Category: Uncategorized

September 4, 2017 Nick Kempe 2 comments

Like many people, I suspect, I have been waiting for  months for another case of raptor persecution to occur in the Cairngorms National Park.  For under the current grouse moor management regimes that dominate much of the National Park, its not a case of “if” but “when” another raptor will disappear.   While its taken longer than I expected, last week the RSPB announced  a young hen harrier, which had been satellite tagged on the National Trust for Scotland’s Mar Lodge Estate, had disappeared just north of Ballater.  As Raptor Persecution Scotland reported (see here) its almost certain this was on either the Invercauld estate, held by a Trust on behalf of the Farquharson family or Dinnet estate, owned by former Cairngorms National Park Authority Board Member Marcus Humphrey.   Their article documents known cases of raptor persecution in the area.

 

The Cairngorms National Park Authority issued this news release in response to the incident:

Statement: Hen harrier disappearance

1st September 2017

From Grant Moir CEO, Cairngorms National Park Authority

“A hen harrier has once again disappeared in the Cairngorms National Park, with a satellite tracker ceasing to transmit. The Park Authority is determined to stop these recurring disappearances.

“Earlier this week the CNPA met with Police Scotland to discuss how increased use of special constables can help to tackle wildlife crime in the Cairngorms National Park. We also continue to work on other solutions to these issues.

“The CNPA look forward to the establishment by Scottish Government of the independently-led group to look at the environmental impact of grouse moor management and will feed in to that review.”

(see here for link)

However, while such a solution might work in a National Park where the Board was determined to tackle landowners, unfortunately the reality at present from the destruction at Cairngorm to the profileration of hill tracks is that the CNPA does not appear to have the will or resources to use its regulatory powers.   So, even if the CNPA introduced a licensing regime – and was allowed to act independently of its minders at the Scottish Government – this might not change anything.
Another solution is to nationalise the land.  In many National Parks across the world land is in public ownership.  National Parks were set up in Scotland on the assumption that it would be possible to persuade landowners to cooperate.   They have now had 15 years to do so and some still blatantly ignore all the conservation objectives of the National Park.  I think its time therefore for people to start demanding that where there is evidence of repeated raptor persecution (or a repeated failure to meet other conservation objectives) on particular estates in our National Parks the Scottish Government should compulsorily purchase the estate concerned.  Tney could then transfer the land to a new National Parks land-management service, as exists in other countries, to manage.
July 20, 2017 Ross MacBeath No comments exist

An on the spot report by Mechelle Rafferty

This is another report from real park users, in this case Michelle and the crew who have taken the time to record their experiences with LLTNP Camping provision at Loch Chon.  I think it’s safe to say from Mechelles comments and by the looks on the kids faces that it was a very enjoyable three days for all,  tents, water, fire, woods and canoes in a wonderful loch side location, the perfect combination for a great weekend in the park.

Mechelle goes onto describe other site attributes at the start of the video, and visits pitch 21, the jewel in the crown, representing what park users expect from camping pitches in the park.and what the National Park Authority should be delivering as their world class visitor experience.

 

An original loch side pitch at Loch Chon, Pitch 21 is used for groups and you are allowed to pitch 2 tents on this site
Pitch 21, the best pitch on the site, original loch shore location and holds 2 tents

As Mechelle says, it’s the only pitch you are allowed 2 tents, although it would seem some just ignore that rule.   See T&Cs here

Wither a larger family group or just on your own the site has something suitable for all..  There is of course one caveat, you have to book the right pitch, where a considerable number of pitches are just not up to the required standard  yet, and some even unusable so to avoid disappointment read on.

Again I thank Mechelle for her great report and I have extracted some still images from the video to make the details of each pitch easier to evaluate.  I have avoided adding too many additional comments and have tried to transcribe only those made by Mechelle in the video.  So it remains a true on the spot report..

 

“Taps still not working” “general area at car park  “Sparkling water supplied”

CLICK ANY IMAGE TO START SLIDE SHOW!

 

Pitch 1 – Video Counter  13:16

“Pitch 1 is a swamp”   “would not want to pitch on that”

 

 

Pitches 2 and 3 not reviewed

 

Pitch 4 – Video Counter 12:58

“They look campable”

“Looks all right”

 

Pitch 5 – Video Counter 12.33

Same as 4,

 

Pitches 6 and 7 not reviewed

 

Pitch 8 – Video Counter 11.55

Of disabled pitches 8 and 9 in general: !maybe they are out the question, ….they are level, ……but I personally wouldn’t personally want to camp on it”

“Pitch number 8 is flat, nice but right on the walkway, swampy(surrounding)” “Plastic surface”

 

 

Pitch 9  – Video Counter10:30

“I assume grass still has to grow” Hard plastic surface on disabled pitch 9

!they are level, but I personally wouldn’t personally want to camp on it”

 

Entrance to disabled pitch 9  “But look, would you really want to camp on that”

 

Pitch 10 – Video Counter 11.02

“Swampy, if you’re looking at the map, better to come and see pitches first”

“Never ever book pitch 10, unless you want to be waterlogged, …..swampy”

Water course running down beside pitch 8 feeding into pitch 10

 

Pitch 11  see Video Counter 14:27  –  “Alright but really, really bumpy”

“Party Tent, They had stopped by 5 in the morning, ……shouting between tents and flashing torches, still going on at 2 am, …..noise last night from that particular tent was quite bad”

No Image

 

 

Pitch 12 see Video Counter 14:28

” Don’t know how you could actually pitch on it”,

“unless you had a tiny 1 or 2 man tent”, ” it’s not even, even to walk on, really bumpy”

 

 

 

 

Pitch 13 Video Counter 15:10

“Bumpy”, “like they’ve just took a strimmer and cut it back”

 

Pitch 14  Video Counter  16:06

“It’s alright, it would fit our tent at least, quite flat”

 

Pitch 15  Video Counter 16:20

” Tiny, not very grassy and a bit dark, they’re not bad!”

 

Pitch 16  –  Video Counter  18:18

“Pitch 16 That’s alright….  not bad ….  a bit muddy”

 

 

 

Pitch 17  Video Counter  18:50

“That’s just a mess,”  That’s depressing”

[Ross]Official Pitch 17 at end of path is unsuitable, continuously wet and bramble filled.
[Ross] As Mechelle points out Possibly a new but smaller area being cleared further down the slope

Pitch 18 Video Counter 19:25

“Nice, not too muddy”, “18’s alright, 18’s fine”

 

Pitch 19 Video Counter 21:07

there’s no’ a bit of grass, there’s holes, you could maybe get a tent on there, but for a big tent your snookered”.

 

Pitch 20  Video Counter 20:28

“All tree roots, it’s not even flat, it’s on a slope, quite a bad one, a wee tiny tent, you could maybe get away with”.

 

Pitch 21  Video Counter  22:06

This is a nice big pitch, It’s perfect with a your ain wee bit to the loch

New logs cut from tree behind?

 

[Ross]Pitch 21 up there with the best camping in the park, and typical of so many loch shore sites that have been removed from access, with possibly another 6 pitches of different sizes of this standard going unused at this site alone……. See Video for all comments and other views of this pitch.

Pitch 22 Video Counter 21:30

“That’s Fine! and recommended

Pitch 23 also fine and recommended not shown

 

Pitch 24 Fine and recommended —

 

Pitch 25  Video Counter  17:14

 

Nice and close to the loch with path directly from pitch.

 

[Ross]Standing water to the LH edge of the pitch limits it’s size,

 

Pitch 26  Video Counter 16:54

“Looks alright, nice and level at least”

Muddy entrance to Pitch 26

 

All photo & video  credits to Mechelle Rafferty

So Check out the full video for a walk through and some other observations.

July 18, 2017 Ross MacBeath No comments exist

Loch Chon now coming into the high season and the old adage springs to mind, never time to do it right but always time to do it over as the National Park give it another go with pitch surfaces.

Though the majority of these issues have been in the public eye for some months the Park Authority and their planning team have failed to take action. I have reproduced a complaint asking for enforcement action to be taken against the Park Authority, which I am told will be investigated after the holidays,  Meantime the Park Authority have at last sprung into action correcting as many of the pitch issues, a predictable reaction and the first sign of any progress for some time. The relative success of some of these modifications are the subject of another review due on Thursday 20th July ’17.


