The car park is used by walkers heading for The Cobber. Photo: Neil Reid

The car park is used by walkers heading for The Cobbler. Photo: Neil Reid

Hillwalkers on lower incomes may be deterred from taking to the hills if an 800 per cent increase in car parking charges is imposed at a popular Highland site.

Argyll and Bute Council said it wants to hike the cost of a day’s parking at Arrochar from £1 to £9.

Mountaineering Scotland said hillwalkers have been outraged at the proposal.

It said the car park at Succoth, at the head of Loch Long, is well used by walkers heading for the distinctive rocky peak of The Cobbler, as well as Beinn Ime and other peaks of the Arrochar Alps.

The hourly cost will also rise from 30p to £1 under the plans. Mountaineering Scotland, which represents climbers, mountaineers and hillwalkers north of the border, is urging outdoor enthusiasts to write to the council to voice their objections.

Davie Black, access and conservation officer with Mountaineering Scotland, said: “We appreciate the financial pressures that local authorities are under and that the provision of car parking facilities incurs a cost.

“Our members are used to seeing daily charges of £3-4 for parking in popular walking locations, such as at Glen Nevis and at Forest Enterprise sites. We regard this as a reasonable cost to ensure that cars are safely parked off the road while walkers enjoy their time in the hills.

“However high car parking charges can create a barrier to those wishing to exercise their right of access to the countryside, particularly those with lower incomes. And this is all happening at a time when Scottish Government policies are firmly committed to social inclusion and promotion of outdoor recreation for the health and social wellbeing benefits that it brings to people.

“The huge increase from £1 to £9 that Argyll and Bute Council intends to impose targets people who have no other option to safely park a car. The provision of free or reasonably priced car parking plays an important part in encouraging responsible parking and helping to prevent cars being left in places that could result in risks to other road users.

“There also needs to be clarity on the situation for overnight parking, as many people will want to leave their cars as they camp up in the hills.

“There’s another risk that, although these are popular hills, people may choose not to park there and the council may actually lose revenue as a result.”

The organisation’s chief executive Stuart Younie said: “Survey results indicate that many of our members are in favour of modest charges where money taken in is going to be invested in the infrastructure.

“There is no doubt that local councils are under ever increasing financial pressures. However, this charge appears to be treated as a way to help balance the budget rather than to promote and support tourism and recreation, which are key economic drivers for the area.

“We will be making contact with Argyll and Bute Council to ask them to look again at their policy for all day parking at the popular walking spots and to encourage measures that result in safe and responsible, and affordable, parking.”

Walkers who wish to voice their opposition to the 800 per cent increase in parking charges at Arrochar are encouraged to contact Cleland Sneddon, chief executive of Argyll and Bute Council. The leader of the council is Aileen Morton and the Constituency MSP for the area is Jackie Baillie.