REVERSING the direction of city centre traffic and giving shoppers grace to park in loading bays are key items on business leaders’ wish lists as they call for urgent action to lure shoppers back from the retail parks.
They are urging traffic bosses at Highland Council to back their vision of a “car-friendly city centre”.
Mike Smith of the Inverness Business Improvement District (Bid) said cyclists and pedestrians have their place but cars and buses were the lifeblood of a fully-functioning city centre.
He said: “What we will be talking to Highland Council about is how we can become more car-friendly. It’s obvious that for a lot of people coming by car is their preferred option. It’s great to think that we are all going to get on bikes and cycle in to the city centre but that’s not available to all of us and we are talking about the mass majority. People need to feel that they can come to the city centre. We need to explore how can we increase that car parking capacity.”
He added: “Looking at this does not mean we are being critical of the council. We just think that we need a different way of looking at the city centre in terms of its marketing mix.”
And Malcolm Fraser of Duncan Fraser Fish Game and Poultry Dealer in Queensgate, wants traffic flow reversed on Fraser Street and for buses to be brought back onto Union Street.
All traffic from Fraser Street and Church Street is channelled into Queensgate.
Mr Fraser said changing the flow could improve trade.
He said: “In 2011 five bus routes were taken out of the Union Street and Queensgate loop and they were put down Academy Street - so we lost all that footfall. But at least three of the routes could be reinstated to Union Street and they could be exited down Fraser Street.”
He added: “The council said it would cost £25,000 to implement. We’ve probably lost that amount every year since the bus routes were taken out. I don’t think it’s excessive.”
Stuart Nicol, chief executive of the Inverness Chamber of Commerce, wants to create city centre enterprise zones where new businesses could be offered better rates.
He supports the plan to increase on-street parking. Mr Nicol said: “There are areas where there is a lot of unused loading space. Dual-use of those bays is an idea we’ve been thinking about. There are thousands of parking spaces at Rose Street but folk don’t want to walk more than 10ft.”
City leader David Hass said he was looking forward to hearing the ideas.
But the plan to create a car-friendly city is not welcome by environmentalists.
Anne Thomas, of the Highlands and Islands Green Party, said congestion was a problem. She added: “People are much more likely to use the shops if they are cycling. I don’t think Mr Smith’s argument quite stacks up.”