Car park charges and gates are being used to prevent access to the National Park

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I visited the south Loch Lubnaig car park for the first time on Sunday, on the way back from a day on the hill, and was struck by the signage.  I think it proves the dangers of car park charging I made in my post two weeks ago.    Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority would have visitors believe that the charges are to help maintain the car park.  In fact I suspect a significant proportion of the charges collected is being used to pay for the people who come round to lock the gates of this car park each night and other car parks where the LLTNPA has not yet installed pay and display machines.  Some of the money will also contribute to the installation of gates at all the car parks controlled by the LLTNPA.    This is a National Park that is supposed to be promoting access but instead is paying people to prevent it.   This needs to be stopped.

 

When I asked Gordon Watson, the Chief Executive of the LLTNPA, the reasons why gates were installed across the car park outside the Park Convener, Linda McKay’s House on the Invertrossachs Road on South Loch Venachar, this was his response (Complaint 093 response dated 14th December 2014):

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Gate at first Invertrossachs Road car park – Loch Venachar House, the home of the Park convener, is behind the double height fence

This was nonsense and I followed it up as I had photos showing the then recent flooding at Loch Venachar where water levels were well below the carpark – indeed a local person informed me they had never known the loch to flood that high.  I also could not understand how a car park could assist with traffic management on what is generally a very quiet back road.   This is the Park’s Response –EIR 2015-014 Response.   What it proves is part of the response from Mr Watson to my complaint was simply made up.  EIR 2015-014 clearly states that the Park had “no written information about the basis of the decision to install gates at the car parks”, “does not hold information about flooding on the loch shore at the location on the car parks on south Loch Venachar” and had no information from the police or Stirling Council about any need for traffic management.  So the National Park held absolutely no evidence to substantiate Mr Watson’s claims as to why the gates were installed – not the first time this has happened.

 

The wider problem is that the letter shows that people like Mr Watson are being allowed to take decisions that fundamentally affect access rights (and its worth knowing Mr Watson lives in the National Park):

 

“The decision to install gates was an internal decision by officers [note the LLTNPA avoided my question as to who authorised the installation of the gates].  This decision follows the same approach as that taken at other visitor sites that have been improved by the Park Authority, including Loch Lubnaig North and South, Milarrochy Bay, North Loch Venachar and Firkin Point.”  

If this is true, a group of senior staff would appear to have taken a decision to install gates with a view to keeping people out across the National Park. (If its not true, the Park Board is responsible).  I would question how on earth this promotes the statutory duty of the National Park to promote public enjoyment of the countryside?   Why shouldn’t campervans pull in and spend the night at south Loch Venachar or Firkin Point or anywhere else?   Elsewhere in the Highlands people are generally welcomed but in the Loch Lomond and National Park everything is done to discourage visitors unless they pay for it at times the Park decides.   I think it significant that Linda McKay, the Park Convener, while apparently fully aware of the installation of gates as neighbours were notified (though the letter indirectly shows she did not comment) did not think to raise the wider access implications.   More evidence that NIMBYIST attitudes and assumptions in the LLTNPA  start at the top with the Chief Executive and the Convener.

8 Comments on “Car park charges and gates are being used to prevent access to the National Park

  1. Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park claim to be an Access Authority.
    Here is a request under the FOISA to detail car park access and the fitting of gates.
    Reponded to as an Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs)
    EIR Ref: 2016/039 – 5th September 2016
    “If it is not a bylaw that determines whether any particular gate will be closed, what legislation allows LLTNPA to deny access to parking and therefore access to the park?”
    There is no legislation that requires the Park Authority to permit parking on land within the National Park, nor to uphold any right to park a car on land in the National Park. The Park Authority is a landowner and as such has the same powers as any other landowner in terms of managing its land. We currently have a number of public car parks, the Forestry Commission and the four local authorities also provide public car parks in the National Park as do a number of other organisations and landowners.

