The boss of a prestigious Highland hotel has blasted “money-grabbing” Highland Council in a row over parking in a Sutherland town.
Dornoch residents have condemned plans to introduce parking charges in the square.
Officials have outlined plans to introduce parking fees along various points of the NC500 to generate income to meet their 2020 savings targets.
However, plans to impose charges in Dornoch’s square and Meadows car park between 8am and 8pm have been met with fury.
Colin Thompson, managing director of Dornoch Castle Hotel branded the move a “madcap money-grabbing proposal”.
He said: “I think it’s very short-sighted because the tourism industry while is good for six or seven months in Dornoch, in other areas of the Highlands it’s a lot more fragile.
“I think if it’s carried through to the square, its clearly wrong.
“Not content with ripping us off for exorbitant rates bill, then have a ‘consultation’ about a tourism tax, where in effect they have already made up their minds to impose this.
“Now their latest is to impose parking on every scrap of land they can drum up in the Highlands.
“This is completely devastating for communities across the region.”
The local authority currently has control of use of 230 off-street car parks across the north. However, only 20 impose parking charges, with a further four yet to come online.
The council is to hold talks with community councils along the popular tourist route in the coming weeks with plans of introducing fees, followed by a series of public consultations.
Councillor Jim McGillivray opposed the plans, saying: “I cannot see the point in the present council proposals to establish parking charges in Dornoch in the currently specified places.
“With special reference to Dornoch Square, I have never considered this to be a car park as such, but I have always deemed it to be convenience parking for the businesses which trade around the Square area. I definitely oppose the establishment of parking charges in this area.”
Members of the Dornoch Community Area Interest Company are now forming plans for an additional car park in Dornoch South in an effort to prevent charges at both areas of the town.
Chairwoman Joan Bishop said: “We are more concerned about the square generally at the moment because on a busy cruise liner day we can have up to six coaches parked there and it really is a health and safety hazard.
“It’s an accident waiting to happen and I think trying to implement car parking charges in that are as well it wouldn’t work.
“We are working on a proposal for a new car park in Dornoch South down opposite the medical centre and if that does come into being that will be a charge car park.”
A Highland Council spokeswoman said: “At a time of increasing pressure on Council budgets, the public have been clear with the Council that they want there to be a greater focus on income generation in order to protect services and local jobs. This new policy provides a clear process for doing this and considering feedback from the community is central to the process.
“Proposals are currently being developed for each local area. The first phase will be pre-engagement with key statutory consultees e.g. Community Councils. This will commence in the coming weeks.”