Progress on Inverness Townscape Heritage Project and City Centre Development Brief
Progress on the preparation of a second stage Heritage Lottery Fund bid to improve the Townscape Heritage of Inverness has been welcomed by Highland Council Members of the City of Inverness Area Committee. The estimated project costs are expected to be in the region of £4million. The Council has already pledged £750K towards the project.
Early in 2014 the Council received a £1.67m Stage 1 pass from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Townscape Heritage programme. The HLF awarded the Council a development grant of £109k to be used alongside a £35k Council contribution to develop the Stage 2 application. A Stage 2 pass is required before the HLF finance is formally committed to the project.
In order to progress the stage 2 application within the necessary timescale, members agreed to delegate powers to the Director of Development and Infrastructure (Stuart Black) in consultation the City Leader Councillor Ian Brown to agree the detail of the application and submit it to the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The Committee was given an update on the work done to date, which included the council hosting two well attended public consultations days held 22 and 23 January which will be followed by another public consultation event on Tuesday 10 March.
A report to Members highlighted that over 150 people attended the stakeholder events in January, 57 of who completed feedback forms. Various elements of the project that scored high in the feedback included:
bringing back into use vacant city centre floor space;
refurbishment of historic buildings;
reinstatement of heritage features; and
improvement or development of civic space on Academy Street.
Wider issues regarding Academy Street that rated highly among the public feedback included: traffic management and flow; better provision for cycling and pedestrians; outdoor seating and cafes; and the greening of the street with trees and vegetation.
City Leader Councillor Brown said: “The Inverness Townscape Heritage Project is a flagship example of the Council’s commitments to support the Highland economy and the development of urban centres making the region an attractive place to do business. Members have given their approval for Council funding and demonstrated their support for the project with their attendance at a Members’ workshop.
“I’d like to thank everyone who went to the consultation days held in January and hope that more folks will come again on Tuesday 10 March, from 2 till 8pm in The Ironworks. These works and the progress also being made on the City Centre Development Brief all reinforce our commitment to improving the vibrancy of the city centre business and tourism economy.”
Approval was given by Members to a pilot project for Academy Street that will aim to achieve a better balance between vehicles and pedestrians. With £12K Scottish Government funding pedestrian crossing points will be improved; metal railings and obstacles removed; traffic signals reconfigured among other actions to improve pedestrian links between the bus station, car parks, Library, Old Town, Victorian Market and the river.
Members have also approved a timetable for publishing updates to the Inverness City Centre Development brief which was earlier adopted in March 2013. Updates incorporating refining the city vision and city centre priorities; introducing development principles; the City Centre Action Plan and design criteria for key development sites could be adopted by early 2016.
During discussion on improvements to cultural and tourism facilities, Councillor Ken Gowans, Chair of the Inverness City Arts Working Group announced the launch of an additional art project to design a children’s’ feature for the River Ness Flood Alleviation Scheme Public Art Project. He said:
“Within existing budgets we have the opportunity to create an interactive water feature that will provide a learning experience which will be both fun and informative for young people and their families.
“This will be the sixth project of the ICArts Working Group which will make the River Ness much less of a thoroughfare and more of a feature both for visitors and tourists alike.”