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Owner of Caithness camping pod business warns road is 'literally falling apart'

By Alan Hendry

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Debbie Prouse runs Hillside Camping Pods at Auckengill. 'The council encourages tourism but does nothing to maintain the roads,' she says.
Debbie Prouse runs Hillside Camping Pods at Auckengill. 'The council encourages tourism but does nothing to maintain the roads,' she says.

A woman who owns a tourism business in Caithness has complained to Highland Council over the "horrendous" state of the road at her property.

Debbie Prouse runs Hillside Camping Pods, situated on what is known as the loop road off the A99 at Auckengill. She says the surface is so rutted and full of potholes that it is "falling apart".

Mrs Prouse has two pods and a shepherd's hut that opened in July 2019. The A99 between Wick and John O'Groats is part of the North Coast 500 route.

She says that when she obtained her short-term let licence last year she was told that the money from the licensing scheme would be spent on tourism infrastructure – but she has yet to see any evidence of this.

"Next week I am open for the new season and guests will have to try and navigate up the road to get here," Mrs Prouse said. "The road is literally falling apart with deep ruts on either side and huge potholes.

"A week before my guests arrive I send them directions and check-in details. And now I'm having to add in capital letters that once they've turned off the A99 please be extremely cautious as there are very large potholes.

"People do reviews, and one in October said they just thought it was a rough farm track – they didn't even realise it was a council road."

Mrs Prouse described the condition of the loop road as "just horrendous", particularly the north side.

"I have filled out forms to report it three times on the Highland Council website and I have also submitted an official complaint," she explained.

"I had a letter back regarding the complaint which told me they had no record of the online forms I had sent in – even though I gave them the reference number for the last one – and to type in an extremely long link, and it would show me what work was being carried out in Caithness.

"Well, after delving through various Highland Council pages and other links I eventually found the list of work. For my road it just said 'top dressing' – there's hardly any road left, so I don't know what they're going to top-dress!"

Mrs Prouse added: "I obtained my short-term let licence in February last year. When I asked where the money was going from the licences I was told it was to be spent on infrastructure for tourism, but I have not seen any evidence of this.

"I feel extremely angry. A lot of my guests arrive in hire cars and sports cars, and I anticipate there being a lot of complaints from them which is going to affect my business.

"The council encourages tourism but does nothing to maintain the roads.

"The short-term let licence was a bureaucratic nightmare, and the fee was extortionate for my small business, but it wouldn't be so bad if you could see the money being put to good use maintaining the roads."

Highland Council has been approached for comment.

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