Thursday, 2 August 2018

Parking Charges at Arrochar – The Outdoor Access Tax

There has quite rightly been outrage at the 800% rise in parking fees at Arrochar announced by Argyll and Bute council.  Such charges are nothing new if you live in the Lake District of course.  Here high charges are the norm and you won’t get much change from a tenner in the popular places.  Such charges in reality are nothing more than an access tax.

A few places in the Lakes still exist where parking is free but it only a matter of time before these too succumb to high parking charges. 

Paying such high fees to access the hills if you arrive by car is bad enough, but what has shocked me just as much is the gullibility of some outdoor users, either in accepting, or indeed supporting such charges. 

A common thread seems to be, it’s only fair we pay to access the hills to cover such things as the car parks themselves, path repairs, or make up the funding shortfall for councils and the national parks etc.  A few even seem happy with the notion of high prices reducing the number of people heading to the hills!

Reality Check
But hang on let’s just take a step back here.  Why on earth do some people think it is acceptable to pay a tax to park when we are already paying taxes?  Ahh I hear you say, what about funding cuts by the Government, the shortfall should be made up by outdoor users, it’s only fair surely?  After all there is no magic money tree, at least not according to the likes of Theresa May.

Well in short it seems to be down to priorities and the outdoors and the environment are sitting somewhere near the bottom of the list when it comes to government providing money.  At the other end of the spectrum of course, such places are top of the list when it comes to money making opportunities. 

Loads a Money.
Don’t be conned into thinking there isn’t enough money because this really does come down to priorities.  After all there was more than enough money to pay the DUP £1.5 billion to side with the Tories after the last election.  There is more than enough money to pay large subsidies to farmers and the renewables industry for example.  And, we certainly seem to be able to find plenty of money to fund wars and drop bombs on people.  When it comes to politicians themselves, many of which are among the richest people in our country, they have no problem in asking tax payers to fork out some £3.7 million for food and drink subsidies within the House of Commons.  These examples are just a tiny proportion compared to the Billions given to big businesses in the form of tax breaks of course.

Pulling the Conservation Trump Card
When it comes to arguments about why people should pay to park, the trump card seems to be the environment. Interestingly people conveniently forget about industries such as grouse shooting and renewables that really do cause some serious damage to our upland areas.  In fact it could be argued that grouse shooting and the renewables industry between them have a much greater impact than our boots will ever have.  Add in the fact that there are several groups using donations to repair footpaths all over the country and the argument for taxes to cover these costs seems much less compelling as well.

So let’s be blunt here, what governments really mean when they make cuts to national parks and local councils - is the environment is not a priority, what is a priority however is making money from the people who value it.

Given how important the outdoors is to the health and well-being of millions of people, surely instead of rolling over and paying, we should, along with the organisation that represent us, be lobbying governments harder to give more money to the National Parks and councils who provide parking.  One thing for certain we should not be picking up the shortfall willingly. 

© David Forster

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