IT is the long-distance route that has helped put the remote north of Scotland firmly on the global map.

But now Highland Council has been accused of trying to cash in on the success of the North Coast 500 road trip by installing parking meters in several key locations along the way.

However, concerns have been raised over the potential impact with fears that it could cause more motorists to try and avoid the charges by parking on verges.

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Locals at various NC500 pinch points - such as around Durness - last year complained of motorhomes, in particular, causing havoc by parking off-road.

Now Highland Council is to consult with community councils around the NC500 about introducing fees at various local authority car parks.

They include those at Bettyhill, Lochinver, Kylesku Bridge, Scourie, Bonar Bridge and Durness and the plan was floated at last week’s Sutherland councillors’ ward meeting in Golspie.

Councillor Hugh Morrison, who represents North, West and Central Sutherland, said the proposals had “potentially big impacts.”

He said: “Essentially the council wants to introduce parking fees at certain points along the NC500.

“This really needs thinking through. It is not like introducing fees in urban areas where there is no nearby alternative. There is a danger that those who do not want to pay will simply drive two minutes up the road and park on the side, causing more problems.

“The cost of installing and enforcing these charges could be counter productive. It may end up costing more than it brings in. There is a lot of work to be done before this is settled.”

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A spokeswoman for Highland Council said that community councils would be consulted soon.

Draft traffic orders will also be published in due course, giving the public the opportunity to comment. The council stressed the orders would be widely publicised.

The move is part of a new off-street parking policy agreed last October by the then-named Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee, and which could generate income for local investment.

Depute Leader Cllr Alasdair Christie said:” Every area has unique local priorities, whether this is gully cleaning, pothole repairs, resurfacing or just managing traffic and tourism pressures. Changing our approach to charging for off-street car parking can provide a way to support some of the additional investment required to address these problems.

“This new approach can also enable real local decision making and local choices to be made about improvements - Improvements which we simply cannot afford from our current budget which has to be spread across a huge geographical area.”

The NC500, is the 516 mile-long touring loop in and out of Inverness which takes in a network of roads around the region’s north, east and west coasts.

Last year it was revealed that the NC500 had generated more than £22m for the north Highlands’ economy. Smoo Cave in Durness alone has around 90,000 visitors a year and is a popular destination with motorhomes.

Entrepreneur recently submitted plans with Highland Council to demolish the derelict building near the site and install a free-standing outdoor laundry unit capable of turning round 18kg/40lb of laundry in 30 minutes.

Kris Scott also wants to put 20 pay and display car parking spaces on the site to ease congestion.

Chair of Communities and Place Committee, Cllr Allan Henderson said: “The Council manages infrastructure comprising some 4,000 miles of roads, 100 harbours, 1,400 bridges and over 200 schools. Each year, there is a reducing pot of money to invest in local infrastructure and services and to find solutions for tourist congestion and traffic management across the region.