Posts Tagged ‘inverness’
If you’re interested in the controversy over the Inverness West Link, since writing this post I have worked with others to set up the Save Canal Park campaign website. There’s plenty up to date information there.
You may remember I wrote a few posts earlier last year on the topic of the Inverness West Link – the final piece in the jigsaw puzzle of Inverness’s peripheral road connecting the A9 and A96 with the A82.
To recap briefly (and for a fuller explanation read these blog posts in chronological order), I’d left you at the point whereby I’d been ignored by most of my councillors but finally referred by my MSP to the relevant member of council staff. I’d emailed him, got an out of office reply (he was on holiday), and I forgot about it.
The specifics of what I’d written about were two of the key options for completing the bypass:
Option 6 – This option involved running the road through the beautiful Canal Park, one of Inverness’s biggest and best green spaces, and necessitating the removal of various sporting facilities. This was the option the council voted for in 2012. It was claimed by Highland Council to be just £27m, but the problem as I saw it was that there was an unknown figure to add to this to cover the cost of proposed new sports facilities that the council would introduce as compensation for those facilities lost. What was this extra cost?
Option 7 – This option was a simple, though admittedly more expensive, high-level bridge that did not involve destroying any parkland or sports facilities. It was by far and away the most popular option among the people of Inverness. It cost £68m. My problem, however, was that it also included an extra and arguably unnecessary second swing bridge at Tomnahurich. If that was removed from the assessment, what would option 7 (the big bridge connection alone) really cost?
Given the questions I wanted to ask about each option, I was concerned that the assessment of £27m versus £68m was simply not an accurate reflection.
The answers, thanks to the genuinely helpful council official, are found in the following extract from his email to me in July 2012:
1. The cost of option 6 at £27.22m includes land and accommodation works costs. These land and accommodation works costs include for relocating sporting facilities where there is an impact arising from the project. This is on an equivalence basis of replacing like for like. For example where 4 holes of the golf course are affected then 4 new holes will be provided. However the Council when they approved option 6 asked officials to consider and look at enhancing the sporting and leisure facilities in the Torvean and Ness-side area. Part of this is relocating the entire golf course to the north side of the A82 trunk road such that golfer would no longer have to cross the trunk road. This is something that the planning department intend developing by holding a Charrette with all interested parties and stakeholders in early September. The Charrette will look at the big picture and the opportunities for land use enhancements in the area such that this will provide added benefit to the members and users of sporting and leisure organisations that currently operate in this area.
2. Option 7 as you say is costed at £67.75m . The tandem canal bridges layout which is included in this project has been costed at £11.2m and is part of these costs.
Hopefully this is quite clear, but let me summarise it anyway: option 6 contained unknown extra costs for sporting facilities in Torvean and Ness-side that had not yet been finalised as they were dependent on a consultation. Meanwhile option 7 is actually £11.2m higher than it fundamentally needs to be.
This means that what we were told was a choice between £27.22m and £67.75m, has actually transpired to be a choice between some unknown sum greater than £27.22 or a sum of £56.55m.
The gap of a good £40m between the two options is now, at the very most, a gap of £29m, and probably much less than that due to the unknown sporting facilties costs.
The consequences of this are massive. Basically it means that councillors were lied to (or didn’t investigate, ask or identify the true costs involved), and that the council has lied to the people by feeding us these false figures of £27m and £67m when it was actually £27m or more versus just £56.55m. This is either a dangerous falsehood on the part of the council or, at worst, a spectacular error.
Given that this deception is coming alongside the destruction of lovely green space in our already carelessly developed city, the anger people will feel is understandable. Yes, option 7 involves millions of pounds more, and yes it is a lot of money at a time of austerity. However the important point is that the millions of pounds gap between the two options is not as big as we were first led to believe, and still does not justify the destruction of Canal Park.
Indeed, many people from what I’ve read are of the opinion that until the shortfall can be found that would allow option 7 to be implemented, actually not doing anything at all and leaving the peripheral road incomplete in the short term is a better way forward than building option 6. In other words, option 6 is so awful that even doing nothing to solve the traffic flow problems represents a better way forward.
Now, when I got the email from the council official in July, I should have blogged all this straight away. However, I forgot, I was busy, I was then on holiday myself… and gradually it all slipped my mind.
