Highlands & Islands

Row over successor to giant Inverness riverside 'see-saw'

My Ness concept design Image copyright The River Ness Public Art Project
Image caption An artist's impression of the My Ness artwork in Inverness

Riverside artwork to replace a controversial plan for a giant see-saw-like installation is at the centre of its own row.

Three years ago, Highland councillors voted not to go ahead with the £300,000 tilting pier on the River Ness near Inverness city centre.

The new artwork involves curving walls on opposite banks of the river.

Critics want this project, approved by Highland Council planners under delegated powers, to also be ditched.

Called My Ness, the new design emerged following the councillors' vote in July 2016 not to proceed with the see-saw-like The Gathering Place.

The original project had its up and downs.

Image copyright Handout
Image caption Highland councillors voted to reject The Gathering Place tilting pier in 2016

Concerns were raised by some councillors and members of the public about the safety of the pier which would have gently tilted up and down.

More than 2,000 people signed a petition urging Highland Council not to push ahead with it.

Highland councillor Ken Gowans also quit as chairman of Inverness City Arts Working Group, saying he did not believe The Gathering Place to be a viable concept.

Image copyright The River Ness Public Art Project
Image caption My Ness was approved by council planners under delegated powers

Opponents to My Ness have concerns about its impact on the landscape and wildlife.

The new artwork was approved by council officers under delegated powers, meaning that it was not brought before councillors to vote on.

'Art in every city'

Helen Smith, of campaign group OpenNess, told BBC Scotland: "People think the river is a nice, natural-looking area and that they can enjoy seeing a lot of wildlife near the town centre."

She said those opposed to the project also believed the design did not reflect the history of the river, and there had not been enough public consultation on the design.

About 2,000 people have signed OpenNess' petition opposing the artwork.

Image caption The artwork has been proposed for a stretch of the River Ness near Inverness city centre

Highland Council leader Margaret Davidson said the My Ness planning application was dealt with in the "normal prescribed way" under delegated powers because it did not meet the criteria requiring the plans to be brought before councillors.

Councillors were consulted on the plans.

She said planners had taken into account public feedback.

Image caption Helen Smith of campaign group OpenNess said there were concerns about the impact the walls would have on wildlife

Ms Davidson said art could be divisive, adding: "But every city I know has art embedded in it."

She said My Ness was among a number of small pieces of art that made up The River Ness Public Art Project.

The project is funded by £305,000 from Creative Scotland, £250,000 from the City of Inverness Common Good Fund, £66,000 from Highlands and Islands Enterprise and £106,000 from Highland Council.

It is managed by the Inverness City Arts Working Group on the council's behalf.

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