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Council overnight parking U-turn is sign of the times

By Hugh Ross

Councillor Phillips insists travellers can still be moved on
Councillor Phillips insists travellers can still be moved on

ILLEGAL “No overnight parking” signs are to be removed from roadside laybys in the Highlands after the council was warned they would lose any court action brought against it.

Highland Council today (Thursday) voted for the removal of the familiar signs, which have acted as a deterrent to motorists intending to pitch up and stay after dark for decades, because of the threat of legal action.

Yorkshire-based campaigner Andy Strangeway, a regular visitor to the Highlands, started lobbying for their removal last year.

Mr Strangeway has argued that drivers should be allowed to pull over and sleep in laybys when they need a rest and government agency Transport Scotland, which took legal advice, advised the council the signs were unlawful and could be successfully challenged in court.

The council’s transport, environmental and community services committee, which met in Inverness voted by 12 votes to eight in favour of removing the signs, which are predominately sited in rural laybys in Caithness and Sutherland and the west coast.

However, several councillors were unhappy at their proposed removal and claimed groups of travellers and other road users could block the laybys in the future.

Councillor Graham Phillips, the committee chairman, insisted it could take steps to move on travellers if they stopped at laybys.

Ross-shire councillor Michael Finlayson suggested new advisory signs asking the public not to park up overnight and providing information on nearby camp sites could be erected instead.

Council leader Drew Hendry said it was a good idea which could be considered but added it was vital the current signs were taken down to stop the threat of legal action and the financially outlay that could involve.

Councillor Phillips said road traffic orders could possibly be used to police the laybys but Lochaber councillor Allan Henderson said that could be a costly and time consuming exercise.

He voted against removing the signs and claimed the council were “using a sledgehammer to crack a nut”.

A sensible decision? Have your say at editor@rsjournal.co.uk

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