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    “Can you confirm that landowners or tenants or other third parties will have the capability to request closure of car parking at any specified time or location to the exclusion of the general public?”
    Anything other than the access rights permitted by the Land Reform Act require the permission of the landowner. As stated above access rights do not extend to the parking of motorised vehicles.
    ——————————————————————————-
    “Can you list the set of circumstances that LLTNPA would see as good reason to deny access to any given carpark?”
    It has not been possible to identify any relevant information to answer this question, therefore I have to advise under R10(4)(c) that your request for information has been formulated in too general a manner.
    In accordance with our duty to advise and assist under R9 of the EIRs, please read all of the information provided in this response about access rights. It may also be helpful for you to look at the Scottish Outdoor Access Code website at http://www.outdooraccess-scotland.com/ for more information about access rights.
    The Park Authority as an Access Authority and as such upholds the public’s right of responsible access as set out in the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. These access rights do not apply to motorised vehicles, with certain exceptions for vehicles constructed for or adapted for someone with a disability.

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    “Can you confirm if it is likely that more than one carpark in the same management zone will be closed at any one time?”
    The Park Authority is not responsible for all parking in a management zone and therefore cannot answer this question. The Park Authority may close its own car parks as required for management purposes.
    ——————————————————————————-
    “Can you confirm if it is ever likely that carparks will be closed during the winter months?”
    As explained above, the Park Authority may close its own car parks as required for management purposes; in the winter circumstances may arise such as extreme winter weather conditions.
    ——————————————————————————-
    “Can you confirm who the key holders for the locks on carpark gates will be and will these keys ever be placed in the hands of other parties.”
    The Park Authority has two gated car parks at Loch Lubnaig which are managed by tenants who hold keys to the gates. As stated above the Park Authority does not own or manage all car parking provision available in the management zones or the wider Park area.
    ——————————————————————————
    I have requested a review to define what is the definition of management purposes.
    Ross

  2. The LLTNPA have double standards. They’ll lock these gates and others like Firkin Point at 8pm but they allow several travellers to park up ALL summer, taking over a whole parking layby on the A82 just beyond Luss, blocking cycle tracks , barking dogs, generators and all! And all for free—–Hypocrists

    1. The lay-bys on the A82 do not belong to the NPA these are the responsability of the highways agency as it is a trunk road. Hopefully under the new bye laws these rogue long term campers will
      Be encouraged to move on.

      1. John, there is no need for byelaws to get long terms campers to move on. Transport Scotland, assuming they own the layby in question, could ask the police to use S.61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to remove the long term caravans. The problem is that the LLTNPA has failed to use this legislation since it was created. All byelaws do is catch innocent short-term campers or in the laybys, people in campervans stopping off on their way north or south.

  3. If there is no legislation in place regarding the car parks and locking of gates as stated ,the it cannot be a criminal offence and the fact that the “landowner” can install car parks/gates etc then I would suggest that the charges administered would be civil in nature and there for non enforcable

    1. David, you are right about failure to pay charges being civil in nature but I think these charges are difficult to enforce rather than unenforceable. I think this is why the LLTNPA has decided to contract out the collection of car park fees in its recent tender for photographic number plate recognition charging systems. This gives the company administering the system the responsibility to collect unpaid charges and the right to keep all the income from fines for non-payment. All the risk will lie with these companies about whether they will be able to collect payment for unpaid car park charges or not, i.e it saves the Park the bother. When people start being fined it will also limit the damage to the “reputation” of the Park because it will be the company not the Park that pursues them through the courts

  4. Private companies cannot issue a fine. Only the Police and your local council are authorised to do so. Do not pay any Parking Eye ‘fine’ as it is, technically, an invoice. However, if you knowingly ignore a sign requesting a fee for parking on private land or where Parking Eye has been installed (supermarkets for example), they can only retrospecively ask that you pay the parking fee for the time spent in the car park – they cannot penalise you with a fine in addition to the fee. Car parks owned or run by the local authority (council owned) can legally fine you.

    1. Trevor, this is very interesting. The National Parks though I suspect may count as Council in terms of fines. What they have clearly done though is contract out the collection of these fines – this answer appeared on the Scotland Contracts portal in response to a question about the LLTNPA tender for Automatic Number Plate Recognition systems: “Answer – 09/09/2016 Any & all parking fines will remain with the contractor”. The tender also gives responsibility to the contractor to collect all fines.

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