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Highland Council tourism audit 'identifies gaps and opportunities'

By Gregor White

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An audit aims to set out the gaps in Highland tourism provision.
An audit aims to set out the gaps in Highland tourism provision.

A draft audit aims to set out the Highlands' current and possible future tourist infrastructure facilities to hep prepare for future seasons.

Chairwoman of the council’s tourism committee, Councillor Maxine Smith, said: “It’s clear that a huge amount of work has gone into getting the audit to this draft stage and I commend everyone involved.

"Local members will have a very clear interest in their own communities and whether the audit has captured the publicly provided tourism infrastructure in their areas.

"How we move forward now with this plan is critical in making it as accurate a reflection as possible of the region’s current and future potential tourism infrastructure facilities.

"We need further consideration of the audit plan at a local level and will discuss this in our ward business meetings as soon as possible to be ready for our initial changes for the 2021 season.

Cllr Maxine Smith.
Cllr Maxine Smith.

"We also need to move forward with further consultations with our partner organisations and community councils."

The audit includes publicly provided infrastructure normally delivered by the local authority and its partners or through communities rather than commercial provision.

Carried out over 2019/20 the audit looks at existing provision, proposed projects and possible gaps in tourism infrastructure including: car parking; electric vehicle charge points; public toilets; motorhome waste disposal facilities; public Wi-Fi services; and paths and trails.

Councillors considered a draft audit report that listed in excess of 300 parking areas where visitors would normally leave their vehicle to visit a community, beach or other natural attraction.

Possible gaps in existing parking provision were highlighted at over 70 locations across the region where parking exists but is not adequate to meet demand.

Ten locations were also identified in the audit which are now seeing more visitors but where no dedicated parking is available and passing places or road verges are increasingly being used.

These include locations in Sutherland, Caithness, Wester Ross, Easter Ross, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch and Strathspey.

The audit outlined existing dedicated overnight parking provision for motorhomes and electric vehicle charge points; proposed new locations and possible gaps in provision for both.

Eight new publicly available toilet projects were highlighted in the report, with two completedat Bla Bheinn on Skye and Traigh Beach in Lochaber and five in progress: at Helmsdale, The Storr on Skye, Mallaig, Lower Falls (Glen Nevis) and the Isle of Eigg; and one planned by the National Trust for Scotland at Corrieshalloch Gorge.

An additional 20 locations have been identified as possible gaps in public toilet provision that perhaps comfort schemes or other arrangements might provide for visitors.

The very limited provision of facilities for the disposal of motorhome waste except on formal camping and caravan sites was highlighted for just 19 sites; with secen locations currently with plans or work under way to provide new facilities; and another 13 communities seeking Scottish Government rural tourism infrastructure funding to provide waste facilities.

Further gaps have been identified by local communities expressing an interest in providing such facilities at 28 villages or towns.

Ten locations were identified along the NC500 for the expansion of public Wi-Fi due to an approach to Highland Council by the Scottish Government and work is already under way.

These are: Bettyhill, Durness, Goslpie, Helmsdale, Lochinver, Tongue, John O’Groats, Gairloch, Lochcarron and Beauly.

At a committee meeting today members discussed how further gaps in the draft audit could be identified and who the council might involve further in the audit process.

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