Highland Council has unveiled an ambitious vision for Inverness, which it claims will transform the city into a national leader.
The Inverness Strategy will be presented to members of Inverness area committee this Thursday, together with a host of accompanying reports covering planning, transport and city branding.
With members also due to consider the controversial Gathering Place art installation, it looks set to be a landmark meeting for the committee.
The Inverness masterplan claims the city as Highland’s economic, social and cultural hub. Looking to the future, it sets out to reinvent Inverness with a focus on making it more resilient, vibrant and green.
First of all though, it recognises the challenges facing Inverness today. Like many other cities, Inverness centre is suffering from reduced footfall and large empty retail spaces.
The proposed solution is for mixed-use development, bringing in more housing, offices and leisure spaces and boosting the night-time economy. The retail offering in this vision would focus on independent, diverse and unique shopping experiences.
All of this would be complemented by more green space, more civic space and a healthier and safer transport network.
The masterplan asks a series of ‘What ifs’ to prompt discussion, such as:
- What if we encourage new residential developments?
- What if we improve existing and create new cultural offers?
- What if we transform how people travel to and move through the city centre?
According to the masterplan, the council is leading the way in delivering this vision. It highlights council investments in the Town Hall, Victorian Market and Inverness Castle as well as several large housing developments.
The masterplan also points to low carbon initiatives led by the council, including public realm improvements, sustainable transport and long-term plans such as the proposed energy hub at the Longman and the growth of hydrogen economy.
The masterplan is presented to committee alongside the Rethinking Inverness draft plan, Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan and Inner Moray Firth Transport Strategy.
Rethinking Inverness is a recovery project that started in autumn last year and aimed to identify the unique characteristics that make up the city’s identity.
The project started off with a narrow focus on retail and tourism in the city centre, but soon adopted a wider perspective on Inverness as part of Highland, Scotland and beyond.
The project has adopted the strapline ‘step up, shape up, join up’.
Step up relates to the need to raise aspirations, shape up to strengthening quality and experience, and join up highlights the need for more collaboration and promotion.
‘Join up’ seems particularly important for a vision that’s accompanied by several more strategies running into hundreds of pages.
On Thursday, Inverness members will be asked to approve the draft masterplan to go to public consultation.
By local democracy reporter Nicola Sinclair