I was motivated to return to it all just recently, however, by an online petition I was alerted to, aiming to get as many people behind the prevention of option 6 as possible. The number of signatories is currently approaching one thousand. The organiser of the petition sent an email around to all signatories the other day, saying (among other things):
In April the council will submit a planning application and I hope that at that time many of us will submit objections. If anyone has experience of planning matters perhaps they would be kind enough to contact me and we could share any insights or advice around this group.
So, what can you do? Well, if this affects you and you are in the Inverness area, you could…
- Sign the petition, and share it with your friends in the area and encourage them to sign it too.
- Do as the organiser suggests and watch out for the planning application in order to object to it.
- Get in touch with the organiser, via the petition link, to offer any help you can.
- Write to your local members of the Highland Council, especially those who were newly elected last year and were not party to the vote taken to go ahead with option 6, telling them that the figures used to inform the vote were false.
As I think I said in a previous post on this matter, I’m not much of a militant when it comes to getting involved in local campaigns. But there is a lot at stake here. Fingers crossed that democracy, common sense and environmental concern prevails.
Inverness boasts a lovely circular walk of a couple of hours or so that takes in the River Ness, the Ness Islands, the shores of the Beauly Firth, and the Caledonian Canal.
Only it doesn’t really boast it. It’s not well-known or advertised as a single circular walk, but it is admittedly easy to put together by using many other obvious routes and walks, including the Merkinch Nature Reserve, the Great Glen Way and the recently-branded Great Glen Canoe Trail.
It is admittedly one of the offerings on the excellent website Walk Highlands, but you’ll see no official signs, branding or marketing for it in town or online, and certainly nothing that demonstrates it as a great way to see Inverness and its surrounding area.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve walked it, but doing a couple of weekends ago was a real novelty because, despite it being January, it was a surprisingly mild day.
If you start in the city centre (anywhere near the railway station sign on the map on the right), the idea is to walk in an anti-clockwise route around what looks on the map to be a large landmass in Inverness. It is shaped by three bodies of water – the River Ness (on its right), the Beauly Firth (at the top) and the Caledonian Canal (on its left).
The map on the right shows the walk in its entirety (albeit unmarked – anyone know how to do that?) but you can zoom in within this page to see more detail or see it in a new window in a larger map.
I decided to write this post about the walk, and illustrate it with (or link to) photos from along the way – including both ones I took the other weekend and one I’ve taken on previous walks.
If you head from the city centre over the Waterloo Bridge (the city’s northernmost road bridge), you then go under the rail bridge and hug the west bank of the River Ness, heading north out to the mouth of the river.
You pass one or two run-down buildings and some lingering remains of Inverness’s industrial past as you skirt the edges of the districts of Merkinch and South Kessock. If you look across the river, you’ll see the to the harbour, marina and Kessock Bridge in the background (left).
After a quick detour through a gate on your right to Carnac Point, you can press on to the old slipway and ferry ticket office, now abandoned after the creation of the Kessock Bridge. Before that was constructed in the 1980s, journeys to the northern Highlands required you to either take the ferry or drive west all the way round the Beauly Firth.
You have great views from here westwards down the Beauly Firth (with the mountains of the northwest, including the lumbering giant that is Ben Wyvis, clearly visible on a good day), north to the Black Isle, or eastwards past the Kessock Bridge to the Inverness Firth and Moray Firth beyond.
The views westward continue if you follow signs for the Merkinch Nature Reserve (right), following the edge of the Beauly Firth by way of a narrow path. If you’re into birdwatching (which I completely am not), I am sure this is a pretty good spot.
Once you (carefully) cross the railway line, you arrive near the top of the Caledonian Canal, and you can follow this right out to the house at the very top of the canal where boats enter the firth.
To continue the circular path, though, cross the canal and then the railway line again, and you find yourself at Clachnaharry, a once-separate village now virtually subsumed into the sprawl of Inverness.
The tightly-knit old houses in Clachnaharry retain the area’s distinct character and attraction, however, as does the wonderful Clachnaharry Inn. You reach the inn by a third crossing of the railway line (this time via the metal bridge – below) and walking round the block on to the main road.
The Clachnaharry Inn is one of my favourite spots in Inverness, boasting good food, a good range of drinks and one of the city’s very few pleasant beer gardens. If you head through the back you find yourself on a patio which sits adjacent to the railway line and where you can overlook Clachnaharry and the Beauly Firth beyond it, and see the occasional train rush past almost close enough to touch.
