Loch braced for English invasion

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Key points

• Call for speed limit as water sports enthusiasts head north in response to restrictions in Lake District

• From today new laws on Lake Windermere will be enforced

• Currently on Loch Lomond a 10mph speed limit applies within 150 yards of the shore; on the open loch the speed limit is 50mph

Key quote

"I condemn any attempt to encourage people who use jet skis and similar equipment on Lake Windermere to come to Loch Lomond..." - Jack McConnell

Story in full SPEED restrictions must be placed on Loch Lomond to prevent an influx of power boats and jet-skiers from south of the Border, after new limits were imposed in the Lake District, campaigners warned yesterday.

Residents and regular visitors to Loch Lomond fear that the imposition of 6mph and 10mph limits on Windermere will result in watersports enthusiasts heading north.

Windermere is the last lake in Cumbria to have such restrictions imposed in an attempt to reclaim the tranquillity associated with the area. Although the limits were introduced in March 2000, the by-law to curb speeding has not been enforced until now. But, from today, park rangers will be on the lookout for anyone flouting the law.

Sara Clarke, the ranger manager, said speeding on Windermere should now become "as socially unacceptable as speeding on roads". But watersports enthusiasts claim the restrictions amount to a ban on power boats, which they say will seriously damage the local economy as water-skiers and other lake users are driven away.

They even claim some people have already moved their boats to Loch Lomond as a result of the ban, pointing out that it is one of the alternative water-ski and jet-ski venues recommended by the Lake District National Park Authority.

A fact sheet from the authority on the new Windermere speed limit states: "Lake users who feel unable to accept the 10mph by-law will have opportunities to enjoy their sports in: Barrow docks in Cumbria; Kielder Water in Northumberland; Loch Lomond in Scotland; and other venues."

The Friends of Loch Lomond (FLL) society renewed calls yesterday for action to prevent an increase in high-speed boating at the popular beauty spot.

The Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park Authority Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park Authority is still consulting on whether changes are needed to the by-laws which govern boat speeds on the loch, with 8 April the deadline for all interested parties to comment.

George Boyd, from Helensburgh, the FLL chairman, said the case for new restrictions was overwhelming.

"We understand there have been suggestions that people from Windermere come to Loch Lomond," he said. "Along with many other organisations, we’re already concerned about speed and control of the power boats and jet skis. We’re very unhappy with the position of jet skis, and we’re also concerned about the environment and what speed and overuse of the loch may bring about.

"The current restrictions are insufficient. They were all very well a generation ago, but the world has moved on, notwithstanding the changes at Lake Windermere.

"We’re pressing the park to change the by-laws to take account of speed, safety, equipment, competency, third-party insurance and to ensure there’s a tolerance of other users on and around the loch."

Angus Buchanan, 45, and his daughter Holly, 13, drowned on Loch Lomond two weeks ago, when a wave threw them from their rigid, inflatable dingy. One theory is that a wave from a power boat was responsible.

Jackie Baillie, the Labour MSP for Dumbarton, said she first raised her concerns with Jack McConnell in December. During First Minister’s Questions, she voiced the concerns of fishermen and walkers that the introduction of speed limits on Windermere would send speedboat owners and jet skiers to Scotland.

The First Minister said then: "I condemn any attempt to encourage people who use jet skis and similar equipment on Lake Windermere to come to Loch Lomond, or to depict the situation at Loch Lomond as being anything other than properly regulated."

He said responsibility for the by-laws rested with the park authority, although he urged them to complete the consultation process - and take any necessary action - "as quickly as possible".

Last night, no-one at the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park Authority was available to comment officially.

However, a senior source within the authority said: "We are not overly concerned about an exodus of boats coming up from Windermere to partake in watersports and the like.

"The loch is already fully used and, on occasions, is actually over-subscribed. For starters, there would be no car-parking spaces for the thousands of watersports enthusiasts that we constantly hear are on the way."

LOCH V LAKE

LOCH LOMOND

Scotland’s largest freshwater loch, and certainly one of its best-loved, Loch Lomond achieved National Park status in July 2002 and is managed by the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority.

LENGTH: 23 miles and 25.5 square miles in area.

DEPTH: 620 feet.

ACTIVITIES: Watersports and boating, with 1,862 registered speedboats, 932 motor cruisers, 769 jet skis and 240 motorboats.

OTHER LEISURE PURSUITS: Angling - for salmon, trout, pike and perch - birdwatching, hillwalking, camping, caravanning.

SPEEDLIMITS ON THE LOCH: A 10mph speed limit applies within 150 yards of the shore; on the open loch the speed limit is 50mph.

FAMOUS ASSOCIATIONS: Rob Roy McGregor, Sir Walter Scott, Samuel Coleridge, John Keats, Charles Dickens, Samuel Johnson.

LAKE WINDERMERE

Nestled in England’s largest National Park and located in central Cumbria, Windermere remains one of Britain’s most popular lakes. With a famous landscape of high fells, rocky crags and lush dales, Windermere achieved National Park status in 1951 and is managed by the Lake District National Park Authority.

LENGTH: 10.5 miles long and one mile across at its widest point.

DEPTH: 210 feet.

ACTIVITIES: Watersports and boating, with more than 6,000 motorised boats currently using the water.

OTHER LEISURE PURSUITS: Angling, camping, hillwalking, birdwatching.

FAMOUS ASSOCIATIONS: Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth - the poet’s cottage is near Windermere.