Month: January 2018

January 19, 2018 Nick Kempe 1 comment

Prompted by the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority’s refusal this week to provide me with a list of the research they have commissioned in the last five years, I have been checking the contracts they have awarded from the Scotland Contracts portal (see here).   While this did not reveal much about what research and other such work the LLTNPA has commissioned from external sources, it did reveal some very interesting information about the LLTNPA’s approach to that Estate Management Plans, plans which the LLTNPA has refused to make public  (see here).

Almost all contracts let by public authorities are now meant to be advertised through the Contracts Portal.  This is a useful counter to the increasing tendency for all levels of government not to record how or why decisions are taken.  (The LLTNPA’s camping byelaws provide a good example of this with officials claiming to hold no information about what discussions took place between Ministers and the National Park Authority about the need for byelaws despite Linda McKay writing a letter to then Minister Aileen Mcleod saying the byelaws were a follow up to a discussion with the previous Minister Paul Wheelhouse).

While my search did reveal the existence of a couple of research/audit type reports others, which I know exist, did not appear to be recorded there.    I could find no trace, for example, of any contract which might have covered the Strategic Environmental Assessment for the National Park Partnership Plan.  This   was undertaken by Collingwood Environmental Planning Ltd based in Westminster and Volume 1 alone was 150 pages long.   It is unlikely to have been cheap.    The information on the Contracts Portal therefore appears incomplete, perhaps time for the audit committee to scrutinise how far the LLTNPA is meeting the procurement rules?  That would give something for Board Members to do (see here)

What I did find however was details of contracts awarded to outside organisations to help landowners produce estate management plans under the general heading of “Provision of technical support to landowners”:

Title Contract start Contract end Awarded to Minimum bid Maximum bid
Renewable Energy Specialist 26-03-13 26-03-18 Smith Gore £35,750 £175,000
Revenue opportunities outdoor recreation 08/05/13 2017? Step (1)

Bowles Green  Ltd (2)

Laurence Gould Partnership (3)

£72,000 £108,000
Conservation, agri-environment and climate change 01-04-14 2017? Lockett Agri-environmental (1)

Walking the Talk (2)

Farming & Conservation (3)

£31,000 £70,000
Forestry and woodlands 01-04-14 2017? Eamonn Wall & Co £25,000 £74,000
Farm Business Consultant 01-04-14 Laurence Gould Partnership £55,000 £89,000
£218,750 £516,000

To be fair to the LLTNPA, the outsourcing of estate plan consultancy was referred to in reports to their Delivery Group  EIR 2017-071 evaluation land management plans Appendix A but what I had not put together before was the amount of resources the LLTNPA had devoted to the production of these  management plans.  In 2014, besides appointing a second land management adviser to their own staff to progress this work, they had committed to spending a minimum of £218,750 (see table above) on external consultancy to land owners.   (The sum might be considerably more than this because the contracts portal only provides information on the range of bids for contracts, not the price of the successful contractor and its very unlikely, for example, that Smith Gore bid £35,750 to provide advice on renewables).

It appears safe to conclude from this that the LLTNPA has spent well over £300k (taking costs of their own staff into account) on producing 4-5 Estate/whole farm plans, that is c£60k per plan, plans which they refuse to make public.

This, and other information from  the contracts portal, raises a number of further public interest questions:

  • Given the amount of money spent, why did no proper written evaluation take place, to establish whether these secret plans are value for money?
  • What are the cost implications for the new National Park Partnership plan which commits to a further roll out of these secret estate plans?
  • Given four out of the five contracts now appear to have expired and the Smith Gore contract ends in March, how will the LLTNPA support this work in future and will it continue to be secretive?
  • Can the LLTNPA provide assurances that none of the advice given under the “revenue opportunities for outdoor recreation” contract involved advising on charges that could affect access (eg advising landowners on how to charge for car parking?).
  • Can the LLTNPA provide assurances that all the Renewables Energy Advice to landowners provided by Smith Gore put the landscape quality of the National Park before economic return to landowners?

The evidence is starting to suggest that the LLTNPA has been far more interested in promoting commercial approaches to land management rather than conservation or public enjoyment of the land through its land management plans.  This is basically a neo-liberal approach:  money and making it comes first;   public services should be supporting that aim (so despite the fortunes being made out of hydro schemes the LLTNPA still subsidises landowners in the preparatory work for these schemes without asking for anything back); and expert advice is better outsourced than provided by your own staff.

We need a public debate on who and what the land in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park is for – is it about making money for landowners or is it about public recreation and conservation?

 

January 18, 2018 Nick Kempe No comments exist
Half removed ski infrastructure in Coire na Ciste, a sort of tank trap for skiers – Photo Credit Ron Walker

I had not personally visited Coire na Ciste since HIE found £267k for a clear-up at Cairngorm (see here)  in which they removed the ski infastructure there without any consultation.  Having been sent the above photo (used with permission) I wish I had.   The half removed unmarked infrastructure is an obvious hazard which could have killed an off-piste skier using the lift system.

This hazard has been reported to HIE and I understand they have taken immediate action.  They now need to explain publicly how the current management at Cairngorm, who were supervising the contract to remove the infrastructure from Coire na Ciste,  either never checked on the work or, if they did, failed to identify this as a hazard and respond appropriately (which would have included reporting it to HIE if the money had run out).

More evidence that “Natural Retreats” (or whoever is now actually running Cairngorm) cannot be trusted to manage publicly funded contracts and the publlcly owned land at Cairngorm and more grounds for HIE to terminate their lease with them. If HIE does not act, the responsible Minister, Fergus Ewing, should.

January 17, 2018 Nick Kempe 2 comments
Badenoch and Strathspey Herald 11/01/18

Last week, nine months after Highlands and Island Enterprise launched its so called masterplan for Cairngorm (see here), the Strathy announced  the date of the pre-planning consultation event on the proposals to revamp the Ptarmigan near the summit of the hill.  At the same time it also broke the news that the Scottish Ski Club, which has a hut at Cairngorm, was proposing to spend £1.4m on a new lift at the White Lady.  This post will consider how both proposals fit with the need for a wider plan for Cairngorm and what is really going on there behind the scenes.

 

The Ptarmigan proposals

There were two main elements to the Cairngorm masterplan what wasn’t: a dry ski slope by the carpark, which now appears to have been ditched (a planning application was submitted before being quickly withdrawn last year), and the Ptarmigan.  From the Strathy article it appears that the proposals have not changed greatly in the last nine months since the concept was revealed, with the extension to the building and revamped exhibition both included in the original plans, although the plan for a walkway out over the funicular appears to have been altered slightly.  It now apparently goes around or over the roof:

Extract from 365 Degree Architecture’s previous plans released under Freedom of Information – if the reports of a rooftop walkway are correct, it appears that the design of the building will have been changed.

The basic idea however remains the same, try and get more people to use the funicular by creating a visitor attraction at the top of it.   The idea is totally flawed.  In landscape terms National Parks should not be permitting new developments near the summits of mountains and in visitor experience terms, to use that awful phrase, the plan is complete stupidity.   The Ptarmigan is shrouded in cloud for much of the time and subject to high winds, so the claim that the rooftop walkway will “maximise the amazing vistas all year round” is complete tosh.   HIE appears to be preparing to lend another £4m of public monies to create yet another white elephant at Cairngorm.

What’s worse, HIE appears to be pressing ahead with this proposal before it – or rather Natural Retreats – has produced an overall plan for Cairngorm, as it committed to do under the Cairngorm and Glenmore Strategy which was approved in 2016 and before it has completed its review of ski infrastructure at Cairngorm.  This is important because in terms of use of public money, HIE should have fully assessed the cost-benefits of expanding the Ptarmigan compared to other options BEFORE endorsing any planning application.

 

The White Lady ski lift proposal

The former White Lady lift before the removal of the old lift base with the Scottish Ski Club Hut above it. August 2017.

HIE’s inability to produce any sort of coherent plan for Cairngorm is nicely shown up by the proposal from the Scottish Ski Club to reinstate the White Lady lift, probably in the form of a state of the art t-bar which apparently would cost £1.4m and which they hope to fund.  This is most interesting, not least because it suggests that new lifts could be installed in Coire na Ciste for less than the £4m HIE are proposing to lend to Cairngorm Mountain in order to develop the Ptarmigan.    So, would it not be better to use public monies to support the proposals from the Ciste Group and Aviemore and Glenmore Community Trust to redevelop the Ciste rather than waste it on the Ptarmigan?  Add those proposals to the White Lady lift and the use of snow making machines and one might, once again, have skiing worthy of the name at Cairngorm.

While the White Lady Lift proposal appears welcome, the evidence suggests that behind the scenes HIE has yet again not been honest about what they are up to while the Scottish Ski Club has allowed themselves to get caught up in HIE and Cairngorm Mountain shenanigans.  The Strathy story quotes the Scottish Ski Club as saying they have been in collaboration with HIE and Natural Retreats  to look  at the feasibility of the proposal.  This must have taken time and it seems reasonable to conclude therefore that HIE must have known about this when they tendered for their review of ski infrastructure at the end of November (see here).  That tender included in its scope the development potential of Coire na Ciste but NOTHING about the development potential of Coire Cas where the White Lady is situated.  So has HIE helped commission another study, which they have kept secret, about the ski potential in Coire Cas or have they just missed an opportunity to get independent evidence on the Scottish Ski Club proposals which could be used to justify some public financial investment?   Either way the lack of join up by HIE between the various initiatives at Cairngorm is quite staggering and yet more evidence of the need of a proper overall plan.

