Street design project 'can be a catalyst for new businesses in Wick'
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Highland Council leader Raymond Bremner is hoping the improvements brought about by Wick's street design project will act as "a catalyst" to attract new businesses to the town centre.
Plans for the High Street pedestrian zone and the Bridge Street/High Street junction have been developed from ideas drawn up by Sustrans Scotland.
Councillor Bremner has said in the past that the project will make the area "far more appealing" and that the funding involved is ring-fenced.
At the February meeting of the Royal Burgh of Wick Community Council (RBWCC) this week, he said he remained confident that the street design changes would prove beneficial.
Councillor Bremner, who represents the Wick and East Caithness ward, said: "I'm hopeful, because of the amount of work and the diligence and the engagement, even right through Covid.
"I can't think of a more worthy town for it and I wouldn't want another place to get it. If Wick doesn't get it, I'm sure somebody else will step up to the mark.
"I know that there are people who think, 'What we don't need now is a new fancy High Street, we need open shops.'
"There is only so much that we can do in terms of encouraging new retail and commercial interest in the town centre but I absolutely think that providing a very high-quality town centre will be a catalyst to attracting new business and maintaining footfall, which is really needed."
At a drop-in session last March, members of the public were told that the ideas for rejuvenating the High Street area reflected the changing nature of town centres. The improvements seek to create:
- Welcoming and more attractive public spaces
- A comfortable and safe environment to walk, wheel and cycle
- Better travel experiences through Wick town centre
- A sense of identity for the town centre, drawing on local culture and heritage
Last month, it was claimed that artworks due to be installed in High Street lanes by the end of March will bring "a little bit of magic and intrigue" to the town centre.
Sustrans Scotland, in partnership with Highland Council and RBWCC, is delivering the Wick Lanes Pocket Places project as part of the wider street design scheme planned for next year.
Speaking at Monday's RBWCC meeting, community councillor Eswyl Fell said: "People don't know what Sustrans is. People are still asking about it."
In its own words, Sustrans is a charity that works "for and with communities, helping them come to life by walking, wheeling and cycling to create healthier places and happier lives for everyone".
Earlier during this week's meeting, chairman Allan Farquhar highlighted a prominent smashed window at the former M&Co store on the corner of High Street and Tolbooth Lane.
Mr Farquhar said he had contacted the Highland Council service desk in Alness to try and get it fixed. Councillor Bremner said he would make an enquiry.