Riverside farce is bad enough, without grime, dust and fencing fouling up the summer

by Colin Campbell

ARE these the final days when the Ness riverside lies unspoilt and untouched before, under the instruction of Highland Council, workmen move in to start tearing it apart?

We’ve just had a bright and chilly but pleasant weekend, with many folk strolling along enjoying its scenic tranquillity.

Work on the £300,000 riverside ‘artwork’ plan should not be allowed to blight the summer.

Is that now about to be very roughly and rudely interrupted?

A tiny clique at the centre of Highland Council have laid down a marker that their infernal “Gathering Place” will be built, regardless of the lack of enthusiasm among most people and the strong opposition of many to this £300,000 wall and concrete travesty.

The threat has hung over the riverside for the past three years. There was the belief that with so much else needing attention as the pandemic threat recedes it would be quietly forgotten about.

A large majority of councillors railroaded by dire and unexplained financial warnings into backing the Gathering Place would have been relieved. Like the vast majority of people, they see no sense or purpose in disfiguring a natural riverside beauty spot adjacent to the Ness Islands with wall and concrete “artwork”.

But the very small number of people determined to pursue this vanity project made it clear that they were determined to get their way come hell or high water.

In what appeared to be the final, definitive announcement the public was told on April 1 that “site preparations” would begin last week.

Whether or not any workmen were tramping around the grassy banks with industrial requirements in mind is unknown. But visually nothing happened. Work did not begin last week, as far as anyone could tell.

So will it begin this week? Will the fences go up and the heavy machinery move in to begin gouging great holes in the beauty spot as the “Gathering Place” finally gets under way?

After years of opposing and denouncing this proposal, it may seem odd that there is now a degree of impatience for them to just get on with it.

But the summer is rapidly approaching, there will be a massive influx of visitors to the Highland capital, and it will be of no benefit to anyone if a large section of the riverside looks like a building site.

Work will take, it is said, 12 weeks. Add on any problems or delays in the construction of this thing, more than likely given its jinxed history so far, and a lengthy section of the riverside could still be churned up and blocked off well into July.

Those who have driven on this project may themselves not be particularly keen on seeing work start there. So many words have been expended on this issue for so long, but physically nothing has happened. When work actually begins, however, the wasteful, unnecessary, damaging absurdity of it will become more apparent.

An unspoilt and scenic area will be torn apart, for the installation of a wall and concrete pathways.

And inevitably the question then will resonate more loudly than ever. Why?

However, the Gathering Place clique are getting their way. No matter what people feel about that, it’s the reality.

So now it’s time for them to set aside their ludicrous verbiage about how “unique in the world” their wall will be and get on with building it.

Work on this thing should start as soon as possible, this week, without further prevarication or delay.

Get it done, if it must be done, before the onset of summer.

The public will then be able to judge whether or not the “Gathering Place” enhances the riverside, at a cost of £300,000, as those who have refused to give up on it claim.

If it is indeed to become a reality than the time for making announcements is over. Action is needed, whatever grotesque form it may take, not words.

And the flood of regret and recriminations over this riverside travesty can and undoubtedly will come later.

Those behind the Gathering Place are intent on fouling up the riverside. Nothing is to be gained by them fouling up the summer there with grime, dust and fencing while they’re at it.

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