While I can understand that the Scottish Ski Club needed to get HIE, as the owners, and NR as the operators, on board, it appears they may have allowed themselves to get too close.  Its much easier to understand now why the SSC did not  make an issue when Cairngorm Mountain staff entered the Ski Club Hut and removed the Winter Highland webcam without permission (see here).  If they had done so, Natural Retreats might have refused to co-operate with their proposal.   Easier too to understand why Cairngorm Mountain thought they could get away with this highhanded action.    It would be in interests of all who care about Cairngorm if SSC were to talk now to the Ciste Group and Aviemore and Glenmore Community Trust and ensure all their plans fit as one cannot see either HIE or Natural Retreats doing this.

So is Natural Retreats still Natural Retreats and if not who is running Cairngorm Mountain?

While the Scottish Ski Club reported they had been talking to Natural Retreats, I suspect this is because the staff they spoke to never told them what was going on – or perhaps even they didn’t know.  I think it is significant in this respect that the Ptarmigan proposal is being push in the name of Cairngorm Mountain with not a mention of  Natural Retreats.  The original proposals for the

The branding strapline from an earlier version of the proposals for the Ptarmigan

Ptarmigan were branded on every page as coming from Natural Retreats.  I suspect that at the consultation event there will be not a mention of Natural Retreats, which we know is no longer a so-called international operation, and the UK part of which appears to have transferred to the UK Great Travel Company on 1st November  (see here) and (here).  I have since found out – as a result of a comment on the blog that the Great Travel Company Ltd had registered a person with Significant Control – that there are in fact two Great Travel Companies, both operated by former directors of Natural Retreats:

The UK Great Travel Company is the new name for the Natural Retreats UK and has three Directors, Ewan Kearney, Anthony Wild and Matthew Spence and, while it has still failed to register who has significant control, we know from past accounts that it used, at any rate, to be controlled by David Michael Gorton, the same man who controls Natural Assets Investment Ltd, the owner of Cairngorm Mountain.

The Great Travel Company was incorporated – i.e created as a new company – at the end of October 2017 with Matthew Spence as sole Director and owning over 75% of the shares.

So what is happening?   The former company Natural Retreats UK, before it became the UK Great Travel Company, appeared to service all the companies owned by Natural Assets Investment Ltd .  As remarked in my last post, there is still a Natural Retreats UK website but all mention of Cairngorm Mountain has been removed from it and a new marketing manager is/has been appointed based at Cairngorm.  It appears therefore the companies are being separated.   The creation of the Great Travel Company suggests that Cairngorm Mountain is not the only part of the Natural Retreats business which is being separated off.  But why then create a company with such a similar sounding name and why is Matthew Spence a director of both?  A recipe for confusion unless something else is going on.

Before the latest changes, I has written to HIE expressing concern about what is going on behind the scenes and who actually now manages and controls Cairngorm Mountain Ltd.  I had a very polite and clear response from their Chief Executive, Charlotte Wright, just before Xmas:

1              Information on Companies House website

Companies House data should be kept up to date, and I understand you raising this as a concern.  However, as I said before, HIE believes that this is a matter for the company.  I would assure you that we do not rely solely on Companies House information for our monitoring activities, which are regular and robust.

What this told me was that even if HIE do know who owns the UK Great Travel Company, they don’t see it as being in the public interest that this information is made public.   Given that Scottish Limited Partnerships, money laundering and tax evasion are in the news on a daily basis at present, one would have hoped that all public agencies in Scotland were ensuring the organisations they contract with meet these basic legal obligations.  All it would take is one call from them saying “publish the correct information or there will be contractual consequences” and the UK Great Travel Company would oblige.   That they have not done so suggests other things are going on.

Within this context it appears foolhardy in the extreme to be pushing ahead with an ill conceived scheme which will hand yet more public money to the shadowy companies that own and manage Cairngorm and whom we know were, until recently at least, controlled by a hedge fund manager.

January 16, 2018 Nick Kempe 1 comment
Speyside Way extension along line of former powerline between Lynwilg and Alvie – Photo credit Peter Crane

Following last week’s post on the undergrounding of powerlines in Glen Tromie (see here), in which there was a photo showing how they had blighted the Speyside Way extension, Peter Crane from the Cairngorms National Park Authority sent me a photo of how it looks now, after the powerlines have been removed.   Thank you Peter.

You can judge for yourself the difference by comparing to a couple of my photos below from December 2015 but in my view, with the removal of the powerlines, the Speyside Way is far more worthy of a planning award than it was in 2016 (see here).

The Speyside Way extension will be a much better walk with the removal of the powerlines

Following this improvement I would, though, still like to see the CNPA promoting a variant to this section of the Speyside Way along the fine section of river at Kinrara which has been avoided by the extension.  This would also make it far more obvious to people that they could do circular walks using this section of the Way.   The challenge is getting landowners to agree to this – time, as Dave Morris proposed in his interview with Scotland Out of Doors at the weekend, for Public Authorities to be given Compulsory Purchase Powers to put paths in place.

January 15, 2018 Nick Kempe No comments exist
Firkin Point camping Zone A March 2016 soon after the byelaws came into force – it was little better last week – hence the comment from Euan McIlraith “you would not camp there if you had the choice”

If you have not heard it, most of Saturday’s episode of BBC Radio Scotland’s Out of Doors programme (see here) was devoted to Scotland’s access legislation as it approaches its fifteenth anniversary.    If you want to understand the amazing story of how our access rights were secured – and in this case “our” really does mean our, as anyone who ever steps foot in Scotland has those rights and they apply to everyone, from the homeless to the Queen – or the background to continued access problems and challenges, including those in our National Parks ((see here) or (here)) I commend the whole programme.   (And for those who don’t have the time to spend 1.5 hours listening I give the approx times of the various interviews and their content at the end of this post).

 

While most of the programme was a celebration of the successes of our access legislation, the programme gave significant coverage to the camping byelaws.  I was pleased to participate, balanced by a contribution from Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority staff and excellent commentary/questioning from the presenters Mark Stephens and Euan McIlwraith.   The interviews with staff were very revealing.   This post will take a critical look at what was said within the context that most of the people involved in securing our access rights, including many interviewed on the programme,  believe the camping byelaws and the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority pose the biggest single threat to those rights.

 

The operation of the warning system

In their Review for Ministers of how the byelaws had operated in their first year, the LLTNPA reported that it had issued 828 warnings to campers.    It is not clear on what legal authority (see here) the LLTNPA has instigated this warning system –  I have now asked them to clarify this – but what the programme revealed is that the Park is keeping data on people it has warned for three whole years.

The interview took place at Milarrochy, on a long stretch of the east shore of Loch Lomond where camping is completely banned except in campsites which are often fully booked. So, the LLTNPA’s suggestion in the interview that they would ask people found camping here to move to a permit zone  – say exhausted backpackers on the West Highland Way – bears no resemblance to reality. Other areas, such as the west shore of Loch Lomond north of Inveruglas have even less provision.

The programme revealed what the LLTNPA has to date refused to reveal under Freedom of Information, how its enforcing the camping byelaws.    Simon Jones explained it as follows, stating that “we will do everything in our power to let you stay”  so long that is that either you move into a permit area and buy a permit or move out of the camping management zone – in other words there is NO power to let people camping responsibly stay!   While Simon Jones said the byelaws, the criminal offence, are only being applied to people who are “intractable” and won’t follow the directions of rangers, the Ranger clarified that they are taking the name and address of people found in breach of the byelaws.  Whether all of these people are then being issued official warnings is still not clear.

The LLTNPA has always said it does not want to criminalise campers, not I believe because it respects responsible campers – one thing that came across to me in the programme is that Park staff see any camper as a problem needing “management” and “education” –  but because this would be a public relations disaster.   So, what they have decided to do is to create a warning system and hope that the threat of having the camper’s name and address and the potential of a future referral to the Procurator Fiscal will be sufficient to deter a person from ever again camping without a permit.

Its within this context that the LLTNPA  are saying to the Minister in their Review Report that its too early to tell if the camping byelaws have worked.  The byelaws clearly aren’t working at present as intended as lots and lots of people are still camping where camping has been banned.  The LLTNPA is hoping however that as they add more and more names to their files fewer and fewer people will camp.   It would be interesting to know if any other criminal law in Scotland has ever been implemented in this way.

Its ironic that at the same time the Scottish Parliament has been cleaning up the behaviour of Police Scotland, which has reduced the number of stop and searches from over half a million to 20,000 or so, its allowed the LLTNPA to instigate a STOP AND PERMIT system for campers.  If you doubt that this what it is all about, listen to the Ranger who describes herself as “an enforcement officer”. Time that the Scottish Parliament, in celebrating our access legislation, started to scrutinise what is going on in the LLTNPA.

 

The position of caravans and campervans

Legally, the byelaws allow people to stay overnight in a vehicle on a “road”, which is defined to include both public roads and private roads over which there is a right of passage, in any camping management zone.   When asked about this Simon Jones, Director of Conservation,  replied:

“if you are in a car you have the opportunity to stay in a layby and rest where you want to on the public road [note he avoided mentioning people sleeping ovenight], off the public road is another matter………..”.  

This was a false statement and was picked up by Mark Stephen:

“with respect that is not what it says in the byelaws, the word public road is not in the byelaws………….”.

