Justice centre opening provides new opportunity to improve city landscape

The planned opening of the new Inverness Justice Centre in just a few weeks represents a double opportunity for the ongoing programme to regenerate the city.

The centre is due to open by the end of March and will be a state-of-the-art facility that will change the face of justice with its use of the very latest technology. It could also help change the way visitors see Inverness.

Firstly, the centre will help transform our dominant landmark -the castle - into a major tourist attraction right in the heart of the city centre. Moving the courts from the castle, where they have been an incongruous presence for decades, to the purpose-built facility will open up one of our premier attractions for its rightful purpose, particularly now it has the additional feature of a viewing tower.

A major tourism venue in the centre will be welcome by city traders as there will be a regular stream of customers flowing from the castle and river through the shops to the Old Town.

Secondly, the new building provides another opportunity to make aesthetic and strategic improvements to the Inverness landscape.

The redevelopment of Academy Street is developing at pace; the refurbished Blackfriars pub was a welcome and well-used addition to the festive ports of call, the Cairngorm Brewery premises are taking shape, as is the commercial and retail site in the old Farmfoods premises. We may still also see two new hotels in the area, as well as another at Glebe Street which would have the added benefit of removing a landmark eyesore.

We have a wonderful opportunity to maintain that momentum and extend the centre development further. The area next to the Justice Centre is an important asset at the entrance to the city and must be developed accordingly.

With the old Inverness College now reduced to rubble, discussions are continuing on the 4.5 acre site’s future involving the college, UHI and the Scottish Futures Trust, an infrastructure centre of expertise owned by the Scottish Government.

It is right that, as both the college’s old and new campuses were funded by the government, that it obtains the best outcome possible on the sale of the Longman site. However, it is also vital that future use of this key location has widespread benefits and is in keeping with our aspirations for a modern, thriving Gigabit city.

It is imperative that the trust, the Scottish Government and our city planners use strategic and innovative thinking to secure investment to develop the next essential infrastructure project for Inverness.