Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Could Flamingo Land land in Balloch?

I was intrigued to see the apparently hostile response to proposals for proposals (yes, I did MEAN to say that) for a theme park and development located near Balloch and operated by the existing Flamingo Land owners.

While I’m not a theme park fan in the sense of visiting them to take part, I have always enjoyed wandering around them and seeing people enjoying them and the rides. I used to enjoy a run down to Morecambe for the day, which included a wander around Frontier Land, but that was closed and razed some years ago, when the town also gave up its illuminations in deference to Blackpool. This unfortunately coincided with personal problems which meant I was unable to visit during the years this happened, and when I did eventually manage a return trip can only say that the town was a sad and dead place without those features.

While I don’t claim that’s equivalent to Balloch, I’m left wondering if the apparently massive negative reaction to the proposal is from the sort of people who just like to say ‘NO!’ to anything.

Flamingo Land chiefs have unveiled plans for a public consultation as they seek to progress their proposals for a £30 million leisure resort at Balloch.

The Yorkshire-based firm is in the process of creating a website showcasing the proposals in a bid to win over local residents.

Tens of thousands of individuals have already signed a petition opposing the plans, while a number of locals staged a demonstration against the proposals by gathering in Drumkinnon Woods – part of the land which could be affected by the development if it gets the green light.

Via: Flamingo Land at Balloch a step closer with public consultation

While some would also look at the handful of negative responses in the comments after the story, sadly, I’ve come to realise that most of the commenters on Scotsman stories are sad and miserable, or just out to make political capital.

Hopefully the media will follow this, as I’ll be more interested in the result of the public consultation, than the potentially biased response of a few noisy activists.

As the proposer says:

However, in September last year, Mr Gibb admitted that the plans would not go ahead if they weren’t supported by ‘most of the people in Scotland’.

He said: “Flamingo Land totally understands some of the local concerns about our proposed leisure resort in Balloch and we are committed to engaging with all parties involved to fully explain our ideas.

“Our bid was successful due to the sensitive way in which we have considered the site in question and we look forward to continuing to cooperate with the consultation group.

“To be frank, if our plans are not welcomed by most of the people in Scotland then we will not proceed further but I do not trust the results of the petition and we have not yet been given the chance to fully explain our plans.”

Amusement Park

Amusement Park

Just to be clear, I am merely mentioning this, although I expect to be misrepresented and said to be in favour of the development – merely because I have not suffered an immediate knee-jerk reaction stating I am against it.

For what it’s worth, I still think the theme park in Strathclyde Country Park looks out of place as a permanent installation. I originally thought it was just visiting when it first appeared.

I’m more interested in seeing how the National Park Authority plays its part, as I see it as a body that like to make rules to keep itself in a comfy well-paid job, has introduced rules that would probably have Tom Weir spinning in his grave given the restriction it has brought in for wanderers, yet seems happy to allow development and housed to be built within the park it is supposed to be preserving.

These links might help keep some folk’s blood pressure down:

Flamingo Land proposals are opposed by thousands

Our view on Flamingo Land’s Loch Lomond proposal

The LLTNPA’s involvement in the Flamingo Land proposals

The potential impact of Flamingo Land’s proposals on the National Park

 

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July 17, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , | Leave a comment

National Park authority needs German signs

I have to be honest and say that while I approve of the existence of a National Park Authority, and it is (sadly) a necessity in order to protect the areas concerned from some, it’s also true to say that looking at some of its actions might lead one to conclude it fails miserably in some respects, and is over zealous in others.

But, maybe they know better than me (or its more active critics), so perhaps better left at that.

However, I wonder how much larger than this genuine sign from a German park would have to be if it was made for a Scottish NPA?

One might be tempted t wonder if there is any point in going to such a ‘Recreation Area’ – the list of prohibitions would seem to rule out most of the reasons for going to such a place.

A landfill site or building site might be more fun!

German Park Sign

German Park Sign

Translation is fairly obvious…

“Applies throughout the entire recreation area

June 2, 2017 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

Newtonmore’s Waltzing Waters to close at end of August 2011

If you’ve ever meant to catch the Waltzing Waters show at Newtonmore, but never quite got around to it, then you had better get a move on, as the nearest (and only UK) venue will soon be the Isle of Wight.