Simon Jones then acknowledged this but avoided clarifying the Park’s stance:

ok, the interpretation I think (pause) the important thing to remember is what we would do as an authority to try and help you [why would someone doing nothing wrong need help?], educate you………...and as a last resort enforce something we don’t want to have to do”

Oh dear!  So what is the Park’s approach to campervans and caravans?  We don’t know, apart from that the LLTNPA claim they are now following the advice of Police Scotland, whatever that is (they refuse to release it).  The problem for the LLTNPA, epitomised by Mr Jones convoluted response, is that if they publlcly accept the byelaws effectively no longer apply to campervans and caravans, half the justification for the byelaws collapses (the main reason local community councils supported the byelaws proposals was they were told this would address the problems of caravans parked up for the summer in laybys).   Then the manifest unfairness of applying the byelaws to campers and not to people in vehicles (nicely brought out by Mark Stephen in his question about why a cyclist should not be able to stop off for a rest like a car driver or campervan owner) becomes ever more apparent.

The LLTNPA need to make public the instructions they have issued to staff about how the byelaws apply to campervans and caravans, including the legality of their attempts to charge people for stopping on places that are part of the road network (e.g Inveruglas).     Because I doubt they will do this, I have submitted an FOI request asking the LLTNPA how many warnings have been issued to people stopping overnight in campervans and caravans.  When that eventually becomes public, as I am confident it will, it should help show if LLTNPA are abusing their powers or have effectively abandoned trying to enforce them against campervans.

Parkspeak

The LLTNPA provided a number of choice examples of parkspeak in their interviews (I don’t blame the Ranger for this, she was only doing what she was told).  These are important because these are about trying to change the way both staff and the public think about access rights.

The old east Loch Lomond no camping signs at Milarrochy have now been replaced but the message is the same

The LLTNPA interview took place at Milarrochy bay. Instead of openly acknowledging they want to ban campers from places such as this, the byelaws are now being presented as being part of a “toolkit”.  (This is a significant change since the Your Park consultation never asked people what they thought about toolkits and what should be in them).  What Mark Stephen’s exposed in his “role play” with the Ranger is just what a useless tool the byelaws are.   If you refuse to give your name and address and follow the directions of Park staff, whether you are camping according to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code or chopping down trees, LLTNPA staff still have to call the police – the same remedy that has always been available to address situations where people have been breaking the law.

Both Simon Jones and the Ranger also claimed that the byelaws are about protecting the National Park for “future generations to enjoy” .  This is complete and utter rubbish and very dangerous.  Rubbish because vegetation impacted on by people camping normally recovers within a season, and where it doesn’t does not need byelaws to make it happen.  Dangerous because if you accept the logic for campers, day visitors will be next (they also have impacts on vegetation, leave litter and sometimes chop down trees – which always was a criminal offence anyway).   The impacts of visitors are simply not comparable to issues like climate change, where pumping ever more carbon into the atmosphere does risk the ability of future generations, or land management in the National Park.  It will be interesting to see if the LLTNPA apply the future generations argument to the forthcoming Cononish gold mine planning application (which is in a wild land area) or whether this parkspeak about “future generations”  is only applicable to the impacts of campers.

Simon Jones also repeated the claim, which now appears the LLTNPA’s main justification for the byelaws, that they are needed because of the “sheer volume of campers”.  This is again nonsense and the LLTNPA is deliberately trying to hide the truth of what is going on.   Before meeting Mark Stephen and Euan McIlwraith I prepared an illustration of this from the data I have for Firkin Point (where I was interviewed) and west Loch Lomond.

Firkin permit area No Places Bookings Numbers feedback Percent positive
Motorhomes 6? 159 33 91%
Tents
Zone A (larger grass area) 3 51 4 75%
Zone B (small grass area) 2 30 1 100%
Zone C (beach) 1 27 4 75%
Zone D (south road) 9 24 2 0
132 11

Booking and feedback 1st March- 26th June 2017 from info released under Environmental Information Regulations in August (EIR 2017-055) (I am still waiting for useable data on bookings post 26th June).

Compare this data with Ranger Patrol records for Firkin for 2013 and 2014:

April – June 2013 Numbers of tents – 8 (Source Ranger patrol records supplied under FOI)

April – June 2014 Number of tents – 0  (Source Range patrol records supplied under FOI)

Zone D is mostly uncampable and that is reflected I believe in the permit feedback data provide by the Park – of the two people giving feedback both said they were highly unlikely to ever camp there again

Now, not every booking under the permit system will have resulted in someone camping and, while Ranger patrols took place most days, they rarely visited the south road (location of zone D).   Setting aside these qualifications,  there has been a huge increase in the number of people camping at Firkin Point (from 8 tents up to 132).  How does this fit with the LLTNPA’s claim the camping byelaws are about managing the volume of campers or it is just another lie?

I think two things are happening here.  The first is some people who never knew about Firkin Point are being attracted to stop off there, probably on their way to somewhere else, because it is now being advertised as somewhere to camp.   The availability of toilets (but not chemical disposal points) – even though these are closed when the byelaw season starts – adds to the attraction.  The second is that people who previously would have been spread out along the loch shores are being forced to camp in places like this.  As evidence of this, consider my analysis of camping on west Loch Lomond prior to the implementation of the byelaws West Loch Lomond Ranger Data analysis which shows that in the whole of 2013 Rangers recorded 130 tents along the whole of the west shore of Loch Lomond.   Yes, the total number of people issued permits to camp at Firkin Point in four months, exceeded the number of campers found on the west shore in a whole season.  Incredible!   The LLTNPA’s claim that the byelaws are about controlling the number of campers is therefore a lie, a lie which their staff need to stop repeating.  The byelaws are about controlling people, forcing people to camp where petty park bureaucrats and certain landowners are prepared to let people camp, rather than letting people to choose where it makes sense for them to camp..

 

 

Cost benefit analysis

Ranger Vans parked near Maid of the Loch 11/1/18 – plenty of resources here!

At the end of the interview,  Mark Stephen reported he had asked LLTNPA staff about the closed toilets at Firkin Point and they had said this was due to lack of resources.   This is the first time LLTNPA staff  have, to my knowledge, publicly acknowledged that their toilets should be open more – a step forward.  To attribute this to lack of resources, however, is garbage.  Here’s why.

The LLTNPA has far more to spend on visitor management to the countryside than any other public authority in Scotland.  The problem is that it has decided to devote almost all its resources to policing camping rather than using its resources to the benefit of ALL visitors.    As an illustration of this, I arrived at Firkin Point on Thurday to find a LLTNPA ranger van sitting there but the toilets locked.  If the LLTNPA can afford to pay Rangers to visit sites where toilets are located in the middle of winter, it could afford to can afford to keep them open, send someone in to check them occasionally and clean them if necessary.    I am not saying that it should necessarily be Rangers who should do this, but if the LLTNPA redeployed a small part of the resources used to employ seasonal rangers to cleaning toilets and emptying bins, they could keep toilets open year round and prevent much of the litter problem in the National Park happening in the first place.

What’s more, while I support the need for new campsites in the National Park, when their campsite at Loch Chon has only 20% occupancy (as predicted), its clear that the £345k and more of capital monies so far spent on developing that campsite would have been far better spent on installing new toilets and chemical disposal points throughout the National Park.   That would have benefitted not only campers, and far more of them, but the general public.

The LLTNPA never undertook a cost benefit analysis while developing its byelaw proposals and its review report to Ministers says nothing about the amount of scarce public funds which have been wasted to date.   Unless the LLTNPA starts acting more rationally and responsibly on this, the Minister Roseanna Cunningham should transfer both its capital and revenue resources to help those public authorities who do want to improve tourist infrastructure but really don’t have the resources to do so.  Skye and the North Coast 500 provide good examples and alternatives.

 

Where next?

I am happy to predict that on this showing, and as more information becomes available, during 2018 the camping byelaws along with the LLTNPA’s reputation as a National Park will continue to collapse.  The main question now is whether it will be the Scottish Government or the new Board which will see sense first.  This will mean re-affirming that camping by the loch shores can and should be managed within the framework set out under access rights and while resources need to be directed to where they will have most effect.

Interviews in programme (approx times into programme in brackets)

  • Roseanna Cunningham, Environment Minister “this is a right they cannot get around” (3.25)
  • Dave Morris on history leading up to final legislation and what issues are now(6.30)
  • Alison Riddell Scotways on continuing access issues (12.45)
  • Andrew Bachell (now Chief Exec JMT) on SNH role drafting legislation (23.45)
  • Discussion between reporters Euan McIlwriath and Mark Stephens on one of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park’s camping permit areas at Firkin Point:  “you would not camp there if you had the choice”
  • Cameron McNeish on politics around the legislation and since (37.01)
  • Jess Dolan Director Ramblers Scotland on making more people aware access rights (44.45)
  • Lauren MacCallum on Patagonia film on snow boarding and access (46.30)
  • Nick Kempe at Firkin Point (52.00)
  • Simon Jones, Director Conservation and Lea Hamilton, Ranger at Milarrochy Bay (1.02).
  • Dennis Canavan (1.13.30) on his amendment to include Balmoral in legislation
  • Bob Reid (past convener National Access Forum) on the legislation, planning and paths (1.20)
  • Andy Wightman on agenda outdoor recreation (1.24.30)
January 12, 2018 Nick Kempe 2 comments
The powerlines which blighted the Speyside Way extension south of Aviemore have now been removed

While the Beauly Denny has been a blot on the landscape, as a consequence of the visual impact of the pylons and the poor restoration of ground around (covered in my last post (here)), elsewhere in the National Park a very different approach is being taken.   The powerline infrastructure is being modernised but to the benefit, not at the expense of, the landscape.

