Claims new off-street parking policy would see more local Lochaber input

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A proposed new policy for off-street parking in Lochaber and elsewhere in Highland would streamline and simplify the process for introducing charging for many more car parks in the area and enable people to be involved locally in the decision making and in finding solutions to any concerns raised.

That was the view earlier this week of Councillor Allan Henderson (Caol and Mallaig), chairman of the Environment, Development and Infrastructure (EDI) Committee, which meets today (Thursday) in Inverness for a special meeting about the new policy approach for off-street parking, which could generate income for local investment.

Speaking ahead of today’s meeting, Councillor Henderson added: ‘The council manages infrastructure comprising some 4,000 miles of roads, 100 harbours, 1,400 bridges and over 200 schools.

Councillor Allan Henderson chairs the committee which will discuss the new parking policy at a special meeting today (Thursday) in Inverness. NO F43 Allan Henderson
Councillor Allan Henderson chairs the committee which will discuss the new parking policy at a special meeting today (Thursday) in Inverness.

‘Each year, there is a reducing pot of money to invest in local infrastructure and services, and to find solutions for tourist congestion and traffic management across the region.

‘Engagement with communities and staff across the Highlands has identified a number of areas which need more investment – people have also told us to generate more income to protect services and jobs. We have already successfully demonstrated that we can do this in Inverness, Lochaber and Skye.’

His comments were echoed by Depute Leader Councillor Alasdair Christie who said: ‘Every area has unique local priorities, whether this is gully cleaning, pot hole repairs, resurfacing or just managing traffic and tourism pressures.

‘Changing our approach to charging for off-street car parking can provide a way to support some of the additional investment required to address these problems.

‘This new approach can also enable real local decision making and local choices to be made about improvements – Improvements which we simply cannot afford from our current budget which has to be spread across a huge geographical area.’

A new policy for off-street car parking was introduced in August 2018, following a redesign review, but this has not been fully implemented.

However Highland Council says engagement with the public has demonstrated support for the principle of introducing charges in order to support and sustain services and jobs.

The council has control of 230 off-street car parks. It currently charges for 20 with a further four having been agreed.

All potential sites are being considered for charging – with a decision made on whether to progress to be made following public feedback.

But Lochaber Area Committee chairman Councillor Andrew Baxter (Fort William and Ardnamurchan) remains sceptical.

Councillor Andrew Baxter says he will wait to see the detail in the new scheme before passing judgement but remains sceptical. NO-F43-Andrew-Baxter
Councillor Andrew Baxter says he will wait to see the detail in the new scheme before passing judgement but remains sceptical.

‘It is being lauded as a fantastic thing but I will reserve my judgement until I’ve been able to look at it in detail,’ he told the Lochaber Times ahead of today’s meeting.

‘The important thing to say is we are two years on from a previous car parking policy that was never implemented to the disadvantage of Lochaber. What confidence should we have that this new one will ever be put in place?’