The Highland Council has assured traders that business will be maintained at all times during the major refurbishment of the Victorian Market in Inverness city centre and that measures will be taken to soften the impact of the essential works.
The project, costing £891,000, includes major roof repairs and general improvements of the popular shopping precinct, which is accessed from Union Street, Church Street, Academy Street and Queensgate.
Funding will come from the Inverness Common Good Fund, which owns the Market.
Access to the market will be maintained at all times during the project, which is estimated to be completed within 5-6 months. The main contractor is Forester Roofing, Brechin, who will start work on Thursday 20 October.
Some traders had wished that works be delayed but the Council has established that the penalty for delaying the contract until April, next year, is £52,000.
The project was first reported to Inverness City Committee in August 2007. Market traders had asked that roof leaks be fixed on several previous occasions.
Since then there has been ongoing dialogue with traders' representatives on a regular basis. Traders have previously requested that the peak tourist season in the summer months be avoided . It should be noted that January is the worst time to start a roofing contract.
Depute Provost Alex Graham, Vice-Chairman of The Highland Council 's Inverness City Committee, said he was very pleased that the Council was investing so significantly in the Victorian Market.
He said: "This is a major commitment by the Council and responds to the wishes of market traders to repair leaks to the roof and to undertake other significant improvements. It is always difficult to have a timeframe for a contract of this nature. However, we feel we have chosen the time that will minimise inconvenience. It makes sense to carry out the general improvements at the same time as the roof repairs. The cost of delaying the project is significant and is not a good use of the Common Good Funds.
"I understand that some traders are not happy with the timetable but we hope they can appreciate the challenges we face in improving the Market and realise the long term gain that will flow from our investment. The Council is taking every measure it can take to minimise the impact of the works. "