Much of this is due to the Cairngorms National Park Authority which, while failing to stop the Beauly Denny, did win support for the associated rationalisation scheme for the the removal of c93km of existing LOW voltage or redundant tower lines from Etteridge, through Boat of Garten,  Tomintoul, the Lecht and Strathdon towards Tarland – a great arc around the north of the National Park.   The Report on the Beauly Denny at the December planning Committee reports this is now complete:

 

The scheme started in 2014 and completed in the summer of 2017 with the removal of the last towers between Ruthven and Etteridge. Much of the new low voltage line has been undergrounded using a mole plough for cabling so there has been relatively little disturbance of vegetation. CNPA officers have undertaken site inspections and advised upon some technical matters relating to natural heritage. There have been modifications to wayleaves and some tree removal during the project but the work has been undertaken in a satisfactory manner and with minimal disturbance so has been successful

 

There are many positive consequences of this for everyone who lives in and visits the Cairngorm National Park (see photo above and here) and this should be seen as a great success story.    What particularly interested me from the report, however, was CNPA officers positive assessment of how the work was done, by mole plough.  I had come to similar conclusions about the benefits of using this technology to bury powerlines from two visits to Glen Tromie in November.  The rest of this post will use what is happening at Glen Tromie to illustrate the benefits of using this technology before arguing it provides a great opportunity to enhance the landscape throughout both our National Parks.

 

 

The current work to underground the Glen Tromie powerline starts at the hideous Lynaberack Lodge in Glen Tromie. The ground here, where the undergrounded line joins with the overhead powerline, is more disturbed than almost anywhere else along the route.

In November, as part of my visit with Dave Morris to discuss hill tracks (see here), Thomas McDonnell, the Conservation Manager of Wild Land Ltd, took us up Glen Tromie to look at tracks there.  On the way we stopped off at Lynaberack Lodge, a planning disaster which thankfully the estate intend to remove, so Thomas could have a word with a team who were about to return to Germany with their mole plough (sorry no photos!).   It was as a result of this that I became aware that part of estate’s programme to re-wild the landscape is to underground powerlines – work which is basically being paid for by Anders Povlsen, the billionaire owner.  Two weeks later I went back myself to take a proper look at how the work has been done.

Evidence of the amount of new electric cable which has been undergrounded

The work is not yet complete.  While the contractors have buried the new cable,  it is not yet connected and removal of the existing powerline and clear-up has still to happen.  The advantage,in terms of the timing of my visit, was I could record the landscape impact of the existing powerline.

The road is just to the right of the photo

Imagine the difference, when this section of powerline is removed.  While there is still a road running up the glen, to the person walking or cycling along it the view  will feel significantly wilder.

The new powerline, which lies beneath the vehicle track starting bottom centre, will replace the pylons.
Few people would know, just a couple of week after the work had been carried out, that the reason for this ground disburbance is an electric cable had been buried  unless it was for the sign
You can however see some evidence that a mole plough has been used. In places boulders have been excavated  to allow the passage of the plough and cable.

Apart from the removal of boulders, the vegetation has been little disturbed and on the grassy floor of the glen should recover from the passage of vehicles very quickly.  I suspect by next summer, when the grass has had time to grow again, it will be very hard to detect the line of the buried cable.

The buried cable is under the disturbed heather on the left side of the road

I was most impressed that the mole plough could also be used on heather moorland and cause so little destruction to vegetation.  Again, I think the vegetation here should more or less fully recover in a season.

There was a section further up the glen where I had great difficultly following the line that had been taken and wondered whether I had reached the end of the work.

The worst area of ground disturbance/destruction of vegetation on moorland

I then came across the patch of very disturbed ground in the photo above.   I was unable to ascertain the cause of this – it may have been a consequence of the land being very boggy – but in the context of several kilometres of buried cable it just served to illustrate in general how well the work had been done and the potential of using mole ploughs.

The line of the Glen Bruar power cable runs along the line of disturbed vegetation on the left of the road to the powerhouse which you can just see top right

The advantages of using the mole plough can be seen by comparing the powerline burial in Glen Tromie with that to the new Glen Bruar scheme.  While parkswatch has given extensive coverage to the Glen Bruar pipeline restoration above the powerhouse, below it several miles of new electric cable was required to connect it to the grid.  The work for this was generally to a high standard – and hence I have avoided comment – but the methodology used was to excavate a ditch, bury the cable and then refill it.  Despite the care taken, over two years on the line of the cable is more visible than that in Glen Tromie two weeks after the work finished.   The lesson, I believe, is that burying cable with a mole plough, if done well, does significantly less damage that any methods that involves removing vegetation, excavating a ditch and then trying to restore this work.

I had seen one example of excavation in Glen Feshie – the hole appeared for connection purposes.  It is very difficult – and incidentally far more labour intensive – to restore the ground caused by such digging.  Compare this to the impact and work involved in using a mole plough.  Thomas MacDonell told us, if my memory is correct, that it had taken just five days to bury the cable in Glen Tromie and, from I saw, very little further work or monitoring will be needed.

Sign marking where cable crosses the track leading up to the upper Allt Bhran hydro intake – the track below the moraine leads to the Gaick

I left the line of the buried cable to head further up the Allt Bhran and look at tracks there (to be covered in further post) convinced that mole ploughs are the way forward and wondering why there is a paucity of contractors using this technique in Scotland.

 

What needs to happen

While I hope in due course to visit sections of the powerline that has been undergrounded in the Beauly Denny restoration scheme (any photos from readers of before and after would be welcome), from the evidence I have seen at Glen Tromie, there is no reason to disbelieve the statement by CNPA staff that the use of the mole plough there has been very effective.  I think there is an opportunity for the CNPA to advertise and build on that success with a view to ensuring that as much low voltage cable as possible is undergrounded in the National Park.  Among the ways the CNPA could help this to happen are:

  • to commission research/publish a  study on the impacts and costs of the mole plough compared with traditional ditch digging techniques to underpin a future action plan in the National Park
  • to share this experience with other planning authorities, including the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority, and with landowners.
  • to encourage other private landowners to follow the brilliant example set by Wild Land Ltd and to consider what other opportunities there might be for enhancing the landscape through burial of further powerlines in the National Park
  • to develop planning policy in this area, as part of its consultation on the new National Park Development Plan, with a policy presumption against any new overhead powerlines and guidance on how any new powerlines can be buried
  • encouraging contractors to purchase the appropriate equipment and develop the expertise to use it effectively

That then would leave for the future the big challenge, how we can undergound the HIGH voltage powerlines which blight our National Park landscapes, like the Beauly Denny or the many that cross the Lomond and Trossachs National Park.

January 11, 2018 Nick Kempe No comments exist
The Drumochter, a fine landscape forming a gateway between north and south, marred by development – the line of the “restored” Beauly Denny construction track is marked by the scar behind the pylons

Over the last year Parkswatch has featured a number of posts about the destruction of the landscape at Drumochter, including:

  • the unrestored Beauly Denny construction track between Dalnaspidal and Drumochter (see here);
  • the failure of Scottish and Southern Electric to restore the ground at Drumochter as required by the Beauly Denny planning consent from the Scottish Government  (see here for example);
  • progress on the restoration of the Beauly Denny construction track from just south of  Drumochter Lodge to the end of the A9 shelter belt opposite Dalwhinnie (see here)
  • and, the continued proliferation of hill tracks and inappropriate use of All Terrain Vehicles around Drumochter (see here for example).

Two of these issues were considered by the Cairngorms National Park Planning Committee in December (see here for papers) and will be covered here.  While welcoming the CNPA’s continued interest in Drumochter and the actions taken, this post will argue they do not go far enough and suggest some alternative measures to restore and enhance the landscape and its wildlife.

The North Drumochter Estate Beauly Denny track restoration

In February 2015 the CNPA gave consent to the North Drumochter Estate to retain a section of the Beauly Denny construction track outwith the Drumochter Hills Special Area of Conservation  and Special Protection Area (above in red) on the condition that the track was narrowed and a belt of native trees was planted alongside it.  The restoration, with the exception of the shelter belt was due to be completed by June 2016.

The start of the northern section of the Beauly Denny construction track (as indicated by arrow in map above) as it appeared in February 2016. Note the ridge of vegetation covered spoil running along the left side of the track.

A year ago the restoration had not started but sometime between then and August 2017, when I next visited, the northern section of the track (above my arrow) was restored.  The work was done by McGowan, who provided the specification for the track which was submitted to the Planning Committee, and has generally been completed to a high standard, much higher than is usual for hill tracks or for most of the Beauly Denny restoration work to date:

The northernmost end of the track. Note how the low angle of the embankment above the track has enabled vegetation to recover quickly while stored turfs have been effectively used to restore the ground below the track.  October 2017.
Before restoration, the track extended almost to the edge of the culvert. The bare banks on either side of the culvert appear the consequence of insufficient turf being stored for restoration purposes and are at high risk of erosion.  October 2017.
Looking back down a line of new grouse butts – which appear to have been installed without the appropriate consents and have caused significant damage to vegetation – to the restored section of track which starts to the right of the first pylon. The track is hardly detectable from this distance compared to the unrestored section to the left of the pylon. August 2017.