Unfortunately for me, it’s not in a corner of the country I visit much, so I’ve only seen the show a few times over the years, but it is well worth the effort.

As of this post, you have only have two weeks left to catch the show, as its 20 year run comes to an end together with the end of August 2011, after which the venue is to be razed to the ground and probably turned into a supermarket.

I don’t know how much truth there is in the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) claim that it has nothing to do with the loss, and it seems like yet another case of an NPA not doing anything to conserve an area – and conservation takes many form, not just protecting flora and fauna. It always seems to me that if something does not contribute to an NPA’s coffers, then it disappears, or is eventually replaced by something that does (eg wild camping near Loch Lomond).

It also makes the Scottish Government’s demand for a 50% increase in tourist revenue by 2015 look a bit hollow, since there seems to no mention of any campaign or attempt to retain the show or venue – nor of any refusal by the owner to participate in such a think

A tourist attraction which has been running in Newtonmore in Badenoch and Strathspey for about 20 years is to close at the end of August.

Waltzing Waters puts on shows where jets of water lit by coloured lights move to music.

The Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) has called in plans to redevelop the site.

A Co-Operative supermarket and five homes have been proposed. CNPA planners have been asked to approve the plans.

In a report, park officers said Waltzing Waters had attracted significant numbers of tourists to Newtonmore over the past two decades.

They said closing down the attraction had been the owners’ personal choice and its loss to the area could not be attributed to the proposed development.

via BBC News – Newtonmore’s Waltzing Waters to close.

Admission & Hours:

Open 7 days a week including Public Holidays
from early February through mid December.
(winter visitors please call to confirm exact dates)

40 minute shows on the hour every hour:

Daytime Shows
10 am, 11 am, 12 noon, 1 pm, 2 pm, 3 pm, 4 pm

Additional Summer Evening Shows
8:30 pm; July & August only
(call to confirm exact cut-off dates)

Adult £4.25 Child £2.50 Concession £3.75

Coaches welcome! – Special Group Rate!

According to the web site:

Around 1930, German inventor Otto Przystawik invented the first musical fountains. In 1964 his son, Gunter moved to the U.S. and continued in his father’s footsteps developing even more sophisticated designs. Today, grandson Michael Przystawik is company president of Waltzing Waters, Inc., the world’s premier manufacturer of musical fountain spectaculars.

In 1979, the newly re-routed A9 motorway bypassed some of the tourist-dependent villages in the Scottish Highlands. Businessman Alex Donald knew something really new and different was required to draw tourists off the motorway into the village of Newtonmore.

While on holiday in Florida, he witnessed the Waltzing Waters. Stunned by its beauty and emotional appeal, he knew he found the perfect solution.

In 1990, Mr. Donald brought the show to Newtonmore and the Waltzing Waters quickly became one of the most popular attractions in the Scottish Highlands.

Post closure

After the attraction had closed, the web site was altered to contain the following message:

After entertaining over 1.6 million visitors, the Waltzing Waters has celebrated it’s (sic) final season in the Scottish Higlands (sic). Concluding performances were seen 26 August, 2011. Shows continue as usual at our Isle of Wight location.

After twenty-two seasons, owner Alex Donald decided to enter semi-retirement on the Isle of Wight, where he continues to oversee the Waltzing Waters in Ryde.

August 15, 2011 Posted by | Civilian, Lost | , , , , , | Leave a comment

National Parks – still can’t really see the point

It doesn’t seem to matter what the story is, or what the involvement is, but I really can’t work up any enthusiasm or support for National Park Authorities (NPA). They seem to be good at promoting themselves, and making sure they have a reason (in their own eyes) for being.

This time, I find my first thought regarding some cash handouts from the European Union is one of “Why is the NPA getting any – it’s not a community”. The communities that should be benefiting from receiving the total cash handout lie within the NPA. I can just about understand a council getting some, as it has a responsibility to the communities it is serves, and we can see what return is to be had for the cash concerned, but not so in the case of the NPA.

Looking at the cash breakdown…

Laggan Community Association received £17,100 and will use part of this to launch WiFi in its area.

Glen Tanar Estate received £15,943 and will upgrade Aboyne telephone exchange, Aberdeenshire.

These improvements will provide broadband access.

Cairngorms Mountain Rescue Association received £10,000 and will buy a new 4×4 ambulance.