 

Dear Planning Enforcement Officer / Head of Planning

Our ref: snpa17/041 16/07/17

Complaint regarding handling of the camping development at Loch Chon

It is disappointing that by the end of June, 4 months after the opening of the development at Loch Chon 2016_0151 that Planning Authority has not carried out a site inspection of the £350,000+ development in a sensitive ancient woodland that has received so much bad publicity. Add to that the fact the Board has made a site visit before the 13th March and the Building Control certificate was issued on the 31st of march presumably with involvement of the Applicant constituting a second site visit which surely must have raised the concerns from those who are members of the Park Authority and also in the Planning Committee.

It is clear there are major failings with the development, and a I believe a number of these are attributed to failings of your own planning office in not providing suitable scrutiny of the application and it’s subsequent delivery. Many of these failings were highlighted as likely outcomes by members of the public and other organisations during the consultation process but the planning committee assured us they were satisfied the applicants proposal was sound and that the outcome would be as detailed in the application and supporting presentation. It is clear this is not the case.

I have listed here a series of breaches of the planning consent that you have granted Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park Authority.

These planning contraventions and issues are not limited to this list and so I request you take up an enforcement stance to pursue the applicant, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority, and force them to complete the works and other obligations agreed to in the planning consent and make good any contraventions of said consent to an acceptable standard especially in respect of the provision of a safe water supply, the stated number of viable camping pitches and the removal of unauthorised structures, restoration work, and by removal of contamination from the environment within an acceptable time frame.

I would also have expected a test certificate of some sort to show the biological safety of the water supply when it comes on line and the soil system especially as it flows into the loch where park users are swimming and boiling for cooking.

It is clear this restoration work will be difficult as the park authority did not properly retain vegetation removed from the site during path construction works as agreed as primary requirement for granting the consent in the first instance. This is a gross contravention of the terms of consent, leaving a large area to the side of path and road works without restoration.

Further, poor or no control by the Ecological Clerk of Works, has allowed vehicular traffic to roam across the sensitive ecology of the hillside damaging the vegetation and possibly interfering with the flow of water down the slope. The Clerk of Works has failed to control the contractor and it would seem feedback the necessary documentations to make and agree all the material changes at this site which appear to have been carried out without planning oversight. It really raises the question of the attendance of a Clerk of Works on site when these decisions were being made.

Another very worrying event is the removal of public parking spaces from the site after planning was originally consented. This raises some serious ethical questions as to how this change was affected as a Non Material Variation where it clearly affects access rights for the public to the entire site and Loch Chon beyond. This needs to be investigated as it has subverted the terms of the publicly agreed planning consent allowing the applicant to achieve their original aim of excluding public access without further public consultation. The Planning Authority are complicit in this act and it and it is clearly designed to enable the applicant to make the transition from a public utility to a privately run campsite in the future by removing public access at this time. This act also interferes with access rights, by denying vehicle access to previously public areas you are thwarting the public’s right to roam.

Issues arising

1. The bin store sited at the RHS the Ranger Base and Store does not appear on any of the plans for the site and is therefore a breach of planning consent. In addition as it is such a large structure it should not be considered an Non Material Variation as it has a major impact on the efficacy of the site and it’s rural and natural aspect. It seems almost inconceivable that the final purpose of this structure is a bin store and it appears to the casual onlooker that the National Park authority intends to re-task this structure for another purpose. It should therefore be removed and an investigation into it’s erection should commence as a matter of public concern.

2. The containers used for the Rangers Base and the water purification plant do not correspond with the engineering drawings in respect to the size and finish to the end elevations shown in your documentation.

In both instances the doors fitted are taller than those specified which in turn has prevented fitting a wooden facing above them as specified.
In the case of the Ranger Base Store end the door fitted is larger and of a different design with locking bars on the surface which are totally unsuitable as a solution in this sensitive site.

The wood cladding to the exterior of the containers do not conform to the engineering drawings, the posts and concrete ground supports have not been fitted with the cladding being applied to the container surface directly, this contravenes the design specification and the resultant aspect is an industrial container which has no place in this sensitive area.

3. The wood cladding to the exterior of the containers does not conform to the engineering drawings, the posts and concrete ground supports have not been fitted and the cladding has instead be applied to the container surface, this contravenes the design specification and the resultant aspect is an industrial container which has no place in this sensitive area.

The permanent nature that was presented in the original drawings and at the planning consultation meeting have been subverted by removing the concrete embedded posts which suggests the Park Authority as the applicant again have intentionally deceived the planning authority and have an intention to move, remove or in some way alter these structures and have pre-empted that requirement by violating the terms of the planning consent.

This requires investigation. If it is the intention to remove these structures from their position on site and deny access to the public out-with the management season this should have been made clear on the application, in any case the reason for this variation should be established.
It is also strange why the planning authority approved drawings from the applicant which only showed one end elevation, this is highly irregular and also requires explanation.

4. The logs to the side of the Ranger base have prevented proper landscaping of the area underneath and their eventual removal will cause further disruption to the ecosystem, they are an eyesore and should be removed immediately and the area regraded to allow vegetation recovery to continue unhindered.

5. The grading of the ground to provide a low angle rise to the edge of the containers at door entry points has not been carried out at the store, the rangers base and the plant room.

6. The ground works on the site remain unfinished in a number of respects:

a. The seeding of bare soils and restoration works have not been (started ?) completed across the development and the changes at pitches 8 and 9 should have demanded seeding of the soil pitch surface, soil being an unacceptable medium for pitching tents. Path edges, large area adjacent to ranger base and car park surrounds are being left to self seed which is failing and the seeding schedule agreed should be carried out immediately.

Undocumented changes to pitch surfaces comprising aggregate and sand have been created without consent, this sand finish is an abomination, wet or dry, this grit sticks to feet and hands to be carried into the tent causing discomfort and nuisance. It may be possible to mitigate where seeding with grass would bind the sand together and provide the required surface finish.

On walk around, overspill of hardcore at corners and junctions of the road/path network is evident in many locations, nature has overtaken and hidden the less serious instances allowing the applicant to get away without restoring the original vegetation, but there remains many areas of concern that require remedial action. It is not sufficient just to allow the self seeding of natural grasses to eventually mask the building material contamination the planning consent called for proactive restoration using reserved material and seeding and a general level of care to ensure building materials did not contaminate the site. This requirement has just not been met.

Of course the stated reseeding schedule in the planning application is not without risk and I would expect the planning department and the applicant are well aware that the colour and nature of the recommended seed mix for restoration will not match the natural vegetation in this area perhaps exacerbating the problem. This of course is why the retention of the vegetation removed from paths and other works were so important to the successful restoration of this project and the failure of the planning department to ensure that was done has left ecological damage that may never return to it’s original state. The applicant should take stock of the environmental damage they have caused.

 

On the Path leading to pitch one, there has been no attempt to clear away the hardcore contamination of the surrounding vegetation and no seeding has taken place. No restoration of vegetation along many areas of path and the 4th image shows a failed attempt to remove a hardcore pile dumped on vegetation where a succession of attempts using machines for removal have made matters worse.

Bridge
The bridge solution is a mess. Hardcore is falling into the stream through very poor containment. The expansion of the path at the junction to an unacceptable width with hardcore marring the natural ground and vegetation cover without attempted restoration.
The protruding pipe of the culvert should have a natural stone surround wall in a development such as this. The solution provided is not suitable for a flagship development in a National Park where even a pub in Tyndrum can provide a stone faced wall to a piped culvert.

The nature of this slope down to the river is an unnecessary hazard, it would be far better with a retaining wall and a vertical drop to the river where danger is apparent, this solution it invites children to play on what is effectively a scree slope and once a slip begins the outcome is inevitable.

Attempts at restoring vegetation over this hardcore has been made since this image was taken it is a piecemeal approach an as can be seen from the other side, where no attempt has been made to grade in the edges of the road and vegetation as required and no seeding.
The other side of the bridge has similar issues with attempted soil and vegetation replacement, how successful this will be, depends on the on going availability of water to the root system which may be an issue in dry weather. Monitoring of this area should continue to ensure the applicant provides a suitable long term solution should this restoration attempt fail.

