North business leaders have backed plans for a £13million revamp of a major north retail park.
Both Inverness Chamber of Commerce and the regional branch of the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) have thrown their weight behind the plans for Inverness Shopping Park.
The park’s owners have submitted proposals to open three new restaurants – Frankie and Benny’s, TGI Friday and Nando’s, and to transform the shop fronts and redesign the grounds at the site on the eastern outskirts of Inverness.
Several objections have been raised against the plan, including from Inverness Bid and the owners of the Eastgate Shopping Centre, citing fears that the development would be damaging to the city centre.
But both the SCDI and the chamber say that rejecting the out of town development would not help the centre of Inverness.
Chamber chief executive Stewart Nicol said: “As we seek to continue to attract visitors, students and businesses to the city it is imperative that we are able to offer the brands and restaurant offerings such as are proposed for the refurbished retail units.
“Visitors to Inverness presume that these brands are available as they are in every other city across the UK.”
He added: “None of our long-established restaurants have anything to fear from this development. The challenges faced by the city centre are not solved by rejecting developments such as this.”
SCDI regional director Fraser Grieve added: “Much more needs to be done to support Inverness city centre to develop, but that work must be about raising the competitiveness of that offering, rather than holding back developments such as this.
“Inverness Shopping Park has successfully attracted businesses which see an opportunity to develop a presence in Inverness.”
Kirsteen Gunn, Inverness Shopping Park Manager said: “We’ve been delighted by the level of support we’ve received from the public and various business organisations. We are keen to work in partnership with others to make sure Inverness City is a thriving hub for shoppers, whether they are visiting the Shopping Park, the town centre or both.
“The park is nearly 20 years old and is in need of certain upgrades if we are to meet the expectations of today’s shoppers and visitors to the area. We want to offer improved facilities, including public toilets, baby changing rooms and children’s play areas.”