Inverness is set to be “devastated” by a controversial city bypass, it has been claimed.
Highland Council has also been accused of trying to bribe public opinion by offering new leisure facilities as part of the Inverness West Link road deal.
Inverness Civic Trust chairman John West, a fierce opponent of the plans, has fired the latest salvo in the long-running row over the multimillion-pound project.
The proposed road will eventually link the A82 Inverness-Fort William with Dores Road in the south-west of the city, including a new swing bridge over the Caledonian Canal and a low level bridge over the River Ness.
Council leader Drew Hendry last night defended the scheme, saying the project would benefit the Highland capital.
But Mr West said that the city’s heritage was to be “sacrificed to the bulldozer.”
He said: “The administration has tried to buy the public’s approval by promising goodies, with money that the public will have to find.
“Being bribed with your own money is the ultimate in patronisation.
“The Highland Council is preparing the public for the devastation of the first phase, where Inverness’s heritage is to be sacrificed to the bulldozer and concrete, with the promise that the recreational benefits will accrue some time in the future.”
Alongside the road project, the council plans to replace sports facilities, including rugby pitches at the Bught and the Torvean Golf Course.
Better facilities at Torvean have also been proposed to improve provision in the area.
Mr West and other critics believe that the council has failed to factor this element into the total costs of the West Link, making other options, such as a tunnel or high bridge, more financially viable.
Mr West said he felt that there was a “ploy to persuade the public” that the new recreational facilities are not part of the road plan and that the costs could not be attributed to it.
Mr Hendry said that he knew Mr West and that he had “the best for Invernes in mind.”
However, he claimed some of the allegations levied at the council were “flatly inaccurate.”
He said: “I know John West and I know that he has the best for Inverness in mind.
“I think he is extremely wide of the mark with his comments. I think some of the points being made are flatly inaccurate.”
He added: “The original cost of the West Link included works that needed to be done to accommodate the golf course and sports pitches.
The council said earlier this week that the current cost of the West Link would not be made public until March.
The figure for the West Link Road project reported to councillors in September last year was £34.4million, at July 2013 prices.
However, opponents believe the costs could spiral to more than £60million when the separate project to enhance sporting facilities is taken into consideration. Council members will also receive an update on the sports facilities at a meeting in the spring.
A public inquiry is now expected to be held into the project early next year because of objections from two landowners who own sites required for the construction of the road.