Businesses plea to solve Oban’s parking mess

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The council’s new parking charges are now the biggest complaint in Oban and they risk driving away tourists, Oban Community Council heard on Monday.

The meeting was told drivers are now filling up the hospital and high school car parks while council car parks lie empty, and permits are unaffordable by those on the minimum wage.

Andrew Spence, chief executive of business group BID4Oban, said he had been ‘inundated with complaints’ about Argyll and Bute Council’s new parking charges, and had been asked by councillors to voice them in a letter to the council’s chief executive, Cleland Sneddon.

‘Oban relies heavily on tourism,’ Mr Spence wrote. ‘The vast majority of complaints from visitors are to do with parking. This is evident on TripAdvisor reviews for hotels, etc. In a recent survey of Oban Live visitors, parking was the single biggest complaint. We want to resolve this.’

His letter set out ‘nine simple solutions’.

With charges in place for all Oban’s car parks, he said, drivers are clogging streets where there are no meters, limiting access for many businesses, especially in Lochavullin. ‘We would like to see yellow lines introduced,’ he said. ‘There is ample parking in the council car parks at Lochavullin. However, it is obvious people don’t want to pay for it.

‘We have had reports from Oban, Lorn and the Islands Hospital of people parking their cars there and leaving them. While this is not council property, it is causing issues for staff and patients who need to park there,’ he said. ‘If pre-paid parking permits were made more readily available for residents, this may go some way to alleviating the problem.’

He said parking permits are available online, but the minimum term is three months at £135, ‘outside the reach of many people who are on a minimum wage’.

‘It would be easier if they could pay monthly or weekly online. The system is not user-friendly and does not adequately list the car parks in Oban.

‘Anyone wanting to park in a town car park for more than 24 hours is unable to. Given the amount of people who may travel to the islands or use the train or buses, it would be beneficial to have this facility. Many of these vehicles are being parked in residential or business areas in the town.’

Many parking meters, owing to their software, do not let drivers buy parking tickets before 9am, meaning those starting work early cannot park legally. All the meters only accept coins, he said. ‘In this day and age there should be a facility to pay via credit/debit card or mobile phone.

The council's car parking spaces on Gallanach Road have mostly lain empty since charges were introduced this year.
The council’s car parking spaces on Gallanach Road have mostly lain empty since charges were introduced this year.

‘There are areas of Oban where people are not parking since on-street parking has been introduced, namely the Esplanade and Gallanach Road. These two areas may benefit if people could park there for longer periods of time.

‘Bus parking at the car park adjacent to Atlantis Leisure [should be] reduced in price from the current £10 overnight charge to £1 [to] ensure buses are parking in the correct area.’

Councillor Roddy McCuish, policy lead for roads, said he was withdrawing his support for a multi-storey car park in Oban, because drivers were not paying to use the council’s car parks. ‘If people are not going to pay, they will not pay for a multi-storey,’ he said. He added the council had to pay £60 per year for each of its parking bays, whether empty or filled, in non-domestic rates to the government.

Meanwhile, more than 1,500 people signed a petition opposing the council’s proposed parking charges on Mull. Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell said the difficulties in Oban and Arrochar should give the ‘bulldozing’ council ‘pause for thought’. Turn to page two.