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Overwhelming opposition to car parking charges planned at Cairngorms most popular beauty spot

By Gavin Musgrove

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WARNING POST: Notification of proposals for parking charges, no waiting zones and a ban on overnight stays displayed at Glenmore last Autumn.
WARNING POST: Notification of proposals for parking charges, no waiting zones and a ban on overnight stays displayed at Glenmore last Autumn.

There has been an overwhelming number of objections to controversial Highland Council plans for lochside parking charges at the Cairngorms’ most popular beauty spot – and just a couple in support of the restrictions.

The Strathy can reveal the level of stiff opposition - and, indeed, resentment – to the proposals at Glenmore after submitting a Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act request to the local authority for the correspondence it received during the public consultation last Autumn.

There were several recurring concerns including:

  • safety fears over a ban on overnight parking;
  • the impact on the pockets of local business staff and self-employed mountain guides;
  • limiting access to the surrounding countryside for the less well-off and sports clubs;
  • displacing parking problems elsewhere.

Claims have been made that the parking restrictions – and an overnight parking ban in particular – will create ‘monumental problems’, be ‘impossible to police’, are ‘ill thought-out’, ‘discriminatory’ and a ‘money-making scheme for the council’ and could even endanger lives.

The Strathy counted 81 objections to the proposal from the FoI response with just five in favour – and two of those were the Cairngorms National Park Authority and landowners Forestry and Land Scotland.

Personal details in the responses have been redacted but amongst those lodging objections are Mountaineering Scotland, the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre, Walkhighlands, the University of Edinburgh, the Cairngorm Club which has a long history of climbing in the vicinity and Nethy Bridge Community Council.

Sportscotland’s Glenmore Lodge has submitted an objection to plans to put the ban in place too on the stretch to the Coire Cas car parking which is used as overspill parking for the Cairngorm Mountain Resort.

One objector stated: “We have very many visitors who are entitled to wild camp. It is not for Highland Council to try and restrict camping by parking regulations.”

Another opponent said: “Making people pay for parking is just another barrier. In a time when the cost of living is becoming a strain on many of us, one of the amazing things about walking and climbing in the Highlands is that it costs very little.”

Another harder hitting response stated: “You are ruining a once great destination. The parking fees proposed are ridiculous. At a time when people have very spare change in their pockets, you are yet again manipulating a situation for financial gain...

“Aviemore was fantastic but is being ruined by too many demands for cash.”

One local worker stated: “This screams of a money-making scheme not an attempt at any real solutions to issues in the area. In the winter we leave our vehicles here at 5am.

“These new restrictions mean we cannot use a perfectly acceptable and sensible place to park.”

Another objector pointed to the recently installed lochside bollards: “The natural beauty of the area is being lost by council greed. Are you trying to decimate tourism businesses in the local area?”

The CNPA has welcomed the proposals for waiting and loading restrictions and on-street pay and display parking but is objecting to the proposal to ban overnight parking as it will restrict access into the core mountain area.

Colin Simpson, the CNPA’s head of visitor services and Active Travel, stated: “We feel this will only have the intended impact if carried out in parallel with the introduction of an equivalent charging and enforcement regime in the adjacent Forestry and Land Scotland car parks.

“We understand this has been under discussion between the Highland Council and FLS and would strongly support these changes being introduced at the same time or at least the introduction of both before Easter 2024 to avoid any confusion amongst visitors or displacement issues.”

The CNPA has called for the money raised to be reinvested into the local visitor experience.

A Highland Council spokesperson said: “Consultation is ongoing and a report to members will be presented in due course for their consideration.”

What is being proposed:

Highland Council wants to introduce street pay and display and no waiting at any time zones along Loch Morlich on the C1126 Cairngorm ski road between its junction with Rothiemurchus Lodge’s access road to the snow gates for Cairngorm Mountain.

The local authority also intends to bring in no waiting restrictions on the access road to Glenmore Lodge and on the section of road at the entrance to the Coire Cas car park at the mountain resort.

The Pay and Display parking is proposed on the C1126 between The Reindeer Centre and Hayfield car park.

A maximum stay of only 12 hours would be allowed with the parking from 7am to 10pm costing £2 for one hour; £4 for six hours and £5 for 12 hours.

Parking would be barred in the designated areas from 10pm to 7am next day. The proposals went out to public consultation last Autumn.

The exact details of the plans can be seen here.

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