Restoration to damage caused by relocation of pitches
Restoration works to areas damaged by LLTNPA through agreed and non agreed changes

have not been completed using the vegetation that should have been retained for such purposes. Paths and pitches positioned wrongly and subsequently removed have not been restored to their former condition.

Pitch 10, the original stub path has been removed and not restored leaving this water filled hole contaminated with hardcore.

Pitch 12 the original stub path has been removed and not restored leaving a hole and some hardcore in the environment.

d. Areas of cross contamination where building materials have been dumped in the environment and left exposed, e.g. just uphill from the bridge on the toilet block side, these materials should never have been left on site and should be removed prior to proper restoration and seeding.

e. The use of grit (course sand consistency) as a pitch surface over quartz pebble was never and should not have been agreed, it’s an abomination in a campsite and has been used by the applicant to hide material problems. It has been deposited over peat/moss wet areas, steep slopes and bramble patches to mask the underlying issues Pitches 6, 14, 15 and 19 are affected and the resultant mess in the ecosystem is unacceptable environmental destruction and a horrible visitor experience as a paid for pitch surface which in all cases should be grass..

 

f. The finish to the roads is abysmal, and it would appear they do not conform to what is detailed in the original specification, there is an expectation another material would provide the final finish over the hardcore base. It is also reasonable to expect a new road would not be pot holed and have 1” to 4″ hardcore strewn over the road way and spreading on to the grass verges. There has been no attempt to restore the exploratory hole dug down to the water pipe which can be seen just above centre on the RHS image.

g. The slope between the bridge and the water purification building has had sand/grit, used for pitch surfaces and path infill dumped to the side of the road together with other materials.
The extraneous building material appear in a number of locations on site and it is clear the applicant is just waiting for nature to grow over them instead of removing them as per terms of the planning consent to prevent cross contamination in a sensitive area. This contamination should never have taken place if the Ecological Clerk of Works had been present to monitor the work.

 

6. The documentation from SEPA which has been removed from the idox system for public viewing stated that the paths between the road and pitch one should be flush with the surrounding terrain the paths created by LLTNPA are not flush in all places, where hardcore has been laid on top on the existing vegetation with and without a membrane, this is in breach of the planning consent and the recommendations from SEPA regarding interference with drainage of the flood plain. I would think it is also highly undesirable to use woodchips, a floating material, in a flood plain.

7. Transverse Paths created on the hill side are floating in wet weather having been laid over peat or moss substrate, these paths should have been dug out at the affected areas and consolidated to provide a firm surface. The arrows show position on this image, at the other corner of the path where it turns down hill the same spongy surface exists. The top section of the path loop at pitch 18, 19 and 20 swinging back down towards pitch 17 is affected in places.

The central arrow in this image shows a channel created by the appicant in peat. This should be in filled to stop a new water course being created. The Applicant has destroyed the moss ecosystem in a large triangle from the bridge to the tree in the foreground and failed to restore the surface leaving grasses to encroach on what should be moss. The eco system here has been irreversibly destroyed.

Going further along this transverse path it is clear the path has interfered with the flow of water down the slope the ground immediately uphill from the path is wetter and in rainy weather fills with water which eventually overflows the barrier formed by the path crossing it in a number of locations.

There is also a spongy area on the path just down hill from the corner that according to planning consent should be corrected. The path where it turns back downhill is particularly affected, water crosses the path and flows down it’s side until it finds an easier route down into pitch 17 where it maintains the permanent wet aspect of this pitch. (see appendix A) Even before the path was created the location of pitch 17 was fed from the water coming downhill in a natural water course, the path has merely created a second route for water delivery.

This image also demonstrates the cross contamination of hardcore onto the surrounding ecology.

8. Many of the pitches remain poor quality, and while a few will respond to continuous hard strimming they are still hampered by a poor site on slopes.  Others have flaws which are caused by their positions in water courses [10, 17], or beside standing water [26] and/or dense vegetation . The light touch proposed by the applicant is a nonsense and no more than an excuse for doing little or nothing. These plants affecting pitches are voracious and require severe methods of control where brambles will grow 3 inches in a day it is obvious that removal is the only real option, the park have not chosen to to go down that route and have tried instead to cover over with sand and aggregate.

The last problem with the site is the size of pitches, The applicants own research shows demand for camping is predominantly from families requiring pitches to handle family sized tents and area around the tent to allow occupants to relax, sit and cook in the area with a fire-pan a safe distance from the tent the pitch size at this site does not reflect the demand

The planning department have failed to regulate the design of these pitches allowing the applicant to place a dot on a map clearly without first surveying the land properly resulting in the majority of pitches being created on sloping sites, small constrained areas, water logged sites and sites of dense vegetation including brambles. This failure is responsible for the large number of pitch problems at this development but more importantly it has allowed the applicant to mislead the public and stakeholders that this hillside location was suitable for creating camping provision in the first place.

The selection of slopes for pitches is not acceptable above a few degrees as anyone sleeping on a mat will side down the slope, the small size of pitches makes it impossible to fit a tent in some cases never mind align the tent to the slope, effectively making the pitch unusable. There are also other considerations when camping that are impacted by pitch size, in poor weather the longitudinal axis of the tent should be aligned with wind direction and the door placed to the lea side, this is not possible to accomplish on a small oblong pitch and is important in exposed sites such as Loch Chon.

Because proper confirmation of each pitch layout was not sought by the planning department, the Park Authority have sized pitches based on the footprint of a tent and failed to consider that a tent requires approximately 4 times that area to accommodate guy lines alone and then an absolute minimum of 4 times that combined area again to accommodate the occupants and the area for cooking, seating, relaxing and a fire pan at a safe distance from the tent.

At the public planing meetings to discuss the nature of the site the applicant misled the public into believing this site would be in the same class as Sallocy. The nature of the site could never support this comparison as the original pitches on the shore of Loch Chon were specifically excluded so the site could support day visitors on the shore locations. On March 1st 2017, the only pitch on the entire site that is acceptable without any issues was pitch 21 on a shore location which pre existed the development. The applicants fantasy that suitable pitch surfaces would be achieved by simply “scraping” the area has been born out as unachievable. Any attempts to scrape out with the intention to level a slope would result a water sump and so it never was a reasonable solution but one that was pursued to overcome objections at the planning stage.

a. Many of these ancient and natural woods on the west coast of Scotland are technically temperate rain forests due to the high rainfall, While previous developments at Loch Chon have disturbed the nature of the site it still did not and does not lend it’self for campsite conversion on the scale implemented, more than 3 times larger than the site previously handled.

It is clear that the popular areas of the park previously used, have been selected by park users on the basis of their suitability for camping, flat, level, grass covered and loch side locals usually on fluvial plains which are on the whole drier than the surrounding wooded areas. The applicants decision to exclude the existing loch side pitches from camping (except pitch 21) presumably to maintain an area for day visitors to use, and then exclude day visitors from parking by changing the agreed consent is a travesty leaving 8 – 10 pitches on site that are basically unusable and another number not up to the stated “Internationally-renowned National Park Experience”

b. Further, as you should now be aware, pitches cannot be created in a single season and together these are the primary failures in understanding camping in the park. Good sites are created by nature and found by campers and then naturalised over time by constant use in popular loch shore locations, nothing less will do. As far as forest locations are concerned they are few and far between where rainforest and commercial forests do not provide viable camping as a rule.

9. The lighting bulkheads do not comply with the dark skies initiative I would have thought that would have been a prerequisite for all lighting in the park but more especially in a location away from other light contamination where the benefits of such fittings would make a real difference.

The lighting has been recessed into the wood cladding since this image was taken but that has no material effect on light pollution of the sky and hillside opposite.

10. The Toilet block water supply has not been fully operational since the site opened on the 1st March 2017 on the very small number of days the site had toilets and wash hand basins operating at the same time as the drinking water supply were hampered by very low pressure where even the timed shut off on the drinking water taps would not activate.

