Luskentyre cemetery action ‘not good enough’

Visitors and campervans regularly use the car park to access Luskentyre beach.Visitors and campervans regularly use the car park to access Luskentyre beach.
Visitors and campervans regularly use the car park to access Luskentyre beach.
​Isle of Harris councillor, Paul Finnegan, has described claims made by a campaigner that Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is putting the interests of tourists “over locals and the community” in its proposed solution to blocking at Luskentyre Cemetery car park as “untrue”.

The claims were made by campaigner, Lynne MacKay, who described the Comhairle’s proposed solutions as “not good enough.”

She said: “It’s just excuses after excuses. This issue has being going on for more than three years.

“I totally understand this island needs tourism, of course they do, but they need to have a bit of respect.

"It’s a cemetery car park. It was gifted to the council as a cemetery car park, and that’s what it should be. They [some tourists] are having barbecues, hanging washing, stripping out of their beach outfits – if we did that in another council car park we’d be done.

“It’s totally, totally disrespectful, and I’m not going to stop until our loved ones get the respect they deserve. ”

Last week, the Comhairle confirmed that its plans included ensuring car parking spaces designated for visitors were “properly marked out,” and that a “review of signage” would be undertaken.

In response, Lynne MacKay claimed that the proposals would not work and alleged the authority was “ignoring” demands for the gate at the car park to be locked, with access available via a lock box, the code to which would be available on a phone line to those who need access.

In June, Lynne MacKay, who lost her husband Calum in April after a battle with cancer, started an online petition calling for action to remedy the problems she experienced and witnessed when visiting the cemetery.

The petition accused some tourists of ignoring the signage by the reserved car parking spaces, and of “disrespectful behaviour” while parked in the reserved bays, including using the cemetery’s fencing as a place to dry wet suits, towels, and having music “blaring out.”

It has now secured nearly 4000 signatures out of its target of 5000, and the campaign’s Facebook page, ‘Respect for Luskentyre Cemetery Parking’, now has more than 600 followers.

Earlier this week, fellow campaigner, Joan MacLeod, said on that page that the campaign was not “anti-tourist” or “anti-motor home”, stating: “This campaign just wants to reiterate that we are NOT anti-tourist, we are NOT anti- motorhome, we are NOT anti-visitor from wherever they’ve travelled.

“We are simply asking all visitors to respect parking signs and to be aware of the sensitivity of parking adjacent to a cemetery.”

Responding to Lynne MacKay’s claims, Cllr Finnegan said: “The Council are taking a staged approach to the cemetery issue.

“The first stage is to line the reserved spaces and put up new signs. This will be reviewed and if there is no improvement, other options will be looked and implemented.

“To say that tourists are being given priority [over] local people is not true.

“I have had a number of representations from the Harris community saying they do not want the car park locked. Their views also need to be considered.”

A Comhairle nan Eilean Siar spokesperson added: “Comhairle nan Eilean Siar will continue to review all reasonable solutions and asks that all visitors to Luskentyre to follow the instructions given by signage.

“The Comhairle has made a commitment to provide clearer designation of parking areas with road markings and additional signage.

“The Comhairle is committed to close working with communities across the Western Isles and is engaged in discussions to establish new channels of communication with community representatives in Harris.”