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Highland campsite owners ‘livid’ at new £40 campervan and motorhome pass

Campsite owners are calling on the Highland Council to reconsider its decision to introduce a £40 pass for motorhome and campervan users.

A letter has been signed by more than 20 businesses across the region, laying out the fierce competition they now face with the “low cost or free facilities now on offer.”

They are calling on council officials to meet with them to discuss a “sustainable way forward” for their campsites, which they say are at risk of being overlooked.

The voluntary pass scheme was launched on July 1, with the local authority saying it will help deliver ‘sustainable tourism’ for campervan and motorhome users travelling across the Highlands.

Travellers who opt for the £40 seven-day pass will have access to scheme benefits that will support continued improvements to services including public toilets, wastewater infrastructure, and ecological protections.

The cost of the weekly pass will also provide inclusive overnight parking in specified carparks throughout the region.

In the letter, the business owners say: “This new scheme which allows the user to access most of the facilities they need for the very low price of £40 for a week now makes your carparks a destination in their own right rather than a handy one night stop-over.

“Visitors will now plan their entire trip around your car park options and by-pass campsites altogether.

“Caravan parks cannot compete – and we should not have to.”

Lynn and Darren Redfern, who own Dornoch Camping and Caravan Park, say they are both “absolutely livid” about the introduction of the pass.

Lynn said: “Three years ago, the council put these carparks in place. At that point, we warned them it’d affect our businesses.

“They didn’t care. No one even consulted us before the introduction of this new scheme.

“We lease our land from Highland Council – but they seem to be hell-bent on destroying it.

“The council are our direct competitors.”

The price of the pass has also been a topic of discussion – the pair say that the ‘cheap price’ will cause many to stray away from campsites.

“Many campsites charge between £20 to £30 per night and cannot compete with £40 for the week,” she added.

The letter also raises concerns about the health and safety guidelines they claim the council is failing to follow.

They say: “We have strict health and safety guidelines to adhere to. We have crippling bills in the form of VAT, business rates, refuse collection, electricity, etc. As a result, we need to charge over £25 per pitch per night just to cover costs.

“As the Highland council, you have somehow managed to by-pass all health and safety regulations and tax burdens.

“Instead you have used tax payers money to facilitate this new cheap option.”

Lynn and Darren also mention the threat of an impending ‘tourist tax’ which still holds “a lot of unknowns”.

Darren said: “It’ll push our prices even higher. If this tax comes along, it’ll push people even further to paying the £40.”

Dornoch Camping and Caravan Park has been run by Lynn’s family for more than 30 years – since 1992 – and she now runs the site with her husband.

“A lot of these campsites are family-run and are small businesses. They need to be protected,” Lynn added.

“It’s also about the quality of the product. With campsites like ours you have access to lovely facilities and people can chat to us. We can give them local advice that would be hard to get otherwise.

“We all intermingle and we’re one big community. Restaurants also need our customers to survive.”

A Highland Council spokesperson said: “We can confirm that the council has received a letter from campsite operators about the voluntary ‘Highland Campervan and Motorhome Scheme’ and will be responding in due course directly to the authors.”

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