Tag: LLTNP

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

It is now clear that much of camping provision intended as replacements for camping by our loch shores banned under the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority Byelaws is little more than a collection of undesirable areas with little or nothing to offer families or groups of visitors as a camping experience.

 

With the exception of the yet unfinished site at Loch Chon and pitches at Rowardennan little else if anything is new.  The Park Authority is just issuing paid for permission slips to camp in the same areas that were free to campers previously, without the benefit of toilets or drinking water, or in the case of many permit zones,  places you would not want to camp, or even be able to pitch a tent.

 

Forest Drive Zone ‘E’ – no more than a collection of broken down pitches

 

Forest drive Zone ‘E’ supposedly providing  4 camping pitches, has a trio of broken down  pitches, created by the  forestry commission many years before with the 4th to be selected from the greater camping zone.

 

 

The first formal pitch has been destroyed by a forestry vehicle crossing it to access active forestry operations in the permit zone. The pitch is unusable.

 

As you might expect from an existing Forestry Commission site, this location is rather desirable at least as a view point and picnic spot. It has a true feel of a mature forest with pine needles softening the lines of the car park.  However forestry operations and tree  felling is putting this at risk.

 

The area overlooks the westerly reaches of Loch Drunkie. It is therefore a very popular spot with drive through visitors for both photo stopovers and extended stops for picnicking which means there is high demand for the limited space at the view point overlooking Loch Drunkie, marked ‘P’ on the map.

 

It is clear these pitches have not been used for camping in recent years and resurrecting them brings 8 to 16 additional visitors who will remain on the site with their vehicles.  This number of visitors using such a small area is as detrimental to the forest drive experience, as it is to the camping experience where a continuous flow of drive through visitors in search of picnic spots, disturb peace and quiet of the 3 pitches sited at the car park. The campers in turn block the use of the desirable location at the view point with  their own picnics and recreational use.

 

No work has been done in this zone other than the erection of a sign and some posts

 

The Forestry Commission’s original 3 camping pitches   have over the years fallen into disrepair through lack of maintenance and other damage.

That said, the LLTNPA have adopted this site as a camping permit zone and seen fit to do no remedial works whatsoever leaving the area in a state not fit for pitching tents.  Toilets for this zone are a 14.4 km round trip by car taking around 45 minutes.

 

The second of three pitches has a tree stump in it’s centre making it impossible to use as a viable camping pitch. How does the Park Authority expect anyone to sleep on this?

 

Again the National Park Authority have show their utter contempt for visitors at this site

 

 

The third pitch is a little better insofar as it is undamaged and you could pitch a small tent, but it does have borderline issues with slope which makes it undesirable from a comfort and sleeping perspective.  It would also be far more flexible without the wooden border and like the others, it is somewhat overgrown and does not provide a good ‘paid for’ camping experience.

 

The fourth pitch does not exist in any  formal form  and it appears you are expected to select a place to camp in the greater area that forms Zone ‘E’.  Some of the pine needle covered spots near the car parking looked promising but they turned out to be on hardcore that has become overgrown meaning there is no way to pitch a tent.

 

 

Looking back into the zone from the boundary opposite the car park we find what has now become a typical LLTNPA NON-solution,  with active forestry work  in progress within an area that is generally unsuitable for pitching tents. Wet, un-even ground with vegetation and forestry debris makes it an impossibility for camping as well as undesirable for visitor access.  Could another tent pitch be found? Yes if the debris from forest operations was removed, but the question remains, why would anyone want to?

 

Besides the one place identified above, could 3 other pitches be found to camp?  That’s a definite no at the moment. So the LLTNPA need to remedy the problems with the existing three faulty pitches and clear the ground for a fourth.

 

Another failure to provide the required number of pitches advertised

 

Like so much of the camping provision this zone is not family friendly due to pitch size which are too small for 4, 6 or 8 man tents. a lack of space to host 4 families and the drive through visitors at this popular spot with a likely conflict for both seating and car parking spaces.

This makes  zone ‘E’  unsuitable as a replacement for the previous camping provision by our loch shores and with the limitation on erecting only one tent per permit it is difficult to see how a family could use this area even if the pitch issues were resolved.

