Tag: byelaws

ON THE SPOT REPORT

Thank to James McCleary for his permission to reproduce his experience as an “On the Spot Report”

A great example of leave no trace camping and a good looking Spot on Loch Venachar.  This area is a natural campsite and long time favorite with campers.

Report begins: 13th May 2017 Loch Venachar North,  Camping Zone ‘B’


Well I was a good little boy and paid my permit for Loch Venachar on Saturday night. Thanks to Wattie for the suggestion and Sharon for the reminder for the permit (apologies if it wasn’t you two! 🙃).

 

However, about 20 17-23 year olds rolled up and pitched their stuff about 30 meters to the left. Apart from one visit from a crying teenage steaming girl about no one liking her they kept to their own wee patch. A bit loud as you’d expect.

 

In the morning I said ‘Mind tidy your stuff up!’
‘Aye, nae bother mate’ they said as they jumped in their cars and disappeared.

 

After a few minutes of cleaning their stuff up in the car park I went over to see what they’d left!

 

 

My wee camp in the first three pictures and their mess in the last two! Pictures make it look better than it actually was as you can’t see all the used condoms, food, and drink lying everywhere!

 

Sigh 😢

 

Not a Ranger in sight all night!


End of Report

Additional comments by Ross MacBeath and Nick Kempe

Failure to Stop Antisocial Behavior in Management Zones.

This is by no means an isolated incidence (see here)

It appears from the last two images that this group of youths have camped before.  It’s highly likely that much of the mess caused by abandoned tents and camping equipment (fly tipping) as well as environmental damage takes place in the National Park can be attributed to a few groups such as this.  It is clear to park users that the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority and its Rangers need to focus ALL their efforts on the groups who create most havoc and not waste time in their  “engaging” and “education” of responsible campers.  “Education” of people new to camping, who may unwittingly cause minor impacts, while unobjectionable in principle is hardly a priority until the major offenders have been stopped.

 

The early bird catches the worm!

When it became apparent the group were leaving without clearing up, park rangers and Police Scotland responded arriving on site around 10:30 ish on the Sunday to find of course those responsible for the mess already gone. Another camper had a photograph of their tent with vehicles in the background.

So what is going on, it would have been reasonable to expect a standard Ranger patrol to arrive at this site well before 10.30 am as a priority on a Sunday morning, so it seems the claims of intelligent patrolling are a sham when a twelve year old knows if he’s made a mess he should scarper before he’s found out, why can’t the Park Authority appreciate this?

 

Too much time engaging with responsible visitors not enough time patrolling

How can the LLTNPA with it’s large ranger force and new powers to report offences directly to the Procurator Fiscal, fail to stop anti-social behaviour across the Park?

It’s pretty simple:

  1. The byelaws will not deter anti-social groups unless they are likely to get caught.   The Byelaws duplicate existing laws relating to these offences and only serve to devolve powers to rangers who can directly report to the procurator fiscal with a threat of higher penalties in some cases.  If you can still turn up late evening, party, jump in a car early morning and escape authority (whether Rangers or Police) it seems nothing has changed..
  2. The rangers are spending far to much time micro managing visitors and collecting data for their ranger reports, no doubt in some misguided attempt to justify the introduction of byelaws when what they should be doing is targeting the problems.  If the LLTNPA needs to employ rangers to work after 8.30pm, when problems are most likely to occur, or early morning to catch them so be it.
  3. Instead of wasted hours checking permits of responsible park users, the LLTNPA should task Rangers to identify the tell tale signs; groups drinking; messy pitches and excessive noise are all indicators of potential problems, identify those people (its easy, photograph  the car and number plate – people without cars almost never cause problems) and make it clear to them, if there is any mess left the next day they will be reported to the Procurator Fiscal.    This is what the police did on east Loch Lomond, it worked there and would be equally effective across all Management Zones.
  4. Instead of trying to ban and control responsible campers, the LLTNPA should be empowering them to help take action against anti-social visitors. The best way to change behaviour is to lead by example.  A case in point is dog fouling where over the last ten years attitudes and behaviour  of dog owners has completely changed, not due to enforcement of the law but to a change in social attitudes and it’s the attitudes of “responsible” dog walkers that have been key in this process.  They are the people on the ground most likely to see and infulence what other dog walkers were doing.  Its the same with campers.  The LLTNPA however have treated all campers as potential criminal elements and in doing so alienated their greatest potential source of support.

