One of the lynchpins of Inverness’s city centre is consulting lawyers over the latest Academy Street decision.
The controversy over the future of Academy Street in Inverness is continuing following a narrow vote by councillors to go ahead with the scheme.
Highland Council members voted 35-33, with two abstentions, to back the traffic plan for the city centre.
That supported a 12-10 vote by the Inverness city committee last month to proceed with the proposals.
It also rejected an attempt to hold a two-month trial and a public referendum on the issue.
Following the latest vote, those for and against the plans demonstrated again it’s a divisive subject.
No through traffic in Academy Street
The new system would ban through traffic in Academy Street and add bus lane sections between the junctions of Union Street and Queensgate to reduce congestion.
It aims to shift focus from cars to walkers and wheelchair users.
It’s part of a wider strategy to make Inverness more welcoming, attractive and healthier.
But many people have questioned the impact on other locations, including the residential Crown area of the city, where some of the centre traffic will be dispersed.
Scott Murray, managing director of Cru Holdings, which owns a number of city centre businesses, said it was a vote against common sense.
“I can’t fathom why a sensible person chosen to represent our interests would vote to carry out an action without having any idea of the results at the other end, when the opportunity to have a bit of certainty around that is available.
“I can’t get my head around that.
“You wouldn’t spend £5,000 on a car without taking it around the block. But we are asked to spend £9 million of taxpayers’ money without so much as a check on this first. It’s crazy.”
Many businesses have warned the plans will mean loss of trade and even shops closing.
Mr Murray added: “The most dangerous opponent is one that’s got nothing left to lose and they have put the businesses in that position by not addressing their concerns.”
Lawyers reviewing decision
The owners of the Eastgate Centre had urged councillors to halt the Academy Street traffic scheme and find a compromise.
They said closure of the road to through traffic will have a “significantly negative economic impact”.
Instead, they suggested restricting the use of Academy Street by private vehicles to between 10am-4.30pm.
There has also been a suggestion of legal action if the scheme goes ahead.
A spokesman for the Eastgate owners said: “We are digesting today’s result and we will be reviewing with our client and lawyers over the next few days and will take it from there.”
But the decision has been welcomed by active travel campaigners.
Emily Williams, Inverness’s bicycle mayor and CEO of the Velocity cycle shop, said she was delighted at the latest vote.
“Reducing the volume of traffic on Academy Street will make it a much friendlier and more welcoming place to spend time, as well as dramatically reducing pollution levels and improving accessibility for the 46% households in the Central Ward who do not have access to a car.
“There is an overwhelming body of evidence that we need to act urgently to mitigate the impacts of climate change.”
Academy Street traffic scheme can play a vital role in climate change effort
She said a recent report from the Climate Emergency Response Group said Scotland is significantly off track in efforts to reduce car kilometres by 20% before 2030.
“Schemes such as this one play a vital role in that effort in that they seek to re-balance the allocation of road space and make walking, wheeling and cycling a more viable option within the city centre, as well as improving the reliability of public transport.
“I understand the concerns about traffic displacement, particularly to the Crown area, and will continue advocating for the introduction of traffic calming and other measures to prevent rat running at locations where problems are anticipated.”
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