A CONTROVERSIAL plan to ban wild camping from areas around one of Scotland's most popular beauty spots has been approved by the Scottish Government.
Environment Minister Dr Aileen McLeod has given to go-ahead for new bylaws which will establish a camping-free zone around almost all of the west side of Loch Lomond and other parts of the national park.
Park bosses have become increasingly concerned about the amount of rubbish, including abandoned tents, beer cans and human waste that have been strewn around the shores of the Loch by overnight campers.
Visitors will be now be ordered to stay in three new ‘camping management zones’ after Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority deemed that roadside campsites and the problems associated with antisocial campers were damaging the environment.
The plan has been approved in the face of opposition from ramblers and outdoor sports enthusiasts, who say that the proposed bylaws would restrict access and punish those who camp responsibly.
The new rules will ban wild camping in areas on the west side of Loch Lomond; north Loch Long; strips around Loch Ard and Loch Venachar; and the road side of Loch Lubnaig, Loch Earn and Loch Voil. In total, 3.7 per cent of the park will be covered by the new rules, which will operate between March and September.
Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority Convener Linda McKay welcomed the announcement, saying: “This is tremendously positive news for all those who, like us, want to protect and enhance some of Scotland’s most precious natural places.
“These carefully considered proposals reflect the views of a wide body of interests and demonstrate the delicate balance that needs to be struck when caring for our National Parks.
"We firmly believe that the combination of improved camping facilities alongside management of camping pressures on our loch shores will encourage people to enjoy everything that’s great about Scotland outdoors, while protecting Loch Lomond & The Trossachs for this generation, and the next.”
However, Jess Dolan, Director of Ramblers Scotland said many hikers would be disappointed by the decision, which will come into effect for the 2017 season.
This is to allow time to establish 300 camping places in designated areas.
She said: “This is a sad day for everyone who holds Scottish access rights dear. The national park itself has admitted that most of the anti-social problems arising from some camping activities are caused by a lack of infrastructure and enforcement of existing legislation.
"Therefore we are disappointed that the Minister has decided to approve byelaws, albeit with a short delay before they come into effect".
Herald Scotland: Map of the areas affected