by Colin Campbell
ACCORDING to reports the Inverness Business Improvement (BID) organisation has been in discussion with Highland Council to give the “Old Town” in Inverness its own unique identity.
The scheme would involve “welcome” signs being placed at the ends of key thoroughfares, and specially-branded street furniture would “help to create a unique sense of place”.
That’s what’s planned for the Old Town. But most informatively of all, BID now reveals where the Old Town actually is.
This mysterious area surfaced in media reports several years ago. And it is mysterious to many people because it is not a term used in any shape or form by members of the public. No-one I know has ever once said they were going to have a look around the “Old Town”. In common parlance the city centre is the city centre is the city centre, and it stretches from High Street to the bottom of Academy Street and Church Street and everywhere in between. Period.
BID has now helpfully defined Inverness Old Town as the area bounded by Bank Street by the river and Academy Street and includes Queensgate, Union Street and Church Street, as well as Castle Street.
So now, at least, we know.
Bid say: “It is hoped the proposals to officially brand the Old Town will create a better defined character and attract people in a similar way to the New Town in Edinburgh or Glasgow’s vibrant Merchant City. A wider branding exercise could create a unique atmosphere for the whole area that would increase its attractiveness for locals and visitors.”
We can only wish them the best in this new initiative because “vibrant” is not a description that readily applies to Inverness city centre – sorry, “Inverness Old Town” – as of now.
Rundown, decrepit and with a plethora of empty store frontages, there is precious little vibrancy about it.
That doesn’t mean things can’t change but unfortunately it will take a lot more than the introduction of specially branded street furniture to make a difference.
Bid says: “The separate scheme to redevelop part of the historic Victorian Market, which has been described as the jewel in the crown, was approved in November. Plans for the £1.5million revamp will involve alterations to the main hall and fish market hall to create a modern food court.”
So another £1.5million is now being chucked at the Market to try and attract more people there.
Bid say: “Plans for the £1.5million revamp will involve alterations to the main hall and fish market hall to create a modern food court. The project would also involve the removal of the internal shop units and replace them with new retail, food and drink units, and it is hoped the work would create a major asset for the city centre.”
A huge amount of money has been thrown at the Market over the past 30 years from the time when it was a dark, dank, dismal hole of a place with pools of water on the grubby and blackened stone floor as a result of leaks in the roof.
It has now been completely transformed into a bright and welcoming commercial area so far removed from what it was as to be unrecognisable. In its stylish appearance, it looks better than any other part of the “Old Town”.
But nothing has worked in terms of it attracting customers in sufficient numbers.
Maybe this latest very costly scheme will indeed bring about the desired turnaround. Against the odds it may succeed – or it may be throwing yet more good money after bad.