A number of people responded to the invitation to comment on the proposed charges for parking in the Glen ffric area. The following are published with agreement of the authors.
Liz Balharry from Tomich writes:
“I would be very interested to see the financial argument detailed, for imposing charges. It would seem that the collection, enforcement, upkeep of meters and staff time involved would outweigh the financial benefits. However, FCS must have done the sums, so keen to study the detail.
Very surprised that FCS just imposed the charges and put the meters and signage in place, without giving any thought to community consultation. Any changes now mean that money has been already wasted.
Delighted that some community consultation now appears to be under way, thanks to pressures from various organisations.
I personally feel that parking meters are for towns where parking space is limited, not remote rural areas, you undermine the value and beauty of Plodda falls and Glen Affric by urbanising then – its a shame that FCS cannot see that angle, and thought that meters would be appropriate for the area. Money has been invested in new signage and parking meters rather than in well through and valuable interpretation. Rangers time will be spent on managing parking meters!
Many feel this area is special, it deserves a visitor centre, dedicated ranger staff and to be free and open to all. FCS are unwilling to put Glen Affric high enough on their priority list, to achieve any of these targets, and instead feel a need to scrape pennies back and detract from what it is, in the process. Should the owners of Glen Affric Forest Reserve (tax payers) give serious thought to finding a more appropriate manager?
Thank you for the opportunity to express our views.”
The next is from Alex Henderson & Rosie Hazleton who have a business based in Cannich:
“We are a small independent tour operator running craft, relaxation and prehistoric cooking courses and holidays in Strathglass. Last year we were runners up in the Best Tour Operator for Local Experience category in the international Virgin Responsible Tourism Awards (and were the only Scottish tour operator to be short-listed). We have also been used as a case study of best practise in sustainable tourism in guidance for the Scottish tourism industry and have helped raise the profile of the local area through coverage in regional, national and international publications, including the Press & Journal, the Guardian and Permaculture Magazine. We have also featured on BBC TV. As such, we feel that we have a good understanding of the local tourism industry, what attracts people to the area and what brings people back for repeat visits. We believe that the introduction of car park payment machines at the local forestry commission car parks is detrimental to this. Our concerns are as follows;
-the payment machines reduce the wilderness feeling of the sites, which is the principal reason to visit them in the first place. This may sound like a small and abstract point, but we do not believe that this can be underestimated how detrimental it is to visitor experience.
-the principal that Scotland’s wildernesses are free for all to access is compromised by compulsory charging for parking.
We have already witnessed first hand the disappointment of visitors to reaching the iconic destination of Glen Affric to find a car park machine there. It is a shock for them to see, creating a very bad first impression and lowers the tone for the rest of their visit. We have already reduced the number of visits that we make with groups, choosing to go to other locations instead, such as Corrimony RSPB reserve.
We are aware that there is a long history of animosity between elements of the local community and the Forestry Commission due to a perception of the F.C. acting in a high-handed manner with no regard to local opinion. We hold no personal ill-will towards the Commission, but think that it obviously has had some fairly major breakdowns in communication with the local community or such animosity would never have occurred, regardless of whether or not its actions in the past were justified or not. It is unfortunate that lessons do not appear to have been learnt from the recent stalking controversy and we’ve gone straight from one public relations disaster into another. That isn’t in anyone’s best interests.
We would be more than happy to make small voluntary contributions when visiting to cover the costs of maintaining access roads, car parks, paths and interpretation panels.”
Reg Melton from Forres adds:
“Just a note to confirm that the Forestry Commission has just introduced car parking charges charges at Culbin Forest in Morayshire where I live. The charges imposed are £2 per visit or £30 for an annual permit.
Culbin Forest is very close to my home, and in the past I have enjoyed walking there with my dog on a regular basis. However, not only am I put off by the charges, but when I do walk there I have noticed a significant drop in the number of local people that I used to meet there on a regular basis. The biggest effect has been on the most vulnerable members of our community – retired people and families with children.
This is all happening at a time when the government has been trying to encourage individuals to adopt a more healthy lifestyle as a legacy of the forthcoming Olympic Games, and the Ramblers Association has been making a significant contribution to this ideal by encouraging and supporting the opening up of ‘Legacy Routes’ all around the country with a view to encouraging sedentary individuals to take up walking.
I therefore find it highly contradictory that on the one hand the government is encouraging individuals to take up walking through the Legacy Routes programme, while the Forestry Commission is doing the exact opposite by imposing car parking charges which discourage the most vulnerable members of society from getting out there and benefiting from a healthier lifestyle. What sort of Government is it that supports such conflicting policies?
I think that this is a disgrace which needs to be tackled head on, and I will be very happy to sign your on-line petition.”