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Ross veteran councillor in quit warning over parking charge threat


By Scott Maclennan


Councillors Margaret Paterson and Graham Mackenzie fear what could happen if new parking charges are introduced in Dingwall.
Councillors Margaret Paterson and Graham Mackenzie fear what could happen if new parking charges are introduced in Dingwall.

FEARS are rising that parking charges could be introduced against the wishes of locals in some Ross towns and villages – despite promises of full engagement by Highland Council.

In October, a new off-street parking policy was agreed by the local authority which sought to put community engagement at the heart of any decision.

But fears have emerged among some members that due to the shake-up of local area committees some councillors from different wards could ignore local wishes.

Some believe Dingwall has been left more vulnerable than most because it is now part of the Dingwall, Seaforth and Black Isle area committee.

That means there are now more committee members from within the council administration than not, and who have historically supported the introduction of charges – though it remains to be seen whether they will back them this time.

One exception is Cllr Margaret Paterson who this week renewed her vow to resign from the administration if charges are brought-in against the wishes of Dingwall businesses.

“I said in the past and I stand by it today – if parking charges come to Dingwall I will resign from the administration, and you can quote me on that,” she said.

“I first fought this 25 years ago and I will fight it again. The council has to realise, finally, the huge harm that parking charges will do to Dingwall High Street.

“At the moment Dingwall High Street is holding its own and I don’t want to see people put off – I don’t want people to pay to come to Dingwall.

“All you have to do is consider the shops that would close, the people put out of work and the families affected to be aghast that this could happen.

“And what is worse is that councillors who are not even from our own ward would have a say in this I will fight this to the bitter end.”

Her fellow ward member, Cllr Graham Mackenzie, said: “At the briefing I received from the council on car parking charges the chief executive told me directly on two occasions that communities would be able to opt out with no penalty.

“It is very important that the four ward councillors listen very closely to what people have to say because the decision could be taken out of the community if it came to a vote at the area committee.”

Elsewhere in Ross-shire other councillors were equally adamant that parking charges would devastate vulnerable town centres.

Despite being in a stronger position to oppose their introduction, with numerous fellow councillors likely to oppose their introduction, Cromarty Firth Cllr Carolyn Wilson is taking no chances and is already working with local businesses to object to them.

“I am against them, I have always been against them,” she said.

“Nationally both the Scottish and UK governments have issued guidance stating that parking charges have a detrimental effect on shoppers coming to places they shop – like high streets.

“There is a lot of evidence of the harm they do to very little good with places like Angus suffering the effects of the introduction of charges.

“In Edinburgh recently I met Jake Berry (former Northern Powerhouse minister) to celebrate the Great British High Street. He told me it is the number one priority to prevent charges coming to towns – it is recognised as detrimental.”

The consultation with stakeholders, like local businesses, on whether to have charges is due to begin in the coming weeks.

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