Committee gives unanimous support to Covid-19 Spaces to People project in Highland

At today’s (Wednesday 1 July) Economy and Infrastructure Committee members gave their full support to progress made with the Spaces for People programme in Highland following the news that the Council has been successful in receiving a further £1.2M of funding.

Following a successful award of £752,954 from Scottish Government’s Spaces for People fund, the Council is delivering a series of active travel interventions in Aviemore, Dingwall, Fort William, Inverness, Nairn, Wick and Portree in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. News of the additional £1.2M will allow more measures to be rolled out in Aviemore, Fort William, Portree, Thurso, and Wick and provide a specific Highland-wide rapid response award to tackle issues reported to the Council.

The temporary interventions provide a rapid response to the pandemic to support essential workers and communities to physically distance when they walk, wheel or cycle. All the interventions are temporary, and the council can rapidly amend and change the proposals.

Chair of the Committee, Councillor Trish Robertson said: " Sustainable active travel for leisure and for travelling from A to B has never been so popular and the Spaces for People project to improve safety for everyone will, I am sure, encourage more individuals and families to continue to enjoy the benefits of walking and cycling. It’s great news that our application for additional funding for phase 2 has been successful. As well as physical and mental health benefits of regular exercise, the increase in walking and cycling is also an important factor in our transition to an economy based on net-zero carbon emissions.”

A special consultation portal allows stakeholders and the public to comment on all of the measures and give their feedback. Officials have continued to engage with key stakeholders, like Inverness BID, the emergency services and local businesses. The measures being delivered are flexible and the consultation portal means that by continuing an online conversation, the council can monitor and respond quickly to any issues.

Over 854 comments have been logged through the portal with 73% of the comments in support of the interventions. 2,400 people have also signed a petition to urge the Council to go further than the current proposals that are being implemented.

Cllr Robertson added: “This period of lockdown has given us all, no matter where we live, a different understanding and appreciation of space. I hope that we can learn from this experience and make walking, wheeling and cycling a bigger part of our everyday travel, which will have multiple other benefits to our health, climate and air quality, not to mention reducing congestion.”

“Already we have seen a reduction in traffic and an increase in active travel during the pandemic which we want to encourage and build upon. It is crucial that we keep momentum going to maximise the public health benefits of this project.”

The Highland Council now intends to submit a third funding bid and if successful, further interventions across Highland will be implemented.


1 Jul 2020