The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands)
NC500 Ltd rebuffs plea for roads upkeep contribution
The company that markets the hugely popular NC500 has insisted maintaining the road must remain a council responsibility. Highland MP Jamie Stone wrote to NC500 Ltd earlier this week asking them to contribute towards road repairs, public toilets and waste disposal facilities along the tourist trail.
Thousands of people complete Scotland’s “ultimate road trip” every year, with even more doing so this summer due to the pandemic.
However, local communities are growing increasingly frustrated at the pressure the influx of visitors is having on their roads and facilities.
Applecross is now even considering withdrawing from the promotion of the NC500.
Communities have raised concerns about speeding, but also the state of the roads which were not designed for so many heavy motorhomes.
As a result, Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross Lib Dem MP Jamie Stone wrote to NC500 Ltd asking for some support, arguing that the roads cannot cope with such high numbers of visitors, many of whom have been drawn to the area as a result of their marketing.
In response, the company – which claims it has not profited from the response to the campaign – says that responsibility for maintaining the route does not lie with them.
Craig Mills, head of operations at North Coast 500 Ltd, said: “The investment NC500 Ltd has made has been in the marketing and promotion of the route and this has had outstanding results in terms of the socio-economic impact, as has been evidenced independently.
“The responsibility for infrastructure investment has been and remains that of the Scottish Government and Highland Council – albeit the showcasing of the north Highlands through the work of NC500 Ltd has shone a light on the need for significant public investment in tourism infrastructure right across Scotland.
“The fact that the company has not made a profit since inception, has not dampened the ambition, commitment, and determination to ensure businesses across the north Highlands see their own profits grow and create new local jobs and opportunities.
“Our focus will be on how we do that in a way that is responsible and engaging to both residents and visitors alike.”
In his letter, Mr Stone had suggested Highland Council should not be “solely responsible” for maintaining the roads and facilities along the NC500.
Mr Stone added: “In addition to the local authority efforts, NC500 Ltd has a corporate social responsibility to financially contribute towards the maintenance.”