While generally McGowan has done a very good job, their ability to restore the track to the standards set out in the specification appears to have been affected by a number of factors.  Throughout its length the section of restored track is broader then specified by the planning conditions:

While generally the sides of the track have been well restored in places there appears to have been insufficient vegetation to do this: here there is an unvegetated section of ground to the right of the track while the unnecessarily large passing place appears to be another solution to this lack of material (which was not their responsibility).

The reason for this appears to be that insufficient turves were stored for restoration purposes so that there wasn’t enough material available to restore the track to the required width.  I don’t think matters too much here because the track is hidden from a distance and because of the proposals to plant native trees to help conceal it.  However, it provides yet more evidence of why planning authorities need to monitor very closely any requirements that developers store turves properly when restoration of construction tracks in required. This in my view has been the key failure of the Beauly Denny construction.

Poorly finished culvert which is fairly typical of this section of track – the dry stone finishing in the photo above was the exception. Note the grouse tick mops in the background.

My main grouse – an appropriate word here as that is the main wildlife you are likely to see? – is that most of the culverts have not been properly finished.  This I hope is something which will be pursued by the CNPA.

Another more minor grouse is that vehicles continue to be driven over areas which have been “restored” adversely affecting vegetation recovery.

Its within the context of this work that the North Drumochter estate made a further planning application to remove the requirement from the planning consent to plant native trees alongside the track.   I am pleased to say that CNPA officers recommended that this be rejected  (see here) and the Planning Committee endorsed that recommendation.   Both the North East Mountain Trust and Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group had objected to the removal of this condition and I suspect that helped the CNPA to stand its ground.

On the north section of the track, the main short-term landscape impact of the continued requirement to plant a 5m strip of native trees between it and the existing shelterbelt will be to soften the edge of the line of trees.  If the shelterbelt was ever to be felled, however, it would then be the only thing screening the track.  It is therefore a good decision in landscape terms.  Its good too for ecological reasons.  While there is generally too much emphasis on planting native trees, rather than reducing deer and sheep numbers and seeing what grows (trees will grow in some places not others),  here the trees will provide an alternative to the intensive grouse moor management which dominates the landscape.  They should provide a home to other forms of wildlife and maybe even a partial refuge to some of the creatures which are persecuted on the grouse moors.

To construct this section of track Balfour Beatty as the main contractors allowed imported material to be dumped on the moor without any apparent attempt to save the vegetation beneath (there is no evidence of vegetation being stored

Further south, along the section of track which remains to be restored, the native trees will fulfil a far more important landscaping function as the track runs higher across the hill away from the existing A9 shelterbelt and is highly visible.    The restoration of this middle section of the track poses considerable technical challenges as it has basically been floated across the moor.   In my view the best solution would be to remove all the excess aggregate from site – rather than trying to bury it under vegetation – and use it for the construction of the new A9.  Perhaps the CNPA could persuade Transport Scotland and the north Drumochter Estate to work together on this?

 

The restoration of the Beauly Denny by SSE

The second “Drumochter” item considered by the December meeting of the Planning Committee was an update report on SSE’s restoration of the Beauly Denny Item10AABeaulyDennyUpdate.

This represents a breakthrough as SSE had previously been claiming the restoration of the Beauly Denny was nothing to be concerned about and that the destruction caused to the landscape could be repaired through natural regeneration alone.      CNPA staff are to be congratulated in getting SSE, who are a very powerful organisation, to accept this officially after doing nothing for two years.

SSE provided a summary report of this year’s survey results (see here) for the Planning Committee.  This contains no analysis of what caused the problems while the solutions its proposing to pilot in 2018 – some re-seeding and fencing off of ground – are minimalistic.   The entire focus of the report is on vegetation.   There is no mention of the landscape issues and more specifically of the failure of SSE to ensure that where the track was removed, the land was restored to its existing form as required by the original planning consent.  This has left large “benches” cut across the hillside (photo above) which are still being used as estate tracks (below) and have a considerable landscape impact:

 

By contrast, although I was disappointed the CNPA report did not cover SSE’s failure to restore landforms as required, the report does explain why re-vegetation has been so poor:

There appear to be two main reasons for this. Firstly, in some areas, the soil management and handling during construction as well as restoration was poorly executed, leaving little soil material or very wet ground and secondly, there has been no clear management for grazing sheep and deer. It is clear that even where some regrowth has occurred it is heavily cropped by mammals.

Its good to see CNPA recognise that for effective restoration to take place vegetation and turf has to be set aside and stored properly from the beginning.    Evidence that SSE failed to do this can be seen everywhere:

A great swathe of moorland just north of the track as “restored” under SSE’s aegis. There has been no apparent attempt to keep vegetation separate from the stony substrata with the result there is now a boulder field just like the one created by the Glen Bruar hydro

The CNPA and SSE reports differ too on their assessment of the seriousness of the situation.  The SSE survey claims that:

“Of the sites monitored throughout the CNPA area, 41% are assessed as being in Good or Excellent condition for revegetation and a further 20% are showing demonstrable improvement.”

and then classifies the remaining 39% as being of concern.  The CNPA by contrast are sceptical about the improvements claimed and conclude

“59% are mediocre or sparse and more than half of these were also sparse last year, with no significant improvement so are likely to required additional mitigation measures to ensure full revegetation within the five year period”

Having walked the entire Drumochter section of the Beauly Denny I have to say I have strong doubts that the sites SSE chose to survey are representative – it would be in the public interest the full survey is released – and that the CNPA’s assessment of the situation is far nearer the mark.  My view is that at least 2/3 of the “restoration” is not fit for purpose.

Tower south of Dalnaspidal. Some revegetation has taken place but because soils have been so disturbed and not replaced properly grass and rush have replaced heather (as seen beyond the tower).

While  I don’t doubt that grazing is having an impact on the ability of vegetation to re-colonise bare ground, this is not the fundamental issue.   Because of the way the ground has been disturbed, SSE has created more mineral soils which will promote vegetation that is good for animals to eat. Couple that with the large number of deer in the southern part of the National Park and you have a problem.  The proposed solution to fence off areas, avoids the issue.  It would be far better for SSE to be asked to finance deer culls and compensate the estate for removing sheep from the area and aid vegetation recovery that way.

Even better would be for the CNPA to advocate the solutions which have been developed in Glen Bruar, where a failure to store vegetation properly during the hydro pipeline construction (see here) created a landscape scar several kilometres long just like through the Drumochter.  Those scars have now almost disappeared due to the application of different techniques, which involve careful robbing of vegetation, and in a very short timescale (see here) with McGowan again the contractor.  So why not at Drumochter?

 

What needs to be done to make the Beauly Denny restoration happen

While I very much hope that CNPA staff keep up the pressure on SSE, I would like to see them encouraged by their Board and Planning Committee to go several steps further than they have at present and:

  • Consider the Beauly Denny restoration from a landforms perspective and more specifically how to heal the scars that have been left by the poor removal of the construction tracks.  A first step  on this would be for SSE to commission an independent report on what needs to be done to restore the landscape to its original state (as required by the Scottish Government planning consent).  A plan could then be developed to implement this prior to any further vegetation restoration work.
  • Press for SSE to adopt a similar approach to landscape and vegetation restoration at Drumochter as was taken at Glen Bruar.
  • Reject the proposal to deal with grazing impacts through fencing and instead focus on how to reduce the number of grazing animals at Drumochter (which would also support the Board decision to require the retained section of track on the north Drumochter estate to be screened by trees)
  • Create a Drumochter landscape steering group which would bring together SNH, Highland Council, SSE and Transport Scotland (due to the A9 dualling) in order to ensure a holistic approach is taken to protecting the landscape, with a view to amelioriating/remedying past damage and mistakes and ensuring that these are not repeated when the A9 is dualled.

Most of this should be financed by SSE and would cost them far more money than their current meagre proposals.  As a consequence I expect SSE to be resistant to it despite their self-proclaimed mission to set an example as a responsible business  The most likely way to achieve change, will be if the wider public starts calling on the Scottish Government and SSE to fulfil their responsibilities and not leave everything up to the CNPA who, in the wider scheme of how this country is run, are not a particularly powerful public body.

January 9, 2018 Nick Kempe 1 comment

I start with a belief that how the land in our National Parks is managed is central to what they do.

Currently I have an appeal being investigated by the Scottish Information Commissioner about the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park’s refusal to provide me or to make public any information from the land management plans it has agreed with landowners.  The LLTNPA, which still appears wedded to an ethos of secrecy, is claiming the entire content of these plans is commercially sensitive whereas I am arguing that it in the public interest to know what agreements our National Parks are making with landowners.

While drafting the appeal I found in the Review of the National Park Partnership Plan 2013-14  (see here) – the last such review before these were abandoned – this:

 

I therefore, naively perhaps, made in October a further request for all information relating to how the pilot Land Management plans had been evaluated.

The initial response appeared to confirm there had been an evaluation:

As outlined in the 2014 review of the National Park Partnership plan, the pilot phase of land management plans (previously known as Whole Farm and Whole Estate Plans) was completed and evaluated. Relevant searches have been carried out for information about this evaluation process. Information has been located in various updates to the Delivery Group, extracts of which are attached in Appendix A.

However, none of the extracts referred to above and sent to me (see here) – and I appreciate the time that staff must have taken to track all down – contained anything which could remotely be described as an evaluation of the Plans.  I therefore submitted a review request  (see here) and received a response  (see here) just before Xmas   This helpfully clarifies that there was NO evaluation report but also shows that NO other meaningful evaluation of the land management plans was ever conducted.     The best that the LLTNPA could come up with in terms of evaluative information it holds on the pilot (and it dates from 2016 almost two years after the LLTNPA had claimed in the report to Ministers that the pilot had been evaluated!) is this:

What constitutes an evaluation of a pilot?

