Parking charges are to be introduced at the Lothians’ only regional park despite fears they will be impossible to enforce.
A flat rate £2 charge will be introduced for people who want to park within the Pentland Hills Regional Park, despite a consultation showing it will be unpopular with “a significant proportion” of visitors. A £52 a year “season ticket” will be available for regular users.
Concerns were today also raised about motorists choosing to park on private property to avoid the charge and the likelihood that budget pressures will force charges to rise in future years.
Of the park users who responded to the consultation, 38 per cent were against the charge, proposed to raise funding to maintain the park, while only 23 per cent were in favour.
Council chiefs believe that the charge at the four main car parks within the regional park will bring in £35,000 a year – although the financial projection is based on an assumption that only 40 per cent of motorists will actually comply with the charge.
Bob Paterson, secretary of the Friends of the Pentlands group, said: “If they want to walk their dog for 20 minutes a day they won’t pay £2, they will park their car somewhere else instead, whereas if you’re going on a five-hour walk, it is perfectly reasonable.
“I have a feeling that a lot of local people will park outside the car park and the car park itself will fill up last.”
He conceded that he would rather see parking charges introduced than lose a park ranger through funding cuts, but added the charges will be difficult to enforce.
He said: “I’d like it to work but I think we are clutching at straws. If the rangers need to go round emptying honesty boxes then they are not being rangers.”
The charges would be compulsory but in the early days of the scheme revenue will be monitored and extra enforcement measures will only be introduced if they are deemed to be necessary.
The charges would apply at the car parks at Flotterstone, Thriepmuir, Harlaw and Bonaly and would be managed by a coin-operated pay and display ticket machine, although no barriers or yellow lines are proposed as they are judged to be “incompatible with the local landscape character”.
Meadows/Morningside councillor Mark McInnes said: “This has been ill-thought through in terms of how it will be applied.”
It is estimated that the scheme will cost £5350 a year, meaning it will raise £29,690 a year if on target.
Councillor Eric Barry, who represents the Colinton/Fairmilehead ward, said: “We should be encouraging people to use the countryside, not taxing it. £2 is just a starting point.”
Councillor Gordon Mackenzie, the city’s transport leader, said: “A £2 charge will prevent very few but benefit the majority of people that use the park.”