The operator of Sumburgh Airport is to launch a consulation exercise into whether to introduce car parking charges there and at Kirkwall and Stornoway and if so by how much.
Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) chairman Grenville Johnston has written to the chairman of the Sumburgh Airport consultative committee saying that he intends to write to the chairman of the three airport consultative committees with details of the plan.
Mr Johnston said on Thursday: “The consultation exercise will cover all aspects including whether or not to introduce charges and if charges are to be introduced, the level of charging and how each of the three airports will be treated as clearly, each of the locations may merit its own solution.”
HIAL first announced plans to introduce car park charges at Dundee and Kirkwall in November 2009 to help cover a £1million budget cut. In Dundee the charges came into effect on 1st of December, and plans were for the charges to start in Kirkwall by June 2010.
Under the proposals for Kirkwall motorists will be charged nothing for the first 30 minutes, £1 after the first three hours, £2 for three to six hours and £3 to park for more than six hours.
HIAL chief executive Inglis Lyon said at the time of plans to extend this to Sumburgh and Stornoway: “There is nothing fixed in tablets of stone, but if the proposals hold water they will be taken to the board for decision.”
There has already been widespread opposition to the plans, with the SIC, Shetland Health Board, MSP Tavish Scott and MP Alistair Carmichael all condemning the plans as well as a host of other bodies in the isles.
At a meeting of the Full Council in December, all 22 councillors announced they would protest the charges, calling the proposal “damaging”.
In particular, objections came from convener Sandy Cluness, who stated that the SIC had already paid £852,000 towards improvement at the airport, including £333,000 for the new car park.
Councillor Andrew Hughson said the charges may cause disruption to the bus services if more people choose to take the bus, as well as overcrowding at the car park at the Grutness pier.
Mr Scott reacted to news of the consultation by predicting that the response from Shetland will be a loud “no” to the proposal.
Mr Scott said: “The only positive part of this news is the acceptance that they have to consult on their plans. They at last accept that they cannot bulldoze them through without consultation as they wanted to do – they have, after all, already erected the barriers at Kirkwall Airport.
“It is very disappointing however that they have not dropped the plans altogether. At the meeting I set up in Shetland on Monday, Mr Johnston, the HIAL chairman, was left in no doubt of the depth of the opposition in Shetland to this additional charge on the cost of using our lifeline air services.
“Mr Johnston and his board should be in no doubt that their belated consultation will receive just as strong a response. I have no doubt that from across Shetland the response to the plans will be a loud ‘no’.”