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Parking charges proposed at dolphin site

08 May 2010

PARKING charges could be introduced at a hugely popular dolphin-watching site on the Black Isle in a bid to relieve traffic gridlock.

That was one of several proposals aired at a public meeting in Fortrose to discuss the management of Chanonry Point, which thousands of people visit each year to watch the world-famous bottlenose dolphins.

Chanonry is now the second-biggest sealife attraction in Scotland after the Sea Bird Centre in North Berwick, but the 30,000 cars it attracts each year are creating a traffic management headache.

Consultant Duncan Bryden gave a presentation to Highland councilors and others at the Fortrose meeting.

“Chanonry Point is clearly an iconic site visited by increasingly large numbers of people,” Mr Bryden said. “The point is, however, becoming quite scruffy through general wear and tear and action is required.

“The status quo is not a suitable option and to do nothing would reflect poorly on Fortrose and the wider Black Isle. It would also short-change the visitors and residents who currently enjoy their experience at the point.”

Mr Bryden proposed that a small-works programme, as part of an integrated master plan for the site, was the best way forward.

He said: “Given the current restrictions on public sector funding, car-park charging is seen as the only practical way of providing a surplus to fund future management and maintenance programmes at the site.”

Long-term management arrangements must be sustainable, he said, and have community ownership.

In the short term, improvement plans for the point include extending the car park by 10 to 15 spaces and realigning the roundabout leading to the point to ease traffic flow. That work will be carried out this summer.

In the long term, the Highland Council will pursue a land swap with the Fortrose and Rosemarkie Golf Club to secure a piece of ground around 150 yards away from the point which will be used to create an overspill car park, taking up to 40 vehicles.

Highland councillor Billy Barclay said: “Chanonry Point is a massive asset to the community but we don’t manage it properly.

“I have been called down there on several occasions to witness the congestion at first hand and it has been chock-a-block with cars and buses. The constant wear and tear has made the site look scruffy and improvements are urgently needed.

“But we have listened to local concerns and we are keeping Chanonry’s informality, so big areas of tarmac, white lines and toilet blocks are not on the agenda.

“I think we need to charge to park there this summer and the money could be put towards upgrading the existing facilities.

“Longer term, I would favour a park-and-ride system because people are going down there, discovering they can’t park and driving away again, giving them a bad visitor experience.”

Chanonry Point now attracts around 140,000 visitors each year, nearly the same number that visit Culloden Battlefield, putting it in the top 10 visitor attractions in Highlands. The point is recognised as one of the best places in Europe to see dolphins from the shore.

(The North Star)

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