 

Clearly if rangers had identified the group of 20 youths at some time during their stay this criminal offence of fly tipping, which did not in fact occur until the group left in the morning, could easily have been prevented.

The Park Authority confirmed their rangers did not patrol that evening (13th May) because they were involved in another incident, They would however have caught them in the morning had their patrolling schedule started early enough. It did not, and that is the reason this particular group and so many others are free to re-offend. It’s just not good enough.

If the perpetrators were caught after the police sped off down the road after them, the fact remains LLTNPA Rangers failed to identify the issue and any success is thanks to a number of responsible campers who in fact provided the initial report of the incident with details and photographic evidence of vehicles involved. The byelaws will never succeed without the support of those the park have chosen to penalise in every conceivable way

What the Park Authority Need to Do

 

  • Abolish the camping permit system, free up Ranger time, and use patrols to identify potential problems and pre-empt
  • Set up a 24 hour response service, with the police, to respond to problems (local people and responsible campers deserve nothing less).   This could be easily paid for out of resources wasted managing permits
  • Start working with recreational organisations to identify how responsible campers could be encouraged to report problems to the LLTNPA and how people like James, who cleared up some of the mess, could be supported.  Bins for the rubbish would be a good start – its one thing to pick up someone else’s rubbish, another to take it away with you (as we are sure the LLTNPA appreciates as their ‘Rangers are not allowed to put rubbish into the backs of their vans for Health and Safety reasons).

By Ross MacBeath

The new directive for Countryside Rangers – enforce the byelaws above all else.

 

Secret slide released under FOI

While the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park made a great hullabaloo claiming success with their byelaws on the East Loch Lomond shore, what they failed to explain was that to achieve this as yet unsubstantiated claim, they had to increase ranger patrols in the area.    The problem now for the LLTNPA is the area covered by the extended byelaws covers over ten times the length of road – a vast area – and they don’t have 10 times the resources.

As a result they have had to remodel the Ranger Service.  Education and conservation have gone as priorities, the focus of Rangers is now on enforcement and engagement.

 

“Take Your Litter Home” is not a strategy.

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Meantime “Take your litter home” is not a strategy nor is it a policy for preventing  littering.  It’s an educational program designed to raise awareness of littering issues in the long term and as such requires to be supported with litter bins, a litter collection and pick up strategy if the National Park is ever to be made litter free.

 

After over a decade watching litter polluting the park the LLTLPA still look on

 

Spent Barbeque left at Carpark Loch Venacher North Zone B 10th April '17The LLTNPA blinkered insistence that ‘Take your litter home’ IS the only contribution they have to make to litter management is itself the prime driver for the increasing mess in the National Park.

 

What a welcoming first sight for visitors, a spent barbeque in the car park.  How long will this and the rest of the litter pictured in this post remain, damaging the reputation of the Scottish Tourism before the Park Authority arranges for it to be cleaned up.

 

I was taught to put litter in a bin, my children were educated to do the same and undoubtedly their generation are teaching children the same thing. Changing that entrenched mindset is not only undesirable, it could also take 5 -10 generations to accomplish, so what the LLTNPA need to do is get a workable park cleaning strategy in place meantime and get the decades worth of rubbish they have allowed to accumulate cleaned up.

It’s somewhat ironic the LLTNPA, who berate campers for leaving litter in a bag,  are themselves guilty of fly tipping at Loch Chon.  I trust they paid the £200 fine or reported themselves to the Procurator Fiscal.