See also

 Forest Drive Zone B
 Loch Lomond Suie Field & Cuileag
 Forest Drive Zone C
 Loch Lomond Inveruglas (2nd half post)
 Forest Drive Zone D
 Forest Drive Zone E (this Post)
 Loch Lomond Firkin Point (1st half post)
 Forest Drive Zone F (to follow)
 Loch Earn South
 Forest Drive Zone G (to follow)
 Forest Drive Zone H (to follow)
 Forest Drive Zone L (coming soon)
 Forest Drive Zone M

By Ross MacBeath

Three Lochs Forest Drive Camping Permit Zone M

Following my visit to Forest Drive and posts on Zone B and Zone C, I thought I would cover zone M at the other end of Forest Drive because there was actually a family camping there when I visited on the 10th of April ’17.

 

Misleading information about the permit area

There are according to the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority website no facilities in this permit zone, “no drinking water available” but “There are toilets half way along Three Lochs Forest Drive, up to 3km away.” 

* click map to zoom
  • The distance back along the drive to the toilets is 5.6 Km, if walking this would give a round trip of 11.2 km, not the maximum of 3 km implied, taking between 2.5 hrs to 4 hrs depending on pace.
  • Forest drive is a one way system, therefore to drive from any camping zone on Forest Drive to the toilets and return to your permit zone is a 14.4 km round trip taking about 45 minutes drive within speed limits

 

A Family with young children and a dog sold a pitch for a two man tent

The family of 5, 2 adults and 3 children, with a dog,  had purchased a permit for Forest Drive zone ‘M’: a site suitable only for a three man tent in a location wholly unsuitable for a family camp. The LLTNPA’s “Get a Permit site” misled them by not explaining the nature of the site or it’s capacity for tent size. The result is their 8 man tent had to be shoehorned into the only level space in the entire zone leaving them precariously close to an overhanging river bank.

 

8 man tent shoehorned into 2/3 man pitch
Pitching an 8 man tent on a 3 man pitch

Problems posed for these campers

It’s impossible to tension the guys properly due to the river behind and dense vegetation to the front so with high winds the whole lot could end in the river or collapsed with pole damage. Without space between the tent and the river, the central pole hoops each side of the door could not be pegged at the river side at all, leaving the tent unstable in the 26 mph winds experienced on 10th April when this camp took place.  Being so close to river,  the weight of an adult on the bank fixing guy lines could cause a collapse with at best a soaking, at worst a serious injury.  .

 

The door as you can see opens into the gap in the vegetation making entry and exit limited if not problematic, forcing entry to be made by a corridor in the vegetation. The greater area around the tent is a nightmare, it’s tick heaven and puts those in this area at some risk of tick bites. The nature of the vegetation also makes it likely that adders are present and care should be take especially in April when they come out of hibernation.   The use of sandals or even shorts would be ill advised due to the blanket of brambles prevalent in this area of the zone.

 

LLTNPA sells a product that fails to meet requirements then refuses a replacement.

 

The family in question were new to camping and oblivious to some of the problems they may face which could turn their first camping experience into a camping nightmare. They had identified on arrival that zone G by the loch side would have made a more suitable location for the family to camp. but there was no indication of this on the permit booking website as there are no photographs or descriptive text to the suitability of any zone.at Forest Drive.

In any case changing zones is not allowed under the parks  terms and conditions, which states “Permits cannot be transferred to other permit areas…” considering  they have been  mis-sold the camping experience that is no more than a cynical attempt by the LLTNPA to absolve itself from the need to provide a more suitable pitch which should have been identifiable during the booking process in the first place.

 

The LLTNPAs map for Three Lochs Forest Drive Zone M shows a long zone bounded by the river to the north and Forest Drive to the south  It details some trees at the western limit of a large semi oval camping ground becoming narrower corridor as it stretches east to the wooded area just below the gate. This area is expected to provide two camping pitches with visitor choice from the greater zone area. The image of the tent is placed over a location which in reality is a sink hole that drains runoff from the road in wet weather.

 

LLTNPA’s map fails to represent the true nature of Zone M

 

The Map of course does not represent what we find on the ground.  The shape of the zone follows the north and south bounds of the river and road making the true area of the zone similar in size but the narrow area between each end of the zone is filled with trees and scrub.  There is also a discrepancy with post position at the east end sign and yellow topped marker by the river.

 

The whole idea of a zone is misused here to con the public, stakeholders and ministers into believing something has been delivered when it has not.  It is clear the true extent of the camping zone is virtually  no larger than those areas shown in green and marked as pitch 1 and pitch 2 (on map below) and even then pitch 2 is not viable for camping due to the nature of the ground vegetation cover and it’s location in surrounding vegetation.

 

Diagram showing the poor access to Camping Zone M
Vegetation is dynamic and the diagram represents summer / autumn seasons.

Pitch 1 – a Natural “found” pitch by the river bank

 

As stated before, good camping pitches are found not made.