While the word “evaluation” can be used in informal circumstances – “I evaluated what to do next” – when it comes to public authorities it has, I believe, a very specific meaning which is well reflected in the Merriam Webster online dictionary definition:

    “to determine the significance, worth, or condition of usually by careful appraisal and study”

The information responses show that there is no evidence that the LLTNPA has conducted any such appraisal of its land management plans.  Yet its Review Report to Ministers and updates to Board Members suggests otherwise.   Its not clear whether this happened because the then Land Management Adviser claimed to evaluated the plans but this was never checked by senior managers (which I suspect is unlikely) or because some senior manager wanted the box ticked even if no evaluation had take place.  Whatever the case its an approach to evaluation which reflects Donald Trump’s America rather than what we should expect in Scotland.

I also find this interesting because it shows the LLTNPA senior management’s cavalier approach to evidence and disregard for the truth started well before they manipulated the Your Park consultation on the camping byelaws.

Why openness about land management plans is needed

The lack of any proper evaluation still matters because Conservation Priority 5 in the new LLTNPA National Park Partnership Plan is on Integrated Land Management and contains this commitment:

Support land managers to plan and deliver multiple environmental and social benefits, alongside economic return, through the creation and delivery of Integrated Land Management Plans for land management businesses.

So the LLTNPA is pressing ahead with something without knowing whether the plans which have so far been put in place work.  That the LLTNPA is now trying to keep the plans it has agreed secret suggests there is something else to hide.

An indication of what this might be is given in the LLTNPA’s response which does at least reveal four of the estates/farms which have been involved so far:

  • Benmore Farm
  • Protnellan (sic)
  • Inverlochlarig
  • Loch Dochart

All are clustered around Glen Dochart/Balqhuhidder and two at least have developed hydro schemes (the Park planning portal is down so unable to check whether Loch Dochart scheme is on Loch Dochart farm).  This raises questions about the extent to which the LLTNPA has been taking account of landscape considerations in the agreement it has reached with landowners and before the impacts are considered by the LLTNPA as planning authority.

 

What needs to happen

The failure to evaluate properly the land management plans agreed between the LLTNPA and Landowners is, to my mind, a serious failure in governance and reflects the LLTNPA’s failure to take an evidence informed approach to what it does.   I would like to see the LLTNPA Board do two things:

  •  First, to affirm that it is committed to a change in direction which involves developing an evidence based approach and, as part of that, to make the evidence on which it bases its decision public.   Anything else and we are in the world of Donald Trump and his post-truth approach to government.
  • Second, to commit to remedying past deficiencies in how it has used evidence.  As part of this it could instruct its Audit Committee  to start to focus on the things that matter, including standards for evaluation and what information the LLTNPA holds which could be made public
January 8, 2018 Nick Kempe 1 comment
Cairngorm Mountain Logo – screenshot 8th January.  There is nothing in the Behind the Scenes section of the website to explain the changes which are happening at Cairngorm and the website is poorly maintained: Nic Bullivant, the Head Ranger in the central photo, retired six months ago.

Following the split of the US and UK parts of Natural Retreats, the company that ran Cairngorm Mountain, and the transfer of the UK part of the operation to the UK Great Travel Company Ltd (see here) further re-organisation of the group of companies controlled by hedge fund manager David Michael Gorton is continuing.   While its unclear at present why this is happening it appears unlikely to be for the benefit of people who enjoy Cairngorm or the wider economy on Speyside.

Sometime in the last few weeks reference to Natural Retreats has been removed from the Cairngorm Mountain logo.  Compare top left above with how the logo appeared in July 2017:

Screenshot Credit Internet Archive Wayback Machine

The Cairngorm Mountain Facebook Page though still retains the reference to Natural Retreats:

 

So has someone just made a mistake?  The evidence from the Natural Retreats website (see here) suggests otherwise.  All references to Cairngorm Mountain have been removed and it appears that Cairngorm is no longer being marketed under the Natural Retreats brand.  This would fit with Cairngorm Mountain Ltd advertising for their own Marketing Manager towards the end of last year (see here).

How long will it be before the Natural Retreats logo is removed from Cairngorm Mountain?

The changes raise  yet more serious concerns about the justification HIE gave for selling Cairngorm Mountain Ltd to Natural Retreats back in 2014 (see here for full news release):

 

“With over 100 years of relevant international and regional leisure and tourism experience, Natural Retreats’ senior management in both Europe and the US bring a wealth of expertise to the Resort. The UK’s largest and busiest skiing destination will be led by Natural Retreats’ market-leading operational team, who have over 65 years of experience within Ski Resorts worldwide. The brand currently operates in close proximity to four world-renowned US ski destinations and Cairngorm Mountain is the perfect addition to their portfolio.”

  • Gone is the US part of the operation
  • Gone is any expertise they claimed to have had in skiing (the fact they never used the experience of US ski resorts suggest this was perhaps not as strong as claimed)
  • Gone is the brand

So what justification does HIE have for allowing the rump of Natural Retreats to continue to operate Cairngorm?

The recent changes to the way Cairngorm Mountain Ltd is being operated also undermine any arguments that the local community on Speyside, who are preparing a takeover bid through the Cairngorm and Glenmore Community Trust, do not have the experience necessary to operate Cairngorm.

Whether the recent changes will affect the large amounts of money that Cairngorm Mountain Ltd has paid to what is now the UK Great Travel Company for services remains to be seen.  It was good in this respect to receive confirmation from HIE just before Christmas that the Outfitters Shop at Cairngorm was not connected with another of the Natural Retreats group of companies, Natural Outfitters at John O’Groats:

“The Outfitters shop at Cairngorm is managed by Cairngorm Mountain Ltd.  Natural Outfitters at John O’ Groats is a separate entity”

 

How HIE should be judged over the next year?

I have made no secret of my view that the current disastrous management at Cairngorm will not change until ownership of the ski area is transferred from HIE and that the most likely way this will happen is through an asset transfer to the local community under the Community Empowerment legislation.   While few politicians openly support this at present,  here are some criteria by which they should judge HIE during 2018:

  • Will HIE ensure that Cairngorm Mountain Ltd engages with local and national stakeholders – as they have failed to do so far – about how the Cairngorms Ski Area will be managed?
  • Will a draft of the Cairngorm Management Plan, as promised to the Cairngorms National Park Authority under the Cairngorm and Glenmore Strategy, be produced? (Natural Retreats was identified as the lead partner for this).
  • Will the current review of the ski uplift infrastructure take an objective look at the potential for skiing on the mountain or will it turn out to be fig leaf for decisions already taken behind the scenes?
  • What steps will HIE take to ensure that there is complete transparency about monies currently being extracted out of Cairngorm in payment for “services”?
  • What steps will HIE take to ensure that expenditure at Cairngorm benefits the local economy rather than the ultimate owner of Cairngorm Mountain Ltd, David Michael Gorton?
  • Will HIE hold “Natural Retreats”/Natural Assets Investment Ltd to account and ensure they invest the £6.2m over 5 years which was promised in the News Release on their appointment?
  • Will HIE ensure that Cairngorm Mountain Ltd formally adopt and adhere to the former environmental standards which were formerly governed all management operations at Cairngorm (off road use of vehicles etc)?  The CNPA asked for this 18 months ago but so far there has been apparently no response.
January 5, 2018 Bill Stephens No comments exist

Objection to Planning Application 2017/0254/MIN   Development of a Gold Mine, Glen Cononish, Tyndrum

Cononish gold mine sheds May 2017 – Photo Credit Nick Kempe

[Editor’s note:  Bill Stephens submitted this objection to the current Cononish gold mine planning application on 5th December.  While the documentation on the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park planning portal (see here) has been added to since then,  Bill’s objection contains a fine analysis of the issues for all those concerned about landscape and wild land in the National Park.   Since he submitted it Scotgold has responded to objections from myself and Mountaineering Scotland  (see here), prior to the special Board Meeting which is scheduled to determine the application on 29th January, and I will consider that response and other matters relating to the application then].

 

Introduction

The planning application is presented as a further revision of the planning consent granted in 2015, reference 2014/0285/DET, with the accompanying Environmental Statement suggesting that what is now proposed is more environmentally acceptable but the driver is clearly to reduce costs. The main differences are:

  • changes to the ore processing building and associated screening;
  • disposal of all the tailings on the surface in ten ‘stacks’ instead of partly underground and in a ‘cross valley impoundment’;
  • construction of more than 2 km of surface water interception ditches around the stack areas instead of the diversion of the Alt Eas Anie to the south of the impoundment; and
  • extending the duration of the mine from 10 to 17 years with the potential to further extend this.

This submission considers each of these changes in turn before highlighting the implications for the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park and the Ben Lui Wild Land Area. These mean that the National Park Authority must refuse planning permission for what is now proposed as well as not renew the consent for the approved scheme and should focus efforts on restoring the existing site.

Ore Processing Building

The building now proposed is 80 metres by 30 metres, nearly 50% bigger than the average Aldi store, and has a 6% larger footprint than that approved in 2015. The design is also more monolithic in appearance with reduced screen bunding and consequently will be an even more prominent feature in the landscape.

Tailings Management

The approved scheme is to deposit 147,000 tonnes of the ore processing tailings within the underground workings with the remaining 400,000 tonnes pumped as slurry to an ‘impoundment’ contained by an embankment constructed with some waste rock from the mine and excavated from the Alt Eas Anie diversion together with glacial till excavated from the impounded area.