Once refreshed, exit the pub, turn left, and follow the main road until you can get back to the canal side. Now your task is simple – follow the Caledonian Canal southwards.
However, you should stick to the right hand (west) side of the canal in the first instance, at least if you want to visit Inverness’s curious Titanic Museum (below). Entirely homemade and completely free to visitors (though donations are welcome), it’s a surreal but impressive sight in amongst its residential surroundings.
Very soon you’ll cross the main road again (though without a pedestrian crossing you might be waiting a while for a gap in the traffic). The Muirton locks are now in front of you, one of the handful of staircases that boats must negotiate when sailing the canal’s length. Both sides are attractive, but if you go on the right hand side you’ll pass through a boat works and see lots of parked yachts close up.
The next road you meet, at the swing bridge, will be the A82, while on your left is the vast and fascinating Tomnahurich Cemetery.
Here, at the swing bridge, you have a choice.
If you continue to follow the canal, you’ll ultimately come out the best part of an hour later at Dochgarroch Locks, some distance to the south of the city. This is the point where the canal and river finally meet, and further upstream from there lies Loch Dochfour and then Loch Ness. You can now cross over the lock and come back along the other side the canal.
However, a more direct alternative from the swing bridge is to veer away to the left of the canal as you cross the A82, and to follow signs for the Floral Hall and Inverness Leisure Centre (and if you’re not interested in availing yourselves of their attractions, they’re still a good opportunity for a toilet stop).
Once at the Floral Hall, and by taking yet another diversion, you can head right following signs for Whin Park (below, a mecca for children with a massive play park, miniature railway to ride on, and boating pond).
Head left from the Floral Hall, though, and you’ll find yourself behind the leisure centre and facing the wide open space that is Bught Park. Follow the road with Bught Park on your left, and you’ll then arrive at the southern entrance to the Ness Islands, one of the absolute gems of Inverness.
A chain of islands along the river linked by bridges, The Ness Islands form part of the final stretch of the Great Glen Way (watch out for the markers) that finishes in town outside Inverness Castle.
The islands (right) are a serene and relaxing place, and you can feel a long way away from the city as you amble along the tree-lined paths. After the first inter-island bridge, stick to the right and watch out for the Loch Ness Monster. No, really.
Once out of the islands and back on “the mainland”, you’re just a short walk north along the river from the city centre, passing nice views across the water of Eden Court Theatre and Inverness Cathedral. You’ll then approach the castle, and you’re back in town again.
What do you think?
For people wanting to explore Inverness fully and get a good sense of its surroundings, this is probably a great way to do it on foot in one single loop. It might be less than two hours as a direct walk, but with all the tangents and things to stop and see, not least perhaps a leisurely lunch at Clachnaharry, you could easily stretch it out over a whole day.
Perhaps you’ve stumbled across this post by googling walks in Inverness. And if you know Inverness perhaps you’ll agree that this joined up walk should be a bit better known and clearly signposted as a lovely circular that lets you see the city at its natural best. Maybe, even, you’ve done the whole walk.
Either way, let me know your thoughts by way of a comment below.
It’s a sometimes curious feeling, living in a city that doesn’t exist.
You may think Inverness is a real place. There are “Welcome to Inverness” road signs on the main roads as you approach it. You can walk its streets, see its sights, feel the fresh breeze and be deafened by the squawk of seagulls.
That doesn’t mean it exists, though. Everything you sense is Inverness, isn’t really Inverness at all.
It’s something else.
Fear not, though. The problem is a political one, rather than a conceptual one. The problem, in essence, is that there is no political entity that defines the city of Inverness.
Inverness was designated a Royal Burgh in the thirteenth century, though I have no idea what its geographical limit was at the time. Later, it was the county town of Inverness-shire and then a part of Inverness District Council, but those both included much more than the urban settlement, and now it is a part of the even larger Highland Council. There is an Inverness City Committee of the Highland Council, admittedly, but that extends way beyond the city to incorporate the Loch Ness area. Quite what the “Welcome to Inverness” road signs designate, then, is not clear because it’s certainly not any of the above.
