by Colin Campbell
THE Gathering Place is shaping up on its dirt and rubble strewn site adjacent to the Ness Islands, and what was depicted in pretty picture illustrations as a curved wall with people leaning contentedly on it now looks more like the first stretch of a bridge.
Huge slabs of concrete jut out over the river. They look much more solid than the Infirmary Bridge, which had to be closed recently because it was deemed unsafe.
A tourist walking his dog yesterday as the rising waters of the Ness lapped around the fenced off perimeter of the site was confused by what he was looking at. He asked me: “What are they building there? Is it a bridge?”
I explained that this was a £300,000 lump of supposedly concrete “artwork” being implanted on what had once been a natural riverside beauty spot, amid huge public controversy.
“So ugly, shocking,” he said, echoing views expressed by so many local people, before walking away.
Thousands of people in Inverness signed a petition protesting vehemently against the Gathering Place.
And, as was warned and predicted all along, it really is shaping up as a dominant concrete monstrosity.
Already, with a vast amount of work still to be done on a project that was, according to the council, supposed to have been completed “by early summer”, the tonnage of concrete embedded in the site must be immense.
At this stage it doesn’t look like a wall. It does look a bridge being built across the river.
Now we can see where all that public money’s going. Building a structure of that size requires time and technical expertise. You wouldn’t want one of those massive concrete slabs toppling over as it was lowered into place and landing on your foot.
More than three months after work started on this thing it already looks about a year behind schedule. Looking at the state of the building site there, with much, much more to be done, only the fantasists on the council who back this development could have believed work would be completed in 12 weeks “by early summer”.
But the fact that the Gathering Place is on a much larger scale than most people envisaged will be very cold comfort to those who opposed it.
Compare the artist’s pretty picture illustrations of the planned Gathering Place with what is actually in place now. Do you spot any resemblance? No I don’t either.
What will finally emerge remains to be seen. It is going to be big. It may well be hideous. It may look nothing like the artistic projections.
Neither is there any satisfaction in seeing why it is costing £300,000 in council and other public money. If anything it’s exactly the opposite.
A vast tonnage of concrete is being hammered into what was once a natural riverside beauty spot. For what purpose? The council and its assorted artistic “experts” have never been able to answer that question.
In this balmy weather, folk would have been sitting on the once grassy banks and drinking in the peace and quiet and scenic riverside serenity all around.
Instead we have a barricaded off rubble strewn building site where some kind of giant concrete apparition is being built for no identifiable purpose.
Our reserves of anger over this appalling council vanity project have been all but exhausted.
Even in this gloriously sunny weather, or maybe especially in this gloriously sunny weather, this riverside travesty is enough to make you weep.