RESTRICTIONS on the decades-old right to camp on the shores of some of Scotland's most famous lochs could soon come into force.

 

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The plan is contained in recommendations put forward following a public consultation on how to best protect the natural environment of the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park.

The core element of the proposals include the creation of four 'byelaw zones' covering 3.7per cent of the Park's total area, where camping would only be allowed by permit and would be completely banned during some periods of the year to allow the ground to recover. Around 300 camping places will also be created.

Park authorities and local groups have become increasingly alarmed at the amount of litter left by campers and the scale of the damage done each year to beauty spots.

Chief among the concerns were people using lochshores as a toilet, felling trees for firewood, abandoning of entire campsites and summer-long, unauthorised caravan encampments in laybys with no facilities.

In his report to the Board, Gordon Watson, chief executive of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority, said: "Among the many magnificent landscapes in the National Park, the lochs and loch shores stand out as perhaps our most distinctive and memorable natural attractions and, therefore, deserve particular attention and care.

"These proposals recognise our responsibility to promote access and recreation in the Park, and take a measured and proportionate approach designed to protect the lochshore environments under threat, while delivering enhanced camping provision."

"These recommendations build on the significant success of the balanced package of measures to tackle the same issues on east Loch Lomond since 2011, as well as years of evidence gathered from Ranger patrols and from Operation Ironworks with Police Scotland."

Police say that the restrictions introduced to East Loch Lomond have helped cut antisocial behaviour by 81 per cent.

Davie Flynn, chief superintendent, Police Scotland, said the force was generally supportive of the introduction of a byelaw replicating the purpose and spirit of the existing east Loch Lomond byelaw in other parts of the National Park where visitor pressure, crime and antisocial behaviour is affecting safety, quality of life and the environment.

He said: "This support extends only when implemented as part of a suite of wider measures such as those introduced from 2011 in east Loch Lomond."

The proposals have also been welcomed by the local community, with Richard Graham, local business owner and member of St Fillans Community Council, saying: "It is quite clear when you look at the transformation at East Loch Lomond, that the legislation works.

"People who come to enjoy themselves and use the Park for the numerous activities available here, have nothing to fear from these changes. Quite the reverse, these changes mean that visitors will be able to have a significantly better experience."

"It's heart-breaking to see the damage being done to such a beautiful area, the rubbish being left here and the constant anti-social behaviour.

Kim Proven, chair of Loch Earn Tourism Initiative (LETI) added: "Repeat business is essential in tourism so I am right behind the Park Authority's aims to bring in changes which will help keep this special place beautiful so that everyone can enjoy it.

"Our local economy relies on tourism from both day trippers and those coming from further afield, so we want them to have an outstanding experience that is fitting of a National Park."

However, outdoor activities groups have spoken of their disappointment over the proposals, which they fear will block access to the park.

Andrea Partridge, Access Officer for the The Mountaineering Council of Scotland, said: "Many thousands of people will be affected by these proposals, from the climber and walker to touring cyclists and kayakers.

"The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 was a landmark piece of legislation and yet it is being eroded by a National Park Authority which has a primary aim to promote understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the area by the public."

The Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority Board will consider recommendations next week.