Meanwhile the Member of Parliament (for the UK parliament) is for a huge constituency (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey), and the Member of the Scottish Parliament serves the slightly trimmer Inverness and Nairn constituency.
So we know what, administratively, the city is a part of.
What it consists of, however, is unknown. Even when Inverness was formally designated a city in 2000 as one of the “millennium cities”, the “letters patent” were handed to Highland Council rather than to any body with “Inverness” in its name. Then, when someone applied for a coat of arms for the new city, it was rejected in 2008 by the Lord Lyon, Scotland’s custodian of heraldry, because there was nothing to award the coat of arms to.
As the Lord Lyon stated at the time, the problem was that there was not a specific City Council that governed Inverness and Inverness alone:
“There is nothing to grant arms to. Arms is property that must belong to someone.”
Nothing to grant arms to. Let’s just dwell on that – there is nothing that can receive something on behalf of Inverness.
Because it doesn’t exist, people. Inverness doesn’t exist! Everything we thought was real in our lives here in the city is a mere sham, a mirage, a deception.
It’s like The Matrix, with more bureaucracy.
The concept of the city has always posed various dilemmas and curiosities. Is Inverness airport in Inverness? Are the eastern suburbs, such as Smithton or Culloden, a part of the city? Does it even include the retail park and forthcoming new campus just to the east? And how about Clachnaharry? Who, frankly, knows?
Inverness’s existential crisis has come to the fore again just recently, with the Inverness Courier reporting that the council is working simultaneously from two different definitions of the city. One is an old Royal Burgh boundary, and the other is the Inverness district boundary used as part of the Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan.
The article reports that Richard Laird, a local councillor in the city, is exploring the problem. He is trying to seek clarity because there is an impact on what areas qualify for certain pots of money and what the city as a whole is entitled to on account of its size.
This all sounds very technical, but it’s not just an obscure administrative problem. When there are funding consequences, then it suddenly becomes very important.
Not getting the funding you’re entitled to is potentially serious; whereas simply not existing is something you could live with.
The Council is looking into the problem, according to the Courier article, and will report later on in 2013.
In the meantime, Inverness waits for the truth.
If indeed something that doesn’t exist is capable of waiting…
If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’ll be aware of a couple of posts I wrote a while back on the issue of the completion of the Inverness west link. I’ll not bore you with the full details here (the posts themselves should be an adequate backstory), but just want to quickly summarise things here.
- The most popular option, a bridge across the Ness and Caledonian Canal to link the A82 with the Southern Distributor, was rejected by the council in favour of a route that went through Canal Park.
- The high-level bridge was costed at £67m (and was known as option 7) and the option chosen was costed at £27m (known as option 6).
- I noticed that option 7 included extra work at Tomnahurich bridge that didn’t seem essential to the completion of the link, so I wanted to know how much lower the £67m could be if it wasn’t for that extra work at Tomnahurich.
- I also noticed that option 6 was announced alongside new funding for sports facilities at Canal Park; partly to compensate for the road ploughing through it and partly to take the opportunity to develop things further. I wanted to know how much extra this money was, and therefore how much higher than £27m option 6 actually would be.
- I wrote to my four councillors and the city provost with these questions, and disgracefully I received a (fairly incomplete) response from only one of them.
- I also wrote to my MSP to ask for his input.
Thankfully, my MSP (with some chasing) managed to get the full and comprehensive answer I was looking for. Almost, anyway. Through him, a council official sent a very helpful response (I’ll happily upload it if anyone wants) that included a lot of good information, not least the fact that actually many cars travelling north into Inverness did not actually want to bypass the entire city; just avoid the congested city centre. Fair enough. That’s new information that it would have been good to know, and presumably would have been easy to supply.
The letter didn’t, however, supply the figures I wanted to answer the questions I outline in points 3 and 4 above. So I wrote back to the official who is away for a few weeks (as am I). I’ll blog again later in the summer once I hear back.
Of course, keen watchers of local matters in Inverness will be aware that there was an entirely different model being advocated all along – that of a tunnel. It seems to have merit yet to have not received any serious consideration by the council. This is worrying and represents a pretty poor approach by the council. Though it’s good to know that, according to the local rag, this will now be looked again, at least briefly. And that article notes what I fear, that the £27m v £67m may not have been the true comparison after all.
