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Inverness Castle transformation - project update

18th January 2021

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Photograph of Inverness Castle transformation - project update

Statutory applications lodged today with The Highland Council signal progress in the planned transformation for Inverness Castle to become a tourism gateway for the Highlands. The applications are for:

Listed building consent

Building warrant approval.

The applications, submitted by project architects LDN Architects, are in preparation for the main building works contract. This contract will be subject to a tender process beginning in spring of 2021

The applications cover the works necessary to restore the Category A Listed building and convert it for use as a new visitor attraction. Given potential impacts arising from Brexit and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the programme of works for the main tender will not be finalised until completion of the tender process. However, at present, the proposed works include the careful conservation of the building fabric, accessibility and environmental upgrades and contemporary new additions. In addition, the proposed works include a new cafe space and external viewing terraces that, combined, will transform Inverness Castle into a cultural centrepiece to be enjoyed by the public.

Note, all timings are subject to change, depending on the findings of the ongoing enabling works contract (due for completion in spring 2021) and the impact of the ongoing pandemic. The enabling works underway involve demolition work, asbestos surveys, timber preservation surveys and structural checks.

The transformation of Inverness Castle is supported by £15 million Scottish Government and £3 million UK Government investment through the city region deal. It will create a gateway for Highland tourism, contributing to reinvigoration of tourism across the area and providing much needed investment for the industry to aid the recovery from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The project will support economic growth throughout the Highland area, creating a sustainable, viable and "must-see" attraction that will celebrate the spirit of the Highlands.

The Inverness and Highland City Region deal is a joint initiative supported by up to £315m investment from the UK and Scottish governments, The Highland Council, HIE and University of the Highlands and Islands, aimed at stimulating sustainable regional economic growth.

Provost of Inverness and Area, Cllr Helen Carmichael, said:"The Inverness Castle project is vital to the regeneration of our city centre and the wider tourism economy of the Highland region. It is exciting to see the progress towards the Inverness Castle becoming a ‘must-see' attraction that will draw visitors to the Highlands."

Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing, who co-chairs the Inverness Castle Delivery Group, said:"The Inverness Castle project is a critical part of the revitalisation of the tourism economy of the Highlands. The Scottish Government is committed to supporting the ongoing renovations and has provided £15 million to this proposal through the Inverness and Highland City Region Deal. I am pleased to see this latest milestone reached and look forward to seeing the renovations take shape."

UK Government Minister David Duguid said: “The transformation on Inverness Castle will deliver a tremendous boost for the region. I was impressed when I visited the development last year, and I am glad to hear that good progress continues to be made. Projects like this are vital to our economic recovery from coronavirus and the UK Government is investing £1.5 billion to support them across Scotland.”

The planning application can be viewed on the Council's eplanning site using the following reference 21/00100/FUL and 21/00103/LBC.

The transformation of Inverness Castle is a Highland Council project, managed by High Life Highland on behalf of The Highland Council. The Scottish Government, UK Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, VisitScotland, Scottish Development International, Historic Environment Scotland, and Nature Scot are among partners of the project.

A delivery group, chaired by the Provost of Inverness and the Scottish Government's Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Tourism, leads the project.

The new visitor attraction will add to the tourism offer in the area by creating a must-see visitor attraction that celebrates the spirit of the Highlands past, present and future, including its creativity, well-being, culture, heritage and natural environment.

The vision for the project includes:

The Castle Viewpoint - already complete and open to the public

New galleries to bring national and international exhibitions to the Highlands

New museum displays celebrating the culture and heritage of the Highlands

New visitor attractions showcasing all areas of the Highlands

Shops, restaurants, bars and cafes promoting the best of Highland crafts and produce

The development of public spaces within the Castle esplanade

Potential new hotel accommodation in the vicinity of the development

It is planned that the project will be delivered in three phases.

Phase 1: Focus on the Castle buildings (North and South Tower)

Phase 2: New museum and gallery

Phase 3: Bridge Street.

A previous update in August 2019 noted the following proposed changes to the Castle buildings:

Reinstate the original front door of the South Tower as the formal entrance to Inverness Castle

Introduce a single-storey infill in the courtyard between the South and North Towers, linking the buildings for the first time

Improve the external spaces around the buildings

Protect the volume and proportions of the original Court Room

Remove later addition partitions from the South and North Towers, restoring the plan to a series of fewer, larger, spaces

Improve universal access throughout the buildings

Rationalise support facilities, such as plant and toilets, into one or two places in both building

Note: all plans for transformation of the castle buildings are subject to receiving the necessary permissions and to changes arising from the impact of the ongoing pandemic.

More views in the Photo Gallery link at tope of this page.