Gathering Place plan kicked into the long grass

by Colin Campbell

A COUNCIL meeting to discuss the future of the planned riverside “Gathering Place” will not now be held until near the end of August, at the earliest, councillors have been told.

 As we reported yesterday chief executive Donna Manson was due to provide an update on a date for the meeting on the hugely contentious scheme.

 It was due to be held imminently, after six Inverness councillors banded together in revolt against the £300,000 scheme, involving the construction of “artwork” – a wall and concrete pathways – on the riverside at the Ness Islands.

 However a 14-day deadline has been set aside and the meeting has been deferred “until after the school holidays”.

 It’s yet another strange twist in the long-running saga. Council opponents are unable to recall any other meeting which has been rescheduled because of school holidays.

 While there is an element of disappointment among them that the issue will not be thrashed out and finally settled anytime soon, the deferral can also be construed in another way.

 That the mood in the upper echelons of the council is now inclined towards trying to quietly bury it.

 The Gathering Place was due to be completed this month. But 14 months on from the day when the plan was first revealed – a year last May – it hasn’t moved forward an inch.

 No schedule for the scheme is in place and its future now looks on shakier ground than ever.

 It has received the public backing of only four members of the 23-strong Inverness Area Committee. At least eight are strongly opposed to it, while other councillors have declined to comment on it.

 The Gathering Place – widely seen as an appalling waste of money which would do nothing other than disfigure and concrete over an unspoilt, natural beauty spot – is also opposed by nearly 3,000 people who have signed a petition against it.

 Public support for the scheme seems to be virtually non-existent.

 The special meeting deferral until later in the year indicates that the thin level of council backing for the project may now be fading away altogether.

 And that the local authority’s top brass have decided that, at a time of widespread cutbacks in funding for essential services, devoting yet more time and money to a venture which faces such public hostility is a non-starter.

 Opponents of the scheme will look out for any further developments which contradicts that perception.

 But many will take the view that after months of delays and deferrals the plan to concrete over a cherished stretch of the riverside is being kicked into the long grass.

 And that sanity will now prevail.

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