The saga continues…
It was one of the things I enjoyed about hosting Couchsurfers regularly until a few years ago, in that I was able to see Inverness afresh, through the excitement and keen enthusiasm of a visitor.
Having visitors this past weekend, too, has been good. Not only has it been an excuse to avoid all the wall-to-wall coverage of the Queen’s Jubilee, but it’s been a chance to be a bit of a tourist in the local area, getting out and about to see some of the sights.
From Loch Ness to the Moray Firth, Chanonry Point to Tomatin Distillery, it’s been really nice to be reminded what a beautiful part of the world it is, especially in such lovely weather as the north of Scotland has been enjoying the last few days. I do hope visitors to the Highlands enjoy it as much as I love living here.
I’ve taken a wee handful of photos, some of which are on Flickr.
I voted today in the local council elections. Being something of a politics and electoral systems geek, I always enjoy voting. Especially when it is the Single Transferable Vote, introduced for Scottish councils in 2007.
STV is by far my favourite electoral system, because it is roughly proportional, it gives you multiple representatives (a good thing where a single representative, like with our MPs, may be hated or mistrusted by a signficant minority), and allows you to make preferences rather than a stark, absolute choice. Politics is about relativity rather than absolutes, and our voting system should reflect that too.
The problem today, however, came in with deciding who to vote for. I believe our council to be thoroughly deficient, filled mostly with second-rate councillors who lack much in the way of vision and creativity for this city and the wider region. That’s evident in some of the terrible planning decisions made over the years in Inverness, plus the spectacular lack of leadership in representing our city externally.
From the poorly-managed development and transport infrastructure of our city, to backwards decisions like Inverness’s absurd and repressive midnight curfew, and then of course the disgrace that was the decision about the completion of the city’s bypass that I’ve blogged about before (and will do again in the coming weeks).
Inverness getting its own local authority, like most of Scotland’s other cities, would be a good way of starting to address this mismanagement; would directly-elected mayors. That’s one constitutional issue where I am impressed by developments in England.
More than anything, then, the council needs fresh blood. Last time in 2007, when I was living in Glasgow, I gave my first preference to the one SNP candidate and second preference to the Greens. This time around, as part of the SNP’s nationwide push to win more councils, they are putting up two candidates in a lot of places, including my constituency here in Inverness – one an incumbent, the other a new face. The latter got my first preference.
Disappointingly there is no Green candidate to then transfer to, the only other party standing besides the untouchable Labour, Tory and LibDem options being the terrifying Scottish Christian Party. So my second vote will go not to the incumbent SNP member, but to an independent candidate who is standing again, for whom I have a great deal of time and who I consider an exception to the rabble of incompetence that purvades Highland Council. It’s the first time I’ve ever rejected the opportunity to vote for an SNP candidate in any election. What’s happening to me?
The SNP are working hard, I understand, to win Highland Council, as they are in many places, not least in the well-publicised battle for Glasgow City. STV being a bit more complicated to count, however, means that the results will not come through until later on Friday by which time I will be away for the weekend. Perhaps I’ll blog again next week reflecting on what could be some very interesting results. It’s an exciting time in Scottish politics, and while I don’t hold to the view that these council elections are a litmus for the independence referendum, today’s vote will certainly have an impact on vital local services in the years to come and the relative strength and confidence of the political parties.
Whether or not it will improve the quality of decisions being made about Inverness, however… well, hope springs eternal.
I blogged nearly a month ago about the terrible decision being put to Highland Council to drive the final part of the western end of Inverness’s bypass through a lovely park. As you’ll read in that post, I’d written to my four local councillors, the city’s provost and my MSP about some of the issues around the decision. I’d asked some questions that sought to challenge the claim that option 6, the recommended route, was as cheap as it appeared, and that option 7, the most popular and least environmentally-destructive route, needed to be as expensive as it was.
Since then, I’ve had only two responses, both somewhat “holding” messages. One was a brief email from one of my councillors, saying that she needed to talk to the council staff involved and would get back to me. The other was from my MSP, Fergus Ewing, who gave a bit more details relating to the route never being a part of the trunk route network, and who promised to get back to me with more information about my specific questions once he’d got it from the council.
Now it all seems a little academic, seeing as the recommendation that went to the full council, to go ahead with option 6, was approved on the 1st of March. Although the minutes are yet to be published on the council website, I was astonished to discover just the other day that the decision was unanimous – every single councillor in attendance supported option 6.