Pitch 1 is the only natural camping pitch in the  zone.  Its a small, level, dry grassy patch to the west edge of the zone. The pitch is longer and not much than wider than the path it sits on so will only suit a 1 or 2 man oblong footprint tent.  The presence of a mature fire ring indicates that this area has been used for camping in past seasons. This is not a new provision but an existing site. Being on a path into the rest of the oval area its not well situated as people and their pets pass looking for the second pitch or just exploring the area.  While at present there is another route down from the road it’s likely to be cutoff with brambles when the growing season begins. .

 

A natural pitch, used prior to byelaws but counted as new provision
Pitch 1 Long and Narrow and suitable for a two/three person tent.

 

Pitch 2 is not a viable camping pitch

 

The second pitch is just beyond the first, on the same path.  It is no more than a strimmed area of vegetation (bracken) on ground which is raised slightly above the surrounding area.  It is dry, even and fairly level.  The problem is the underlying vegetation has been cut back to provide the so called pitch in the middle of what is a dense patch of Bracken and Brambles.   When the growing season restarts it will quickly be come unusable without regular strimming and very undesirable when the surrounding vegetation reaches waist height.

 

 

Pitch 2 is not viable as a camping pitch, the cut down vegetation will re-establish itself and its location in the middle of bracken is wholly unsuitable.  The location is adjacent to brambles and will suffer encroachment if not already present on the pitch. Locating tents in .bracken is undesirable as it’s a preferred habitat for ticks.

The location of two pitches such in close proximity is also undesirable with the potential for mutual disturbance and the lack of surrounding space in this side of the zone make multiple occupancy undesirable.   The remainder of the half oval end of Zone M is not inaccessible to humans because of dense vegetation and brambles.

 

The west end of the zone is largely inaccessible.

 

The ground cover in the oval area of zone M, designated the camping area by the tent symbol in the Parks Map, in reality, like the rest of the area, offers nothing in the way of recreation.  It is both rough and bramble filled, where access to the rest of the zone is down slopes only if they are not overgrown and so blocked by vegetation. The central section where the zone narrows to a steep slope and with an almost vertical drop to the river it is not accessible.  The areas immediately to the west and east of the narrows are overgrown and bramble filled.

The Central Narrowed Portion of Zone M is Completely inaccessible

 

The central potion from the east of the zone to the west is impassable due to steep slope and tick vegetation. There is no connection path between the West and East side of Zone M’ The Bramble and dense vegetation covers almost half of the semi oval area shown with the tent symbol.

 

Thick brambles covering large areas of west side of Zone M, vertical slopes down to river.

The East end of Zone M

 

The east end of Zone M is somewhat inaccessible due to slopes and thick bramble entangled vegetation, There are three or so locations where access is possible down rather steep slopes there is nothing more in the area than a path through to one of the other exits.making entrance pointless as there is no viable camping locations or other reason to come into this end of the zone.other than to search fruitlessly for a camping spot or exploration.

 

These images were taken before the start of the growing season

The LLTNPA attitude towards visitors is shocking and their terms & conditions and regulations for the park are draconian:  “You must arrive at your permit area after
1pm on the first day of your permit and leave before 11am on the last day of your permit”  under threat of a £500 fine and a criminal conviction.

 

See terms and conditions here

 

The LLTNPA also take the view through their zero liability clause that it is your responsibility to decide on the safety of their product, that is the “camping experience” that they have sold you, which of course you can only do once you arrive on site.  Then, if the location is dangerous and unsuitable as is the case above, they expect you to put up with a poor experience or cancel your weekend and return home.

The former torpedo range by Arrochar is just one big rubbish dump – is the LLTNPA ever going to do something about this?

The Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park has been nominated by BBC Countryfile presenter as National Park of the year (see here)  There are four other nominees, South Downs, Peak District, Snowdonia and Yorkshire Dales.  The LLTNPA was quick to get in on the act, issuing its own press release and then arranging for this motion to be lodged in the Scottish Parliament: 

 

Motion Number: S5M-03569
Lodged By: Dean Lockhart
Date Lodged: 22/01/2017

Title: Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park

Motion Text:

That the Parliament congratulates everyone at Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park on it being shortlisted for the title of National Park of the Year 2017; notes that it is the only Scottish park in the final of the competition, which is run by the BBC Countryfile magazine; understands that the competition, which is in its sixth year aims to celebrate the importance of the British countryside and its people, nature reserves and heritage attractions; notes that the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs park covers over 720 square miles and includes 21 Munros, two forest parks and the Great Trossachs Forest, which was recently been named the UK’s latest and largest national nature reserve; understands that the park is renowned, not only for its undoubted beauty, but also as a living, working landscape that offers a home to unique wildlife as well as providing a range of activities for visitors and locals alike, and wishes all of the nominees, and the rest of the UK’s national parks, continued success.