 

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, the dirty National Park

 

The National Park Board really need to get out of their Ivory Tower, stop listening to the tripe related to them at secret board meetings and see what’s going on in the Park.for themselves.  The LLTNPA have not made any effort to clean up many areas before the byelaws commenced on the 1st of March 2017 so there is no frame of reference for the success or failure of the byelaws to be measured against (though the LLTNPA promised this would be done), while leaving the park in a mess for this season’s visitors.

 

Click images to zoom

 

This is the state of the loch side adjacent to the Loch Venacher North permit Zone A.  It is clear from the degradation on the cardboard that the above 3 images are historical.

 

Littering still taking place on 8th and 9th April ’17 in management zones

 

By contrast, the two images below show litter left by visitors on the weekend of the 8th and 9th of April despite the byelaws.    How can this be when policing the byelaws is now the Rangers first and main priority?  One would expect extreme effort at the start of the season where the Ranger to visitor ratio is high.   When the rangers can’t even cope in the low season, with  only a handful of visitors using the permit and management zones, this counts as abject failure.

 

 

It would appear the rangers just don’t have the manpower to stop this, making the byelaws superfluous.   So far It is clear the byelaws are having little effect on the negative impacts of the few.   Does this result from too much talking and not enough doing?!  With the claimed 4 million visitors to the park it is impractical to interact with them all – a ranger presence which focusses on problems is more important than endless time checking permits.

 

Serious littering, fouling and other criminal offences allowed to go on unchecked

 

After visiting 6 sites over a couple of weekends 3 of them showed serious littering, 2 toilet fouling and 2,  instances of “fire raising” (see here),  all of them criminal offences under the byelaws.    There were also two instances of landowners locking gates preventing reasonable access to 2 of the permit zones.

 

The only possible “success” the Park has had so far is in making it harder for well behaved visitors and their families who are now unable to exercise their access rights to enjoy camping in the popular areas of the Park.

 

March 19th Loch Chon Shelter erected in management zone

Under the byelaws it is a criminal Two visitors committing criminal offencesoffence to erect a shelter overnight, which means any time between 7pm or 7am.   On these light evenings, its mad that its legal for fishermen to use shelters, which  are after all a piece of personal protection equipment necessary to prevent hypothermia on bad weather days, at 18. 59 but at 19.01 they are criminals.  Two visitors had put up this shelter and 2 Rangers were in vicinity – I wonder how they advised the fishermen?    This rule is impossible to enforce.  It would require signs at every place used by fisherman in the camping management zones.

 

March 19th Loch Chon Campsite

 

At the Loch Chon camp site I witnessed two day visitors light a fire using wood collected from surrounding area.   Rangers were present and did nothing (just like at South Loch Earn) (see here).  Impossible to enforce for non-campers because none of the Park’s signage tell you about this and the wording of the byelaws is not clear – you need to cause damage.  However, campers when they apply for a permit agree to terms and conditions that clearly state you cannot use wood you have collected and say that breach of these terms is itself a criminal offence.  The byelaws are thus potentially enforceable against campers who apply for permits but no-one else.

 

April 2nd Tents pitched outside permit zone but in a management zone

 

Two weeks later in Forrest Drive down by Loch Achray, I had a chat with a family of 4 adults and 2 kids who were all enjoying a bright warm spring day on the 2nd April ’17 at an illegal camping pitch on the South side of Loch Achhray,

The family were experienced campers and with three tents, a shelter and a toilet tent they were certainly well prepared.  All in all the kids were having a wonderful time fishing with plenty of space to run around the tent and on the loch side where large grassy expanses abound. They seemed blissfully unaware the 4 adults were committing criminal offences by just pitching here outside a permit zone.  However, as they intimated rangers had stopped by the day before and again today, Sunday 2nd, when they should have been made aware of their crime.  However they were not asked for a permit or moved on.   The reason why is perhaps explained by  the image to the right.  The Forestry Commission sign states this IS a permit zone when the actual permit Zone ‘L’ is on the opposite side of the Drive.  Not even FCS know where people are allowed to camp!

