by Colin Campbell
AT least something relating to Inverness city centre looks good.
Unfortunately, it’s just a series of artists’ impressions about how Inverness Castle could look after a multi-million pounds transformation years from now.
This plan has taken a long time to materialise and it’ll take even longer to bring to reality, or even to begin work on.
They could still be installing window panels and ornate new features a decade from now.
And before any of it starts, it will no doubt be thrown open to public consultation so folk can have their say on what’s planned.
Let’s just hope that the council are committed to a full and proper consultation for the castle, rather than a Gathering Place style one limited to a couple of afternoons in a corner of the railway station concourse and attended by 200 people, maximum.
The designs look good – but they are meant to look good and drawing pretty pictures accordingly isn’t all that difficult.
At first glance the interior may have a bit too much of the look of an airy modern conference centre, rather than a centuries old building which should resonate character and its historical status. But overall it looks good.
The illustrations which have appeared have attracted very little social media comment.
That may well be because down below Castle hill we have the infinitely more pressing problem of a barrier, bollards and scaffolding strewn city centre which, traders warned again last week, could be heading for its commercial deathbed unless efforts are made to make it a more accessible and appealing place to visit.
The scaffolding tangle, already dominating High Street and Castle Street, has now spread to Union Street.
It’s not a welcoming image for the many visitors who’ve arrived and local people who are having to walk in the shadow of it as well.
Traders probably don’t have the time or inclination to comment on the stylised perfection of the castle illustrations. They’ve a more pressing matter to attend to – survival.
Although the centre was fairly busy last weekend and looks more orderly than it did a couple of weeks ago, it will still put some people off going there.
The artist hasn’t been born who could produce credible pretty picture images of the centre as it stands just now.
The precinct with its plethora of charity shops and empty store frontages was already in decline before the virus struck.
The downward spiral has all too obviously been accelerated by what’s happened in recent months.
A significant number of businesses have still not reopened. Now serious doubts are setting in as to whether they will ever reopen.
No one could predict what the future held for the city centre two months ago and that remains very unclear.
The time will no doubt come when these plans for the castle come under close public scrutiny, but that time is not now.
At the moment there are much more pressing and immediate issues demanding focus and attention.