Back in November I submitted an FOI request to the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority intended to enforce the proposed camping byelaws:
“all information relating to any intention to prosecute whether internal, discussions or communications with the police, procurator fiscal, Forestry commissioner anyone else who might be involved in enforcing the byelaws.”
The Park refused my request (see here), stating that it was too general but committed to producing an enforcement policy and, on 24th March, I received an email to say that it had been published (see here).
What is the status of the Enforcement Policy?
The first thing to note about the Enforcement Policy is that it has not been considered or approved by any public meeting of the LLTNPA Board. In my view its the National Park Board that should decide policy, not staff – though its possible the Enforcement Policy was considered at a secret Board Briefing session earlier this year. This contrasts with the LLTNPA’s litter enforcement policy – which is referred to in this new policy – which was considered at a Board Meeting, in June 2016. However, even in that case Board Members were only asked to NOTE the contents of the policy, not to APPROVE it:
So what does the Enforcement Policy tell us?
I had hoped the Enforcement Policy would say how the LLTNPA proposes to deal with certain situations which I believe make the byelaws all but unenforceable:
- the thousands of visitors who will camp, light fires, put up shelters, try to sleep overnight in their campervans off a road who are completely unaware that they are committing a criminal offence
- local residents, apart from the landowners and immediate family who are exempt from the provision, who put up tents and bivouacs in gardens within the management zones or occupy a form of shelter overnight
- people who know they are contravening the byelaws but do so for safety reasons (eg cycle and canoe tourers who stop because of exhaustion or bad weather)
- and, on the definitions front, what activities relating to lighting of fires are seen by the LLTNPA as likely to cause damage?
The Enforcement Policy does not answer any of these questions. Perhaps the answers are contained in the procedures referred to at the end of the policy (which I have now requested under FOI):
The “Threshold” signs are those at the entrance to the management zones. No wonder staff were not keen when Board Members suggested there should be signs telling people that they were leaving the camping management zone – that might have cost another £60k. It appears that if the Park was to install small “no camping” signs it would cost £500 apiece – there must be at least 200 good places to camp outwith the camping permit areas so that’s another £100k. Not good use of public money, but without signs it will be almost impossible to enforce the byelaws because most people won’t know and if referred to the PF can use this as a defence. It won’t look good if a visitor stopping off to camp overnight in a car is prosecuted – in fact I suspect the PF will regard this as a waste of Court time. The LLTNPA has ducked this issue, in fact its head is in the sand, about how it can ensure everyone stopping off knows about the camping byelaws.
The problems are illustrated by the proposed no camping signage which was never put to the public Board Meeting in October. Imagine approaching this layby with a campervan. The sign says nothing about sleeping overnight in campervans being a potential breach of the byelaws. Its hard though to see how any sign could accurately convey the legal position. Legally, roads are exempt from the provisions of the byelaws and the legal definition of a road includes its verge. So, if you pull off this road onto the flat verge between the two signs, or behind the one on the left, that’s quite legal. However, if you could drive the campervan down towards the loch shore, as soon as you left the verge if you slept in that position overnight that would be an offence. The LLTNPA is never going to be able to convey that message by signage and the byelaws are as a consequence unenforceable for campervans. Interestingly the enforcement policy says NOTHING about the different enforcement approaches Rangers might take depending on whether someone is camping, in a campervan or has put up a tent in the garden of a house they are renting.
- the camper is exhausted or ill or otherwise in a position which makes it unsafe to move
- what happens if this is a repeat breach of the byelaws, in other words the person camped previously, agreed to move on, but has returned to camp on another occasion
The second point is crucial. Under the byelaws the LLTNPA has the right to take the name and address of people breaching the byelaws. It has not said what it will do with this information (this is something else which should have been decided by the Board), how long it will store it or whether it will record other information such as whether the camper has been informed about the nature and extent of the camping byelaws and the implications of breaking them again). One way to find out if you provide this information is to submit a Subject Access Request under Data Protection legislation to find out what information is being held about you.
(to be continued)