‘This hike in car parking charges is quite astonishing in scale,’ Lochside walkers, climbers and visitors told
The hills above Luss and the Cobbler at Arrochar, popular for hill walking and climbing. Pictures by Bill Heaney
By Lucy Ashton
A huge hike in car parking charges has sparked fury amongst walkers, climbers and visitors along the banks of Loch Lomond and Loch Long.
Argyll and Bute Council’s decision to increase charges for the two main car parks in the village of Arrochar will mean the cost rising from £1 to £9 with hourly charges increasing from 30p to £1.
A £1 an hour charge was imposed by the council for the car park at Luss earlier this year. The changes for Arrochar will come into force on the August 27.
Argyll and Bute Council has defended these charges, stating that cuts to local government funding from the Scottish Government have meant that they have had to find money elsewhere.
Jackie Baillie, the Labour MSP for the Lomond area, said: “This decision by the Liberal Democrat/Conservative administration was made as part of the council budget in February this year, which was supported by SNP councillors.”
She added: “This hike in car parking charges is quite astonishing in scale.
“I have been contacted by a number of people locally and from across Scotland who see this increase in parking charges as nothing more than a cash grab, with one describing it as a ‘tax on access’.
“This seems to be borne out by a lack of plans to use the revenue raised to improve facilities for visitors and locals alike, such as public toilets.
“I am also worried that this change in pricing will result in traffic management problems as people will park anywhere but in the car parks.
“I would urge Argyll and Bute council to think again and consider a more proportionate increase that will not deter people from coming to Arrochar and enjoying our spectacular scenery.”
Increased charges could be ploughed into a shore clean-up at Arrochar.
Nick Kempe, of the Parkswatch group, said: “Argyll and Bute Council have just announced that they are going to increase daily car parking charges at the main Cobbler car park (Glenloin No 1) and the neighbouring car park at the head of Loch Long (Glen Loin No 2) from £1 to £9 a day from the end of August.
“That’s a 900% increase and, j just to make it harder for hillwalkers and climbers to avoid the charge (and to protect local residents), they are introducing parking restrictions in Succoth at the same time.
“It’s not so long since the car parking here was free. Earlier this year Argyll and Bute increased charges at the car park in Luss to £1 an hour, which effectively penalised anyone wanting to walk over the Luss hills.
“They got away with that because walkers can still park for free in Glen Douglas, but their proposals for Arrochar have already created a storm on social media – and rightly so.
“In return for paying these new charges visitors will get…nothing. The current £1 a day charge in return for the Council keeping the car park litter free is just about justifiable.
“Hence, why in my view this new charge is effectively a tax on access and poses a serious threat to our right to roam.”
Toilets are sorely needed at the Cobbler car park. Like everywhere else in the National Park, most people arrive after a drive and a proportion of them need to go
“Step into the woods alongside the main path up the Cobbler and you will find crap and paper everywhere.
“Most walkers would not mind paying a few quid for some proper toilet facilities within reasonable distance, but there are none.
Walkers might also be prepared to make a financial contribution to the maintenance of the footpaths or even the clean-up of Loch Long, a notorious trap for marine litter.
“Argyll and Bute Council however don’t appear to have any proposals to improve visitor infrastructure in the area, instead they are charging because they can.
“While I appreciate our councils are close to financial collapse as a result of years of austerity … extorting charges while offering little or nothing in return, is short-sighted in the extreme.”
He predicted what would happen in the wake of these charges being imposed:
- the Pay and Display machines get trashed by people angered at the charges and the Council then brings in surveillance cameras to stop this happening again
- most people won’t use the car park because of the charges and will park at the nearest free or cheap place they can find, creating problems for other people which Argyll and Bute Council won’t have to pay to sort out
- new routes will develop up the Cobbler and Beinn Narnain from wherever it’s possible to park cheaply or free. That will create new paths and erosion undermining all the investment into the main Cobbler track which was made last year and creating new problems for the Forestry Commission – but why should Argyll and Bute care, it’s not their budget?
- Argyll and Bute won’t raise nearly as much as they expect and the local economy will see a drop in tourism revenue
Nick Kempe added: “I understand that Argyll and Bute does not own either of these car parks, it leases them. Perhaps it’s just trying to extract every penny it can before those leases run out?
“What is needed is a coherent visitor management plan for the area which starts with what infrastructure is required and is developed on the basis that it is the duty of public authorities to make this happen.”
What needs to happen is the local community and the outdoor community working together to come up with a plan for improvements to visitor infrastructure and to consulting on what reasonable charges might be for car parking.
Meanwhile, complaints about the charges can be made to Argyll and Bute Council direct or to the two Argyll and Bute councillors who sit on the LLTNPA Board, Cllr Ellen Morton at firstname.lastname@example.org and Cllr Barbara Morgan email@example.com