Unified approach to Inverness recovery welcomed
19th May 2021
Members of The Highland Council's Inverness City and Area Recovery Group have welcomed updates on various projects all with the joint aim of revitalising Inverness city centre and highlighting what a great place Inverness is to live in and invest.
Provost of Inverness and Area Cllr Helen Carmichael said: "Councillors on the City and Area Recovery Group are unanimous in their support for these exciting and wonderful opportunities that have been presented before us. All the hard work of Council staff, business partners and consultants working for the Council has all come together and the timing is right. Never before have we been so aligned and ready to capitalise across the board with a share vision on the recovery and future development of Inverness. I thank everyone involved and very much look forward to future progress reports and updates coming forward to the recovery group and City of Inverness Area Committee as we see welcome investment from the private sector combine with the efforts of the Council and public sector partners to turn visions into reality."
Alan Rawlinson, Business Development Manager at Visit Inverness Loch Ness informed Councillors of various online marketing initiatives, such as a partner campaign competition with LNER and blogs - all aimed at targeting the domestic local market to help local businesses get up and running again in the immediate to short term.
Mike Smith, Inverness BID Manager highlighted a three-phased radio advertising campaign aimed at the domestic local market. In March it supported the initial opening of permitted businesses; in April it promoted the city centre; and the campaign is now promoting staycations in Inverness to Aberdeen, Tayside and north Scotland residents.
Highland Council’s Development Plans Manager Scott Dalgarno outlined the council’s development planning context and Allan Maguire, Highland Council’s Head of Development and Regeneration gave an update on the Council’s preparedness for Scottish Government revenue funding applications for major city centre projects and the Council’s appointment through Hub North Scotland of Threesixty Architecture to produce an Inverness City Centre Recovery Project Masterplan.
Rory Kellett and Anthony Hubbert of Threesixty Architecture presented their early analysis and mapping exercise of Inverness city centre. They outlined an 18 step ‘manifesto for change’ to rebalance, repopulate and reposition the city centre. Consideration of the project area boundary was discussed, and the competition on the city centre from the 3 out-of-town retail areas at the Carse, Inshes and at the A96 was acknowledged. Their mapping exercise highlighted property heritage assets and conservation areas and the respective heights of buildings that might require sympathetic developments in their respective areas. Property use and the relationship of public and private transport and walking and cycling access into and throughout the city centre was also explored.
Threesixty Architecture acknowledged the positive moves that have already been achieved in the recovery of Inverness city centre including: Wasps creative academy; The Town House; Raining’s Stairs; Rose Street Foundry; Inverness Justice Centre; 92 Academy Street and Wyvern House; River Ness Flood defences and the development and opening of new independent food and beverage businesses.
Potential development opportunities were earmarked by Threesixty Architecture, five of which are already under development: the reconfiguration of Academy Street; Victorian Market; Former Arnotts building for housing; the former Service Point redevelopment for a hotel; and the transformation of Inverness Castle into a major tourist attraction.
New potential recovery projects identified by the consultants include:
• the potential to develop or repurpose the Eastgate Shopping Centre / Falcon Square / Millburn Road / Crown Road area to provide a new key civic space;
• creating a potential key connection from the heart of the city to the River Ness along Baron Taylor’s Street / Bank Lane.
A strategy on the branding of Inverness was presented by Kevin Murray, Director of Kevin Murray Associates. Mr Murray highlighted the results of their engagement with various organisations representing people who live, work and visit Inverness. Their findings marked shifts in perceptions of Inverness in the last 5-10 years; highlighted the perceived key assets and strengths of the city; acknowledged the key weakness and image challenges and set the focus on ‘place’ brand ideas.
Their study identified four overarching themes of: a compact, liveable ‘green’ city; a thriving economy; visitor destination experience; and the aim for inter / national leader status which will be further explored with key players, workshops and reported back as a proposed strategy and action plan to a future meeting of the Council.