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MP pleads with political leaders to stop Embo caravan site operator from opening before end of lockdown

By Caroline McMorran

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Sutherland MP Jamie Stone has written to both Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson in a bid to stop the operator of a Sutherland caravan park from opening up later this month.

Mr Stone made the move following a complaint from a constituent who discovered that Parkdean Resorts, which runs Grannie’s Heilan' Hame at Embo, was taking bookings from May 16.

Grannie's Heilan' Hame, Embo.
Grannie's Heilan' Hame, Embo.

However Parkdean Resorts have responded that it will only reopen its parks in accordance with Government guidance.

Catherine Boa of Rogart told Mr Stone: "I am concerned about holiday companies that are promoting holidays from as early as June.

"I have a holiday cottage in the village, which I have blanked off till October, the company I advertise with sent me an e-mail to say they would be taking bookings starting in June but keeping it under review.

“I think holidaymakers should not be encouraged to come up here, as if they do the virus could spread, I understand Parkdean caravan park in Embo is planning taking visitors from the the middle of May.

"I feel the government should put restrictions on people wanting to come to the area.

"I can’t imagine what affect it will have on our community. The virus hasn’t been so bad here and I think people know it and think it’s a good idea to come up here."

Mr Stone included in his email to the Prime Minister and First Minister a video of himself booking at stay at Grannie’s.

He wrote: “I have written to you both before about the importance of the tourism industry in Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross. I know how important it is for this industry to be revived after the pandemic, but so long as you and the medical advisors insist that we stay at home and save lives, I cannot understand for the life of me why people continue to holiday to the Highlands.

"My team has investigated the claim about Parkdean caravan park taking visitors and can confirm this is absolutely true. They were able to book in for May 16.

“I wanted to bring this to your attention as Parkdean operates across the UK and I believe they are acting against your instruction. There has been no suggestion from you that holidaymakers should start packing their bags for as early as next week.

“I hate to beg but I will do what I must to protect my constituents, so please, please, please: stop Parkdean from allowing bookings and make it crystal clear to tourism companies that holiday bookings should not be facilitated until it is absolutely safe for people to travel."

Grannies Hielan Hame, embo
Grannies Hielan Hame, embo

Mr Stone told the Northern Times “How many times have I got to keep going about this? No one should be coming to the Highlands. People should stay at home and save lives. Like so many of us in the Far North, I am absolutely desperate for our economy to start up again and for the hospitality industry to be thriving, but safety must come first.

"There has been no indication whatsoever from either the UK or Scottish Government that holidaymakers should start packing their bags in anticipation of a jolly up to the Highlands any time soon. The fact that Parkdean will let their customers book a stay as early as 15 May is truly abhorrent."

"I am so grateful to people like Catherine who are doing the right thing and not renting out their accommodation during the Pandemic. I just wish the bigger companies had the same moral convictions!"

It is understood East Sutherland and Edderton councillor Richard Gale, chairman of Sutherland County Committee, has asked Parkdean Resorts to reconsider.

Fellow councillor and Embo resident Jim McGillivray said the opening was “against the wishes of the local population” and that Trading Standards and police had become involved.

But a spokesman for Parkdean Resorts said: “We would like to reassure local residents that we will only reopen our parks in accordance with Government guidance. The May 16 date has been set based on the latest guidance, however if there is any extension to the lockdown then we will of course amend our plans.

“The vast majority of our 140 people employed at Grannie’s Heilan’ Hame and Nairn Lochloy live in the local communities, and whilst we have been closed they have been keen to provide help and assistance to their communities where needed.

"For example, the Nairn Lochloy team decided to donate £700 worth of food to St Ninian’s Church, to distribute to families in need at this difficult time.

“We made a commitment to our people at the start of this crisis that none of them would lose their jobs as a result of Coronavirus but are concerned about the number of local businesses, from suppliers to pubs, restaurants and tourist attractions, who are dependent on tourism for their survival.

"The holiday park and campsite sector attracts £772m visitor expenditure in Scotland, so while we understand that some local residents may have concerns about the eventual reopening of our parks, it will be important that local businesses support each other to get back on their feet once restrictions are lifted.”

Parkdean bows to pressure and closes down parks

Parkdean in firing line

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