Bridge Street, Inverness site purchase completed by Highland Council
8th July 2018
The purchase of a significant site on the southern side of Inverness' Bridge Street was completed on Thursday 28 June 2018, it is confirmed by The Highland Council. As announced at the start of June by Cllr Margaret Davidson, Leader of The Highland Council, and Mr Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, the purchase will support the development of Inverness Castle and the regeneration of the surrounding area of the city centre.
The purchase price of £5.275m for the site was made up of borrowing by The Highland Council and a contribution of £1.5m from Scottish Government (through Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal).
The Inverness Castle project forms part of the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal which 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.
Cllr Margaret Davidson, Leader of The Highland Council, said:"I am pleased to confirm that the purchase of this site in Bridge Street, Inverness has been successfully completed, and that the site is now in the ownership of The Highland Council. Making this purchase a reality is good news and will be a transformational opportunity for the economic growth of both Inverness and the Highlands. The support from Scottish Government to make this happen, through the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal, has been vital and will ensure the Highland economy benefits from tourism for the long term. Highland Council Tax payers can be reassured that the Council's borrowing is being covered by rental income from the existing commercial lets at Bridge Street shops restaurants and offices. This means that the project will not result in increased costs to the council."
Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, Mr Fergus Ewing, who co-chairs the Inverness Castle Delivery Group on behalf of Scottish Ministers, said:"I welcome that the purchase has now been completed, a purchase that was made possible by the contribution of £1.5m of City-Region Deal funding from the Scottish Government. This will now allow master planning for the whole rejuvenation of the area to begin; replacing an unloved carbuncle with high quality tourism development that will deliver on Inverness Castle's potential to be a world class visitor attraction."
Mr Donald Mclachlan, Chair, High Life Highland, said:"In High Life Highland we recognise the importance of this site in the development of Inverness Castle - spirit of the Highlands, and I am delighted that the purchase has been confirmed. As a vital part in the regeneration of Inverness city centre and as a gateway for Highland tourism, extending the footprint of this project will enable us to ensure it supports economic growth in the city and throughout the Highland area."
This purchase signals a significant step in the development of Inverness Castle from its current use as a court house to a visitor attraction. Inverness Castle building will become available for development after the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service moves to the new Inverness Justice Centre in 2019.
The visitor attraction, Inverness Castle - spirit of the Highlands, 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 attraction will feature information and stories about the Highland area with a view to inspiring people to visit other parts of the Highlands on this or a future visit. It will incorporate the North tower, which has been open to the public as a viewing platform since April 2017, and the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery. In addition, there will be new galleries to bring national and international exhibitions to the Highlands, displays celebrating the creativity and beauty of the Highlands, as well as retail and catering that showcases the best of Highland craft and produce. The attraction will be supported by a major web and social media presence designed to encourage people to learn more about and to visit all parts of the Highlands.
A delivery group chaired by the Provost of Inverness and the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy leads the Inverness Castle - spirit of the Highlands project.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise, VisitScotland, Scottish Futures Trust, Scottish Development International and Scottish Natural Heritage are involved in the redevelopment of Inverness Castle - spirit of the Highlands.
The City-Region Deal committed the Scottish Government to provide a funding package of up to £135m, the UK Government up to £53m, and local partners, The Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the University of the Highlands and Islands and Albyn Housing Society Limited up to £127m. This £315m funding is to be allocated over a 10 year period commencing from the date of signing of the deal.
The well-known 'ugly' blocks on Bridge Street. Photographer - Bill Fernie