Highland Council looks set to transform a neglected corner of Inverness Town House car park into a vibrant public space.
And the unlikely centrepiece is an old public toilet block.
The council hopes to convert the former Town House toilets into a new green energy centre.
The “innovative and interesting” building will provide heat to the neighbouring Inverness Castle.
At the same time, the council plans to improve the awkward steps beside the Town House, adding new lighting, trees and benches.
Councillors on the south planning committee will consider the planning application on February 8.
A jewel beside the castle?
Currently, the Town House car park houses an old two-storey toilet block, with storage on the bottom level and disused public toilets in the top.
The toilets sit at an awkward angle to the retaining wall, and feature a large expanse of flat roof. The council’s planning application seeks to demolish the top floor to create a two-storey energy centre comprising an array of air source heat pumps.
The renovated building will follow the line of the retaining wall, for better visual flow, and connect to the sloping grass embankment.
Highland Council says the skin of the building will give a “deeply textured appearance” with aluminium panels allowing maximum air flow. These panels will be set at contrasting angles, creating a ‘jewel’ effect.
It’s an ambitious design, and the planning document states that everything rests on the quality, detail and colour of the metal cladding. The council is considering a palette of pink, red and grey tones to mimic the A-listed Town Hall and Castle.
The pattern of the cladding is also a subtle nod to the ceiling of the Castle’s new link building, creating what the council calls an “architectural family”.
They say the new design will be “innovative and interesting” but not obtrusive in the historic area.
Most of all, it serves a practical purpose – providing environmentally-friendly heating to the Castle.
New look for ‘uninspiring’ steps
Highland Council also plans to use the new heat centre as a catalyst for revamping the surrounding area.
The planning document calls the existing steps to the south of the Town House “functional but uninspiring”. They say it doesn’t encourage footfall from Castle Street to Castle Wynd.
The council plans to create a new pedestrian link, which will connect landscaping at the Castle to the streetscape at Lower Castle Wynd.
This link will take the form of a new, widened staircase, encouraging people to walk and mingle. The steps will feature newly planted trees, lighting and street furniture, including benches and cycle storage.
Highland Council’s plans have not attracted any objections, and the application is up for approval by councillors next week.
Are you interested in all the latest news and updates from Inverness? If so, why not join our new Facebook group here.