SHETLAND Islands Council convener Malcolm Bell has called on the isles’ community councils to write to the Scottish transport minster and Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) to make their feelings known about controversial plans to introduce a £3 a day parking charge at Sumburgh Airport.
He said communities across Shetland need to write in the “very strongest terms” to minister Humza Yousaf and the airport operator after it announced the plans in March without any prior consultation.
In response, HIAL said it is “willing to take on board representations and will listen to stakeholder groups that raise specific issues and will act where appropriate.”
Lerwick Community Council agreed to write in opposition to the proposals after Lerwick North councillor Bell suggested at its latest meeting on Monday that it should make its voice heard.
And he said other community councils across Shetland should follow suit before the charges are implemented from 1 July.
Bell said after the meeting: “It’s clear there’s been absolutely no consultation carried out. Before you make a major change in policy, you should carry out consultation with your partners and with the public that are going to be affected.
“This suggestion was imposed on us at the very last minute. The very least that can be done is to pause the commencement of these charges until a proper consultation has been carried out, and that’s why I think it’s important that Lerwick Community Council as well as other community councils in Shetland should write in the very strongest terms to the transport minister.”
During the meeting, community council chairman Jim Anderson described the plans as a “money-making exercise” for HIAL, which also wants to introduce similar charges at airports in Kirkwall and Stornoway.
He also raised the issue that the buses connecting Lerwick with the airport at Sumburgh were not always fitting in with the flight schedule.
Anderson said there was a “good service” going down but there’s “no guarantee you’ll not be left stranded” on the way back.
He added that it was not uncommon to see the bus driving off while people are still collecting their luggage.
The community council also heard that the charge was “another cost of living in Shetland”.
Bell, who noted that the bus isn’t a dedicated airport service, added that “we have been treated abominably” by HIAL before he suggested representations are made by the community council.
Depute convener and fellow councillor Beatrice Wishart suggested that “HIAL should go back to the Scottish Government” if they need more money to run their services instead of imposing car parking charges on the public.
In response to Bell’s comments, a spokesperson for HIAL said: “HIAL is willing to take on board representations and will listen to stakeholder groups that raise specific issues and will act where appropriate.
“We have given more than three months’ notice ahead of a planned implementation date of 1 July. We feel this allows a good period of time for consultation with interested parties and ensures we can work through any practical issues ahead of car parking charges being introduced.”