The applicants camping booking system states the site has no drinking water, although currently
the drinking water for this site is supplied via 330ml plastic bottles issued free to park users. This is unacceptable and so far the applicant has failed to explain why they are not taking steps to correct the error with the water intake pipe and reposition it further upstream with a suitable reservoir. Their are also reports that sparkling water has been supplied in error.

This is a very serious breach in planning consent and raises a lot of of other issues of health and safety where the water supply is so tenuous. Effective dish washing cannot take place in the trough provided using 330 ml bottles of water.

Intake Port.
The original drawings which you have removed from your system showed the water intake upstream from it’s current location as shown here, it is clear that this was the intended position due to pipe clips and small rock built dam.
Due to a failure of the planning department to insist on construction drawings detailing the construction of the necessary reservoir or header tank, or the selection of a suitable natural alternative, to guarantee a sufficient head of water to operate the system, the applicant was not constrained. Their contractor fitted the intake pipe, in good faith, at a location that was later to prove unsuitable as the water level in the stream dropped in dry weather leaving the intake above the water level. This was however the location agreed in the planning consent and it would seem no proper evaluation or calculations of the technical requirements for the intake were carried out to support this location, not least the need to be underwater.

The diagram illustrates the issue

The Park Authority then went ahead and made further changes without consent or informing the planning authority it would seem, as the absence of documents in the idox system suggests.

The new location for the intake port is under the culvert, I would think a wholly unsuitable location due to it interfering with the requirement to have a smooth unimpeded surface in the culvert to stop build up of debris.

The resultant head of water has been reduced by a meter or so exacerbating the situation where this reservoir needs to be placed upstream to increase water pressure.

The interference of water flow in a culvert is also undesirable and is surly a matter for SEPA where the inevitable build up of debris behind the dam will cause problems.

The moving of the intake pipe downhill is in breach of planning consents as an NMV would not be adequate to cover a change requiring calculations and of water heads and pressures at the output of the sterilisation system.
Of course there is the complication of the inspection chamber and tank close to the Ranger base and questions to whether or not that is a sealed chamber, The uses of the pump that was reportedly retrofitted should have overcome any head issues but seemingly has not. It’s time the applicant made the issues public and gave timescales for reparations.

 

11. Other structures are appearing on site, this one in the form of communal seating area close to pitch

12. this areas look to be constructed by Park Rangers and are a contravention of the planning consent.

Pitch 12 on the other hand is so small there is no space for a family tent and seating in the same area. It’s concerning with one of the main justifications for creating management zones being fire rings that the Park Authority are permitting fires in the eco system.

That is not to say that a communal seating area is not desirable, in a properly planned camping site. This provision should be a feature at every pitch and that is certainly true of the pitches here at Loch Chon where many have no room for occupants or even seating and cooking nearby.

That said, it should have been the subject of proper planning consent. The Park Authority obviously believe planning requirements do not apply to their projects and proceed to do what ever they wish without challenge. Pitches 8, 9, 10, 12 14, 15 are modified and/or relocated and for the most part to small to contain tents and occupants comfortably for their intended use, 8 and 9 being disabled pitches.

The use of woodchips was the subject of much concern and we can now see it being carried by feet from the paths across the pitch sites and the ecosystem beyond. The rediculous “postage stamp” bark paths to pitches 4, 5, 12 and others serve no purpose and should be removed.

That is a summary of the problems and issues at this site.

A number of pitch issues were included in the original communication. These have not been reproduced here.

What I require to happen to resolve my complaint.

The Planning Authority should take up and enforcement position and ensure the applicant complies with the original planning consent in all respects. Particularly with a view to removing structures, especially the bin store, and others that do not form part of the original planning consent and restoration of the ecosystem to it’s original state.

The Planning Department should investigate and explain how with all the checks and balances alluded to in the planning application including oversight of an environmental Clerk of Works, that this poor outcome and environmental damage was permitted to continue without feedback, and agreements from the Clerk of Works were not a feature of the development as was clearly stated as a requirement in the consents.

They should also explain and/or investigate the following:

1. Removal of parking spaces after the agreed consent and public debate.
2. Failure to visit the site and enforce the contraventions from planning consent.
3. Failure to insist on a hydrology report for the stream.
4. Failure to insist the applicant provided detailed drawings with all elevations for the containers and in particular the details of the position and nature of the the water intake including calculations of water pressure achievable.
5. Failure to insist on details of pitch locations, slope, vegetation and size suitable to take tents their occupants and equipment, this after all being the primary purpose of the development.
6. Failure to monitor the progress on site at a stage where intervention would have prevented many of the issues we now have at the end of the project.
7. Failure to monitor the storage of restoration vegetation and the reinstatement of the site.
8. Failure to enforce breaches in planning consent where the Applicant is LLTNPA.

The Planning department have consented to a 26 pitch camping site a Loch Chon and the applicant has not delivered 26 pitches that are viable for camping upon.

The planning department should enforce the provision of 26 viable pitches together with the necessary drinking water supply as a mater of urgency as we are entering the peak season and paying customers have no dish washing facilities and drinking water from 330 ml bottles. The Park Authority has stated on their booking system that drinking water is not available and that in itself that should precipitate closure of the site.

A report on tree removal and damage cannot be carried out at this time as the tree protection plan has been removed from the idox system.

The planning authority should immediately reverse it’s decision to hide documentation on the idox system preventing public scrutiny of LLTNPA projects so hiding any failure to concur with it’s planning consents. The agreement of consent is only the start of the project not the end these inconsistances seem to favour Park Authority Projects.

Further the planning department should identify the creation date of documents so clarity of the audit trail can be established and monitored and documents should have this information in their meta data. The use of a “date posted” is it would seem the date the documents are made visible to the public it is meaningless in the audit trail as the documents are retrospectively uploaded.
All of these anomalies present a ethical problems in the planning system where the true nature of dates and documentary evidence of the planning procedure are being intentionally obfuscated.

This is a breach of your own standards of openness and transparency and it precipitates the question why are documents relating to LLTNPA hidden when it is of great public interest to ensure there is a viable and demonstrable separation between the applicant and the planning authority. This is clearly not the case where the applicant is Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.
Thanking You

Yours faithfully

July 11, 2017 Nick Kempe No comments exist

Following my post on the unlawful application of the camping byelaws to campervans (see here), Rob Edwards’ excellent article in the Sunday Herald (I have an interest!) prompted an interesting piece http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2017/07/10/wild-land/ from Mike Small which is well worth reading:

 

“Scotland’s divorce from nature is intimately connected to its divorce from land. But whilst we struggle to overcome the engrained iniquity of land ownership we can do something about access to land. From the country that gave the world John Muir the shambles of the national park is pretty depressing”

 

What has been happening in the National Park though is more than a shambles, its been a deliberate attempt to exclude people from an area which was made a National Park in order to enable people, primarily from the Glasgow conurbation and many of whom have little money, to enjoy the countryside.   That was an old socialist aspiration.  Its not a coincidence that the same post-war Labour Government that created the NHS also passed the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949.     The camping byelaws, which are only part of a much wider attempt to make the National Park a socially exclusive zone, are now unravelling partly due to incompetence but also because, thankfully, other public authorities have respected people’s rights.  In this case the key right is that of people to sleep overnight in a vehicle on the road network.

 

The LLTNPA’s record on developing the byelaws and the right to stay overnight in vehicles

 

Rob Edwards obtained from the Park a very interesting explanation for its U-turn on campervans, which once again demonstrates the rotten governance that has been at the heart of how the byelaws have been developed.

 

“The park authority pointed out that caravaners staying weeks or months on two old stretches of road by Loch Earn had damaged the park’s unique environment.  “Our clear legal advice was that they weren’t part of the formal road network and that the issue could be addressed with bylaws” said the authority’s chief executive, Gordon Watson”.

