EYESORE buildings within sight of Inverness Castle should be demolished and replaced with a green space, according to a city councillor.
Councillor Bet McAllister is calling for the much-derided units built above Bridge Street in the 1960s to be removed in a bid to make the area more attractive. They include those previously occupied by VisitScotland and the Crofting Commission.
The Central ward Labour councillor believes the time is right to transform that corner of the city, given other developments in the pipeline including plans to turn the castle into a visitor attraction when it is vacated by the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service.
Other community and business leaders agree and are also calling for action to tackle the nearby B-listed Viewhill House which has been a blot on the city’s landscape since being badly damaged by fire more than 10 years ago.
Cllr McAllister said she frequently received complaints about the visual impact of the Bridge Street units.
"There is so much going on now in Inverness with developments such as hotels," she said. "The time is ripe if we are going to get that area sorted out. It is an eyesore."
She acknowledged there were multiple owners and so it would mean Highland Council would have to buy out some of them which could present difficulties but speculated whether Inverness Common Good Fund could step in.
"You could take the units out and have little cafés there," she said. "I would love to see a green space there. It could be a place where things could happen – somewhere for people to congregate."
Stewart Nicol, chief executive of Inverness Chamber of Commerce, wanted to see the entire block replaced with an iconic riverside hotel or commercial development.
"It is certainly something which needs attention particularly with the prospect of the castle being developed into a major tourist attraction," he said. "It is a fairly large prominent block in the city centre for all the wrong reasons."
Pat Hayden, chairwoman of Crown and City Centre Community Council, said the units should never have been built and urged councillors to take a lesson from the transformation of Dundee.
"It was a jute town and it was in the doldrums," she said. "But if you look at Dundee now, they have got their act together and it is a place to be admired."
Although she was unaware of what the future plans were for the castle, she said there should be no complacency regarding the surrounding area including the future of Viewhill House, once the home of renowned Victorian engineer Joseph Mitchell.
The Highland Historic Buildings Trust wants to see it restored as serviced apartments and a visitor centre but Mrs Hayden worried the building might have further disintegrated over the winter.
"If the funds cannot be found to do what they would like to do in its current state, it may be a case of the building will have to be demolished and something attractive done with the site," she added.