by Colin Campbell
TWO of the most active campaigners against the riverside Gathering Place have criticised the latest council debacle in getting it built.
And Inverness Provost Helen Carmichael, one of its most ardent supporters, has been called on to explain why a project that was supposed to be completed “by early summer” now looks like it might not be finished for months.
Yesterday we highlighted that after 11 weeks work the Gathering Place, which was due to be finished in three months, is still a rubble strewn building site. (See adjacent report).
The most controversial construction project in Inverness civic history involves a wall and concrete pathways being built on an unspoilt natural beauty spot adjacent to the Ness Islands.
On April 1 the council said it would be finished by early summer, and work began on April 12.
But this week, almost three months later, the site remains a churned up, rubble strewn building site with a few yards of rough brickwork in place but nothing else in evidence of a development that has been hailed by its council backers as likely to become of world renown.
Council arts group chairwoman Isabelle MacKenzie has said the Gathering place will be “unique” and “something that can’t be found anywhere else in the world”.
And Provost Carmichael has also described it in the most glowing terms. She said as work was due to begin in April: “Who would have thought, when this centrepiece was commissioned back in 2017, that the world would have been transformed by a pandemic and human beings prevented from the most basic of interactions – gathering.
“I hope that it will not just be an asset to our city, but a place where people will be able to come together to pause and reflect on the joy of human interaction within the amphitheatre of the river.”
Critics yesterday rounded on the rubble-strewn lack of progress on the joyful amphitheatre, with a barricaded off riverside prime site at the height of the tourist season consisting of piles of dirt, a digger, and stacks of unused brickwork.
Councillor Ron MacWilliam, who has opposed the £300,000 scheme since it was first conceived by specially hired “subversive artists” three years ago, told Inverness news and views: “The councillors responsible for this mess need to start taking some responsibility for their own decisions. They can’t say there weren’t warned.
“Now a section of the riverside has been destroyed. Much as this poorly situated and thoroughly uninspiring creation fills me with despair, on completion it should still be an improvement on the wreckage currently on display.
“The area simply can’t be left as a building site for the whole summer season. The Provost of Inverness must offer a public statement about the new anticipated completion date and to allay fears of yet more cash being poured into this folly.
“There was a firm commitment made to the Inverness City Area Committee in 2018 that no further public funds would be used so I can’t imagine anyone being happy if that has been broken, even among the handful of supporters.”
Campaigner Helen Smith, who organised a petition opposing the scheme signed by 3,000 people, said: “It is really disappointing that we still have the construction yard in operation at this time of year.
“The area is busy with people wanting to enjoy the scenery and tranquillity of the river and islands.
“How much longer is this going to take?”