It is now intended to reduce the water content of the tailings to a ‘damp sand’ and transport all the now estimated 530,000 tonnes by 25 tonne all-terrain dump truck to one of ten stacking areas. There will be a need to construct a haul road from the ore processing site to the stacks and a crossing of the Alt Eas Anie to stacks 3 to 6 but details do not appear to have been submitted with the planning application. The stacks will have a basal layer constructed using some 172,000 tonnes of waste rock excavated from the mine with the total amount of waste material to be disposed of in the stacks some 50% more than on the surface for the approved scheme.

An indication of the the scale of the tailings stacks, outlined in orange, can be seen by comparing them with the area of forest plantation top right. Extract from documentation on LLTNPA planning portal.

The footprint of the stacks range in size from 5,425 square metres to 15,498 square metres, larger than the outer perimeter of an athletics track, and in total cover an area twice that of the currently approved tailings management facility. The tailings are to be placed on a foundation of waste rock excavated from the mine and compacted in 300mm layers to the desired stack landform. The particle size distribution of the tailings indicates that 80% is finer than 125 microns and is more accurately described as a silty fine sand with engineering properties unsuitable for what is proposed.

Although laboratory analysis of samples from the existing waste heap at the mine and a single ‘representative’ tailings sample provided by Scotgold suggest that the material is ‘inert’ with acceptable acid rock drainage characteristics, it appears that the suitability of the material as a growing medium has not been assessed either for this planning application nor indeed for the approved scheme.

Spoil below the Tyndrum Lead mine where re-vegetation has still not taken place – photo Nick Kempe

The gold is to be mined from the Cononish Vein which had several lead mines along it in the past with the ore including galena (lead sulphide) and the spoil having elevated concentrations. The ore could therefore be similar to that mined from the Tyndrum Main Vein with the previous activity on the slopes of Sron nan Colan leaving large spoil heaps still unvegetated 100 years or so after mining ceased. This is typical of other lead mining areas where the difficulties of establishing vegetation on spoil heaps are well known.

It is intended that the final landform for each of the stacks will replicate the hummocky glacial terrain that is there now but it seems that these will be modelled on larger drumlin features and will look quite different.  It is also the intention that final restoration of the stacks will attempt to recreate the existing vegetation type in a few years that has taken 10,000 years or so to establish here.

The potential plant toxicity of the tailings combined with their engineering properties, the altitude of the site and its exposed location makes it extremely unlikely that the restoration aims set out in the Environmental Statement will be achieved. The cost of restoring the site to anything like what was there before mining operations commenced will cost many £ millions, much higher than the financial guarantees provided by the approved scheme legal agreement. It is also evident that these guarantees are inadequate for the remediation of the approved scheme.

 

Surface Water Drainage

Proposed site drainage marked in blue – from documentation on LLTNPA planning portal

The construction of the tailings management facility for the approved scheme requires the diversion of Alt Eas Anie with a channel to intercept its tributaries to the north and one of the stated benefits of what is now proposed is that these will no longer be required. However, because of the need to keep to a minimum surface water runoff entering the tailings stacks and avoid downstream watercourse pollution, over 2 kilometres of peripheral open drains will be required. These will have a man-made appearance and add to the difficulties of achieving the restoration aims.

 

Duration

The existing permission for the mine is for ten years but the planning application is now for 17 years to allow for a reduced rate of ore extraction and processing. Going further into the Cononish Vein and extracting more ore has previously been identified as a possibility and Scotgold have also highlighted six other priority targets within a 2.5 km radius of the Cononish Mine. These have the potential to extend the life of the operation well beyond the 17 years that planning permission is being sought for.

Planning permission for exploratory works to enlarge the existing adit and create a waste rock spoil heap was originally granted in 1988 and extended in 1989 with a scheme for the mine approved in 1996.  An amended scheme for the mine was granted consent in 2011 with an extension of time, that also included 24 hours working, approved in 2015. A nine-month bulk processing trial to extract gold from part of the existing spoil heap was given planning permission in April 2016 and approval was subsequently given to increase the amount of material to be processed as well as extend the duration of the trial to the end of March 2018.

Filling of geotextile bags at Cononish – Photo Credit Nick Kempe

The tailings from the processing trial are being contained in long geotextile bags which are much more intrusive than the spoil heaps. The planning permission stipulates that the bags can remain until May 2021 when the site ‘shall be restored and remediated…unless there is an extant planning permission for the development of a mine at the site’. How this has been allowed to continue in what is supposed to be a protected landscape for some thirty years with the prospect of another twenty years, should the current planning application be approved, and applications for further extensions to the size and duration of the mine likely, is difficult to comprehend.

 

National Park Aims and Landscape Special Qualities

The currently approved mining scheme was assessed in relation to National Park aims in the report on the planning application that was considered by a Special Board Meeting of the National Park Authority in October 2011. These aims are:

  • to conserve and enhance the natural and cultural heritage of the area;
  • to promote the sustainable use of natural resources of the area;
  • to promote the understanding and enjoyment (including enjoyment in the form of recreation) of the special qualities of the area by the public; and
  • to promote the sustainable economic and social development of the area’s communities.

The Sandford Principle gives precedence to the first of these.

The report concluded that because of ‘the impacts on landscape and scenic qualities, wild and remote character and the associated recreation experience of walking and climbing in the surrounding area’, mining here would be contrary to the first and third of the aims. ‘However, as these losses and impacts would not be permanent and the special qualities and recreation experience could be recovered and moderately improved within a 10 to 15 year period the proposals could be argued to support these aims… the impacts and benefits associated with this development will, taken as a whole, have a favourable contribution to the National Park aims’!

Even more remarkably, it goes on to suggest that because ‘the impacts on natural heritage interests are temporary and will be ultimately conserved and enhanced in the long term’ the proposal is considered to contribute to the first aim. Consequently, there was considered to be no need to invoke the Sandford Principle and the planning application for the mine was recommended for approval. This was accepted by the Board with the National Park Authority Convener subsequently stating that ‘the glen will regain its quiet, remote character following closure of the mine and the landscape will be improved from its current state’.

The 2010 report on the Special Landscape Qualities of the National Park provides a baseline for the ‘celebration, promotion and safeguarding’ of the National Park. The report describes the special qualities of each area of the Park including ‘Wide Strath Fillan’ where reference is made to the Tyndrum mines ‘highly visible on the slopes of Sron nan Colan, stand out barren within the surrounding woodland, and are witness to the economic activity of the past’. It goes on to mention the glimpses of Ben Lui with the flat-bottomed Glen Cononish leading into the heart of the high mountains past the ancient Caledonian pinewood of Coille Coire Chuilc but no mention is made of the recent mining activity on the eastern slope of Beinn Chuirn, presumably because it was at that time still a relatively small-scale operation.

 

Ben Lui Wild Land Area

The Ben Lui Wild Land Area was designated in 2014 and most of the proposed mining operations lie within this. Although the protection of Wild Land Areas from development is currently advisory not mandatory, it is still a material planning consideration and the Environmental Statement provides a Wild Land Assessment.

The Wild Land Area description recently published by SNH mentions Ben Lui being regarded as the ‘Queen of Scottish Mountains’ and, quoting from the 2010 Special Landscape Qualities report, refers to the ‘great tract of hills and mountains rising steeply and dramatically from the glen floors…the bare upper hillsides and mountains appear untouched, remote and wild, rising above the long glens where farming, forestry and infrastructure are found’.  It goes on to highlight the affect that development has on emphasising the relatively small extent and sense of remoteness and sanctuary of the eastern part of the Wild Land Area. Mention is also made of the existing mine at Cononish but nevertheless did not exclude this from the designated area again, presumably, because of its relatively small scale.

The Wild Land Assessment contained in the Environmental Statement suggests that the establishment and operation of the mine will have a ’moderate and significant effect on approaching the north-eastern hills’ but this will be medium term and localised to upper Glen Cononish with the effect on the local sense of sanctuary ‘minor and not significant’. The visibility of the mining site from the surrounding mountains and the effect that this will have on their landscape setting including that of the impressive Eas Anie waterfall and ravine is not considered.

The Assessment concludes by stating that the restoration of the site will ‘enhance the naturalness of the existing situation and will be a positive effect in terms of these wild land qualities’. This ignores the fact that what is there now could be restored without having to extend the area of mining operations from less than a hectare to the 40 hectares covered by the planning application and downplays the landscape impact of what is proposed.

 

What Should Happen Now

The planning application Environmental Statement Overview indicates there is a ‘planning balance’ to be struck between the potential environmental impacts and socio-economic benefits of the proposal and that the findings of the Environmental Impact Assessment demonstrate that ‘there are no planning or environmental considerations which would give rise to reasons for refusal’. The Environmental Statement is of course only part of the EIA process with all consultee responses and other submissions an important part of this.

The short-term impacts on the special qualities of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park and the Ben Lui Wild Land Area of building an ore processing shed the size of a suburban superstore, constructing tailing stacks the size of eight athletics grounds and 24-hour operation of the mine for up to 17 years is too great a price to pay for the anticipated economic benefits and mitigation measures offered. Uncertainties about restoring the land to anything like what it is now in the medium term and, probably, in the longer term, could well leave a huge permanent scar on what is one of Scotland’s most valued landscapes. Consequently, the precautionary principle should apply and planning permission for both what is proposed now and any application to renew consent for the currently approved scheme refused.

