THE introduction of car parking charges at Eden Court Theatre and the adjoining Highland Council headquarters could lead to a drop in audience figures, it has been claimed.
Astounded theatre-goer Ian Burnett said since the council introduced charges last month, drivers now had to fork out £4 to ensure sufficient parking time to cover evening shows.
He also pointed out although the theatre had not yet introduced parking charges , it was planning to do so in due course.
But Mr Burnett believed the charges would result in lost revenue to the theatre,
"I think to charge for parking in the evening is a bit cheeky," the 70-year-old said.
"I think it will deter people from going to the theatre. I think it is appalling."
He said although the rate in the council car park was £2 for three hours, theatre-goers ending up paying the higher rate of £4 – for up to 10 hours parking – to avoid getting a parking ticket.
"I feel is an absolute abuse of their powers," declared Mr Burnett, of Drakies.
"Charging in the evenings is really robbing the public."
Another theatre-goer has also complained about parking problems when attending the annual Fiddlers’ Rally on Saturday.
Having driven into the theatre grounds from Bishops Road, she found the car park was full but there was no way out at the far end due to temporary barriers.
"Each car had to wait for the one in front to do a three-point turn and exit the way we had come in," said the woman who wished to remain anonymous.
Eventually, they paid to use the council car park.
"Using the ticket machine was an education in itself, with each user having to instruct the person coming behind," she said.
Colin Marr, Eden Court’s chief executive, hoped parking charges would not deter audiences.
"Unfortunately, we have no control with what Highland Council charge for their parking," he said. "They didn’t consult with us about parking charges. They have no duty to do so.
"We would have been encouraging them to set a time limit to cover the show so people don’t feel they need to pay for two sessions."
He said the theatre would be introducing parking charges but fees and timescales had not yet been decided.
Mr Marr said there was an "enormous" problem with non-customers using the car park.
"If we don’t introduce a charge there will simply be no room left for customers which will be worse than charging," he said.
A council spokeswoman said parking charges were agreed by councillors for implementation in 2015/16 to save £20,000 per year.
The scheme had been widely publicised.
"The main benefits of this change are better management of the car park and budget savings to the council," she said.