 

I was surprised at this claim because if Gordon Watson or the Park’s lawyer had asked Transport Scotland – the body responsible for the trunk road network  –  they would have known that the laybys on the A85 along the north side of the Loch Earn were part of the formal road network and therefore under the byelaws as approved by the LLTNPA Board and Minister, people could sleep there in vehicles.     Transport Scotland provided me with a list of all trunk road laybys LL&T National Park Lay-Bys they were responsible for in December 2016.  Here is the extract for the A85 along the north shore of Long Earn:

While I have not converted the references from eastings and northings to grid references I am fairly confident they include all the laybys along Loch Earn where encampments used to take place

Maybe, however, the Park’s lawyer knew something Transport Scotland didn’t?   Its quite clear though that other LLTNPA staff did not know either because, as late as summer 2016, a year after the byelaws were approved by the Board in April 2015, staff were asking Transport Scotland which laybys were part of the formal road network:

(You can read the full correspondence – I am grateful to Transport Scotland for co-operating with my FOI request – here, here and here)

Note, how Carlo DEmidio, the senior manager appointed to improve the Park’s project management (and who has since left the Park) did not know either which laybys were official – perhaps he did not have access to the legal advice provided to his Chief Executive? – and his statement “We just need something that we can use to justify our position when it comes to enforcement and signage”.   That does not sound like a Park Authority following legal advice, that sounds more like a Park Authority hell bent on banning campervans whatever the legal advice.

 

Unfortunately, it may be very difficult to find out the truth on this because legal advice is privileged and exempt from Freedom of Information rules.  Whatever the legal advice the Board had prior to approving the byelaws, once Park staff found out that the laybys on North Loch Earn were part of the public roads network, they should have advised the Board.

 

Instead what appears to have happened is that Park staff, without reference to the Board or apparently the Scottish Government (see here), changed the wording of the camping byelaws.  Now under English Law, significant changes to byelaws would normally require further public consultation before going back to the Board for approval but in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park none of this happened.     In my view that leaves the legality of the entire byelaws open to question but they key point here is the changes, which were significant, made it even more difficult for the Park to ban people from staying overnight in vehicles.

 

This is because the original version of the byelaws only allowed people to sleep overnight in vehicles on public roads:

 

(7) No person shall sleep overnight in a stationary vehicle within a Management Zone unless:

(a) they have been authorised to do so by the Authority under byelaw 12; or

(b) the vehicle is on a public road and such activity is not prohibited by the relevant roads

authority.

 

The key term here is “public road” which was defined to mean:

 

“(i) a road or any part thereof which a roads authority has a duty to maintain; (ii) a layby bounded partly by the outer edge of any such road; or (iii) any public car park provided by or on behalf of a roads authority. “  

 

You can see from this why it was so important to work out which laybys on north Loch Earn among other places were part of the public roads network and which not.

 

In the version of the byelaws which was published in November 2016, however, just over three months before they were implemented, the terms “public road” and “roads authority” had been dropped and replaced by the term “road”.   This was defined to mean “a road for the purposes of the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984” and this inadvertently  changed the whole scope of the exemption in the byelaws which allowed people to sleep in vehicles.   This is because under the Roads Traffic Scotland Act  a road is defined to mean any road over which there is a right of passage, private or public.    It gave campervans a legal right under the byelaws to stay on anything that looked like a road (such as forest tracks), including its verge, in the camping management zones.  Hence why the Park has refunded people who bought permits not just on the public road network at Loch Earn, but also in permit areas created on what appears to be a private road at Tarbert.

 

What needs to be done

 

The Park in its response to Rob Edwards was trying to hide behind legal advice in order to defend its unlawful attempt to charge people in campervans for staying overnight on the road network but also to save face with local communities:  I am sure St Fillans Community Council will be dismayed.  Having been told the byelaws could prevent encampments in laybys, its now clear they did not know what they were talking about and that the whole justification for the byelaws has been a con.

 

Its worse than that though.   Perhaps Park staff could explain on what legal advice they had decided to allow caravans to stop off overnight in laybys in the camping management zones while still trying to ban campervans?  The definition of “vehicle” remained unchanged between the two versions of the camping byelaws and clearly included campervans: ” “vehicle” means a mechanically-propelled vehicle or a vehicle designed or adapted for towing by a mechanically-propelled vehicle”.  I doubt any lawyer would have made a distinction between campervans and caravans and my conclusion is the staff having been making up the implementation of the byelaws as they go along. Acting beyond their powers.  Dave Morris, for it was he, was right to call for Scottish Ministers to investigate.

 

The LLTNPA Board now needs to issue a clear statement of whether the camping byelaws still apply to people sleeping in vehicles and if so, in what circumstances people could be prosecuted.   My own view is that they should clearly state that no-one who is abiding by the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, whether in a campervan or tent, will be prosecuted.  As importantly the Board also needs to  re-affirm that a primary purpose of the National Park is to enable people to enjoy the countryside and that overnight stays in tents and campervans are an essential part of this right.  It should then get on with providing the facilities that campervanners and caravanners need rather than wasting more resources enforcing the unenforceable.

June 7, 2017 Nick Kempe 1 comment

What has been going on, and going wrong, in Scotland’s two National Parks since they were created has been a microcosm of our society as a whole and I believe reflects the current crisis in capitalism.  Increasing inequality, public authorities whose main purpose is to facilitate business interests (whether through outsourcing services or paving the way for developers), a wilful disregard for people and other species.   I have avoided mentioning the General Election since it was announced (see here) but what happens tomorrow is very important to the future of our National Parks, despite what I regard as the sterile political “debate” that has been conducted in Scotland.

 

I am a Social Worker by trade and have sometimes question how I can justify time campaigning for better National Parks when there are so many homeless people on the street and we live in one of the richest countries in the world (whether you see Scotland or Britain as your country).   I don’t however think that social justice and access to the natural environment are separate issues.   Historically some of the greatest campaigners for the countryside ( Patrick Geddes in Scotland who was both a Professor of Botany and a Professor of Sociology) were also  campaigners for social justice and its no coincidence that the post-war Labour Government created both the NHS and National Parks:

 

“the enjoyment of our leisure in the open air and the ability to leave our towns and walk on the moors and in the dales without fear of interruption are……….just as much part of positive health and well being as are the building of hospitals or insurance against sickness…….This is not just a Bill.  It is a People’s Charter……..”  

(Lewis Silkin introducing the National Park and Access to Countryside Act 1949).

The Party manifestos

 

I have taken a  look at the Scottish political party manifestos to see whether they any are making the links between social and environmental justice and have any vision for the role National Parks could play in delivering this.

 

The SNP manifesto is interesting because while it articulates a vision for social justice, including at the UK level, there is almost nothing on the environment apart from climate change and no mention of National Parks.   In my view it reads a bit like one half of the labour programme from the 1940s, albeit not fundamentally challenging the philosophical basis of neoliberalism.

 

The Scottish Labour Manifesto repeats the UK manifesto and at least recognises what is going wrong:  “The balance needs resetting: our air is polluted, our farms face an uncertain future, our fish stocks are collapsing, our oceans are used as dumping grounds, our forests, green belt, National Parks, and Sites of Special Scientific Interest are all under threat.”   The proposals to redress the balance are mainly focussed on improving enforcement of environmental and other laws, which though welcome, is only half the challenge.   There is little articulation of what a fairer Britain means for our landscapes.

 

The Liberal Democrat Manifesto also makes no mention of National Parks and focusses mainly on the risks that the protections offered by European environmental laws could be undermined by Brexit.  The assumption is these laws are working and there is little vision for a different future (apart from a ban on the neonicotonids which are destroying bee populations).

 

The Scottish Green manifesto is brief and although the most radical makes no mention of National Parks.  Unfortunately the Party with perhaps the most potential to shift the terms of the current debate is hardly participating in the election – a missed opportunity.

 

Interestingly its the Tory manifesto which appears to offer the most holistic vision:

 

We can no longer think of economic development as a competing force against
environmental protection. Earlier this year, the Scottish Conservatives set out our
approach to environmental policy in a comprehensive policy document. The paper
included ambitious plans across seven key sections including the circular economy,
biodiversity, energy, homes and transport. In it, we have argued for the setting up of
new national parks, the introduction of a range of non-fiscal incentives for the use of
electric vehicles, new urban consolidation hubs to reduce traffic emissions or further
development of district heating networks. Our approach will provide a greener and more
sustainable Scotland for us all. We set ourselves this task because we believe it is one of
the greatest challenges of our times. It is for this generation to tackle the issue and ensure
that the next will live in a better, more productive and more sustainable world.

