A court victory for Norway's freedom to roam law. Nordkapp will now be cheaper to visit as a court ruling forces the removal of expensive parking charges.
The high parking charges at Norway's North Cape (Nordkapp) have caused controversy for many years. Now, a Norwegian court has ruled that Scandic Hotels, which operates the facilities at the plateau, cannot charge an entrance fee just to drive on to the plateau.
The local municipality called the ruling “a victory for public access to Norwegian nature,” adding that it's an “important verdict for everyone who wants outstanding experiences in Norway.”
A popular northern destination
I'll always remember my visits to Norway's North Cape. Known as Nordkapp in Norwegian, the North Cape is a north-facing clifftop at the very top of Norway.
I thoroughly enjoyed the journey north, meeting people and learning about the small, remote communities along the way. I was also surprised at how much I enjoyed Nordkapp itself. It really did feel like the ‘end of the world.'
Unfortunately, not all the memories were so positive. The parking charge of NOK 200 ($22) was frustrating, given Norway's free access to nature laws. The charge was payable regardless of whether you used the facilities or just wanted to go for a walk.
Previously, the charge has been as high as NOK 285 at peak times ($31.50), and considerably higher for motorhomes.
I was pleased to hear that last year the local Nordkapp municipality ordered Scandic Hotels–the operator of the Nordkapp visitor centre–to remove the parking charges.
Scandic took Nordkapp to court
However, Scandic were not impressed, launching court action against the municipality. I wasn't exactly surprised. If 500 people drive on to the plateau, then that's NOK 100,000 ($11,000) into their coffers.
Scandic argued that it had invested heavily in its visitor centre and therefore needed the parking revenues from tourists.
Last week, the court in West Finnmark ruled in favour of Nordkapp municipality. Following the 11-day trial, the court said Scandic had no right to charge parking fees on what is essentially public land.
A victory for a small municipality
At the beginning of 2021, just 3,075 people lived in Nordkapp municipality. While the numbers have been lower recently for obvious reasons, the North Cape itself receives up to 250,000 visitors in a typical year. It's a top attraction in Northern Norway.
The municipality's Stig Aspås Kjærvik was pleased with the ruling. He said they had been confident about the outcome following evaluations by the state and the civilian ombudsman.
Kjærvik said Scandic's entrance charges was “an attack on friluftsloven“, Norway's law of public access to public lands. He also told NRK that Scandic should have sued the state over the law, not the municipality over its implementation.
Nordkapp mayor Jan Olsen told NRK that it “isn’t easy for a small municipality to take responsibility for state public access laws alone.”
There were some local concerns over the potential for job losses if Scandic were forced to accept the drop in revenues. What Scandic do next remains to be seen, but a spokesperson said they would consider an appeal.