Meeting with Highland Council 31-01-19

Stuart Black, Director of Development and Infrastructure, Scott Dalgarno, Development Plans Manager and Neil Young, Transport Planning Officer gave me over an hour of their time.

The aim of the meeting was to establish the beginnings of a positive relationship, rather than a whingefest. I emphasized that OYSI is about walking, cycling, all ability access and public transport, and that we are mindful that Inverness, as the hub city for the Highlands, needs to be easily accessible to those coming in from afar by car as well.

We talked about their vision, which in essence is not that dissimilar to ours – to create a healthy, active city with good public transport and active travel networks. We talked about what current development plans are in place – we will get a detailed account on the website soon of the detail of this – and I made some suggestions of ones that don’t figure (largely the corridor to the South West of the city out along Culduthel Road and along Drummond road towards Lochardil). There is a review of the Inner Moray Firth Development Plan coming over the horizon soon which we will keep an eye out for.

I made a plea for an agreed set of standards to be followed for the translation of any development plan into reality – to avoid the recent situation of having to change bollards/chicanes/dropped kerbs just months after they were installed as they didn’t allow / wheelchairs / mobility scooters / trikes / bikes and trailers to pass, or were a hazard for those with visual impairment as too low on the ground.

We talked quite a bit about funding and match funding, and Community Links/Community Links Plus, as well as integrating active travel into development plans as part of Developers’ Obligations (which is now the case). We talked quite a bit about what barriers they face, and what we might be able to do, as OYSI, to help with some of those.

There was chat about positive, motivational projects, particularly involving schools, and felt we should probably team up on some of this. I spoke about how important it is to get the taxi community on board – and what their current concerns are. Taxis are an important part of our travel infrastructure –  let’s build a positive relationship with them, see how we can help them, how they can help us.

We talked about our aim to get a Festival of Walking and Cycling in Inverness that would host a number of engaging events across the city accessible to all, and there was a lot of enthusiasm for this. We talked about having some city centre road closures, particularly if we teamed up with some fundraising events, and we will take this forward – maybe a relationship to be built up with the Highland Hospice, for example?

We didn’t have time to go into the nittygritty of all the current plans, so there will be more about this after we meet with Neil again soon. But it felt like a refreshing, positive meeting, with lots of scope for great things ahead. It got me thinking about the fact that we really need to get our local high profile  champions involved…  Lee Craigie Active Nation Commissioner, Jenny Graham, Karen Darke… I left with a spring in my step and a sense that there is a momentum of change.

Katie Walter