 

This interest in National Parks in the Scottish Parliament is a positive thing.  However, both the motion and the Countryfile nomination confuse the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, the place, with the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority,  the body responsible for  running it.   They are quite distinct.

 

While National Parks, as places, change a little each year, this is not  enough to explain why a National Park should be nominated one year rather than the next.  If thought, the Award, is supposed to be about the performance of National Park Authorities, there is no information provided by the BBC to enable people to compare how each of the National Park Authorities nominated for the award are doing.  The result is people will vote for the place they like, rather than what any National Park Authority is doing.   This will suit the LLTNPA, which does not like its performance to be scrutinised, and will be hoping that everyone in Scotland will vote for it simply because its a nomination from Scotland.

 

Before rushing headlong into supporting this piece of marketing, I hope our MSPs will consider the  LLTNPA’s performance in 2016.  The LLTNPA has a large communications team of, I believe, 8 staff to sing its own praises, so here I will only list some of the things they try to avoid mentioning:

 

  • In April the Standards Commission found against Board Member Owen McKee, the planning convener who traded in Scotgold Shares after the Cononish goldmine was approved.  Unfortunately the Standards Commissions did not have the powers to investigate how the Board covered this up.
  • The destruction of landforms and landscape in Glen Falloch, on an industrial scale, in order to construct new hydro schemes reached its apogee.  With staff having previously reversed the decision of Board Members that all the access tracks should be removed, these tracks now form permanent scars on the landscape.  The LLTNPA has failed to enforce its own standards for hydro schemes, including landscaping, colour of material used and width and design of access tracks.
  • The LLTNPA conducted a community planning consultation in Balloch – called a charrette, funded by the Scottish Government – without telling the local community that a company called Flamingo Land had been appointed to develop the large Riverside site and that as the National Park Authority it had been on the selection panel for that developer.
  • The secret and unaccountable Board Briefing sessions LLTNPA continued throughout the year –
  • The LLTNPA’s promise that it would provide new camping places if the camping byelaws were agreed collapsed.  The Five Lochs Visitor Management Plan, which included specific plans for campsites, along with the Stakeholder Group which contributed to it,  appears to have been abandoned entirely.    It has been replaced by a series of vague promises that the Park is continuing to work to develop new campsites in the proposed camping management zones.
  • Instead the LLTNPA committed to spending £345k on a new 26 place campsite at Loch Chon, which is inaccessible to anyone without a car, and where there is little demand.  The campsite was totally overspecified, which explains the cost, and the only justification for spending this money was so the LLTNPA could satisfy a promise to the Minister that they would develop new camping places before the camping byelaws commenced.
  • The LLTNPA developed a new permit system to control camping in the management zones which had not been subject to public consultation and then failed to consult its own Local Access Forum, a statutory consultee, on the implications for access rights.   Freedom of Information requests demonstrated that the LLTNPA’s decision to “create” 300 places where people could camp, was not based on any evidence about the impact of campers.
  • The Scottish Information Commissioner forced the LLTNPA to make public all but one of the slides that had been presented at the Secret Board Meetings which decided the camping byelaws and was investigating the failure of the LLTNPA to declare all the information it held about these meetings at year end.
  • The LLTNPA diverted a considerable proportion of its resources into a single issue, how to ban campers, and consequently failed to progress many far more important matters.  This was epitomised by the non-appearance of the new Park Partnership Plan (the Cairngorms National Park draft plan was consulted on over the summer) which is due to be signed off by Ministers in 2017
  • One year late, the LLTNPA published the Keep Scotland Beautiful litter audit.  During the course of Board Meetings it emerged that once again the LLTNPA had again failed to take any meaningful initiatives with its local authority partners on how to address litter problems in the National Park.  The litter strategy, promised in the Five Lochs Visitor Management Plan, is now several years overdue.
  • The LLTNPA planning committee refused to delay consideration of a planning application for housing next door to their HQ in Balloch until after the community planning event and instead approved the housing plans.

 

This is not intended as a balanced appraisal, for that one would need to add some positives and then look at how the overall scorecard squared with the performance of the other National Parks nominated by John Craven.  However, information like this needs to be put into the public arena if we are to have any chance of our current National Parks improving and meeting the objectives for which they were created.     Our MSPs, instead of accepting the marketing hype issued by the LLTNPA,  should start scrutinising what it is actually doing.

