News of a whopping increase in charges at the Succoth car park in Arrochar has been met with anger among walkers and climbers. With the hourly price set to rise from 30p to £1, and the full day rate from £1 to a staggering £9, the popular approach from Loch Long to The Cobbler, Beinn Ime and Beinn Narnain may become an option for the well-heeled only, as of late August.
The ninefold increase will make this busy spot one of the most expensive mountain car parks in the UK. Critics of the plan point out that the scale of the charge would effectively act as a bar to less well-off users. It also looks inconsistent with national policies designed to get people active and outdoors.
Davie Black, Access & Conservation Officer with Mountaineering Scotland, said:
"We appreciate the financial pressures that local authorities are under and that the provision of car parking facilities incurs a cost."
"Our members are used to seeing daily charges of £3-4 for parking in popular walking locations, such as at Glen Nevis and at Forest Enterprise sites. We regard this as a reasonable cost to ensure that cars are safely parked off the road while walkers enjoy their time in the hills."
"However high car parking charges can create a barrier to those wishing to exercise their right of access to the countryside, particularly those with lower incomes. And this is all happening at a time when Scottish Government policies are firmly committed to social inclusion and promotion of outdoor recreation for the health and social well-being benefits that it brings to people."
"The huge increase from £1 to £9 that Argyll and Bute Council intends to impose targets people who have no other option to safely park a car. The provision of free or reasonably-priced car parking plays an important part in encouraging responsible parking and helping to prevent cars being left in places that could result in risks to other road-users. There also needs to be clarity on the situation for overnight parking, as many people will want to leave their cars as they camp up in the hills."
He also suggested that setting the charge so high might prove such a disincentive to walkers that the council ends up losing revenue as a result.
Stuart Younie, Chief Executive Officer of Mountaineering Scotland, has poimted to survey results showing that many MS members actually welcome car park charges provided they are proportionate, and that the money raised through them is re-invested in infrastructure.
"...[H]owever" he said, "this charge appears to be treated as a way to help balance the budget rather than to promote and support tourism and recreation, which are key economic drivers for the area."
"We will be making contact with Argyll & Bute Council to ask them to look again at their policy for all day parking at the popular walking spots and to encourage measures that result in safe and responsible, and affordable, parking."
Anyone who wishes to voice an opinion on the increase in parking charges at Arrochar can contact Mr Cleland Sneddon, CEO of Argyll & Bute Council. The Leader of the Council is Ms Aileen Morton. The Constituency MSP for the area is Ms Jackie Baillie.