Is­landers fu­ri­ous over ‘ex­tor­tion­ate’ park­ing

The Oban Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Sandy Neil sneil@oban­

Op­po­si­tion is grow­ing to the coun­cil’s ‘ex­tor­tion­ate’ new park­ing charges on Mull and Iona, which could bring ‘the Lon­don con­ges­tion charge’ to the is­lands and dam­age their ‘frag­ile’ economies.

A pub­lic meet­ing has been called for to­mor­row (Fri­day November 9) at 4pm in Craignure Vil­lage Hall.

Iona Com­mu­nity Coun­cil urged Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil to with­draw its ‘ill-con­sid­ered and harm­ful pro­posal’, ar­gu­ing it re­moves all free park­ing at Fion­nphort and im­poses ‘a steep year-round tax on vis­i­tors’ – £9 per day, £63 per week, and £126 per fort­night – roughly dou­ble the charges in ma­jor cities.

More­over, it is al­most the cen­tral Lon­don con­ges­tion charge (£11.50 per day) ‘in­tro­duced as a mas­sive de­ter­rence to city vis­i­tors’.

‘We al­ready have ev­i­dence of harm to busi­nesses,’ com­mu­nity coun­cil­lors wrote. ‘Since park­ing charges were in­tro­duced, vis­i­tors are forced to rush a visit, with­out stop­ping at is­land shops, restau­rants and cafes, to get back to their ve­hi­cles and avoid a park­ing fine.’

The hikes also lay ‘a colos­sal un­fore­seen tax’ on com­muters – ‘a £475 sea­son ticket is a mas­sive hit,’ they said, ‘pos­si­bly de­ter­ring [peo­ple] from con­tin­u­ing to work on the is­land.

‘The pro­posed charges are scat­ter­gun and highly in­equitable. The charges in the Columba car park are un­rea­son­able, dis­pro­por­tion­ate to main­land charges and un­work­able for longer stay vis­i­tors and res­i­dents.

‘[They] risk caus­ing mul­ti­ple harm­ful im­pacts to the economies and is­land com­mu­ni­ties of Mull, Iona and Ulva. Yet the coun­cil is do­ing this with­out any mean­ing­ful jus­ti­fi­ca­tion and with­out as­sess­ment or con­sul­ta­tion.

‘It would be more hon­est to ac­knowl­edge the pri­mary im­pe­tus for in­tro­duc­ing park­ing charges is rais­ing cen­tral rev­enue.’

Mull and Iona Com­mu­nity Trust (MICT) said new charges at the Craignure long-stay car park would elim­i­nate free off-street park­ing for res­i­dents trav­el­ling as foot pas­sen­gers to Oban.

MICT’s gen­eral man­ager Mo­ray Finch said: ‘For those who try to hold down a job in Oban, the cost will in­crease from £7.20 per day/£36 per week to £16.20 per day/£81 per week. For most, this will be unaffordable, pos­si­bly forc­ing them to stop work or leave Mull.

‘In­creas­ingly fre­quent dis­rup­tions to win­ter ferry timeta­bles re­sult in de­lays and can­cel­la­tions. This will lead to ex­cess park­ing charges and fines, un­less the driver over­pays.’

The Mull and Iona Ferry Com­mit­tee said Craignure’s car park ‘is al­most ex­clu­sively used by is­land res­i­dents and is the prin­ci­pal car park for our life­line ferry ser­vice’.

It said Craignure ferry ter­mi­nal gen­er­ated more than £1.4 mil­lion in rev­enue for the coun­cil last year, yet now it was adding more ‘by pe­nal­is­ing is­landers who have no choice but to go to the main­land for

ser­vices which main­lan­ders take for granted’.

Craignure’s new charges, too, were ‘ex­tor­tion­ate’. ‘If we com­pare long-stay com­mer­cial car parks at ports and air­ports, it is dou­ble what one would ex­pect to pay.

‘It is also used by trades peo­ple who are work­ing on the is­land but live in Oban or beyond. Some trades­men have al­ready in­di­cated they will no longer serve Mull if th­ese charges are in­tro­duced.

‘By re­mov­ing a lorry park, you are choos­ing to force com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles onto the side of the road ren­der­ing the main road through Craignure sin­gle track. With ve­hi­cle move­ments in Craignure, just for the ferry alone ex­ceed­ing 160,000 per year, what con­sid­er­a­tion has been made to road safety in this area?

‘The coun­cil is legally obliged to un­der­take an Is­land Com­mu­nity Im­pact As­sess­ment be­fore pro­pos­als are pro­gressed; if it has been done, it has com­pletely failed.’

All the changes, Mr Finch con­cluded, ‘will per­suade some res­i­dents that life on the is­lands is un­ten­able and they will mi­grate to the main­land. De­pop­u­la­tion of Mull will ad­versely af­fect vi­a­bil­ity of the is­land.’

An Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil spokesper­son said: ‘This is about pro­tect­ing ser­vices, in­clud­ing main­tain­ing roads safety and car park main­te­nance, used by lo­cal peo­ple and vis­i­tors to Ar­gyll and Bute. Cuts to our fund­ing mean that, like all coun­cils, we must make changes to how we work.

‘If the pro­pos­als go ahead, sea­son tick­ets, that can be used in car parks through­out Ar­gyll and Bute, will be avail­able.’

The full pro­pos­als are avail­able on­gyll-bute.­fi­corders. Any­one wish­ing to ob­ject should send the grounds for ob­jec­tion in writ­ing, pro­vid­ing their name and ad­dress, to the Head of Gov­er­nance and Law, Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil, Kil­mory, Lochgilp­head, Ar­gyll, PA31 8RT or by email­ing TROOb­jec­tions@ar­

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