James Fenton Ben GlasI was shocked recently to see what is happening in the wild areas of the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. Every side glen in the Glens Dochart and Falloch area now has a hydro scheme. This necessitates the construction of tracks high into the hills and the addition of dams into previously wild burns.

James Fenton Ben Glas 2
Two pictures of the upper reaches of the Ben Glas burn above Glen Falloch. Photo Credits James Fenton

It makes you wonder why we have National Parks.

 

And it is not just in National Parks that these ‘run-of-river’ hydro schemes are being built. I was even more shocked to see a track being bulldozed in the heart of the Torridon mountains up the River Grudie towards the back of Coire Mhic Fhearchair (Beinn Eighe). This was once a National Park Direction Area, and has always been seen as being of National Park quality. It also lies within a National Scenic Area and a core area of wild land.

James Fenton River Grudie
A new track snaking up the River Grudie from Loch Maree, Beinn Eighe & Liathach behind. Photo Credit James Fenton

 

There was an outcry from the mountaineering fraternity about earlier planned hydro schemes in the Torridon area: why so silent now?

 

Why cannot the various government agencies just say “No” to these injudicious schemes? Why does the government not care about the Scottish landscape? Is nowhere sacrosanct?

 

If you realise that the huge hydro schemes of the 1950s/60s produce less than 10% of all Scotland’s electricity, is it worth sacrificing the remaining wild areas for a just few more megawatts?

IMG_5151 re-landscaped parking area by adjacent L.Venachar House small
Why do none of the LLTNP’s new landscaped parking areas in the Trossachs have litter bins?

Following my post on the LLTNPA’s unfortunate decision to use National Park’s week to launch its new litter enforcement powers, when other National Parks across the UK were celebrating the theme of adventure, there was an excellent letter in the Herald today from James Fraser, Chair of the Friends of Loch Lomond and Trossachs.   (While I have got to know James over the last year as we now both sit on the Executive of the Scottish Campaign for National Parks my post and his letter were written independently).    He made a number of points that are worth repeating:

  • the contrast between provision of litter bins in laybys on the A82 and A9 (both major arterial routes) is striking.  That the laybys along the A9 have much less litter is not a coincidence.
  • asking visitors at busy attractions to take litter home does not work (this was one of main themes of the Park’s press release covered in my post)
  • there are significant inefficiencies in litter collection with different authorities emptying different bins even with the bounds of one location

Yet more arguments for why the National Park, following its paper to the last Board Meeting on litter, needs a proper litter strategy in which all four constituent local authorities and Forestry Commission Scotland play their part.    The good thing though is that both the Park’s publicity and the public debate has moved on from campers being the source of all litter.

 

38 Degrees and National Parks week

 

Yesterday I received an email from 38 Degrees about National Parks week.  Now I think its great 38 Degrees are trying to support National Park’s week, and I have every sympathy for what is going on in England where the Government is threatening to turn National Parks into fully commercial organisations which have to fully fund themselves.

 

38 Degrees, which have a Scotland team, don’t seem to realise though what is actually going on in the LLTNP and instead put out the type of spin that they should be trying to combat:

 

“It was amazing! From all over Scotland, 38 Degrees members were out enjoying our national parks in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and the Cairngorms yesterday”

Well yes they were, as people on every day of the week, but not thanks to National Parks week.  The comment that followed “with events happening in every single national park in England and Wales” said it all.   They could not include Scotland in the message as LLTNPA, unlike CNPA, had not done anything to encourage people out adventuring.

 

I am delighted though that 38 Degrees have set a new challenge for themselves with the following quote:

 

“My parents met during the great trespass of Kinder Scout. So if it wasn’t for the campaign that created national parks, me, my sons and my grandchildren – we wouldn’t have existed!” – Trina, at Loch Lomond & the Trossachs

I don’t know whether 38 Degrees have quoted Trina correctly but the Kinder Scout mass trespass in 1932 was not about creating National Parks but rather about securing access to open countryside.  It was pressure for access that created the demand in England for National Parks – places where access would be secure.   Its therefore rather ironic that Trina stated this in LLTNP where the National Park Authority has been leading the charge to reverse access rights in Scotland with its proposed camping ban.  But then, perhaps like many other people, she was simply unaware of what the Park has been proposing.   I was reminded of this today when I asked someone at work what they had done at the weekend – I was surprised to hear she had gone camping on Loch Arklet.  There was only one other tent there – quite predictable from the Park’s own data.  She had no idea Loch Arklet was included in the camping ban and her response on hearing this was “that’s rubbish”.

