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A draft audit of tourism infrastructure in The Highland Council area has been welcomed by councillors at a meeting of its tourism committee.
Chairwoman of the council’s tourism committee, Councillor Maxine Smith, said it was clear a huge amount of work had gone into getting the audit to this draft stage and she commended everyone involved.
‘Local members will have a clear interest in their own communities and whether the audit has captured the publicly provided tourism infrastructure in their areas. How we move forward now with this plan is critical in making it as accurate a reflection as possible of the region’s current and future potential tourism infrastructure,’ said Councillor Smith.
‘We need further consideration of the audit plan at a local level and will discuss this in our ward business meetings as soon as possible to be ready for our initial changes for the 2021 season. We also need to move forward with further consultations with our partner organisations and community councils.’
The audit includes publicly provided infrastructure normally delivered by the local authority and its partners or through communities rather than commercial provision.
Carried out over 2019/20, the audit looks at existing provision, proposed projects and possible gaps in tourism infrastructure including: car parking; electric vehicle charge points; public toilets; motorhome waste disposal facilities; public Wi-Fi services and paths and trails.
Councillors considered a draft audit report that listed in excess of 300 parking areas where visitors would normally leave their vehicle to visit a community, beach or other natural attraction.
Possible gaps in existing parking provision were highlighted at more than 70 locations across the region where parking exists but is not adequate for demand.
Ten locations were also identified in the audit which are now seeing more visitors but where no dedicated parking is available and passing places or road verges are increasingly being used, including locations in Skye and Lochaber.
The audit outlined existing dedicated overnight parking provision for motorhomes and electric vehicle charge points, proposed new locations and possible gaps in provision for both.
Eight new public toilet projects were highlighted in the report with two completed at Bla Bheinn on Skye and Traigh Beach in Lochaber; and five in progress at Helmsdale, The Storr on Skye, Mallaig, Lower Falls (Glen Nevis); on the Isle of Eigg; and one planned at Corrieshalloch Gorge by the National Trust for Scotland.
An additional 20 locations have been identified as possible gaps in public toilet provision that perhaps comfort schemes or other arrangements might provide for visitors.
The limited provision of facilities for the disposal of motorhome waste except on formal camping and caravan sites was highlighted for just 19 sites, with seven locations currently with plans or work under way to provide new facilities and another 13 communities seeking Scottish Government’s Rural Tourism Infrastructure Funding to provide waste facilities. Further gaps have been identified by communities expressing an interest in providing such facilities at 28 villages or towns.
Members discussed how further gaps in the draft audit could be identified and who the council might involve further in the audit process.
Councillor Maxine Smith who chairs the committee.