Traders’ Christmas campaign on hold over free parking

T29 Parking meter

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The start of a major ‘shop local’ Christmas campaign for Oban is being delayed over free parking.

Ever since the start of the town’s two-week annual Winter Festival in the run up to the festive holidays, parking at car parks in the town has been free, but with the popular event cancelled due to Covid, BID4Oban asked Argyll and Bute to shift that charge-free fortnight at council-owned car parks to the start of December this year to encourage more Yule-fuelled shopping.

On Monday, Oban Community Council (OCC) heard from BID4Oban chief executive Andrew Spence that he was still waiting for a response from Argyll and Bute Council after making numerous requests since October 7, including to its chief executive Pippa Milne, saying that given the pandemic and future uncertainty regarding travel outwith of Argyll, it would be a major opportunity to encourage people to support and spend in local shops, adding the council’s help would be ‘greatly appreciated’.

BID4Oban has also proposed it would fund a third week of free parking using Scotland’s Town Partnership funding to drive up the number of shoppers, Mr Spence told the meeting.

Argyll and Bute councillors at the meeting agreed an answer should have been given by now and said they would follow it up.

Councillor Jim Lynch added: ‘I have every sympathy. We need to move quick on this. Businesses are struggling.’

And councillor Roddy McCuish said: ‘It’s a no brainer for the council. They won’t lose revenue, they might make some from a third week. Let’s get an answer back as soon as possible. Anything we can do to provide facilities for people to shop local then we have to do it.’

Councillor Kieron Green also agreed with fellow councillor Elaine Robertson who said: ‘We will follow this up. We should have had an answer.’

Mr Spence said free parking had a key part to play in drawing in Christmas shoppers adding: ‘We have a big marketing campaign ready to roll. We need that response. Time is critical for us.’

He also said the frustrating scenario gave OCC an idea of ‘some of the things’ businesses were ‘coming up against over parking’ with the council.

As discussions over parking in the town continued and included talk of overnighter problems at Ganavan and the need to provide permanent welcoming facilities for campervans and motorhomes, Councillor McCuish suggested Bid4Oban and the community council take on parking from the council.

It was agreed a joint working party should be set up between the OCC and Bid4Oban to cover parking issues in the town, including at Ganavan and to find out the  general consensus about what needs to be done.

Mr Spence said next year would bring even more visitors, especially campervans, to Oban as foreign holidays are abandoned.

‘We will have to be ready for them. We can’t turn our backs on them,’ he said.