Bridge Street site purchase facilitates city centre regeneration and Inverness Castle development
Plans for the purchase of a significant site on the southern side of Inverness’ Bridge Street were unveiled by The Highland Council today. The purchase, announced by Mrs Margaret Davidson, Leader of The Highland Council, and Mr Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, will support the development of Inverness Castle and the regeneration of the surrounding area of the city centre.
The development of Inverness Castle – spirit of the Highlands is a vital part of the regeneration of Inverness city centre and will be a gateway for Highland tourism. It will support economic growth in the city and throughout the Highland area. The vision for the new attraction is to create a sustainable, viable and “must-see” attraction that will celebrate the spirit of the Highlands.
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.
The purchase price for the site (located on the southern side of Bridge Street, Inverness) is made up of borrowing by The Highland Council and a contribution of £1.5m from Scottish Government (through Inverness and Highland City Region Deal).
Mrs Margaret Davidson, Leader of The Highland Council, said: “I am absolutely delighted to be able to make this important announcement today. The Highland Council has agreed to purchase this site, given its importance for the economic growth of both Inverness and the Highlands. This has been a long-held ambition and I would like to thank those involved in making this a reality.
“With support from Scottish Government through the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal, we are ensuring the Highland economy benefits from tourism for the long term. This purchase will help us to achieve our vision for this iconic site and Inverness Castle’s place as part of a range of tourism assets this region has to offer. Together with partners, we will be consulting with the community and stakeholders about the options for developing the site in the months to come.”
Rural Economy Secretary Mr Fergus Ewing said:
“I am delighted to be making this announcement today. It marks the culmination of a key part of four years of collaborative work between the Scottish Government, The Highland Council and our public bodies. Inverness Castle is a key project within the £135 million invested by Scottish Government as part of the Inverness and Highland City Region Deal, which will continue to deliver significant long-term benefits not only for the region, but to the future prosperity and economic growth of Scotland as a whole.
“This will create a once in a generation opportunity for future redevelopment for the city and the Highlands to create something special of high architectural value - precisely the opposite of the existing buildings. £1.5 million of the Scottish Government’s City Region Deal investment will be used to fund the redevelopment of Upper Bridge Street which marks another important step in turning Inverness Castle into an attraction of international importance that both the people of Inverness and the Highlands more widely can be proud of. The Scottish Government has supported the proposal from the outset and will continue to do so.”
Mr Ian Ross, Vice-Chair, High Life Highland, said: “As part of the Inverness Castle – spirit of the Highlands project, High Life Highland is delighted that this purchase signals a significant step in the development of Castle from its current use as a court house to a visitor attraction. We are pleased to be working as part of a team of organisations throughout the Highlands and beyond to design and create 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.”
Chris Taylor, VisitScotland Regional Leadership Director, said: “The redevelopment and improvement of Bridge Street will create new opportunities to help tourism regenerate the city centre, creating jobs and bringing benefits to the local economy.
“Bridge Street is in a key position in the middle of Inverness, next to the river and the castle. Its development will have a transformational effect on the city centre and create a renewed sense of pride in this beautiful city.
“The Inverness Castle development will bring a significant attraction for Inverness, but also will play an important role in inspiring visitors to discover the whole of the Highlands.
“VisitScotland is working closely with Highland Council and others to help deliver a world-class attraction which capitalises on the huge opportunities that opening up the castle presents but also sits sensitively within that site.
“Scotland’s reputation as a quality destination relies on continued investment and innovation to ensure that current provision meets future demand.”
George Hogg, Unit Manager, Scottish Natural Heritage, said: “We are delighted to welcome the development of the castle as a heritage centre and tourist attraction. As well as being an outstanding attraction in its own right, the castle’s perfect location at the Gateway to the Highlands can inspire many more people to further connect with nature in this beautiful region - whether it’s watching dolphins at Chanonry Point, skiing in the Cairngorms, walking the Great Glen Way, cruising on Loch Ness or spotting golden eagles at Glen Affric National Nature Reserve. “
David Oxley, director of business and sector development at Highlands and Islands Enterprise said: "We congratulate the Highland Council on securing the Upper Bridge Street site as part of the development of the Inverness Castle campus. The new role for the castle is likely to be transformative, both in terms of the regeneration of the City Centre of Inverness and as a show-case for the Highlands and Island's, inspiring visitors to the city to stay and venture wider in to our beautiful region with its diverse scenery and environments".