Highland Council received £5,000 to be spent on play equipment in Aviemore and Carrbridge.

Abernethy Old Kirk Association received £4,980 and will repair stonework and seal the kirk against the weather.

But…

The Cairngorms NPA will receive a total of £17.715 which will be spent on a Landscape Partnership Feasibility Study project and a junior ranger exchange scheme.

Sorry, but compared to those listed above, there is no tangible or material benefit for any of the communities in the area. Money spent on a study merely produces some paper (and justifies someone’s job) and while a ‘junior ranger exchange scheme’ may be nice, once it’s over, again there is no tangible result to show for the spend.

So, to my tired old eyes, the NPA has frittered away an amount of money that a community could have used to by hardware to improve broadband delivery, or repair some building at risk.

Not good value at all.

BBC News – Euro funds to upgrade internet in Glen Tanar and Laggan

May 17, 2011 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

Onwards and upwards – the rise and rise of National Park bureaucracy

Parking areaWhen the National Park Authority (NPA) first announced and then appeared, I was wary.

As a result of contacts made in places such as Canada and Australia, where they have their version of national parks in place for a lot longer than Scotland, and where people live in the vast wilderness that we can only dream of, comments volunteered when I mentioned the arrival of such parks in Scotland were met with concern, particularly by ex-pats.

After listening to the words of people better qualified than me to comment, such as the late Tom Weir – who spent his life in such areas – I came to the conclusion that I would not see any demonstrable benefits from their arrival, and said so some years ago: The National Park – benefit or bureaucracy?

I don’t particularly like the word quango, but it looks very much as if that is all an NPA is, and for want of a better description, a few Jobsworth types have been given power without accountability, and as time get harder they are seeking ways and means to protect themselves, to justify their non-essential existence, and raise funds to pay their wages and hang on to their jobs.

I go by the evidence of what I see, and I see little that leads to conservation and the preservation of the environment in places such as the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. I see the arrival of rules and regulations, and I see these accompanied by charges, fees, bylaws, and fines that were never needed before – and would not be needed now if existing laws were properly enforced.

The NPA is now going to be charging for each of the 16 car parks it owns or manages, but has said it intends to concentrate first on the east shore of the loch.

In a remarkably perverse justification, the NPA justifies the charges on the basis of success, and apparently overwhelming visitor numbers that lead to gridlock, and that is worst on the ancient and single track roads found on the east.

In a similarly perverse application of logic, the NPA will be helping this gridlock by introducing the charges, which it fears may cause some motorists to react to by parking on roadside verges, so intends to close off “informal” parking areas.

I used to like having a family drive to Loch Lomond, and this tradition dates back not only to my parents, but also my grandparents, who were car owners in the 1920s, and started our regular trips to Luss.

Then, and I am unsure of the date, some ten years or so ago, Luss was ‘improved’ when the main road bypassed it, and the car park got bigger and charges were introduced – the main rural car park at Luss, owned by Argyll & Bute Council, charges motorists, and manages to raise around £80,000 a year. Well, I haven’t contributed to that, and won’t. Apart from being allowed to stop my car, I get nothing in return, other than handing yet more money to the council for nothing other than putting money in a ticket machine.

It’s rather like a little area laughingly described as a ‘Car Park’ just off the A9. I discovered this a few years ago when looking for a well-hidden local historic feature. It took me a few visits to find the little building concerned, and on one of the later visits I was amazed to see that the patch of ground where cars could stop had an ‘honesty’ car park box. I honestly couldn’t see any reason for putting a £1 in the box every time I stopped there. It wasn’t clear if the box was official in some way, or where the money went, and apart from someone making money, there was no reason for it. If I pay for parking, I expect to see someone doing something, even if it’s only a bit of security – and that doesn’t happen on a bit of roadside, where all that will happen is someone appearing to empty the collection box, and then going home with a smile on their face.

It’s also rather like Glasgow’s famous Burrell Collection. I haven’t been there for a few years, but notably, this collection is free – as are most of Scotland’s national museums. However, the Burrell lies within Pollock Park, and there is a Pay and Display car park, so you effectively pay the council to visit. This would be fair enough, and not worthy of comment, but for the fact that the Pay and Display car park is effectively unattended (unless the money collector is visiting of course), and regrettably, Pollock is not the nicest part of Glasgow. I guess the car park is seen as a soft-touch, as tourists visit with hire cars full of stuff they leave on view, and on each visit I have made to the Burrell (and I usually spend most of a morning or afternoon when I go) I have seen the police attend at a car in the Pay and Display which has had a window smashed, and items stolen. Owner’s fault, but you have to ask what they were getting for the money they put in the Pay and Display machine, with no attendant, and no security.