 

The debate on the establishment of New National Parks – Scottish Parliament: 24 May 2017

 

In the middle of the election campaign there was a debate in the Scottish Parliament on new National Parks, which you can see on Scottish Parliament TV (see here) .   The motion, put by the Tories,  was

 

“That the Parliament recognises the value of Scotland’s outstanding natural beauty, which creates jobs, contributes to the economy and attracts millions of tourists from Galloway and West Dumfries, the rest of Scotland and the world; notes what it sees as the success of the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and The Trossachs national parks in conserving and enhancing the natural heritage of these areas, and notes the calls on the Scottish Government to conduct a review of national parks and consider the establishment of new ones.”

 

What the Tories have recognised is that people care about the landscape and this can be good for the economy.   The debate showed however that in Scotland the whole framework for discussion for conservation and enjoyment of the countryside is being held in a resolutely neo-liberal framework, which assumes neo-liberalism and  austerity is here to stay (despite the possibility of an earthquake south of the border tomorrow which no-one could have anticipated 6 weeks ago).

 

This was summed up by the Minister of the Environment, Roseanna Cunningham, at the end of the debate where she said she did not share the optimism that new National Parks could be set up with little cost and that the reality is there is less money and that the money has to come from elsewhere.   She described the silence on this from the other contributors to the debate as telling.  She went on to say that the  “costs associated with all 7 Natonal Parks (as proposed by the Scottish Campaign for National Parks of which I am a member) would run into tens of millions…………….in the current circumstances there is no likelihood of being able to assign the finance”           While she applauded the “desire to protect Scotland’s iconic landscapes”  she also stated “National Parks are just one designation that can boost economic development of an area” suggesting she sees National Parks as a means of economic development, albeit one we cannot afford.    The response from the Tories to this challenge was that new National Parks was all about getting the right Business Case but they did not challenge the austerity narrative, suggesting they agreed with Roseanna Cunningham, that the main issue is about how we spend limited resources.

 

They are not alone in this.  In Wales the Labour Government has been trying to change the law on National Parks in order to “free up” economic development (see here).  A reflection of the schism between the economic philosophy of the Corbynite UK labour party and the labour party in the devolved administrations.

 

I found the debate very disappointing.  It provided little indication at present that our politicians in Scotland are able to articulate a vision which is not entirely based on money and that National Parks matter for reasons other than our neoliberal economy (though Alison Johnstone from the Greens did make the case for National Parks protecting mountain hares).

 

I still haven’t decided how I will vote tomorrow.  The possibilities of alternative visions of society – in which National Parks could play an important role – which were around during the Independence Referendum appear to have shifted to south of the border.    I hope they remain after tomorrow as I think this could help rejuvenate visionary thinking and debate in Scotland.

May 16, 2017 Nick Kempe No comments exist
Mid Glen Falloch, viewed from shoulder of An Caisteal.  The area It is now a mass of tracks, leading to hydro dams.  Foreground Allt Andoran, far right Eas Eonan and left background start of track up Allt a Chuillinn.  The hydro powerhouse is centre background, Derrydarroch to the right.

On 6th May, during the very dry spell, I went for another walk over An Caisteal and Ben a Chroin, almost a year to the day after a similar round The Glen Falloch hydro schemes (2) (with several visits in-between).   The walk provided yet more evidence of why Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority staff should never have approved these tracks (which in the original planning application consented to by the Scottish Government were to be removed) but also about the poor standards of restoration.    This is a disaster for a National Park whose 2012-17 Partnership Plan, which is supposed to guide everything it does,  starts with the statement that:

 

“we want the National Park to be an internationally-renowned landscape”.  

 

How does what the LLTNPA have allowed to happen in Glen Falloch contribute to that?    In the draft Partnership Plan 2018-23 which is now out for consultation (see here) it is telling that there is no evaluation of how successful the LLTNPA has been in achieving this aim.

The first Allt a Chuillinn intake centre, the other two intakes are beyond track you can see bottom left

Previously, I have stated that in my view the restoration of the ground in which the pipelines have been buried has generally successful and little  cause for concern with it often being quite difficult to make out the line of the pipelines.    While I believe that is still sometimes the case, the long dry spell has accentuated the differences in vegetation and its easy to see the landscape scars (above centre).   The land may take longer to recover than I had thought.

 

Allt Andoran Track 8th May 2016

Comparing the photo above (taken a year ago on a day with far less good visibility) with the first photo in the post taken a year later, you can see that the ground above the pipeline has recovered to an extent but has a long way to go.   The track itself, despite the vegetation down the middle, looks little different and forms a permanent landscape scar.

Close up of Eas Eonan track, showing poor restoration of the temporary access track that led to blue pipe over West Highland Line (centre left)

 

The Eas Eonan hydro track leads into an area of core wild land.  The new draft Park Plan states:

 

“The National Park provides opportunities for anyone to have their first experience of the ‘wild outdoors” 

 

There is nothing in the plan about how the National Park, through all the developments it has approved, has eroded that experience in the last five years.  Perhaps the  National Park Board and senior management team believe walking up a bulldozed track is a wild experience?    Its becoming harder and harder to have a wild experience in the National Park because of decisions made by the LLTNPA.  Removal of the tracks, as originally planned, would have preserved some of that.

Lower reaches of Coire Earb by the Upper Falloch, Beinn Odhar and Ben Dorain in background

Coire Earb is wild, and indeed falls within a core wild land area.   While there was an existing track by the upper reaches of the River Falloch, this ended 1 km before the new hydro dam and formerly was out of sight when you were descending the glen.   The decision by LLTNPA staff to allow the track to remain permanently has changed the experience totally.

The new section of track. The line of the pipeline is now more visible than it was a year ago.

Would not the hydro here have had far less impact on the landscape if the track has been removed as originally planned?

The Upper Glen Falloch hydro close up

May 2017
May 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The approval of the LLTNPA to the track extension to the hydro being retained has made it easier for the Glen Falloch Estate to drive vehicles off-road further up the glen.   A year ago (right) there was no evidence of vehicles being driven beyond the intake, now there are vehicle tracks beside it which are destroying the ground that was restored.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vehicles are also being driven off the track with no regard for soil or vegetation.  The consequence is the track is in places likely to end up being 5-7m wide instead of the 2.5m (and 3m on steep hills and bends) which the LLTNPA recommends in its “award winning” good practice guidance which it has never enforced.

 

The reason for this is that the LLTNPA has basically allowed a new wide track to be created to construct the hydro scheme but then allowed the batters (see diagram below) to remain in place with minimum attempts to re-landscape the flat surface of the track (a little bit of soil and peat has just been added to the outside edge of the track).  The result is that its very easy for vehicles to drive off the track while in landscape terms the track is still effectively 5-7m broad in most places.

Photo showing how original attempt to cover former track surface is failing, with former surface of construction track being revealed as turf has been eroded by cattle.

The design of the track together with the erosion caused by vehicles and cattle have had the result that in most places there is actually now less peaty soil by the track than there was a year ago (see above).

 

The failure to re-landscape the former road surface so that the remaining track moulds into the contours of the land has also made it easy for the estate to create new parking or working areas which add considerably to the visual impact of the track.

 

The pre-existing track  which ended a little further up the hill, was widened for the hydro construction,  not by cutting a further batter but by importing aggregate (left) to use as fill.

There little  attempt (photo above) to shape the the fill so it merges into the contours of the land.  The result is a broad bench cutting across the hillside.  In landscape terms, the track here is in effect still 5-7m wide rather than the 2.5-3m recommended by the National Park.

The 3m mark on tape measure is just to the left of the small stone holding the tape measure in place.

Even on the better sections, the track is far wider than the LLTNPA requires.  I took my 3m tape which is here fully extended on a section of track which slopes gently downhill.  I think a 2.5m track would have been more than adequate here (and probably less as you can see from the vehicle marks) but the actual track is more like 3.5m wide.   What is the LLTNPA going to do to address this?  The wider the track of course, the more it will stand out from a distance.  There is no evidence of the central grass strips which grace the Allt Andoran track (top photo).

If there was any serious intention to narrow the upper Falloch construction track this double gate would have been removed – another illustration of just how wide this track is.