 

The challenge for 38 Degrees I think is help make their members aware of the serious restrictions to access rights being proposed by the LLTNPA and to help mobilise their members to get these reversed.  I hope this includes a mass campaign of civil disobedience as at Kinder Scout if necessary.

 

 

I welcome the creation of parkswatchscotland because our National Parks are so important for outdoor recreation and they are not always getting matters right.  Every item in this briefing  on outdoor recreation issues for the Scottish Parliament elections is relevant to National Parks and some concern them directly.

 

Briefing by Dave Morris

 

This is a contribution to the forthcoming elections to the Scottish Parliament on 5 May. It provides a briefing on key issues which are of concern to participants in outdoor recreation. It may help in challenging those who seek election on 5 May to explain what they will do for outdoor recreation if elected. It also provides an indication to the next Scottish Government of ways in which they can enhance the Scottish outdoor recreation experience.

 

Camping byelaws.
The present Scottish Government made a serious mistake in early 2016 by approving the expansion of camping byelaws to curtail informal camping in areas close to loch shores in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. This will seriously undermine the principles embedded within the rights of public access to our land and water that were secured by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. It opens the door to landowners everywhere to press for the removal of any of our access rights through byelaw establishment and replacing those rights by regulation through permit systems. These camping byelaws, which are due to become operational in 2017, need to be abandoned. Instead a ten year programme of education, improved law enforcement and new camp site provision, both formal and informal, needs to be established, linked to an expanded path network. In support of this a change in forestry budget priorities is needed. It is difficult to understand how in 2015 Forestry Commission Scotland, the largest landowner in the Park through its agency, Forest Enterprise, claimed to have no funds available for camp site development in this national park. Nevertheless, in the Cairngorms National Park in 2014, this same organisation had £7.4 million available to purchase a large area of Old Caledonian Pinewood from a private landowner, in a secret deal, when there was no obvious threat to the woodland. In addition to FCS budget alterations in the national parks there is a need for entirely new funding arrangements to support developments such as new paths and camping areas. Such funding could come from infrastructure levies applied to new housing developments or through tourist taxes applied to all accommodation providers in the parks, as found in other European countries. Furthermore, most of the existing litter problems in our parks and elsewhere would disappear if the Scottish Government introduced a nationwide deposit and return system for bottles and other food and drink containers.

 

Old Caledonian Pinewood.
Our native pinewood remnants, descended by natural regeneration from the native forests established as the last glaciers retreated nearly 10,000 years ago, are under threat. Excessive grazing by red deer or sheep continues to prevent regeneration in many OCP areas. Elsewhere too many landowners are planting too close to the old remnants, creating an artificial character, eroding the natural qualities of the native woodland. In some native pinewoods inappropriate use of large timber harvesting machines is damaging soil and vegetation profiles and causing excessive damage to old trees. These are some of the finest old growth forests left in Europe – elsewhere such mistreatment would not be permitted. Complaints to the European Commission are likely to lead to pressure on the Scottish Government to alter regulatory regimes and financial incentives in Scotland to ensure better compliance with the Habitats and Water Framework Directives and EC guidance on wild land protection.

 

Management of hunting
Successive governments, both in Holyrood and Westminster, have failed to provide a proper regulatory framework for hunting. This has led to excessive populations of red deer in many areas and the intensification of grouse moor management. Too much control remains in the hands of private landowners – no other country in Europe or North America has such a system where private interests prevail over the wider public interest in the management of our woodlands, moorlands and mountains. The direct result is massive overgrazing and excessive muirburn in too much of our uplands, with consequent soil erosion and vegetation damage, all leading to the possibilities of increased run off and downstream flooding. The indirect consequences include wildlife persecution on grouse moors and the loss of the economic opportunities that are associated with native woodland development. The next Scottish Government needs to legislate to establish a licensing system for all red deer and grouse moor managers so that permission to cull red deer is dependent on meeting targets set by a publicly accountable organisation and raptor persecution results in loss of hunting rights.

 

Electric fencing
Electrified deer fencing and stock fencing has been spreading across moorland Scotland in recent years, bringing with it massive constraints on public access and risk to those crossing electrified fences. Such fences should be prohibited, except in very restricted circumstances, such as within enclosed fields where horses and cattle need additional constraints.

