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Fresh warning on parking charges

By Jamie Hall

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free parking Dingwall
free parking Dingwall

CAR parking charges will "decimate" Dingwall High Street if they are introduced, according to a local councillor.

Councillor Margaret Paterson (Dingwall and Seaforth), a long-time opponent of the charges, believes they will drive visitors away from the town, harming local businesses in the process.

However, she remains hopeful that Highland Council will perform a U-turn in light of public opposition to the plans, and called for "common sense" from the local authority.

"These charges will decimate the High Street," she said.

"We want to have a vibrant High Street and people need to be able to park nearby and walk up to the shops without worrying whether they need to run back and put more money in the meter.

"We struggle to keep people in our small towns as it is because it is so easy for them to go to the retail parks and shopping centre in Inverness.

"We want people to shop in our High Street. If you don’t have a High Street you don’t have a town.

"It’s the social aspect of it as much as anything else. You can talk to your neighbour when you walk down the High Street and you just don’t get that when you go elsewhere.

"I keep hoping that common sense will prevail. It’s not due until next year so there is still time to overturn the decision. After a certain period of time you can take it back to the committee. We are still discussing it. There has been no decision yet but I am still very hopeful that people will see sense and realise how detrimental parking charges are in smaller towns."

David Richardson, the Federation of Small Businesses’ Highlands and Islands development manager, said Highland Council must look after the interests of local businesses and residents.

"High streets across the country are facing increasing pressure from supermarkets around the edges of towns, and Dingwall is no exception," he said.

"FSB retail members tell us that one of the key factors impacting on customer footfall is their ability to park close to the shops they want to visit.

"If finding spaces is difficult or costly, some motorists will simply drive to supermarket car parks or the Inverness Retail Park where parking is free and easy, and town centres will suffer as a result.

"This concern underpins the FSB’s opposition to Highland Council’s car park charging scheme.

"We all know that they are short of money, and while charging to use car parks might seem a simple and painless solution it is incumbent on the council to ensure that the benefits the additional parking income brings are not outweighed by the harm done to local economies. Careful monitoring is required."

Highland Council was asked to comment but would only direct the Ross-shire Journal to notes from the last meeting held in June.

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