 

Zone ‘L’, opposite, is however unsuitable for camping as there are no viable pitches

 

Had the family purchased a permit for the adjacent zone L they would not have been able to camp there. Images showing why can be seen in the Zone L gallery or the full report is here.  Perhaps the Rangers allowed the illegal camp on the shore because it is impossible to camp in Zone ‘L’ another complete failure as a camping zone claiming 9 pitches.

 

Zone  ‘L’ is however being used for toileting and the rangers of course are powerless to prevent it.  Now, while having a crap is not covered by the byelaws for the general public, it is covered by the camping permit terms and conditions breach of which is a criminal offence.  There is a clear breach here – toilet paper for example has to be carried out – but I just wonder just what is the LLTNPA’s modus operandi for catching people in the act of shitting in the woods.  That would surely make an interesting read.
This incident is recent, possibly a week ago, certainly within the management season.   It would be impossible to attribute this to any individual permit holder without photographs or witnesses and of course it’s just as likely to be a day visitor (its not just campers who need toilets).   So the byelaws  themselves fail to make any material difference to this illegal fouling. They are no more than an unwelcoming threat and intrusion on every visitors day in the park, compounded by the inevitable attempt of a pair of rangers to engage is a 10 minute dialogue.     What can they do with the nearest toilets 45 minutes away by car (round trip) from any permit zone on Forest Drive?

 

 

Rangers attend an incident April 1st  ’17  Loch Achray Youth Site

The same family told me  of a fracas in the Chopped down tree for firewood, 2nd April '17adjacent camping area a bit further along the loch on Saturday night, the 1st of April, where some live tree chopping had taken place.     They explained that rangers attended at an incident at the loch side and some raised voices followed.   Hopefully we will see a report sent to the Procurator Fiscal for this damage but it will be interesting to see if the report is for breach of permit terms and conditions or under the existing law of damage to property.

 

The important point here that the presence of Ranger patrols failed to stop the damage occurring in the first place again confirming the Ranger Patrols are ineffective and just a huge revenue expense that would be better invested in infrastructure such as provision of wood for fires.

 

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10th April Loch Achray South.   No change here with black plastic bags left at the gates and water bottle left by the campfire, the byelaws clearly making no improvement.   What is and always has been required of course is litter bins which would prevents bag like this being ripped open by foraging animals.  The LLTNPA have failed to elucidate how this mess will be cleared up without a litter management policy.

 

Gates Firmly Locked, so is this zone even active?

 

Somewhat strange for an advertised camping zone that can be booked on the permit site, these gates are locked like no other, with two padlocks through heavy duty chains and 3 bike locks with additional rope loops and a barbed wire fence to boot.

 

Quite clearly access is being denied to visitors however on entering the zone it is also clear it is this zone is currently being used by visitors.

Why this is listed as a camping zone at all is a mystery when the gate is obviously permanently locked.

So how can this be allowed to happen at such a prominent site.

 

Illegal toleting at Loch Achray SouthThere was also evidence off toileting at Loch Achray South, which would be illegal if done by a permit holder although strangely enough not illegal if done by someone without a permit (though they of course would have been committing a different criminal offence if they had pitched a tent here without a permit.  Perhaps the Rangers, in cases like these,  check names and addresses of recent permit holders and then contact them to ask if they are responsible?    How can the Rangers ever know if its a camper or day visitor responsible, as was the case for most of the fire, barbeque and toileting incidents described above.

 

Against all reason the LLTNPA accost visitors with their futile byelaws.