Returning to the Loch Lomond  NPA, it has been suggested that it will follow prices set by the Lake District NPA, which runs car parks in places like Windermere, Ullswater, and Hawkshead, and during the peak summer season, visitors are charged a minimum of £1.50 for an hour’s parking up to £6.50 for up to 12 hours, while weekly passes are sold for £25.

By introducing charging for car parks, the NPA believes it can further crack down on misbehaviour while at the same time better managing its five million annual visitors.

Well, if they do the same as me, and stop only where and when no-one is looking, or simply drive on through without stopping – the NPA will be able to claim success. After all, if there’s no-one there, then there won’t be any misbehaviour, and their numbers will definitely become more manageable.

It’s a pity so many people just accept this sort of thing as if they sleepwalking.

I wonder what would happen if there was a co-ordinated campaign, and the reputed five million visitors who are to be controlled simply all ignored the new parking charges – could the NPA fine five million vistors, and take them to court for non-payment?

I’d like to see it try.

April 14, 2011 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

Yet another National Park farce rises in the Cairngorms

BuildingsI no longer bother to hide my thoughts on National Parks – National parks – probably just bureaucratic empire building – and it seems that almost every story about them which surfaces in the media does nothing to convince that I am misguided in these thoughts.

The latest fiasco seems to have popped up in the Cairngorms National Park, where the authority appears to be following its pal down in Loch Lomond, and waving through housing developments, an action which has resulted in local groups being formed to oppose these plans:

BBC News – Legal challenge to Cairngorms national park local plan

The Cairngorms Campaign, which is based in Aberdeenshire, along with the Scottish Campaign for National Parks and Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group have jointly lodged the appeal at the Court of Session, and opposes plans for a new community at An Camas Mor, near Aviemore, together with schemes proposed for Grantown-on-Spey and Kingussie.

The Rothiemurchus Estate project would see 1,500 homes, and business and community facilities built in phases, close to Coylumbridge, and the The CNPA (Cairngorms National Park Authority) said it would be one of the “biggest developments in a generation”.

I can only echo the comment made by Spokesman Bill McDermott who said: “The park authority has been acting as the developers’ friend. It should be a conservation agency not a development agency.”

This is exactly the same conclusion I came to a few years ago, when it struck me that the Loch Lomond National Park Authority was doing much the same, and instead of acting as conservation authority, and hitting the news headlines back then as a group that defaulted to a position of opposing development, appeared to be one that was making the news by being criticised for allowing development to advance through the park.

Now, it just seem to hit the headlines when it introduces more rules and regulations, and which strike me as more favourable to its own developments than they are to the aim of promoting conservation.

I feel sure Tom Weir is looking down on this apparently useless organisation that has managed to impose itself on the land he once freely enjoyed, and is shaking his head – maybe even saying “I told you so”, as one episode of Weir’s Way included a debate between Tom and his fellow walkers from the area, and they did not come out in universal accord with what was then only the proposal to create a national park around Loch Lomond.

A cynic might be forgiven for thinking the various National Park Authorities had lost sight of the word ‘Park’ in their title, and see only the word ‘Authority’, and are too busy creating a world around themselves to justify that, and have lost sight of the more important word ‘Park’.

January 11, 2011 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

National Park juggernaut continues to lumber over Loch Lomond

slipway
I’m afraid I was never convinced by any of the stories, or claims, made about the creation of a National Park around Loch Lomond, and cited the thoughts of more venerable Scottish minds than mine, such as Tom Weir, in expressing concern about the supposed advantages such a thing would bring. I haven’t come across anything to challenge my original conjecture: National parks – probably just bureaucratic empire building

Since then, I think it’s been reinforced, as I’ve corresponded with various people around the world, who originated in Scotland, and moved to countries such as Canada where similar authorities have been placed over the land, and have had decades to justify themselves. I was more than a little surprised to find a degree of hostility toward those charged with looking after the welfare of the land, especially coming from people who lived in places that could be cut off in winter, and ranged over areas that made Scotland look like their back garden. Their opinion seemed, even to me, to particularly disparaging of their park body’s effect on the land, and often referred to their commercialisation over the years, and imposition of rules and regulations to their own advantage, rather than those who lived in the area, and maybe even depended on it for their lives and livelihood.