 

 

Readers who have driven up the Glen Falloch or walked there will know that the construction compound is still in place and, during my walk, there was some evidence that some further work had been undertaken to restore the destruction caused by the hydro scheme.

 

Where turf has been stored successfully, then used alongside the track and cattle have been kept off, the restoration does look better, although the protruding plastic culvert tells a tale

The restored sections however are few in comparison to those that still need attention and at this rate the track is going to take years to restore to anything like an acceptable state.  That is unacceptable in a National Park whose current Plan incidentally states (and rightly so):

The outstanding landscapes and special qualities of the Park should be protected and where possible enhanced

 

What needs to happen

 

The LLTNPA needs both to learn from the Glen Falloch disaster but also find ways to reduce the impact of what has happened.   This is not just about Glen Falloch, but the forty odd other hydro schemes in the National Park, many of which have similar impacts.  Here is my first go at a list of actions that are needed:

  1. Planning decisions that have significant landscape implications should no longer be delegated to staff but considered by the Planning Committee, as in the Cairngorms National Park Authority.
  2. The LLTNPA should commission an independent report into the Glen Falloch hydro schemes which should fully involve those who are concerned about the protection of Scotland’s landscape, which should look both at the mistakes that have been made and how they can be reversed.
  3. The new Partnership Plan needs to incorporate a meaningful landscape policy which, like the Cairngorms National Park Authority, indicates areas where there will be a presumption against development.  Unless the LLTNPA does this, the current destruction of landscape in the National Park will simply continue.
  4. The LLTNPA Board should engage with the Glen Falloch estate and develop a plan on how to remove the hydro tracks granted consent by staff.  Over the next ten years the estate will receive a huge income from the hydro schemes which could still be used, as originally intended, to remove the tracks.
  5. Where existing tracks were widened, the LLTNPA needs to ensure that all the restoration meets the standards set out in its good practice guidance.   Tracks which are broader than the maximum and unfinished culverts for example should not be tolerated.
  6. The LLTNPA should put in place measures to control the off-road use of vehicles, particularly in wild land.
  7. The LLTNPA Board and senior staff need to get out more and take a look at what is being done in their name.
January 18, 2017 Nick Kempe 1 comment
Herald Monday 17th January

Trouble has been brewing in Luss for quite a time.  Local residents over the summer were swamped with visitors and one of the main issues has been cars circulating the narrow streets and parking outside resident’s houses.   Argyll and Bute, which is the Roads Authority, is now consulting on its proposals (see here) to manage the problem through introduction of a 20mph zone and spaces reserved for residents (for a fee).   The community council are objecting, saying that parking should be free for residents and visitors cars banned completely.   The Council’s response is that unless the road is de-listed – which could mean the community taking on the cost of its upkeep – it cannot ban the public.   The interesting question in this potentially intractable debate is where is the Loch Lomond and National Park Authority doing?    Readers will note there is not a mention of it in the article.

 

You might find this doubly strange if you had listened to BBC Out of Doors 10 days ago http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b087tgv4 and heard Gordon Watson, Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Chief Executive imply that the primary role of the National Park was visitor management.  Indeed, before Mr Watson came into post, the Park worked with Councils on traffic management and originally the east Loch Lomond byelaws were introduced  as part of a package of measures which included the creation of a clearway north from Balmaha.

 

Since Mr Watson has come into post however the LLTNPA appears to have abandoned working with Councils not just on litter   (see here) but cars.  When I have asked the LLTNPA about what’s happening to proposals to create more clearways in the Park, the response has been this is a matter for Councils.  Instead of trying to co-ordinate its approach with Argyll and Bute, the LLTNPA appears now just to be going off and doing its own thing.   So, its busy installing barriers and car park charging systems in its car parks without any consideration of the consequences for local residents.   Its not difficult to predict for example that the proposed photographic number plate charging system (see here) at the large public carpark in Tarbert will result in a significant proportion of visitors  parking their cars in the village.  This will cause no end of bother for local residents which  Argyll and Bute Council will then be left to try and sort out.

 

Indeed, it appears that the LLTNPA is currently either not co-operating with or blocking some of the potential solutions to the traffic problems in Luss.  Luss Estates offered land for a carpark on the edge of the village and this has gone nowhere.  I think we should be told why.   I have no wish for the National Park to be turned into one large  carpark, but any proper solutions, such as greatly improved public transport up the A82 also need Park involvement.  If as Gordon Watson claimed on Out of Doors, a key role of the National Park is visitor management  – which, he elaborated, should involve creation of facilities and infrastructure – why are they not playing this role at Luss?

 

September 1, 2016 Nick Kempe No comments exist
IMG_6787 west LL laybys - Copy
Caravan and awning in 3 bays Layby on southbound side of A82 14th August 2016

There has been a history of people staying in caravans in the laybys along the A82 south of Tarbert.    The caravan in the photo above was still there when I went past on Monday 29th August.    The Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority used  long stays such as this, which are commonly known as encampments, to justify the proposed camping byelaws – despite powers being available to stop this under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

 

When I asked the LLTNPA about this over a year ago, I was told:

 

“The National Park Authority does not have powers to take action with respect to long-stay caravans, tents or motor homes and therefore has no policy or procedure for taking action”.

Loch Earn sign Cameron McNeish - Copy (2)
Loch Earn sign 2016 – similar signs were in place 2015. Photo Credit Cameron McNeish

This response is misleading.  Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act can be used where two or more people on land “with the common purpose of residing there for any period”   and “reasonable steps have been taken by or on behalf of the occupier to ask them to leave”.   While the LLTNPA owns very little land in the National Park, I am sure the landowners who have been complaining about encampments would be only too happy to give their permission to the LLTNPA to act on their behalf.  Indeed, this appears to have happened on the north side of Loch Earn (see left).

 

Further, one might have thought that with its Rangers out on daily patrol recording every tent, caravan and fire the LLTNPA would have a key role in supplying the evidence necessary for the police to take action under Section 61.  The police can remove encampments where “any of those persons has caused damage to the land or to property on the land or used threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour towards the occupier, a member of his family or an employee or agent of his, or those persons have between them six or more vehicles on the land”.

 

However,  FOI 2015-025 Response encampment also showed that besides having no policy or procedures to report encampments to the police, the LLTNPA’s rangers did not record how long tents or caravans were in place let alone whether there was any evidence of campers/caravaners causing damage.    It also admitted that the LLTNPA had no means of identifying or recording when complaints were received about encampments – despite local communities stating they had submitted frequent complaints to the Park.   If the LLTNPA had fixed these issues and created mechanisms to ensure adequate liaison between landowners, the police and itself most of the problems associated with encampments could have been addressed.  And there would have been no need for the proposed camping byelaws………..

 

I find it curious that, to the best of my knowledge, the signs on Loch Earn are the ONLY initiative the Park has been involved in regarding encampments.   There are NO signs like this on West Loch Lomond.   This suggests to me that the signs on Loch Earn was very much an initiative from Drummond Estates, who had serious reservations about the proposed camping byelaws, and not the LLTNPA.   Assuming that the LLTNPA believe the caravan in the above photo to be a problem, it appears that rather than take action about this now, along with the local landowner Luss Estates,  they would prefer to ban camping and campervans completely.

 

Now there are limitations to Section 61.   There need to be two people encamped and there have been caravans parked in laybys on the A82 that look as though they may be used by single people as a temporary home (if you are working in the area on one of the roads projects for example its far cheaper to park your caravan than rent a place to stay).    The police also have no grounds to remove longstay campers/caravaners who abide by the Access Code in every respect except for the length of their stay (i.e they do nothing that could be classified as damage) and who remain polite at all times.   However, I suspect very few people who “encamp” are aware of the law and if the Park put up some signs, like Drummond Estates, and its Rangers spoke to the people in the caravans most would leave.  Problem solved, no need for camping byelaws.    There are no signs that the LLTNPA has done anything on West Loch Lomond and I am not aware of any other initiatives elsewhere in the Park.    A complete indictment of its failures as a National Park.

