Inverness City Vision: dealing with rapid growth and change
Inverness has been one of the fastest growing cities in Europe in the last few years. A look at how the plan of the city has developed over the last 100 years shows a dramatic change in the shape and extent of the city. However, just as Inverness has attracted attention for its rapid growth, it has also attracted comments about the quality of its built environment and the sprawl of the new suburbs. Some say that while the edges are getting bigger the city centre is suffering. Others argue that Inverness is big and changing but isn’t a real city.
Inverness has many assets – including a wide range of goods and services, neighbourhoods with distinctive character, and a strong relationship with the landscape and water. However, these assets need to be nurtured if they are to thrive. A number of things could threaten the city’s assets – including the consequences of significant population growth, the impact of economic change on the future role of the city centre, the effect of increasing car use on movement and quality of life and management of the city’s natural setting. There are different ways of responding to these challenges – and each could result in a different future vision for the city.
The Scottish Government wants to create a more successful Scotland by increasing sustainable economic growth. The Government acknowledges that a high quality environment is an important part of achieving this. Highland Council’s ambitions for its population are expressed in the Single Outcome Agreement, and link back to the Government’s aim of creating a wealthier, fairer, healthier, smarter, greener and safer Scotland. The Single Outcome Agreement aims to promote sustainable Highland communities, safeguard the environment and create a competitive, sustainable and adaptable Highland economy. It also aspires to a healthier and fairer Highlands with better opportunities for all.
These aims have implications for the type and form of place that Inverness should become. For example, how successful is Inverness in catering for a broad range of expectations? How well are the Single Outcome Agreement’s ambitions being met? How well does the city cater for everyone’s needs? Is any section of the community disadvantaged? Retention of the local population, in particular the 16-35 age range, is important for Inverness and the surrounding Highland communities. However, it is this age group that tends to be attracted elsewhere – so it is important to provide what is needed in order to attract and retain them.
A new city vision
One way of shaping a city future is by agreeing a vision which describes the necessary ingredients of a settlement in terms of quality of streets, buildings, spaces and sets out an image of the kind of city that Inverness could be. Over the next few months, Highland Council will be facilitating a visioning exercise for the City of Inverness. This is part of the process of preparing the new generation of planning documents for the area. It is is a different way of planning. It involves working with everyone with a stake in the future of Inverness and develop a shared vision. We will be doing this at a series of special Future City Events from Wednesday 20th January to Friday 22nd January 2010 for people from local communities, businesses and the public sector.
The Inverness City Vision team
We have been appointed by Architecture and Design Scotland to work with Highland Council staff in preparing the spatial content of the Vision. Nick Wright Planning has been commissioned to work with the residential and business communities in Inverness in the lead up to the Future City Events as well as consult widely with a range of public sector agencies. Highland Council have set up a blog which records the process and provides a wealth of background information. The British Council has run the Future City Events and have a webpage here which describes the process.