 

Hill tracks
The widespread use of all terrain vehicles and the construction of new hill tracks are continuing, with no effective constraints in place. It was a serious error of the present Scottish Government when it failed to take the opportunity to bring such tracks under full planning control, opting instead for a system of prior notification. Landowners and planners say this creates just as much work as a full planning application, but with less clarity and no public scrutiny. This must be rectified in the next Parliament.

 

Windfarms
The UK Government decision to cut the subsidy for wind turbine development has been a welcome measure that has helped to curtail the proliferation of industrial scale windfarms in much of upland Scotland. Further constraints on such developments are needed, along with increased incentives to promote less energy use in the home, workplace and vehicle. The future for large scale wind turbines lies offshore.

 

Paths, trails and physical activity
In recent years the Scottish Government made substantial progress in the development of better paths and trails and the promotion of physical activity, partly as legacy benefits from the 2012 Olympic and 2014 Commonwealth Games. These achievements must be built on by the next Scottish Government, recognising not only the health and environmental benefits of improved walking and cycling routes, but also the economic value brought to all parts of the country through new trail construction work and its role in providing a key part of the infrastructure that underpins Scottish tourism. To achieve this there needs to be a national target to increase path expenditure relative to road expenditure on an annual incremental basis.

 

Field margins
The Common Agricultural Policy continues to deliver very little environmental benefit. Too much of the subsidy provided to lowland farmland is devoted to delivering increased production, leaving a biological desert across much of our land. Much more effort is needed by the next Scottish Government, in partnership with others, to drive CAP reforms in the direction where the majority of public money paid to farmers and crofters is to deliver public benefit not production profit. One of the most effective means of achieving this would be through expanded field margin management schemes to deliver biodiversity, public access and pollution control benefits on all farms. Securing funding for such margin schemes should be a key objective of Scottish Government rural policy in future CAP negotiations.

 

National Parks
The last two SNP Governments, in post since 2007, have achieved very little in the development of Scotland’s national park system, apart from the southern extension of the Cairngorms Park to Blair Atholl. They have allowed the governance of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park to degenerate to a level not usually seen in other public bodies. Manifesto promises on developing the national parks system have come to nothing. In the next Parliament lessons need to be learnt from the establishment of the first two parks, including their current failings, so that the associated environmental and economic benefits that the parks are capable of can also be brought to other areas of Scotland which are worthy of national parks status. A priority should be the establishment of a national park on Harris in the Western Isles, where the economic case for providing a tourism boost here through national park designation outweighs any other location in Scotland.

 

Wild land protection
A major achievement of the Scottish Government has been the establishment of a wild land mapping programme by Scottish Natural Heritage which has classified all parts of Scotland according to degrees of wildness. This was in part a response to a European Parliament resolution in 2009 which called on all governments to do more to protect wild land and wilderness values. By building wild land evaluation into land use decisions Scotland is now at the forefront of European efforts to protect these values. This should be recognised by the next Scottish Government and further progress made to extend wild land understanding and to incorporate rewilding principles into government policy.

 

Government agency reorganisation
The structure of Scottish Government departments that deal with environmental and outdoor recreational interests has remained fairly static for many years. There is a case for refreshing the present system and dealing with some endemic problems embedded within the present structure. A priority should be the splitting up of Forestry Commission Scotland so that its land ownership and management functions, as carried out by Forest Enterprise, are clearly separated from the regulatory and grant aid functions of the FCS. A better arrangement might be to combine these functions with the parallel regulatory and grant aid functions of Scottish Natural Heritage. Indeed a case can be made for combining all these functions plus SNH’s habitat protection roles with similar functions for the water environment carried out by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. This would create a single body better equipped to deal with the challenges of wildlife and habitat management, including woodland and peatland development, in a world where the impacts of changing climates and needs of outdoor recreation require a much more integrated approach by rural agencies. In parallel to this is the need to strengthen understanding and provision for outdoor recreation so that, at the highest levels of government, there is clear recognition of the role of outdoor recreation in delivering health, environmental and economic benefits. At present the promotion of outdoor recreation falls between too many stools, being a part of SNH and FCS functions, as well as those of sportscotland and visitscotland. Learning from other parts of the world, a better arrangement might be to bring these functions together into, for example, a department or agency for outdoor recreation and sport. This would give outdoor recreation the profile and resource priority that it needs in order to play an enhanced role in the lives of every one of our citizens as well as all visitors to Scotland.

