There has been no further news about the Park’s planning application to itself (see here) on Loch Chon but I suspect this is because the LLTNPA is secretly trying to win over the local community, many of whom rightly objected to its proposals. I hope they hold out. Its worth reminding Gordon Watson, the Chief Executive, what he committed in writing to the local community about the byelaws and the Park’s camping plans back in April 2014 Loch Ard meeting notes (obtained through an FOI request ):
Enjoy Mr Watson’s reference to Loch Drunky, but the points that stand out for me are:
- The Community Council suggested campsites at Loch Katrine, Loch Arklet and various other locations in the area. This would have fitted well with my suggestion that there should be a network of small campsites in Strathard linked by the current path network which is underused. A great opportunity to promote weekend cycling and backpacking trips. This has been ignored and instead the LLTNPA wants one big campsite at Loch Chon.
- The Community Council wanted to allow camping at Loch Arklet, but because the byelaws have been extended there and the Park is refusing to consider a campsite, camping will be banned there completely.
- Most of the campers at Loch Chon are fishermen who obtain fishing permits from Forest Enterprise Scotland.
Now local people have been concerned about fishermen leaving a mess at Loch Chon and I believe this was partly why there was local support for the proposed camping byelaws. However, byelaws were never needed or the right solution: the Forestry Commission Scotland should have been managing these issues, its their land after all. They could have simply removed fishing permits from people who did not abide by the Scottish Outdoor Access Code when camping or undertaking other activities (fishing itself is not covered by access rights). Instead, FCS have simply abandoned all their visitor management responsibilities at Loch Chon and have been only too pleased to see the National Park step into the void and pay for a campsite on their land. The FCS should have been creating campsites throughout the Trossachs and the western part of the National Park where its by far the largest landowner.
The FCS as well at the LLTNPA has betrayed local and recreational communities and I hope both will start demanding it either starts to play a constructive role in Strathard or is held to account by Scottish Ministers. In my view the best way out of the mess that LLTNPA and FCS have created in Strathard would be for a tourism and recreation plan for Strathard which is developed openly and transparently with the local community and recreational organisations.