Although I have solicited these opinions, the folk who have been good enough to offer their experiences have been random contacts made through SesSco, and not selected from those I knew would have been hostile. Not one had a good word for their National Park masters.

And this brings me to Loch Lomond, and my inability to see any useful function that the National Park Authority (NPA) brings, other than commercialising the place, tidying it up to make it look nicely manicured to sell to tourists from overseas, and to sweep anybody that wants to use the place they used to, freely, out of sight and under the carpet.

As far as I can see (and quite a few other as I read around the web), the most notable things the park authority has done is spend money: there’s been a sculpture on the A82, a multi-million pound headquarters, tens of motor vehicles, and motor launches. While some are clearly needed, spending seems to have been unfettered, and nothing to do with preserving the loch and its environment, and preventing exploitation. Comments from those who used to enjoy the loch suggest that all the see are speed traps, paperwork, and restrictions. The more vociferous say that all the NPA has done has made Loch Lomond less accessible for locals and visitors alike, with bans on camping and alcohol. Again, the same people don’t seem to have any argument with the principle of tackling anti-social behaviour, but argue that the park authorities enact these policies in ways which allow these activities to continue, provided the park gains an advantage (a cynic would say a fee in other words).

This was brought back into my mind when I saw that the park had concluded that budget cuts meant it was no longer economically viable to provide slipway services to boat-owners for free, a service it states costs the park  £500,000 per annum. It seems that Loch Lomond and The Trossachs is the only National Park that does not currently charge for the use of water-related services. Funds raised from loch users will contribute towards “maintaining and further enhancing” the facilities for boat owners, the NPA said.

Plan for Loch Lomond slipway charges

One is tempted to wonder what they have been doing with the £500,000 in the past.

The information given is that any boat owners launching sail or motorised craft at Duncan Mills Memorial slipway in Balloch or Milarrochy Bay slipway on the east shore of Loch Lomond would have to pay fees.

All boat owners would have to pay an ‘annual operation payment’ of £30, but would then have the option of paying £15 per ‘day use’, or opt for a single £55 annual fee, entitling them to unlimited use of the slipways.

For what it may be worth, I am not, and never will be, a boat owner, and my own opinion is that if you have a hobby or a toy, then you have to cough up whatever charges may come with it.

However, as per my opening, and earlier comments and observations, I’m still looking for something that shows the NPA is actually doing something other than letting a number of Jobsworths enjoy themselves, and is something other than a bureaucratic juggernaut that devours money to no useful end, other than keep itself running.

Update

About a week after the above story was published, another appeared confirming that the NPA had approved the charges.

Loch Lomond slipway charges approved

That seems like ‘undue haste’ to me, and it seems that the members of the The Loch Lomond Association (LLA) feel the same way:

A spokesman for the LLA, a lobbying group for loch users, has criticised the national park for its “inadequate consultative approach” over the fees.

LLA chairman Peter Jack said: “Those who were approached by the NPA [National Park Authority] on this matter were given virtually no time at all to canvas the views of their boat-using members before the announcement was made.

“The LLA takes particular exception to the NPA’s continuing apparent attempts to single out loch boat users uniquely for surcharges.”

Mr Jack added that there was confusion among boat owners about whether the new “annual operations payment” was a voluntary or mandatory fee.

Any boat owners requiring a ‘motorised launch’ at Duncan Mills Memorial slipway in Balloch or Milarrochy Bay slipway on the east shore of Loch Lomond will have to pay fees. No fee will be charged if the craft can be carried from the car park, the national park said.

Instead of the £15 ‘day use’ charge, boat owners can opt for a £55 annual fee giving them unlimited use of the slipways.

The NPA has also played a particularly ‘dirty’ trick on boat users by making the slipway fees (confirmed at the values given above) mandatory, while increasing the annual ‘operation payment’ to £50 and making it voluntary.