(Dave Morris is former Director of Ramblers Scotland and is an adviser to the UIAA)

Among the papers for the LLTNP Board meeting on 14th March is a letter from Aileen McLeod, Minister for the Environment, setting out why she explained camping bye-laws.  Agenda Item 8 – Appendix 1 – Ministerial Letter to Linda McKay – Byelaw decision  It is essential reading.   Beneath the spin about listening to a range of views, the letter shows Aileen McLeod has got her “facts”  wrong, has no understanding of access rights and has undermined the will of the Scottish Parliament in respect of the Land Reform Act.

 

The Minister’s judgment

 

Aileen McLeod, the Minister for the Environment,  believes that:

  • that the measures are “not a ban on camping” – this is Orwellian newspeak.  Camping will only be allowed in specified places and it is banned elsewhere.
  • permits are not incompatible with access rights – the whole point of the access legislation is it gave you rights, to go and NOT ask permission.  Permits require you to ask permission and  the byelaws will create criminal offences for campers who don’t.
  • to allow camping to continue would “risk these special places being lost to future generations” – this is purple hyperbole!   Ground vegetation recovers in days or weeks, even the worst litter bio-degrades in a few years, trees regenerate as they always have and dare I say it crap biogrades in a few months.   The Minister and her civil servants appear to have no knowledge of basic science.
  • that camping has negative impacts on local communities and business – where then is the economic impact assessment that demonstrates this?   The anglers who camp around Loch Earn directly create local jobs (two water bailiffs), maintain the viability of local shops etc. The Park has done no evaluation of the business that will move elsewhere.

The Minister does not say why she has reduced the period of operation of the byelaws by one month, October.  This is unsupported by any evidence supplied by the Park.    Out of the summer period angling is the biggest single reason people camp and the angling season extends to the end of October.  While its good to know anglers are not the cause of the problems,  this looks like a political sop…….

The Minister’s justification of the need to manage camping is threefold, volume of campers, environmental damage and anti-social behaviour.  Here I will focus on volume campers (I have covered environmental fairly extensively but will come back to this and rural crime in separate posts).

 

Volume of campers

 

I find it staggering that the Minister has accepted the Park’s claims that volumes of campers are a problem.   This is totally contrary to what the Scottish Parliament intended in respect of access rights.   The Land Reform Act contains NO provisions about limiting numbers accessing the countryside and for a very good reason – it was about enabling whoever wanted to to enjoy our countryside.   The Park has tried to change to take us back to the Countryside in 1970 Conference, where members of the establishment promulgated scare stories  about the large numbers of visitors predicted to swamp the countryside:  as a result of which it was decided to promote the idea that the law of trespass meant you had no rights to be on land in Scotland.   The Land Reform Act overturned  thirty years nonsense about this from public agencies but now the Minister, without any reference to the Scottish Parliament, has simply reversed this.   Her decision is wrong in principle.

The Minister’s decision  has pandered to nimbyism in the Park as demonstrated by the Chief Executive claims that the Park was being swamped by campers and this email, from a Councillor on the Board to their Convener which I obtained through a Subject Access Request:

 

From: Martin Earl
Sent: 11 September 2015 17:47
To: Linda McKay
Subject: Re: Sunday Herald
Thanks Linda,
I only mention because Mr Kempe has always only talked about how to deal with ‘ bad ‘ campers and never acknowledged that a major part of the problem is too many people in some highly desirable locations (my emphasis).
Regards

Martin

 

The facts  are that large numbers of people are limited to a few weekends of the year when there is good weather.   According to the Minister’s letter though,  this might “risk the Park’s reputation at both home and abroad as being a premium tourist destination”.    I thought the Scottish Government was committed to tackling social exclusion but instead it seems it wants to ban people from the Glasgow conurbation, many of whom could never afford accommodation in the Park, from camping.

For people whose sense of order is offended by the freedom of people enjoying themselves out of doors, there are simple  solutions to help people who want to get out at these times to do so.  For example, in the English National Parks, farmers open up fields for camping with portaloos – so why not in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs?

 

So is there anything good in the letter?

 

Yes, the campaign is far from over:

  • The annual updates required of the Park by Ministers should provide plenty of opportunities for further campaigning.
  • The formal three year review is better than the ten years that some were pushing but will only have a real impact if recreational interests insist they are properly consulted, unlike for the deeply flawed Review of the east Loch Lomond byelaws  (see my Report on Your Park consultation process and critique of proposals 150618 (corrected version))
  • The delayed implementation date of March 2017 gives plenty of time for  the decision to unravel or be overturned by a new Minister for the Environment.
  • The Minister has put no cap on the number of camping places and states 300 is only the initial target for next year.  This offers continued opportunities to question the rationale of any proposals the Park comes up with………..and these are then likely to collapse as they are based on prejudice not reason.