It’s all change in the centre of Stornoway just now…with construction and refurbishment work on two new shops.

On Cromwell Street, Lewis Builders are involved in the creation of a new Iceland Store in the premises last occupied by the short-lived WeeW company – while right across the road shop-fitting is going on inside the former Hydro shop for the imminent move of Influence from Francis Street.

Meanwhile, several of the car parks around the town centre are still strangely empty.

Late last month changes were made to parking spaces in Stornoway. The Fishermen’s Quay car park on North Beach and two areas on South Beach – adjacent to the Star Inn and the former Caledonian Hotel – became paid parking locations, charging from 50p to £1.50 and with time slots from 1 hour to 24 hours.

The changes were put in place to ‘alleviate traffic and congestion within the town’, as Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Press Release said of the changes.

Reception has been mixed; with some shopkeepers believing the changes have hurt businesses surrounding the car parks, because people are refusing to pay the charges.

One shopkeeper said some of their customers are choosing instead to visit Tesco and the Co-op, supermarkets with big free car parks, with no fees.

Many, however, may believe that the new paid parking system leaves parking spaces for those who really need them – business owners, deliveries and keen customers.

Commenting on welovestornoway.com’s social media, Domhnall Macsween said that ‘Car parks [are] empty. Was in a shop and [the] owner was very angry with [the] council for “killing the town centre”.’

Alex Boyd, another local, replied to Domhnall’s post with, ‘This seems like another backwards step in a town full of empty shops.’

Gordon Struth, also a local, replied with ‘I take it Tesco and the Co-op has free parking? So making it even more likely people will just go there’.

Emma Campbell-Macleod of The Good Food Boutique in Cromwell Street said that: “It could be argued that people may refuse to pay the parking and do their shopping online or at the supermarkets which obviously will affect local business, but honestly I think it is too early to say one way or another if business has been affected by it.’