A spokesman for the NPA was reported as saying: “That payment is a contribution towards the cost of providing safety and security services, including the ranger service. Obviously it’s a voluntary payment that we’re seeking, but we hope people recognise the value of the services that we provide” and that cash raised from the operations fee would go towards a payment that the National Park makes to the Loch Lomond rescue boat service of at least £5,000 per year. The National Park said impending budget cuts meant it was no longer economically viable to provide the £500,000 a year service to boat owners for free.

One cannot help but notice that the fee which goes to the NPA is compelled from boat users, while that which contributes to the loch’s rescue boat is voluntary, yet it is abundantly clear which one is of more importance to boat users – and has been funded in a way that means if the rescue boat cannot be funded in future, the NPA can hold its hands up and say ‘Don’t look at us – we don’t provide the money. Go and see the boat users’.

I’m still not convinced about the NPA, and not becoming any less so as I watch it.

January 5, 2011 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

National parks – probably just bureaucratic empire building

Cop books sleeping camper under moonBack at the start of February, I posed a whimsical question, The National Park – benefit or bureaucracy?

At the time, I didn’t really want to attempt any sort of answer, as the subject that sparked off the thought was (and still is) under official consideration and review. This is the proposal to set up a camping byelaw, under which the park could throw out casual campers.

At the time, I speculated that this proposal appeared to stink, since reading the detail makes it apparent that the real agenda to give the National Park the power to force campers to use its facilities – for which it will benefit financially – but was being sold by the promoters as a means of reducing vandalism, dumping, and anti-social behaviour.

The latter aims and claims struck me as redundant, since there is plenty of existing legislation to deal with all these matters, however the police and authorities have neither the staff nor the time to patrol an area such as a National Park, so selling the camping byelaw on the basis of dealing with these makes it appear more benevolent and well-meaning than it really is, if you read the small print of the proposal.

The reason I mention this for a second time is the appearance of a recent news article that seems to confirm my first thought, namely that the byelaw is redundant and unnecessary, and it does have an ulterior motive.

Operation Ironworks is described as follows:

A six-month operation to crack down on anti-social behaviour in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park has been launched by police.

Three police forces will work with park rangers to target problems such as littering and irresponsible fires.

Officers will also carry out high-profile patrols during the Operation Ironworks initiative.

Ch Insp Kevin Findlater, of Central Scotland Police, said a “minority” of visitors caused problems.

The operation will be led by Central Scotland Police and run in conjunction with the Strathclyde and Tayside Police forces, as well as the park authorities and Forestry Commission Scotland.

It is the third year in a row the initiative has been carried out in the area. Police say many of the incidents of anti-social behaviour in the park, such as vandalism, damage to trees and noise pollution, are fuelled by alcohol.

If the police can run Operation Ironworks without the camping byelaw in place, which the National Park authority has clearly stated is aimed at exactly the activities being targeted by the police and park rangers, it seems to suggest that the camping byelaw is redundant and unnecessary, unless it has some purpose other than dealing with vandalism, dumping, and anti-social behaviour.

After I made the original posting, I received an email from a Scot who moved to Australia many years ago, and while we have had only a few years of National Park authority in place, I’m told Australia has had this influence in place for over thirty years, and the writer was in no doubt that (in his opinion) they had done more harm than good, and he sees the potential for the same interference and imposition of authority here, and not for the benefit of the general public.

We can’t see the future, we can only look for similar examples, and then wait and see.

April 9, 2010 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

The National Park – benefit or bureaucracy?

Cop books sleeping camper under moonDespite the question in the title, I’m not going to attempt any sort of serious answer.

Rather, I’d like to stimulate some thought amongst those who may, and those who may not, be aware of Scotland’s first National Park, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, and possibly have them wonder what it’s for, and who, or what, are the winners and losers created by its existence.

I’m not going to restate the various items the park lists in its “What We Do” page, anyone can go there and read those for themselves.

Instead, I’m suggesting reflecting on the thoughts that people like Tom Weir and his friends (one being Bob Grieves – former Chief Technical Planner for Scotland, Chairman of the Highlands and Islands Development Board, and then President of The Friends of Loch Lomond) had many years ago, as they sat around a fire on the loch side, and considered the future of the area. They spoke then of development near Gartocharn, bungalows at four to the acre (not approved. Oddly enough, one of things these old hands highlighted was the fact that they were having a drum-up around a fire made from fallen wood gathered nearby, and that this could be done safely and responsibly without rules. The problem was not the fire, but the people making the fire, and whether or not they were responsible.

