COUNCIL chiefs say they have “no plans” to increase car parking charges in Helensburgh – at least for the time being – after plans for a huge rise in fees in Arrochar sparked a furious response.

Argyll and Bute’s plan to hike charges at the two Glen Loin car parks in Arrochar from 30p an hour to £1, and from £1 a day to £9, as announced in a notice in last week’s issue of the Advertiser, was widely condemned by local residents and recreation groups.

The authority plans to implement the Arrochar increases from Monday, August 27.

News of the Arrochar plan led to pleas from business and community chiefs not to make Helensburgh next in line for an increase.

A spokeswoman for the Helensburgh and Lomond Chamber of Commerce said: “Obviously we would be interested to know what the details would be.

“We would be unhappy to see any in the current proposals other than to see free parking because a lot of our neighbouring areas already have free parking which encourages people to go there.”

Norman Muir, the chair of Helensburgh Community Council, said: “I think that unless they explain what’s going on and do the magic word and consult then no increases should happen. The least they can do is explain what the increase is for and they need to justify it.

“Car parking charges are for maintenance and paying wardens, it’s not a money making machine and should not be looked on as one.”

A council spokeswoman said: “We want to ensure that access to parking is made as easy as possible during the Helensburgh waterfront development, and have no plans to increase parking charges in the town at the moment.”

The planned Arrochar increase is the result of a commitment made in Argyll and Bute Council’s 2018-19 budget plans, which were approved without opposition in February.

Those budget plans state that “key tourist destinations such as Arrochar, Duck Bay etc will have parking charges applied based on what the market can sustain” – though until this week there was no indication of how big that increase might be.

Lomond North SNP councillor Iain S. Paterson, who lives in Arrochar, hit out at the “excessive” increase and said he would be seeking talks with council officials on the issue.

Cllr Paterson said: “I have been inundated with people contacting me about these increased parking charges.

“I, like my constituents, think that the rise is excessive. I have asked for a meeting to establish what is going on.

“I think this needs to be looked at again.”

Mountaineering Scotland has also criticised the planned increase in parking fees, stating that the higher rates could put people off visiting Arrochar to climb the area’s hills.

Davie Black, the organisation’s access and conservation officer, said: “We appreciate the financial pressures that local authorities are under. However high car parking charges can create a barrier to those wishing to exercise their right of access to the countryside.”

A council spokeswoman said: “We have kept charges to a minimum for as long as possible.

“The decision was taken at the council budget in February to increase charges at Arrochar in line with other off street parking across Argyll and Bute.

“Charging only applies between 9am and 6pm, which equates to £1 per hour.”

Twitter user @Mark_S_Crawford tweeted: “Absolutely outrageous decision by @argyllandbute council to increase parking charges at Arrochar from £1 to £9 per day. Pretty much exclusively used by hillwalkers. So much for encouraging healthy active lifestyles.”

According to the report, administration decided to defer plans for parking charges in Helensburgh until after completion of current TRO processes and waterfront parking strategy complete.

But if the response to the rise in Arrochar is anything to go by, people won’t be happy if Argyll and Bute Council introduce higher parking fees.

The news was also criticised by Councillor Iain Shonny Patterson, who lives in Arrochar. He said:

The car park at Succoth is well used by walkers heading for the rocky peak of The Cobbler, as well as Beinn Ime and other Arrochar Alps.