 

The LLTNPA has added a dozen or so new criminal offences for campers and campervanners through the back door by making breach of their permit terms and conditions a criminal offence.  One rule for campers applying for permits, another for everyone else.   It has reduced their credibility to that of a petulant child. It’s just embarrassing.
The main tool at the Ranger’s disposal now is fear and threat of prosecution.  While that may very well be a useful and perhaps even an acceptable way to prevent  serious criminal offences its scandalous this could be applied to pitching a tent or staying 4 nights in a zone instead of 3

 

The LLTNPA were advised from people who understood outdoor recreation and criminal behaviour that the byelaws were never going to be an effective deterrent and affect the wrong people.  It should be clear to all now that other than some reports to the Procurator Fiscal when Rangers just happen to be in the right place at the right time, the majority of contraventions of the byelaws will go undetected because Ranger cover is just too infrequent.   While this frequency is inversely proportional to the time Rangers spend pestering visitors with their visitor engagement, its still unlikely to be enough, even if rangers did stick to patrolling and adopted the policy for all petulant children of being seen and not heard.

IMG_5962
Remains of fire Loch Drunkie

Following the inflammatory facebook post from Rothiemurchus estate on campers here and here I had not appreciated the Cairngorms National Park Authority had issued a short new release please tread lightly.    Its tone is highly commendable, highlighting just how inflammatory the Rothiemurchus was, and the message  a positive one:  “We want people to enjoy the Cairngorms National Park and have a great holiday but not at the expense of our wildlife and the important habitats that support them”.

 

The one part of the message I would question is the “never light a fire in woodland or peaty soil” – the issue being what is meant by woodland or peaty soils?”.   Yes, lighting fires against the base of trees, as is claimed to have happened with the granny pine, is something that I don’t think is ever justifiable  but what about in woodland clearings?IMG_5954

Remains of fire in former camping place off Forest Drive, Trossachs – does this count as woodland in CNPA’s thinking?

 

 

The challenge here is about how to convey messages about behaviour without presenting everything as black and white.   So, there may be little risk in anyone lighting a fire in the clearing pictured above, so long as it was not so big that sparks flew into the trees or  the wind was blowing sparks or……….(there are a number of possible other “ors”).   The point is that decisions on these things require personal judgement and need to consider a number of factors.   I would like to see messages about “responsible” behaviour becoming more educative.  To give them further credit the CNPA in their News Release have mainly taken that approach.

 

The contrast with our other National Park is stark.  Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority has a complete downer about fires and in the Your Park consultation published photos of remains of old camp fires as proof that fires were a problem.  I have previously pointed out that the area of vegetation impacted is miniscule – and of no ecological significance – while the woodland the LLTNPA claims to be so concerned about is mainly a product of coppicing for charcoal.

 

What I have just realised though is what the “evidence” on fires from the Keep Scotland Beautiful Litter Audit used by the LLTNPA in their bye-law submission to Ministers tells us:

 

“During the audit 709 fire sites were recorded. The fires tended to appear in the same areas throughout the 8 week period.
– In some cases sites were recorded as having 13,14 and up to 17 fire sites on one occasion. On average 88 fire sites were found per week whilst carrying out the surveys.”

 

  • First, assuming each fire site is 1m square, the area of claimed damage to ground is 709 square or a patch of ground less than 30m x 30m in the area surveyed.
  • Second, that because these fires sites are spread out, if having a fire was really damaging, one might have predicted the whole of the National Park would have burned down by now.   It hasn’t.

This point is of crucial importance because of the wording of the proposed LLTNPA byelaws as they apply to fires:

No person shall without lawful authority:
(a) light or cause a fire within a Management Zone causing damage or likely to cause
damage to a Management Zone; or
(b) collect or use wood from within a Management Zone that causes damage or is likely to
cause damage to a Management Zone.

Its will not be an offence to light a fire in itself, its only when this causes damage or is likely to cause damage to a Management Zone.  So what is damage?

The same issues arise, I would suggest, as trying to define what is irresponsible behaviour, its rarely black and white and is often about judgement and indeed ones own prejudices.

So, some questions for the LLTNPA.

  • In what way would the fire in the top photo count as damage?
  • Is leaving a partially burned log in place to count as damage?
  • How close to a tree and in what circumstances would a fire need to be to count as being “likely to cause damage”?
  • When does collection of dead wood for use in fires count as damage?
  • How large do the damaged areas need to come to in total before they count as damage to the management zone?