by Colin Campbell
NOT another one, not another “visionary” plan for Inverness, with an array of grand plans stretching far into the future?
A massive document called “Rethinking Inverness” appeared from Highland Council last week, following on from “Reimagining Inverness” last November, and “Inverness 2035” from a group of “prominent people” a few weeks ago.
Is there no end to the rapid accumulation of this visionary codswallop?
Last November a meeting of the Inverness Area Committee discussed plans for “the Re-imagining of the City of the Inverness”.
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today… La la la…
And only a month ago a group of “prominent people” who comprise “Inverness Futures” led by MP Drew Hendry joined in the visionary business with the production of “Inverness 2035”. Their imagination for what Inverness would become by 2035 completely ran riot.
“Inverness will be a welcoming city for visitors from near and far. Shops, businesses, tour operators and residents will be proud of Inverness’s world renowned reputation as the welcoming city. It will be a statement of intent turned into reality by the people of Inverness. Their pride in our welcoming city will make Inverness a great place to live and visit.
“Every entry to Inverness is attractive and welcoming as part of the City’s ongoing work to fulfil its promise to be the world’s most welcoming city. Inverness won’t just be a city for visitors – it will be a place to enjoy for those who live here. The city centre will be attractive, accessible for all and most importantly family-friendly with a focus on creating a place and atmosphere that has a positive and enriching effect on wellbeing.
“Inverness’s charm will be its people – in its shops, restaurants, businesses and on the streets. Food and drink will be at the heart of the design of our city centre, with restaurants and bars for locals and visitors alike to enjoy.
“Our streets will be bustling with families enjoying the ‘what’s on’ features of the day or finding their way along the digital urban trails. Visitors will be attracted to walking or cycling to their destination because of the beautiful pedestrian streetscapes. They will marvel at our historical architecture, there to enjoy because of the extensive and regular cleaning of city centre buildings and street cleaning.
“The city will be awash with colour because of a citywide partnership between local schools and council services.
“A long-standing commitment to new housing – both affordable and social rent – will ensure every family has a safe home to live in.”
Inverness 2035 sounded like wishful thinking on steroids, bordering on complete garbage, but at least it was produced independently, and was free garbage.
But now, God help us, another one’s emerged from the council, called “Rethinking Inverness”, and it’s anything but free. The council states:
“The 110-page draft plan is to be considered at the local area committee next week alongside a market brand position report on the city called Rethinking Inverness, by Kevin Murray Associates.
“The vision for Inverness city centre is an attractive, greener, high-footfall place that people can comfortably live, work and visit for a wide range of services, facilities, and to spend their leisure time. The vision is based on an analysis of the community, heritage, culture and existing uses within Inverness city centre and seeks to showcase a number of projects that are either ‘shovel ready’ or already on site and how these, coupled with opportunities identified through the analysis can be transformational to Inverness city centre.
“The Highland Council will make a just transition towards becoming a zero carbon region which means supporting a green and circular economy now and for future generations.”
So that’s three “visionary” plans for the future of Inverness all on the go at the same time. Where is all this leading – if anywhere?
We’ve had “Reimagining Inverness” and “Inverness 2035”. And now “Rethinking Inverness” runs to an astonishing 110 pages.
A hundred and ten pages? How long did that take officials to compile using their immensely valuable time? And how long would it take councillors to even read it? And what are the chances they all even have read it, as opposed to skimming through it before “discussing” it this week.
It was put together, we are told, with the assistance of a group of consultants called Kevin Murray Associates. The only consultants I could find with that name are based in Glasgow, and in reading their website blurb there is no mention of them having an Inverness office, or indeed any links at all to the city.
Which begs the question, why is the council so eager to enlist consultants in Glasgow to work out some kind of visionary future for Inverness? And how much is it costing?
This is particularly relevant because the most recent adornment to the Highland capital, the reviled and detested £300,000 Gathering Place, which hopefully will be washed away by a raging torrent of a winter flood, was also designed by a group of “artwork consultants” based in Glasgow. They were paid thousands for it, and look how that turned out.
And yet again the question arises, have officials at Highland Council got nothing better to do with their time than sitting around chatting with each other and rethinking and reimagining Inverness and coming up with a load of “visionary” verbiage, 110 pages worth of it?
Not to mention the cost per hour of a Glasgow firm of “consultants” who I’ve no doubt charge a fortune for their wisdom about Inverness.
Thousands of council hours and hundreds of thousands of pounds were squandered on the Gathering Place.
And now another set of Glasgow “consultants” have been drafted in to help come up with a new set of ideas, most of which which will no doubt turn out as fanciful nonsense which will never see the light of day.
How much more “Reimagining” and “Rethinking” does our visions and artwork obsessed council want to do?
We can view this wasteful idiocy with yet another weary sigh. Or we can ask with extreme asperity why these highly paid officials are wasting countless hours on their endless dreamy visions for the future instead of getting on with doing some proper work dealing with the multiple problems we have right here and now.