Close vote favours redesign of busy Inverness street

Artist's impression of street redesign
Highland Council has proposed making Academy Street more pedestrian and cyclist friendly

Councillors have voted to push ahead with plans to redesign one of Inverness' busiest city centre streets.

Highland Council wants to make Academy Street more pedestrian and cyclist friendly.

Traffic would be restricted to buses, delivery vehicles and drivers with disabilities and health conditions.

But some businesses have said that while improvements were needed, the impact of the current plans had not been thoroughly consulted on.

On Thursday, at a full meeting of the Highland Council, councillors voted 35 to 33 to proceed with the project.

This will include drawing up a traffic regulation order and finalising details of the plans.

There was an unsuccessful attempt by some councillors to put the scheme on hold so a short trial and an economic impact study could be carried out.

Last month, Inverness city councillors voted 12 to 10 in favour of the plans.

But just over 24 hours later, Highland Council said the project would be put to the vote of the full council.

Academy Street, Inverness
Academy Street is one of Inverness' busiest city centre roads

The local authority has already secured £800,000 from the Scottish government for the scheme.

During Thursday's meeting, Scottish Green councillor Kate Willis said Academy Street was not a "welcoming place".

She said: "Walking along Academy Street is not a pleasant experience.

"The road is clogged with traffic with slow-moving cars spewing exhaust fumes.

"The footpaths are narrow and the shops generally have very few people in them and there are empty properties."

Ms Willis added: "Once off Academy Street and on the pedestrianised streets it's a different story.

"Traffic noise and smells are gone, there are plenty of people on the streets and in the shops."

Artist's impression of street redesign
The project has been put to the vote by councillors for the second time in weeks
Artist's impression of street redesign
Some business argue the redesign needs more scrutiny

But Independent councillor Duncan MacPherson raised concerns about where the traffic would go.

He said: "We are keen to find out where this Bermuda triangle is that is going to make 5,000 cars and vans suddenly disappear."

Mr MacPherson claimed displaced traffic would put pressure on other already-busy streets and roundabouts.

He added: "A trial period would allow us all to see it."

Last month, Scott Murray, of business and residents group Inverness City Alliance, accused councillors of pushing ahead with plans without "due diligence" being done.

He told BBC Radio Scotland: "You wouldn't buy a car without test driving it, looking at what the servicing costs and what the monthly payments are going to be.

"Not pausing to gather the facts is a bad idea."