It’s now just over a month since the Your Park consultation went live. There’s been lots of discussion on our proposals in the media and on outdoors blogs and forums. We’ve just held the first of our drop-in sessions where anyone can come along to find out more about the Your Park proposals.
There are another 9 weeks to go in the consultation, so it’s worth clarifying a few questions that have come up a number of times so far:
1. What’s the extent of the management zones proposed?
The proposed management zones (including the existing east Loch Lomond zone) equate to less than 5% of the National Park.
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 car-borne 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.
Lochshores with no public roads have not been included in zones.
You can view detailed boundary maps here.
3. How did you arrive at the proposed management zones?
The proposed 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
You can respond to our consultation here.
4. 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 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.
5. Isn’t existing legislation enough?
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 be of sufficient scale to pursue a prosecution through the legal system
- it needs to be witnessed and corroborated, with the perpetrators identified
- it needs police presence to enforce
- 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 we are not seeing changes in behaviour.
We would rather not be seeing prosecutions for antisocial behaviour in the Park.
Based on our experience on east Loch Lomond, we believe that a suite of appropriate byelaws, that can be communicated clearly to the public, will act as a deterrent and help us prevent these behaviours. The proposed byelaws will also strengthen our ability to deal with other problems such as chopping down trees, littering and leaving human waste behind.
6. 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 the past 12 years we believe this step is now absolutely necessary. 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 behaviour but to manage the volume of camping down to sustainable levels in these extremely busy locations. We are considering a permit system in some locations to manage the amount of camping and need byelaws to make this work.
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:
7. Doesn’t this discourage people from exercising their access rights?
We see these proposals 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.
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 provides guidance on the responsibilities that come hand in hand with those access rights.
8. What kind of camping facilities are you proposing?
There are already lots of campsites in the Park, we’re consulting on proposals to improve camping provision further by investing in developing low-cost, informal camping facilities in the management zones proposed. We are also considering whether a camping permit system could be operated on some lochsides without introducing campsites.
This short video tells you a bit more about the camping experience we hope to achieve through this additional investment: