The ban on informal camping along much of the east shore of Loch Lomond could be rolled out to cover similar sites right across the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, in a move aimed at curbing the chronic anti social behaviour and littering that blights roadside locations. However access campaigners are unimpressed.
Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority yesterday announced a consultation, ‘Your Park’, which proposes the introduction of anti-camping bylaws as part of a package that will also include a projected £10million of public/private investment in new formal camping facilities over the next half decade.
According to the park authority there's a 'growing body of evidence' that the natural beauty and economy of the park is being severely damaged by over-use of the area’s most popular loch shores for informal camping. The problems range from litter and fire damage to summer-long caravan encampments in laybys and the abandonment of entire campsites, tents and all - to say nothing of anti social drunken antics, live trees being cut for firewood and people crapping all over the place.
Fiona Logan, chief executive of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority, said:
'The National Park is within an hour’s drive of more than 50% of Scotland’s population and this gives us specific problems, which – despite our best efforts – have been escalating.'
'The package of measures we are proposing has been developed in conjunction with partners and local communities and reflects our wholesale commitment to dramatically improving the experience of the Park for both residents and visitors, whether they camp overnight, or come for the day to walk, swim, kayak, or simply enjoy a picnic.'
'Our proposals include significant investment in camping facilities and new bylaws to support more sustainable amounts of camping and to tackle the damage caused by antisocial camping.'
The east shore of Loch Lomond was once blighted by similar issues, but since a local bylaw banning loch-side wild camping was introduced in 2011 (see UKH news here), police say there's been an 81% reduction in anti social behaviour in the area.
Existing seasonal measures apply only to the stretch running from Drymen to Rowardennan (approximately 9 miles) including part of the West Highland Way. Under the proposal, anti-camping bylaws would also be introduced in new 'management zones' amounting to 69.2 square kilometres, or less than 5% of the park. These primarily roadside locations would include much of the rest of Loch Lomond, plus Loch Earn, Loch Long and Loch Venachar.
However at the time the original bylaws were introduced critics feared that banning camping in one location would simply push the problem elsewhere. Some feel that an extended camping ban within the National Park may now make things worse in unprotected sites beyond park boundaries. A current campaign to highlight identical problems in Glen Etive (see here) suggests that anti social camping has become a national issue rather than one confined to a single national park. Are bylaws needed everywhere, or might less draconian solutions be found?
While they do not deny that anti social camping is a problem, and are supportive of the national park's efforts to manage the sheer weight of numbers at popular sites, Ramblers Scotland are among those unhappy at the idea that the only way to tackle it is to compromise Scotland's hard-won right to public access. They see bylaws as a blunt instrument, a heavy handed measure that would penalise all campers, whether responsible or not.
'I have sympathy for the park authority' said Campaigns and Policy Manager Helen Todd, 'but putting out byelaws in the first instance sends out a terrible message. Bylaws should be a last resort.'
'Laws already exist on littering, vandalism and breaches of the peace' she told us. 'If these existing laws are not being adequately enforced then why would a specific anti-camping bylaw be better?'
Rambers Scotland worry that camping bans within the National Park could set a precedent, and that faced with identical issues local authorities elsewhere might follow suit.
- See the proposals on the Your Park website here
- The consultation runs from 13 Oct - 12 Jan 2015