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SIC - Free Tyre Check - 22 Nov 2019

Transport / Airport car park set-up reviewed as charge brings in less than anticipated

The Sumburgh Airport car park. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland NewsThe Sumburgh Airport car park. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

AN EXPANSION of the area at Sumburgh Airport in which drivers are charged for car parking could be explored in the future amid apparent concerns that it is not bringing in as much income as expected.

The controversial charge was introduced by government-owned airport operator Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) in December last year to raise more revenue, but some drivers have been leaving their vehicles on a roadside verge outwith the car park to avoid the fee.

A picture taken outside the car park in May. Photo: Ross Leask

A spokesperson for HIAL confirmed that “as part of our ongoing review of all operations and facilities at the airport we are currently examining future requirements for car parking.”

However, it is understood that any move to increase the boundaries of the car park area could face hurdles with the council as it is a public road.

Airport manager Andrew Farquhar attended a meeting of the Gulberwick, Quarff and Cunningsburgh Community Council earlier this month where he was questioned on the car parking charge.

Minutes for the meeting state that the manager “admitted that the car park is not generating the funds they were expecting or are aiming for – largely due to the speed that the project had to happen”.

“They could not get all the airport boundaries included within the timescale as it required barriers, streetlights, speed restrictions etc. This is likely to happen in the future though,” the minutes added.

Farquhar declined to expand on a statement provided by HIAL when asked by Shetland News to elaborate.

It is thought that if any proposal to expand the car parking charge area was formed, it would be communicated to the public before plans are set in stone.

Vehicles are regularly parked on a roadside verge a stone’s throw away from the car park barriers, while passengers are also using the car park at the Sumburgh memorial further away from the airport.

The £3 a day charge was also put in place at Kirkwall and Stornoway, but many felt the location of Sumburgh – 25 miles from Lerwick at the southern tip of Shetland – meant the the fee was unfair.

The implementation of the charge at Sumburgh, however, was delayed by a number of months due to issues with the layout of the car parking equipment.

There were also concerns from the community that car parking at Sumburgh, which performs well financially partly due to oil industry traffic, would be used to subsidise loss-making airports elsewhere in the HIAL portfolio.

There is no car parking charge of people living on Shetland’s islands, blue badge holders or patients travelling through the NHS.

Farquhar told the Gulberwick, Quarff and Cunningsburgh Community Council that income from the Sumburgh car parking will go towards the overall operation of the airport.

Possible plans that car parking money could be put towards include more disabled toilets and an extension to the departure lounge for NHS patients, he is reported to have said.

A spokesman for HIAL, meanwhile, said: “Car parking charges have only been in place for six months and significant seasonal variations in passenger numbers make it difficult to accurately predict income for this point in the first year of operation.

“However, as part of our ongoing review of all operations and facilities at the airport we are currently examining future requirements for car parking.”