BARRIERS preventing vehicles from entering a car park at night are said to be the final resort in tackling Wick’s antisocial drivers and stopping guests being disturbed at one of the town’s main hotels.
The Highland Council is set to pass measures to install lockable barriers later this month that will stop motorists from entering the Riverside car park after 10pm.
For years, residents and businesses have complained that the behaviour of boy racers is having a detrimental impact on the town.
Speed bumps installed at the Riverside outside the Norseman Hotel last year have failed to deter antisocial driving
antics. Now, closing the car park during the night is seen as the final option available to eradicate the problem.
Caithness ward manager David Sutherland said that the council is fully aware of the impact that antisocial driving has had on guests staying at the Norseman, forcing guests to leave and costing the business money.
He said that the barrier proposal has not been firmed up but has almost been agreed and said it appears to be the only long term solution to the problem. "It is unfortunate it has come to this as it is something that we really did not want to do," he said.
"We thought the speed bumps would deter the problem but it has not had the required effect as they continue to go into the car park and cause mayhem into the early hours of the morning.
"The police have been heavily involved in monitoring the situation at the car park but they cannot be there all the time."
He added: "The Norseman Hotel is an up-and-coming business in Wick and is a focal point for tourism in Caithness.
"But they are getting feedback on travel adviser websites saying that the actions of boy racers are keeping guests awake all night. We really feel that we have to try to not only protect the hotel’s custom but also the reputation of the area."
The hotel will be responsible for the opening and closing of the barriers, with anyone requiring access to the car park during closed hours having to request permission from the hotel’s reception.
Signage will also be erected at the car park stating its opening hours, although the final times have yet to be confirmed.
The proposal has received the full backing of Northern Constabulary.
Wick Councillor Gail Ross welcomed the proposal for the barriers, believing it is the only option left.
She said it is unfair that the actions of a minority of people in the town are having an impact on business and action needs to be taken.
"Although the speed bumps were a good idea at the time, they are not helping the situation," she said.
"The police have been involved in monitoring the car park and issued ASBOs but it is just not working.
"The only option available to us now is stopping them from getting in, full stop.
"It is a shame that we have to shut off a public car park at any time to solve the issue.
"But we can’t let this cost one of the town’s most successful business customers and money due to them." Area Chief Inspector Matthew Reiss
welcomes the proposal and hopes that the measure would get the message across to motorists.
"Over the past year, officers have devoted a great amount of time to dealing with a small amount of ignorant motorists who persist in antisocial activities at the car park," he said.
"It has used time that we rather be spending on dealing with other areas of crime and looking after the community.
"The biggest issue is road safety and if they are fooling around with their vehicles in the town centre, they are also carrying out criminal behaviour."
Nobody at the Norseman Hotel was available for comment as the John O’Groat Journal went to press.