Hotel plans means city centre needs to up its game

The future of Inverness city centre is again focusing minds following the latest plan to win approval.

Last week Highland councillors backed proposals to build the Hampton by Hilton hotel on the site of a car park in Rose Street.

With six storeys and 210 rooms, it will be the biggest hotel build in the centre and undoubtedly will be a dominant presence in the Old Town. The design might be considered less than inspiring and some may baulk at its sheer size in the current streetscape, but there is a very positive message in this project.

It is a massive show of confidence in Inverness, the city centre and its appeal to tourists. Adding a hotel of this scale creates a huge uplift in overnight visitors in the heart of the city. Together with the many other developments planned, it adds to the general buzz of anticipation about the regeneration of Academy Street and what it could mean to neighbouring businesses, not to mention spin-off benefits such as opening up the bus station on to Rose Street.

However, it is another timely reminder that we need to up our game for the new influx of people to this part of Inverness. With the Justice Centre taking shape and hopefully ready by next spring, the castle will become more of an attraction, while refurbishment of the Town House and the removal of scaffolding in Castle Street will help the appearance of a key tourist spot, as will the eventual redevelopment of Upper Bridge Street.

Also crucial to our ambitions for the centre is the redevelopment of the Victorian Market and Fish Hall.  Inverness Chamber of Commerce is part of the Victorian Market Stakeholders group and I have emphasised before the strategic importance of this vital asset.

Its rebranding and upgrade, including a facelift to the Academy Street façade, will be discussed this month by Highland Council’s Inverness Area Committee and it’s hard to overstate the need to get this right.

Developers are taking a leap of faith in investing in our city centre. We need to do everything to ensure they, and the people they attract, are right to do so.