A DRIVE to extend free parking in Inverness city centre has been described by regional Green MSP John Finnie as short-sighted and a danger to public health.
City businesses would like to see the scheme which allows drivers to park for free for 15 minutes to be extended to half-an-hour.
And they are being backed by city councillor and depute Inverness Provost Bet McAllister.
The scheme was introduced last year following a campaign by the Inverness Courier and Inverness Business Improvement District and its up for review this month.
Local traders said they would like to see the time limit extended so they can conduct more business.
It was introduced to help improve the footfall in shops in the city centre which have been adversely affected by out-of-town retail parks.
But Mr Finnie has opposed the scheme from the outset.
He said the plans are “short-sighted, ill-informed and a danger to public health” pointing out the city centre is already one of Scotland’s air pollution hot spots.
Mr Finnie said: “Air pollution is the cause in thousands of deaths each year, and exacerbates many serious medical conditions.
“Plans to extend free parking in the city centre are ill-informed and increase the risk of air pollution related illness and death.
“We need to encourage people to leave their cars at home and use buses or walk and cycle in and around Inverness. Increasing the number of cars in the city simply frustrates these efforts. More congestion means buses are less likely to run on time, for instance.”
He added: “Research shows that investing in cycling can significantly improve shop occupancy and town centre spend. The Highland Council should focus its energies on putting in place quality segregated cycle routes, pedestrian prioritisation, and improving bus services, rather than inviting more and more cars into town.”