WHETHER you take the high road or the low road, be mindful where you stop to set up your tent. Camping restrictions in and around one of Scotland’s premier tourist destinations could be significantly expanded in an attempt to curb anti-social behaviour.
New bylaws planned by the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority (LLTNPA) would curb unauthorised camping across vast swathes of the iconic loch’s shorelines as well as Loch Earn, Loch Long and Loch Vennachar.
The authority, responsible for the management of Scotland’s first national park, points to a growing body of evidence that the natural beauty of the area is being damaged by overuse and irresponsible visitors, who intimidate locals, leave behind litter and human waste, and chop down trees for firewood.
It claims the new measures will transform “problem areas” currently in a “very poor and deteriorating state” into “world- class destinations”.
However, Ramblers Scotland said the use of the legislation should only be a “last resort” and that rolling out bylaws across the park would send out a “terrible message”.
The LLTNPA yesterday approved a 12-week public consultation on the extended bylaws, part of a package which also calls for expanded formal campsites and motorhome bays across its 720 square-mile area of responsibility.
The existing bylaws heralded an 81 per cent reduction in anti-social behaviour between 2009 and 2012, according to police.
There has been only one report submitted to the procurator fiscal in that period, the outcome of which is, as yet, unknown, although officials believe the laws act as a powerful deterrent. Some have expressed frustration at how anti-social behaviour has migrated around the park since the 2011 bylaws covering the loch’s eastern shores came into effect.
Increasing their influence, according to Fiona Logan, the LLTNPA’s chief executive, will have widespread benefits for visitors, local communities and the economy. “The national park is within an hour’s drive of more than 50 per cent of Scotland’s population and this gives us specific problems which – despite our best efforts – have been escalating,” she said.
“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.”
Under the plans, two new management zones governed by the bylaws would be created – the first covering the west of Loch Lomond and the second the wider Trossachs area. The existing zone to the east of Loch Lomond would also be slightly enlarged.
The LLTNPA says the proposed zones would cover an area of 69.2 square kilometres – or 3.75 per cent of the total park area – and ensure only a “minimal impact” on those wishing to wild camp responsibly away from busy roadside locations.
The move has been welcomed by Police Scotland and residents on the east shore of the famous loch. Kevin Lilburn, a Rowardennan resident, said: “Previously we suffered some sort of incident at my home pretty much every weekend in the summer, including litter, theft, vandalism and verbal or even physical intimidation. Since the bylaws have been introduced, there have been none. Not one.”
But Helen Todd, campaigns and policy manager at Ramblers Scotland, said: “I have sympathy for the park authority. But putting out bylaws in the first instance sends out a terrible message. Bylaws should be a last resort.”