Wild camping at sites such as this at Rowardennan will be illegal if the bylaw is introduced

Wild camping at sites such as this at Rowardennan will be illegal if the bylaw is introduced

Walkers on the West Highland Way could be banned from wild camping on a 17km stretch of the route alongside Loch Lomond.

Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park Authority this week launched a 12-week consultation on plans to introduce bylaws that would make it illegal to camp outside designated sites between Drymen and Ptarmigan Lodge, north of Rowardennan. The authority says the proposal is in response to growing antisocial behaviour in the area.

The area in question covers 14 sq km and takes in some of the most popular sites on the eastern side of the loch, including Balmaha, Sallochy Bay, Millarochy and Rowardennan.

The national park says the measures are necessary to protect the beauty spots from irresponsible camping and the damage and disruption it causes. The bylaw would make it an offence to pitch a tent or set up any form of shelter including overnight sleeping in vehicles.

Although aimed at unruly elements that have caused major disruption in the area, the ban could have serious implications for walkers backpacking the 154km (96-mile) West Highland Way, the most popular long-distance trail in Scotland.

Camping would still be allowed on commercial sites such as those at Cashel and Millarochy, which both stand to benefit from the introduction of the new bylaw.

The authority says local residents support the camping ban.

Fiona Logan, the park’s chief executive, said: “This is undoubtedly some of the most beautiful scenery in Scotland and some of the most well known. We have amazing views along the banks of Loch Lomond but unfortunately, if you take a closer look on a busy summer weekend, you’ll find 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 we have to propose innovative ways to try and save the landscape around us. 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.

Sadly, not all campers follow this invocation at Rowardennan

Sadly, not all campers follow this invocation at Rowardennan

“The incidents on the east side of the loch that include drunkenness, vandalism and criminal damage, have meant that the local communities, the national park authority and its partners are looking at some innovative measures to deal with issues to try and protect the environment and allow people to have a more enjoyable visit.

“Our role is to support our communities and to ensure that everyone coming to the national park has a great experience of this precious place.”

The proposed ban follows Operation Ironworks, collaboration between Central Scotland Police, the park authority and Forestry Commission Scotland. Ms Logan said: “Ironworks has been a fantastic success and has seen our rangers working with Central Scotland Police to carry out joint patrols across the national park.

“We appointed a national park police officer to ensure effective joint working across the park between our communities, the police and our rangers. In a UK first, some of our rangers became employee-supported special constables.

“We now need to look at preventative measures as well as enforcement and this is why we have launched the camping byelaws consultation.”

Kevin Lilburn, director of the Buchanan Community Partnership and local resident, added: “The local community fully supports the introduction of the new bylaws. After many years of locals having to deal with the challenging issues associated with informal camping, we are delighted that the national park is taking positive action to improve the management of visitors to this iconic and beautiful area.”

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act gives the right to camp in the Scottish countryside but the right must be exercised responsibly. Any illegal actions lead to the forfeit of rights.

The full consultation document can be seen online.

Representations can also be made to the national park authority online.

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