Weir’s Way – Water, Wind and Fire, Part 1

Weir’s Way – Water, Wind and Fire, Part 2

Weir’s Way – Water, Wind and Fire, Part 3

Weir’s Way – Water, Wind and Fire, Part 4

That programme (one of my personal favourites from the Weir’s Way series) was made back in the late 1970s (or early 1980s – unfortunately stv.tv chopped the copyright date from the end credits), and even then, those who took part and were close to the issue of the area’s future were far from decided.

Coincidentally, after all those years, the “lads” seen in that very episode could be in trouble if they were caught doing something similar in future, under new proposals for Camping Byelaws to Protect Bonny Banks by the bosses of the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park.

The Chief Executive for the National Park waffles about things like, “Most of the issues we face are related to informal camping and we have to look at taking action before the environment so many people enjoy is destroyed forever” and “the remains of tents, burnt down trees, abandoned campfires and countless bags of rubbish. The huge popularity and sheer numbers of people are slowly degrading Loch Lomondside”, and “incidents on the east side of the Loch that include drunkenness, vandalism and criminal damage”.

While I said I wasn’t going to attempt a serious answer, that doesn’t preclude any comments or observation, and I have a nasty suspicion that the National Park will slowly introduce more and more little byelaws which will eventually all join up to give it an unbreakable stranglehold over the area, eventually giving it powers the original backers of the national park never imagined it was have, or need.

Using the camping byelaw as an example, the impression I get is one of the park authorities writing words that allow their commercial camping activities to continue largely unaffected, and to formalise what they refer to as Restricted Zone, where informal camping can be carried out. Camp informally anywhere else, or even sleep overnight in a vehicle, and you may be asked to leave (with the option of a fine if you refuse, thereby committing an offence).

To me, the arrival and imposition of the National Park and its rules and regulations on the area of Loch Lomondside is something that the three wise men referred to above, who sat and discussed the options and aftermath around their camp fire some thirty or forty years ago, would have found deeply disturbing. I wonder if they would even have wanted to visit much of the area now, with all the organisation, rules, and regulation brought by the park. I think the three of them really would have “headed for the hills”, in order to get away from it all.

Click here to view the proposed Camping Byelaw

The consultation is open from February 8, 2010, to May 3, 2010. To have your say click here.

This is really nothing to do with the vandalism, dumping, anti-social  behaviour, trespass or the like which is being used to justify the proposal of this byelaw, all of which are subjects which could and should be dealt with existing legislation. Rather, it is a “back door” route to growing the power of the park authority, giving it control it would not be granted if sought for in one big bite.

The “ROAD CLOSED” sign might come out for more than just the odd freak accident.

Update

June 24, 2010, BBC News reported that the park’s proposal had been carried following the public consultation, with final approval being subject to agreement of the Scottish Government.

There were 286 responses to the public consultation, and the national park said 60% of respondents were in favour of the ban, which will make it an offence to camp in tents or other shelters within a 14 square kilometre (5.4 sq mile) restricted zone.

The park authority has said it had no plans to ban camping in other areas of the national park, which covers 1,865 square kilometres (720 sq miles).

BBC News – National Park approves Loch Lomond camping ban

Update 2

March 10, 2011, in what was hardly a surprise, BBC News reported that the national park’s byelaws had been approved by the Scottish Government.

Overall, the report, and the words of the national park’s spokesperson are reassuring. The enforcement period of the new byelaws is limited to the area between Drymen and, from March 1 to October 31 every year, and the byelaw is subject to review every three years, with the suggestion that if it has had the desired effect on its claimed aim of addressing anti-social behaviour within this particular area, that it might even be lifted altogether. It was also stated that there are no plans to ban camping in other parts of the national park, which contains 21 Munros.

The new seasonal laws make it an offence to camp in tents or other shelters in the nine-mile stretch between Drymen and Rowardennan, outside designated camping areas.

Ramblers Scotland, which had campaigned against the proposal, suggested it would have been much better if the bylaws had only been applied during July and August, so that a comparison of the periods with and without their influence could have been compared.

We can only wait and see how relevant these words, when we revisit this story in four years, and see if the byelaw expands, contracts, or remains in place, unchanged.

February 8, 2010 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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