Today, our Board unanimously approved recommendations being made to introduce a camping byelaw in 3.7% of the National Park‘s 720 square miles. We’re also proposing to invest in improving camping facilities to allow for 300 camping places to be available (in addition to the existing commercial campsites) in these areas.
Last week, we published this short blog to explain what we’re recommending.
In this blog, we’ve taken a look at some of the most commonly asked questions and given our responses. We hope you find this useful.
1. What area is covered by byelaws you’re recommending?
The areas we are recommending a camping byelaw and investment in camping facilities constitutes 3.7% of the National Park’s 720 square miles.
2. In a management zone, what area is included? Where are the boundaries?
The proposed zones are focused on the busiest lochshore areas which are easily accessible from a public road and where camping pressures are greatest.
- the land between the road and lochshore and,
- on the other side of the road, at a distance of approximately 200 metres from the public road.
Where possible the boundary follows visible features such as field boundaries or tracks.
You can view detailed boundary maps here.
3. How did you arrive at the final, recommended management zones?
Following a 12-week consultation on our original proposed zones, we have made adjustments to the zones (taking some proposed stretches out, adding other stretches in and making minor local boundary changes).
The recommended management zones include:
- areas where our patrolling data demonstrates significant and entrenched negative impacts from camping
- some areas which may not have the most acute problems now, but where we anticipate that localised displacement of camping could occur because of our proposed management measures
- some road corridors where we think it makes sense to link zones to assist with public understanding of where Management Zones start and finish
4. What do the final, recommended byelaws cover?
For the full detail you should read the recommended byelaw wording here but in essence:
The byelaw we are recommending covers:
- Where and when it is possible to camp within the management zones (including laybys not on a public road)
- Irresponsible fire-lighting (including damaging collection of firewood)
Issues around littering will be dealt with using new litter powers that the National Park Authority has to issue fixed penalty notices.
Issues around vandalism/criminal damage/breach of the peace will be dealt with through existing legislation via Police Scotland.
5. What about the people’s ‘right to roam’ under the Land Reform Act?
This is a National Park, which means it is everyone’s to enjoy, so long as we all do that responsibly.
The Scottish Outdoor Access Code states:
“Part 1 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 gives everyone statutory access rights to most land and inland water. People only have these rights if they exercise them responsibly by
respecting people’s privacy, safety and livelihoods, and Scotland’s environment.”
The rights granted under the Land Reform Act cover non-motorised access (walking, cycling, horse riding, canoeing etc) and those rights no longer apply if you do not act responsibly.
The Scottish Outdoor Access Code provides guidance on the responsibilities that come hand in hand with those access rights.
6. Doesn’t this prevent access?
We see these recommendations as a way to encourage access, whether you choose to visit the Park to camp or not.
People come to our lochshores for many reasons (to kayak, to swim, to walk or simply to enjoy a picnic). The volume of camping and antisocial behaviour is preventing other people from enjoying these locations and/or taking part in different recreation activities. The current situation already badly affects people’s ability to access these areas.
7. Does this mean I can’t ‘wild camp’ in the National Park?
The Scottish Outdoor Access Code which defines the access rights under the Land Reform Act describes wild camping as:
“…lightweight, done in small numbers and only for two or three nights in any one place.”
The type of problem camping that takes place on our popular lochshores does not fit this description.
The Scottish Outdoor Access Code goes onto say that ‘wild camping’ should be done responsibly by ensuring you ‘leave no trace’ which the Code describes as:
• taking away all your litter
• removing all traces of your tent pitch and of any open fire (follow the guidance for lighting fires)
• not causing any pollution
The recommendations we’ve made extend to an area that equates to 3.7% of the National Park – within the zones camping will be allowed in designated areas (by permit) or in campsites. The remaining area of the National Park is available for wild camping as defined in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
8. Isn’t education enough?
Our approach has always been, and will continue to be, education-led. Encouraging respect and enjoyment of the Park is the cornerstone to our approach to making the visitor experience here great.
Our ranger teams spend much of their time out and about in the Park providing help and information on how to enjoy the Park responsibly, we have an extensive education programme and we’re incredibly proud of the work we do with organisations like the John Muir Trust. But despite years of taking this approach, this has not sufficiently changed behaviours and reduced the damaging impacts.
The issues we continue to experience on our busiest lochshores demonstrate that despite our significant and ongoing efforts to positively encourage responsible camping we are still seeing entrenched behaviours that are degrading our lochshores, damaging the visitor economy and that put people off visiting the Park.
9. Isn’t existing legislation enough?
Following the 12-week consultation, and in light of work with Police Scotland and their own consultation response, we have amended the byelaws we are recommending today.
Enforcing existing legislation around antisocial behaviour and damage to the environment already happens in the Park.
This is a complex area but in principle, to enforce existing laws:
- an individual incident needs to fall within criminal law for the police to enforce. Not all irresponsible behaviour is criminal behaviour.
- it needs to be witnessed and corroborated, with the perpetrators identified
- the quality of evidence needs to be very high
- it takes significant resources to pursue through the courts
In addition to the 9000 hours of ranger patrolling that takes place in the Park to talk informally to visitors and encourage responsible behaviour, through Operation Ironworks (our joint rural policing initiative with Police Scotland) we have 800 hours of police patrolling over the busy summer months. This means we have resources to enforce existing laws relating to antisocial behaviour and there have been a number of successful and high profile prosecutions for serious violent incidents. Despite this antisocial behaviour still happens and causes a disproportionate impact on the environment, and other people (whether that’s other visitors or local residents/businesses).
We would rather not be seeing any criminal behaviour or prosecutions for antisocial behaviour in the Park.
Based on our experience on east Loch Lomond, we believe that a suite of measures (including regulatory approaches like byelaws) will help deter and prevent these behaviours. The byelaws we’re recommending will also strengthen our ability to deal with other problems such as chopping down trees and damage caused by firewood collection.
10. Surely byelaws should only be issued as a last resort?
We agree that byelaws should be a last resort. However, having managed these issues for many years we believe this step is now absolutely necessary in some areas of the National Park. We wouldn’t propose byelaws lightly, but the evidence gathered each season demonstrates that we need to take action. We need byelaws not just to deter antisocial and irresponsible behaviour but to manage the volume of camping down to sustainable levels in these extremely busy locations. We are recommending using a permit system in some locations to manage the amount of camping.
Our experience of transforming east Loch Lomond gives us a solid case study of how a suite of measures including camping byelaws, and improved camping provision can encourage people to come to enjoy our lochshores responsibly and deter irresponsible behaviours. This short video explains a bit more:
11. What kind of camping facilities are you proposing?
There are already lots of campsites in the Park, we plan to improve camping provision further by investing in developing low-cost, informal camping facilities (like those at Sallochy Bay) in the management zones proposed. We are also proposing to introduce a camping permit system in some areas to help deliver pleasant lochshore camping experience where the volumes of camping can be managed to a sustainable level, that allows the ground time to recover.