After listening to the comments on the blog, and, with my own views added, here is my initial response.
The blog was initiated because of my taking part in the group looking at motor home provision post R.E.T on Mull. The project is inextricably linked to parking areas and facilities, so I needed some opinions.
I have my own 5 metre motorhome and regularly use it, particularly on the Western Isles, where I have Explore Scotland customers.
I have watched the tourism sector and other related services, develop after the introduction of R.E.T and am convinced of its benefits. I have also experienced at first hand some of the problems.
Anyway, back to our blog. It is clear that the problem is not easy to solve but an acceptable consensus is required for any solution to have a chance of working.
The car parking situation may well be already be being considered by the Council after their ‘online consultation’ . If this is the case, then I don’t think it is good enough and we should insist we have an open discussion with the population at large. These can be ‘interesting affairs’, but at least we can say we have thought about a few things on this blog.
Parking in Tobermory has been the main thrust of conversation and the opinions vary. Large number of ‘likes’ have occurred when strong comments have been made about motorhomes. There is a misconception that motorhomes don’t spend money in the community. It is obvious that they don’t need hotels and b and bs, but its not so obvious what else they do spend. This is EXTRA tourism. Neil Morrison stated that they probably spend more at MacGochans than the yachtsmen. I also know that they use the laundry at the Harbour building and they go on sea excursions. How much they spend in the shops is speculation, although, because even the largest motorhomes only have small fridges, they have to go and stock up on food after a couple of days. They DO go out for meals and they DO spend. These people travelling around are fairly well off. A modest 6 metre motorhome will set you back upwards of £40,000. Apart from the rented vehicles that turn up for events, they tend to be retired people enjoying the freedom of taking holidays when they wish. Generally, they are pretty decent folk who like to chat and share their experiences. We should be careful not to damage businesses in town, or our reputation,j by almost banning them or, just making them feel like pariahs .
I don’t think that the motorhomes have been a problem here this year, apart from the Music Festival week, when complaints were made. The future though is different with R.E.T. I think all of the comments about managing traffic in town may well need to be considered and not just for motorhomes. It DOES state on the car park signs ‘No overnight camping’ but who is going to police it? Why do these people stay down town when there is a perfectly good Campsite just outside the town? Well, I can easily understand it. With my motorhome owner’hat on’, I would park there at least one night as I would get free wifi from the Harbour building, no parking charges, a brilliant view, a meal and a pint without driving anywhere and water, toilet and laundry facilities. No hook up power, but for a couple of nights, that fine.
Tobermory campsite has toilets and showers but no laundry. Waste disposal and power, but no Wi Fi. No pub and and a walk back from town after a meal. If the campsite was to have Wi Fi and a laundry then this will help. With better broadband this next year, Angus at the campsite will upgrade and is prepared to put in a laundry.
Fiona Graham pointed out how Tiree has dealt with the extra motorhomes and requiring pre booking at a campsite may be possible but unlikely. On Barra, several crofters realised at an early time, that providing facilities was a good ‘little earner’ at £23 per night for basic facilities and a hook up pitch. Entrepreneurial farmers here may eventually see the prospect of extra business and way of fulfilling a need.
I see big problems for getting any barriers, meters or policing in place by May, when the two ferries start. The land issues, and agreements with Crown Estates, finance, (A & B Council won’t let their extra revenue go from landing fees without a fight) by-laws, etc will take time, so I propose the following: Advertising on the websites that it would be a very good idea to book into the campsites in advance as the overnight car parking on Council parks may be banned and enforced. This will take out a section of motorhomers. Get the Harbour to narrow the broadcast area for Braodband to just the boats. Persuade the campsite to get a laundry and upgrade the limited broadband as these facilities are required. Lock the water points at Ledaig. Advise Motorhome owners that they could wild camp for one night only at Aros Park. Get Tim in the Tourist office to show other good places for wild camping to take the pressure off Calgary etc. David Jardine of F.C.S. is open to good suggestions for the use of forest areas. Possibility of looking at a forest wild camping licence to pay for disposal areas and potable water. In brief spread them all out a bit and it may just alleviate problems . Mull is big enough and other restaurants etc would get a chance of the business. Free overnight stays at places like Am Berin if they buy a meal? They may already do that, but it could be publicised?
Land at Baliscate for large vehicle parking is a way off yet. If the new industrial site beyond the Dump comes off, then A and B Council will probably move up there leaving space. Highland Services is not for me to comment, apart from the fact that I’m sure Wilf would not wish to sell the land at Baliscate for less than market value and, its still being used. I emphasise again that the time scale is short, even though May seems a long way off. Either way, the businesses that surround the car park should be the first to be consulted as their businesses could be badly affected if the Council or others get it wrong. Metering could be the biggest issue. For example, you are paying for a trip out on Silver Swift and its a full day trip. You need to park, but you are limited by time, or, the cost is too high. You want to pop in to get Tourism advice before you go out to walk somewhere or investigate a trip. Would you also want to pay for that privilege? There is nowhere to park at the top of town apart from a few places at Baliscate. Do you then go and park on the road? Even if we ban overnight parking and the campsite is full, where do you go? All tricky stuff.
Perhaps the suggestion of ‘wait and see’ may be a good idea, provided that we have mechanisms in place to react quickly and also work on the persuasive measures that I have mentioned, plus others.
My final opinion is that we now ask M.J. Devon to comment to us all, as Im’ confident that something will be happening and we may require more consultation?