 

To make matters worse, by opting for camping byelaws rather than using existing powers, the Park is proposing to stop all those people in campervans who stop overnight off the A82 (two of which are in the top photo), the cycle tourers, canoe tourers and fisherman none of whom cause any serious problems.  This August I have seen dozens of campervans stopping off overnight in laybys along the A82, one of the two main tourist routes north.   It appears the LLTNPA is in league with certain commercial caravan park owners on loch Lomondside to force all the campervans to stay in their sites.  I guess the LLTNPA believe it will increase tourism revenues:  its more likely to destroy the reputation of the National Park as a tourist definition.

 

What needs to happen

I suggested to Ministers last November that they should suspend any further work on the camping byelaws until the LLTNPA had used all the existing powers available to itself and its partners and shown that they were not sufficient.    I never received an answer to my letter.   The new Minister, Roseanna Cunningham, should now be asking the LLTNPA to provide an independent evaluation of the impact of the Drummond Estates initiative, the extent to which it has been successful or not, and the reasons for this.  The Minister should also ask for a tourism impact assessment – none has ever been produced – on the likely impact of the byelaws not just in the National Park but for the whole of Scotland.

July 2, 2016 Nick Kempe No comments exist

When I set up parkswatchscotland in March I had no idea what I was letting myself in for.  I had broadly conceived it as an open platform for people concerned about our two National Parks and had hoped to get a team of active contributors within a few weeks.   I thought I might write a post or two a week.  Its not quite worked out like that.   While there are now lots of people contributing to parkwatch in various ways, from ideas, to providing photos to promoting posts on social media only a handful of you so far have wanted to write posts and I have no co-editors to continue to publish posts while I go off on holiday.  This is a shame because there is a lot going on at present!

 

However to keep up the momentum, I have scheduled a number of “Postcards to the Park” to appear while I am on holiday.     Any comments that are submitted on these may take a few days to appear as I will be in the mountains and am not much good yet at managing the blog from a phone!  If after seeing the postcards, you have a photo which you think makes a point, do please forward to parkswatchscotland.

 

Thankyou all for your support.

 

 

April 5, 2016 Nick Kempe No comments exist

This lovely positive film http://www.hakaimagazine.com/video/right-roam   puts Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park to shame.    People are filmed driving to beautiful places and camping by the roadside to paddle on lochs – just as they do in the National Park.   A great counter argument to the LLTNPA and FCS who wish to remove roadside camping from access rights http://www.robedwards.com/2015/11/fury-over-proposal-to-ban-camping-by-roads.html and to all those negative images the Park produced as an excuse to ban camping by our loch shores.   It explains the history too.   One forgiveable mistake: they did not need to ask permission to camp.  Talking to local people about where best to camp though was fine and a good thing to do if camping near a house.  Its interesting what a positive response they received.   There are a lot of local people in the National Park who would welcome campers too but their voice has been silenced.

 

 

March 15, 2016 Nick Kempe No comments exist

After a morning looking around west Loch Lomond (to be covered in future posts) I attended  today’s LLTNPA Board Meeting as an observer with Peter and Mary Jack from the Loch Lomond Association.  A member of Buchanan Community Council had also turned up to see how the Board operates. In governance terms the March meeting should be the most important of the year, it agrees what the Park will do for the next year and sets the budget.

 

Although the meeting started late, about 2.15, it was all over by 3.30. Not bad for a meeting with 17 agenda items. The only semblance of any debate was over Board Member’s remuneration where the Board agreed it was very unfair they had to set their own remuneration as there were pressures on them not to increase this. Instead they wanted an independent review body, which presumably would agree that because like our MPs they are all such good people, they would require a percentage increase over what the rest of the population receives. To me this missed the main point which is why pay 17 members to attend meetings where there is no discussion or debate.
The papers though were of interest. The Park has only had a 2% cut in Government grant this year, much less than most other bodies financed through the Scottish Government’s Natural resources directorate. I was tempted to think this was a reward for delivering the byelaws but I checked and the Cairngorms NPA had a similar cut. The Park has responded to these cuts partly by dragging staff vacancies – staff comprise 80% of its costs – but also by planning to increase income. While they can charge for planning applications, income from this is forecast to drop and one of the ways the Park is intending to increase income is through charges to visitors. There were no questions about the implications of this but a section in the Operational Plan indicates that a contract is to be let in the summer to manage parking at Balmaha – so we  can predict parking charges there.  There is no indication that visitors will get better facilities in return.

20160314_131424The increase in income forecast for next year however is not  great – about £65k in the budget – and does not appear to warrant the employment of an estates team to lead on producing more income and delivering capital projects.   They appear to be being paid for out of the capital budget presumably in order to progress the stalled campsite programme.  This is obviously unsustainable and my suspicion is that the Park is hoping that once the camping permit system is up and running this will generate the income to pay for the estates team. If this is the case, in effect the Park is going to charge for access in order to pay for its own services. This is totally wrong, needless to say, and contrary to our access legislation.

 

The Operational Plan openly emphasises that delivery of the camping byelaws is the Park’s number one priority for the next year: “Following approval by Scottish Ministers on 26th January 2016 for the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Camping Management Byelaws, our top priority will be the delivery of Your Park in time for the byelaws coming into force in March 2017”.  The main thing to appreciate about this is the considerable shift of resources away from other projects to camping provision and management as set out in the Park’s budget Agenda Item 10 – Draft Budget 2016-17:

      • conservation revenue expenditure decreases from £525k to £71k- no Board Member asked if the wildlife organisations had been consulted or were happy with this.
      • visitor experience (tourism) capital expenditure drops from £525k to £44k – no Board Member asked if tourism businesses had been consulted or were happy with this.
      • Expenditure on litter management drops from £38k to nil – no Board Member asked if the community at Arrochar, which is blighted by the worst litter problems in the
Litter at the Head of Loch Long
Litter at the Head of Loch Long
     Park, had been consulted or was happy with this.

  • Even the increase of expenditure on camping to £505k is not as good as it looks.  £100k on this is to be spent on signage – ie signs saying camping is now a criminal offence – and another £200k on developing a single campsite on Forestry Commission land at Loch Chon.  This is hardly the transformational investment in camping facilities the Park promised.

My guess is that as the implications of this shift in expenditure become evident over time, support for the byelaws which has been grossly exaggerated anyway will evaporate.    The resources that are to be devoted to trying to make the camping byelaws work would be much better spent on other things.

 

Meantime pages 4-5 of the Agenda Item 9 – Appendix 1 – DRAFT Annual Operational Plan 2016-17 set out a timetable for implementing the byelaws.  The Board to their credit asked for quarterly update reports which means that progress on this should be public.

 

The one interesting piece of additional information that did come out in the meeting was – to give her credit – in response to a question asked by Linda McKay, the Park’s Convener:  the Scottish Government never responded or gave any feedback to the Park’s review of the east Loch Lomond byelaws.   The point I think of Linda McKay’s question was to ascertain whether the Park is ever likely to receive feedback on the reports it will have to make in future on the operation of the byelaws.

 

I too asked the Government about their response to my critique of the report on the east Loch Lomond byelaws and have never had a reply.   The Park is not the only body that is unaccountable and it seems to me fundamentally wrong that Aileen McLeod, as Minister for the Environment, can act in this way.    We need MSPs to ask her questions about this in the Scottish Parliament.

 

 

March 14, 2016 Nick Kempe No comments exist

The CNPA have responded to the media coverage of the mountain hare cull  http://cairngorms.co.uk/mountain-hare-cull-statement/    The response is quite predictable – as a member of staff the Director of Conservation was not in a position to launch the CNPA in new directions – but very sad.  It demonstrates some of what is wrong with so-called conservation in the National Park:

  • there can be no “balance of moorland species” when everything centres on grouse shooting; a balance of moorland species would see golden eagles everywhere in the Cairngorms.
  • there is no need for better data; what difference does knowing the numbers of hares make except when they are being exterminated from grouse moors?  Data in this case is a trap which has sent the conservation agencies off on years of research which feeds into the hunting narrative that large numbers of hares are a problem.   They are not, but the lack of eagles and other predators is.  Instead of requiring better data on hares before banning culls, we should be requiring numbers of eagles to rise to predicted levels before allowing any shooting.
  • and just what does a “management cull” have to do with nature conservation in this case?   The Park has allowed management speak from the red deer world to be used to justify killing other species which unlike deer have a number of natural predators.