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Motorhomes: Is it time for a parking crackdown, or do we just need more facilities?

Alex Allan has concerns about parking infrastructure.

Should more be done to regulate where tourists can park their motorhomes?

Ask people like Alex Allan, and the answer is likely to be yes.

She pays £160 a year for a parking permit in Pitlochry, but says she often struggles to find a space because the town’s car parks are overrun in tourist season.

The popularity of holidaying on the road has increased, including a renewed interest following the Covid restrictions on foreign travel.

But images of clogged towns and villages, coupled with concerns about facilities on routes like the North Coast 500, have led to frustration by holidaymakers and residents alike.

It is ‘getting out of hand’

Ms Allan, 61, is a hairdresser in the popular town on the edge of the Cairngorms national park.

“It is really infuriating and sometimes when it is busy I have to walk to work instead because I know the car parks will be full of motorhomes,” she says.

Ms Allan said some of the tourists she has spoken to don’t want to use the caravan parks because they are “too expensive” or park up in laybys for the night if they can’t find a car park.

Caravans parked up in Ferry Road Car Park, Pitlochry

But sometimes motorhomes take up four parking spaces so there is room to set up a table and a portable barbecue outside, she said.

Ms Allan added: “I don’t know why something isn’t done about it.

“Perhaps height restriction barriers would stop them getting in, or an overnight parking charge.

“I am sure the government could do something about this.

“I would welcome some more restrictions on this.”

‘No one else is able to get in’

Ms Allan has written to her local councillor Mike Williamson, who said he realises people should be allowed to enjoy the “freedom of the road”.

But he also notes there is a “real lack” of facilities.

“The car parks in the town are only at half capacity because of all the motorhomes,” he said.

Councillor Mike Williamson

“No one else is able to get in.

“There is a real fire risk there as well.”

He said the local authority has applied for money from the rural tourism fund to get more facilities for motorhome parking built, but admits “more is required”.

Petition at Scottish Parliament

Further north, motorhomes parking out with dedicated caravan parks is also proving to be a problem for Lynn and Darren Redfern.

The pair own Dornoch Caravan Park, overlooking the Dornoch Firth.

They said people who parked off-site have come to their park trying to use facilities without paying.

Ms Redfern said: “People think they are being responsible by coming into our site to empty their waste tanks and rubbish bins, but that just hikes the prices up for everyone else.

“They think they should have it all for nothing and that damages our business.

“I catch so many people coming over with towels in hand to use our showers for free.

“One guy parked up in the turning circle outside the caravan park and filled up two big water containers.

“When I told him it wasn’t free he just jumped into his van and drove away.

The NC500 is a major draw north for tourists with campervans.

The Redferns have since submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliament calling for more restrictions on where motorhomes can park overnight.

Millions spent on rural tourism

The Scottish Government said it is “well aware” of the challenges large numbers of campervans can cause in rural areas.

A spokesperson said this is why the government set up a visitor management group in 2020 to try and ease the pressure.

They said: “It is the responsibility of local agencies and councils to take decisions on the provision of local services and community safety activities in their area.

“The Scottish Government has provided support to enable facility development through the rural tourism infrastructure fund.

“Since 2018, £15 million has been provided and has supported projects such as motorhome waste disposal facilities, public toilets and car parks.”

A spokeswoman for Highland Council said it has details of its own petitions process and procedures on its website.