That no councillor sought to reflect public opinion or challenge the facts of the recommendation is a most curious demonstration of local democracy. My points still stand, and my desire to get the facts I am seeking remain. If it turns out that councillors have been acting without the full picture, or more worryingly have neglected to seek it themselves, then it would be a terrible indictment of local government.
I really ought to chase up those councillors I’ve yet to hear back from. Nearly a month is too long to go without so much as an acknowledgement of my email. Watch this space.
If you’re interested in the controversy over the Inverness West Link, since writing this post I have worked with others to set up the Save Canal Park campaign website. There’s plenty up to date information there.
While there is much good about Inverness, there are also many things that need sorting out. Part of the problem is that in the past decade or so the city has mushroomed, with huge development and expansion that has entirely outstripped the pace of services and infrastructure. One example is the fact that transport has lagged behind the city’s growth, with many communities ill-served by buses, and of course the eastern suburbs failing to be served by a rail line that runs right through them.
On the roads, too, things are not good. With the growth of the city, capacity cannot keep up with demand. Years ago, a traffic jam was an alien concept, whereas today there are too many of them on Inverness’s main routes at rush-hour.
One long-discussed plan has been to bridge the canal and river at the south of the city to relieve the pressure on the city centre bridges, the current only options to get from the west to the east of Inverness. Look at this map, for instance:
You can see the A82 on the left of the picture, running southwest to Fort William and beyond. On the right, there is the A9 (to Perth) and the A96 (to Aberdeen). The so-called “southern distributor”, marked as the B8082, runs across the south of Inverness, connecting all those major trunk roads and essentially forming a bypass.
Only there’s a gap – you can see on the bottom left that the southern distributor hits Dores Road and then stops, with nothing connecting it to the A82. The completion of this gap is known as the Inverness West Link. Of course, the Caledonian Canal and River Ness are in the way of finishing the link, and this means that if you are travelling from the southwest and want to get east of Inverness, then you need to go through the city centre rather than just skirt the edge of the city via what would be a convenient bypass. The obvious solution would be a bridge. Any vaguely intelligent person can see that.
Obvious (or intelligent, for that matter) does not come into the thinking of Highland Council, however. This bridge has been discussed for years, and finally a consultation was launched last year about a number of options for this missing link, none of which included the obvious route for a bridge and all of which involved a bizarre collection of routes that doubled back towards the city centre (thereby defeating the purpose of a bypass), and most alarmingly carving up Canal Park.
Only after considerable protest was the consultation extended to include more options, one of which, option 7, was the obvious idea of a bridge directly from the southern distributor to the A82.
Have a look at the map above again, and you can see that where the canal and river almost meet each other, there is a green triangle of land called Canal Park. Zoom in, and ideally switch to satellite mode, and you’ll see more of it. It’s a marvellous oasis of green in a busy city and a home to a variety of sporting and other leisure activities. There’s a lovely wee lake with boats, there’s a children’s play park, a miniature railway, plus of course the city’s main leisure centre, and pitches which are the homes of Inverness’s rugby and American football clubs.
And yet it is right through Canal Park that all but option 7 would plough. And it is one of those other options, option 6, that has emerged from a council working group as the preferred option for the full council’s consideration. Compare the two options on the right (and if these images aren’t clear, find them among the presentations here on the council’s website.
You can see that option 6, rather than crossing the river and canal together in a single bridge, sweeps northwards and crosses over into Canal Park and from there crosses the canal next to the existing Tomnahurich Bridge. You therefore need to go almost into the city centre again to come back out – of course, cutting across that once-green space of Canal Park.
Compared this to option 7, which does nothing more complicated than take a direct route over the canal and river in a oner. It looks from the picture on the right that it cuts across green space, but that is in fact nothing more environmentally worthy than a disused quarry.
The working group, as I say, has gone for option 6. What a terrible choice to make. You don’t have to go far to find condemnation of this, with almost every comment you could find on the internet criticising the short-sightedness of this decision.
Of course, option 6 is cheaper. Considerably so. There is, it is claimed, no money in the coffers to pay for the high-level bridge of option 7, especially since the Scottish Government a few years back mysteriously washed their hands of the west link by claiming it wasn’t important enough to qualify for central funding.
