Islanders start legal challenge against parking charges

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Mull and Iona islanders have called in a community law centre to protect themselves from Argyll and Bute Council parking charges.

The Oban Times previously reported how a campaign was crowdfunding in readiness for a legal challenge and now that process has begun. The fund at crowdfunder.co.uk/island-parking-tax-fighting-fund is halfway to its £6,000 target so far, backed by 103 supporters.

Govan Law Centre (GLC) has written to the council to outline the key objections community councils have raised and asking them to consider the unique aspects of Scottish island life.

Mull and Iona community councils say the charges will have a serious impact on the islands’ already fragile economies.

The two communities say they were not properly consulted, the council did not assess risks or impacts and has not considered or addressed their objections.

They are asking the council to abandon the current draft Mull Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) saying any future action must start with meaningful formative consultation with island communities and thorough, responsible assessment and mitigation of risks and impacts before deciding whether it is appropriate to pursue a TRO.

Convenor of Iona Community Council Shiona Ruhemann said: ‘We’re sad, frustrated and stunned to be in this situation. All we want to do is work in partnership with our council to strengthen our remote island communities and economies. Instead, we’re having to work with a community law centre to protect ourselves from the reckless, damaging actions of people who are meant to represent and support us.’

She said the council should have started with open, meaningful consultation and with responsible consideration of the risks and impacts before deciding whether to proceed with a TRO.

‘Instead, they sprung a TRO on us out of nowhere. They went through their motions and reached the conclusion they were always going to reach: an evidence-free, non-consultative, pre-cooked decision, a thoroughly inappropriate damaging blanket policy and a done deal.’

Chairman of Mull Community Council Billy McClymont said: ‘Our island communities are furious the council has ignored the massive opposition from islanders who know the realities on the ground and know the damage these parking charges will inflict on island residents and businesses.’

He said the council will claim it consulted properly, but that was not true.

‘They will claim they presented all objections to councillors, but that’s not true either. They will claim they mitigated the impacts – again, not true. They didn’t listen, they weren’t informed and their last-minute, ill-considered concessions have appeased no one, making the situation even worse for some islanders, damaging our economies and creating seething anger.’

GLC’s Solicitor Advocate Mike Dailly said consultation needs to be open, formative and not ‘a fait accompli’.

‘The islanders of Mull and Iona have real concerns about the detrimental impact of these proposed parking charges. We hope we don’t need to pursue an appeal in the Court of Session and that the two sides can sit down together and agree a way forward,’ he added.

Mr Dailly said Argyll and Bute Council’s legal services manager has written to GLC to confirm the council is looking into the various points raised in its letter and would reply ‘as soon as the council is in a position to do so’.

An Argyll and Bute spokesperson confirmed the council has been contacted by solicitors acting on behalf of local organisations and said it is  ‘considering the submissions which have been made’.