It is understood that the mine operator has lodged a financial bond with the Crown Estate, the owner of the mineral rights, that is intended to cover the restoration of the existing mining operations and area affected by the bulk processing trial. The efforts of the National Park Authority should be focussed on ensuring that this work is undertaken as soon as possible and not make things worse by extending the duration or size of the operations.

January 4, 2018 Nick Kempe 7 comments
Sign at junction south Loch Earn Rd with road to Edinample House 27th December.

Commenting on Tuesday’s post (see here) Dave Morris, former Director of the Ramblers Association and one of the architects of our access legislation, wrote:

"As we approach the 15th anniversary of the passage of the Land 
Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 it is worth reflecting, to Scotland's 
eternal shame, what is happening on the bonnie, bonnie banks of 
Loch Lomond and elsewhere in this national park. Nobody associated
with this legislation, which secured our right to roam, ever 
anticipated that it would result in the sort of thuggery now been 
practised against campers by this National Park Authority".

Both Dave and I are strong supporters of National Parks but neither of us anticipated either that visitors to the countryside would still be faced with signs such as that in the photo above.  The Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority was also set up 15 years ago and has had responsibility for access matters since its creation.   That an Access Authority and National Park to boot still tolerates such signs – and the field behind the sign is clearly land covered by access rights – is a disgrace.

While the LLTNPA could be excused for not knowing about every sign about access within the National Park, during the byelaw season their  Rangers must drove past this unlawful sign on a daily basis looking out for “rogue” campers on their way to or from the south Loch Earn camping permit zone.   That says a lot about what is wrong with this National Park.   In other areas countryside rangers would be involved in resolving problems caused by landowners but not in the LLTNPA.

Judging by my experience of trying to report unlawful signs, this is probably not the fault of either the Rangers or access staff.  I have, for example, not even had an acknowledgement to my email of 4th December to a member of the LLTNPA senior management team reporting the signs near Ardlui saying “Keep Out High Velocity Rifles in use”  (see here). Quite a contrast to the Cairngorms National Park Authority who not only acknowledge reports of access problems but tell you what they intend to do and who is responsible for doing this.

While at best there would best appear to be no join up between the LLTNPA Rangers and their access team, given the attitudes of senior management I suspect that any seasonal ranger complaining about signs such as this risks not having their contract renewed.   Whatever the explanation, the LLTNPA is failing to uphold access rights while it claims to value the “Visitor Experience”.

The 27th December was a lovely day and we passed the Edinample sign on the way from Glasgow for a walk up Ben Vorlich.  Needing a pit stop, we had stopped off at Callander, marketed as a gateway to the National Park, to find the toilets locked.  At Loch Lubnaig, it was not just the toilets which were shut, the gates to the car park were locked too,  although there was a sign on the back of the gate saying they would be locked at 4pm!  What justification is there for a National Park trying to prevent people travelling in cars from stopping off here in winter and enjoying the loch?  In the five minutes I was taking these photos, two cars pulled in in front of the locked gates and then drove away.  What an appalling message for a National Park to give out.

What’s the point of referring people to gate closing times if the gate is locked?

The above sign is pure parkspeak.  How can people respect the environment when access to that environment is barred by locked gates much of the time.  Why, when parking is being charged for, cannot the car park be kept open 365 days a year 24 hours a day?   Why does the LLTNPA act as if only summer visitors are important?

We saw something like 40 people while walking up the north ridge of Ben Vorlich – people getting out taking exercise doing the healthy sort of thing our politicians exhort people to do.  And that was just one hill.    Most visitors people come from outside the Park, some will want to take a break from driving and many will need to go to the toilet at some point in the day but the LLTNPA acts as if the National Park is closed.

The National Park needs to get back to basics.   Remove anti-access signs and provide infrastructure for visitors, jobs it was set up to do and has failed to deliver on.  Unfortunately, judging by its current advert for a new Visitor Experience Manager it is still embarked on a very different course:

Job Title: Visitor Experience Manager
Contract: Permanent
Salary: £35,495 – £42,193 (Band E)
Working Hours: 37 hours per week – we support the “Happy to Talk Flexible Working” campaign
Location: Balloch
Reference: NPA/Dec/2017/02

You will provide leadership, co-ordination and inspiration in managing and delivering the tourism functions and commercial partnership activities of the National Park Authority as set out in the National Park Partnership Plan and Corporate Plan. These functions include delivering new tourism products, ensuring consistent communication of destination brand and information, working with destination businesses, and delivering commercial partnership activities which will deliver income for the Park Authority.

Degree qualified in related discipline, you will have a proven track record in the tourism sector. As someone who has strong project management skills who demonstrates sound independent judgement you will understand how to approach, advise and influence both internal and external stakeholders. You will be confident, credible, proactive and creative when driving quality improvement and good practice (see here for full advert).

The whole emphasis of the Visitor Experience role is on commercial tourism rather than countryside management or helping people enjoy the landscape and wildlife, on raising income rather than on delivering the facilities that are needed.   While the person appointed will be expected to work with businesses there is not a mention of them working with the people who visit the National Park or the organisations that represent them.    While the sooner both our National Parks get rid of the terrible term the “visitor experience” the better, the more fundamental issue is the LLTNPA needs to re-focus on what it was set up to do rather than trying to turn itself into a second rate tourist board.

 

January 2, 2018 Nick Kempe 4 comments
A photo from the BBC article which nicely illustrates how the byelaws have failed to deliver. The byelaws were supposedly introduced to prevent scenes like this but the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority first failed to apply them to caravans and was then forced to drop them against campervans staying anywhere on the road system with the result that now its only campers who are affected.

Last week, in a welcome development, some of the mainstream media picked up on the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority first annual review of the camping byelaws for Scottish Ministers (see here).   Unfortunately neither article picked up on the burnt out caravans, the fact that the National Park is no longer trying to enforce the byelaws against either caravans or campervans or the lack of any proper explanation of this in the report for Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for the Environment.

The focus of the BBC coverage (see here) and to a lesser extent the coverage in the National (see here) was on the hundreds of people warned for breaching the byelaws, 828 to be precise.  The actual number of people unwittingly committing a criminal offence for breaching the byelaws is likely to be far higher, taking account of cases where no warning was given, but the fact that the LLTNPA is issuing large numbers of warnings should raise alarm bells with Scottish Ministers about how the Park Authority is being governed and about civil liberties.

 

Who approved the warning system?

On the governance side, there is no provision within the byelaws themselves to issue warnings.  What’s more, in the Engagement and Enforcement Policy approved by the Board Engagement-and-Enforcement-Policy there is not a mention of any warning system being introduced.  That policy refers to a “Loch Lomond & The Trossachs Camping Management Byelaws 2017 Enforcement procedures and principles” which I can find no evidence of having been approved by a Board Meeting and is NOT publicly available on the LLTNPA website.  If this is right, the whole warning system has either been agreed in secret by the Board or else introduced by staff without Board approval.  This raises some fundamental question about the legitimacy and lawful authority of the whole warning system.   Do staff really have delegated authorities to approve such systems?

 

The warning system and civil liberties

The civil liberties issues are profound.  The LLTNPA would appear to be keeping information on people who it believes have breached the byelaws but have decided not to refer to the Procurator Fiscal.  Among the more obvious questions this raises are:

  • On whose authority are LLTNPA staff holding such data as this has never been put to the Board for approval?
  • Who are LLTNPA staff sharing this information with?   For example, they appear to be sharing this data with the police – because the 828 figure includes warnings by both police and park rangers – but do they also share this information with others such as the Forestry Commission Rangers?
  • What are the consequences of a warning?  For example, if you have been issued with a warning and then camp again without a permit is referral to the Procurator Fiscal automatic?
  • If being issued with a warning has consequences, how long is the LLTNPA holding this information on file?  One year, five, ten years, indefinitely?
  • What information is the LLTNPA and police handing out to people issued warnings about their rights?   For example, are people being told they have the right to see the information that the Park hold on them and what if any right do people have to appeal about receiving a warning?

Given all these important issues, its interesting that in the report to the September Board Meeting which contained a report on how the byelaws had gone until that date there was not a mention of any warnings being issued:

Why?

The LLTNPA has also failed to explain how all these warning fit with “positive feedback” which Gordon Watson, the Park Chief Executive, claimed to have received in the National:

“From the positive feedback we’ve gathered through the visitor survey, to what our rangers have experienced by talking to campers on the ground during the first season, we are really pleased with how things have gone.

“The approach of our ranger service is always engagement and education first, with enforcement action only being taken as a last resort. That approach has worked well, with the vast majority of campers choosing to adhere to the by-laws.

“While warnings were issued, the number was small in proportion to the overall number of visitors and only a very small number of people were then reported to the procurator fiscal.”

So, Mr Watson, what feedback did you receive from all the people issued warnings?  Or did you fail to ask them, just like you failed to mention anything about the complaints that have been received about the application of the byelaws in your Report to Roseanna Cunningham, Minister for the Environment?

 

What needs to happen

Unfortunately poor campers, as a friend observed, have no lawyers to challenge the Park about this legally (with cuts in legal aid not helping).  Meantime various civil liberties and human rights organisations in Scotland have so far taken very little interest in the implications of the camping byelaws.   Its time people interested in protecting people’s rights started to question the camping byelaws.

Meantime, the LLTNPA needs to provide answers as to who agreed to introduce the warning system, on what authority and what measures they have put in place to protect civil liberties.