A BOOM in wild parking by fleets of motorhomes has turned a Dornoch beauty spot into “Butlins on wheels,” a local councillor has claimed.
Jim McGillivray, who represents East Sutherland and Edderton, says much of the problem is being fuelled by the popularity of the North Coast 500 route.
The NC500 – hailed as one of the greatest drives in the world – has increased tourist traffic significantly, with more and more people wild parking.
However, instead of seeking to outlaw the practice, Cllr McGillivray believes it could be a road paved with gold for the town.
The Highland councillor is trying to broker a deal that could see “thousands” of pounds being generated for the town from wild parking.
Cllr McGillivray said a solution could be found that produced a “win win” situation in which the parking problem was regulated and income produced for the Dornoch Common Good Fund.
Highland Council has for years been trying to close a legal loophole that has seen car parks and laybys used for overnight camping.
The situation is particularly acute at Dornoch Beach where up to 14 campervans have been recorded in the past using the council-owned parking spot. Some stayed for days. There are no dedicated toilet facilities and litter has also been a problem.
Cllr McGillivray said he had recently photographed 11 motorhomes at a nearby area of unfenced common good land close to the beach.
“It is has been like Butlins on wheels,” he said. “The wild parking is on an industrial scale. The council has said it would put up a sign restricting parking at the beach car park to four hours – but still no sign has been put up. The common good land is not subject to the same parking restrictions.
“People are going around and putting A4 versions of the sign under wipers on the windscreens of the motorhomes parked in the beach area. The fire service is also raising concerns over the number of motorhomes parked closely next to each other.
“I am trying to sort things out and I have spoken to the motorhome owners. They love travelling and for them wild parking is a lifestyle choice. They say caravan parks are for caravans – not for them.
“Their homes cost in the region of £20,000. They are willing to pay to park and it seems to me a solution can be found here.
“The problem has grown because of the NC500. It is not going to go away, as more and more motorhomes are going to come. They are going to come out of the main season too.
“This is a growing market to be tapped. It seems to me they could be regulated and managed and generate low thousands of pounds each year for the common good fund. There could be a win win in here.
“I would love to think there’s a compromise to be found that can reduce the conflict.”
Meanwhile, there is finally to be a clampdown on those staying overnight at the town’s official beach car park. The council said the necessary signs needed for enforcement will be erected this month.
Ironically, the fully equipped Dornoch Caravan and Camping Park is just a short walk away from the car park and owners said last year that they pay £17,000 a year to lease the site from the council as well as £12,000 in rates. Nobody from the park returned requests for a comment on the latest developments.
Highland Council has included Dornoch Beach car park in its list of regulated car parks. This includes the ability to issue penalty charge notices to unauthorised vehicles using this car park.
A spokeswoman for the council said: “We are awaiting the erection of new signage this month to inform users before enforcement takes place.”