But because of the destruction of Canal Park, doing nothing is actually better than implementing option 6. For sure, the traffic problems will remain and the west link will remain uncompleted, but this is better than losing the green space at the park. It would be much better for the council to implement no option at all, hold option 7 as a prospective plan, and do whatever it can to lever money out of the Scottish Government (our local MSP is a minister in the SNP government, after all) or even, if necessary, the private sector.
And option 7 doesn’t even need to be as expensive as it is claimed. Part of the plan for option 7 involves an extra bridge at Tomnahurich (so if one has to close for canal traffic, there is always another open). Great idea, but not so urgent at this stage. Why can’t option 7 be costed and implemented with the extra canal bridge to be installed at a later date when there is more money? There’s no need to ruin Canal Park just because of some poor bean-counting.
One argument in favour of option 6 is that it will not actually destroy the whole of the park: as you can see, it merely cuts along the edge of it. But that’s enough of an impact for some facilities to be lost and for others to be disrupted by the constant noise of a busy road. This presents safety issues for what is supposed to be a family-friendly open space for people to be free to run, walk, play and enjoy the fun of exercise, sport and relaxation.
Moreover, the lovely walk along the thin slither of land between the river and the canal, which takes you a few miles south to Dochgarroch locks, would be made all the trickier for having to cross what is in effect a bypass in order to reach it.
I don’t really get involved in much in the way of active politics these days, but I am absolutely furious at the decision to recommend option 6. It is desperately short-sighted and will have a terrible environmental impact on Inverness. I’m also somewhat concerned at the lack of recent activity from an action group set up to oppose anything other than option 7.
I hate being a “disgruntled of Tunbridge Wells” about things like this, but do feel increasingly angry at the terrible decision-making we are subject to. And to be honest, I don’t even spend that much time at Canal Park – imagine how much more angry people will be who do go there regularly with their children, or who are involved in the clubs that will be affected.
Disgruntled or not, though, I am going to write to my local councillors, to those involved in the recommendation, and to my MSP. I’ll keep you posted as to any responses.
Inverness really feels like the middle of the country at times.
Though that’s not far from the truth. If you were to draw a straight line from the top of Shetland to the bottom of the Scottish mainland, then draw another from the westernmost inhabited part of Scotland (the south end of the Western Isles) to the easternmost part of the mainland (the coast somewhere near Peterhead), then by my crude calculation on Google Maps those lines would cross less than forty miles southeast of Inverness.
Anyway, it’s not just cartographical semantics. Inverness is also at major cross-roads of the Scottish road and rail networks, and you can easily travel in all four compass directions to discover great places. Within an hour or two, you have some of the best scenery, and most famous castles, distilleries, lochs, ruins, villages and much more, that Scotland can offer. We’re very lucky to live here.
This past weekend, we had two really nice walks. One was north of Inverness, near Evanton, overlooking the rigs of the Cromarty Firth. The other was to the south, near Boleskin, among the seemingly endless network of roads and paths that criss-cross the south side of Loch Ness; the quieter, less famous, but in my mind more interesting, side.
The weather is slowly warming, but the days are still quite short, the sun still hanging lazily in the sky and casting brooding afternoon light across slowly thawing landscapes. It’s a good time of year for photographs.
I took a few at the weekend and bunged them on Flickr. Enjoy.
I’ve been zipping about a fair amount this past week. I’ve been ambling around in Inverness…
…loitering between trains at Perth station…
…and exploring Glasgow at night.
The Glasgow visit was for an Explosions in the Sky gig on Monday night. It was my third time of seeing them and they were excellent. Beautiful, uplifting, energetic and powerful. The Texan post-rock outfit remain my favourite band right now. It was a great set, though to my mild surprise they didn’t play much of their most recent album, but with such a strong catalogue that was no loss.
The support was in the form of Lanterns on the Lake, a Sigur Ros-like outfit from Newcastle. I’d not heard of them but they were very good, and I’ll definitely be checking them out further.
Then on Wednesday night I was in Edinburgh overnight for work, and took the opportunity of a quiet evening to take some night shots from the top of Calton Hill. Being at a major spot overlooking the capital felt somehow apt on the day that the referendum consultation was launched.
It’s interesting times in Scotland these days.
See the whole upload of this week’s shots here on Flickr.