Lochaber councillors support approach to tackle visitor management

There was anger after campers visited Glen Etive at the weekend, leaving behind tents and rubbish. NO F40 Glen Etive camp site

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Proposed actions to address the impacts of booming post-lockdown tourism in Lochaber have received support from members of Highland Council’s Lochaber Area Committee this week.

A variety of new local approaches will be introduced for the tourism season in 2021 pending available resources and funding.

Lochaber councillors thanked Police Scotland for its support and assistance in the local area throughout the 2020 tourism season in responding to hotspot issues and welcomed the partnership approach moving forward.

To tackle roads, parking and transport service issues the council will introduce ‘not suitable for large vehicles’ signs on some narrow rural and single-track roads and missing passing place signs at priority locations will be replaced. Enlargement and maintenance of some passing places and laybys will also be carried out.

To help improve driver behaviour, members discussed that visitors not used to driving on single track roads need to be informed and educated on the inappropriate use of passing places.

To address the issue of parking overnight in non-designated areas, new areas for parking will be designated where possible, and the introduction of charges for parking and overnight stays creating income to help fund required new infrastructure and support services. Clear signage will be reviewed for car parks, information points, and trails.

The introduction of community bus schemes, park-and-ride, or additional seasonal loop bus routes could also help alleviate traffic and parking issues.

Traffic Regulation Orders can be introduced where there are safety critical issues – with the appropriate prior local consultation and enforcement by staff/rangers is also required in remote areas.

At Glen Nevis, local roads staff and Police Scotland have attended and managed traffic and, in some cases, removed vehicles; and the local council roads team are working with Parking Enforcement colleagues in drafting traffic orders for year-round waiting restrictions to improve the situation by managing the inappropriate parking near the cemetery.

At the Traigh and Morar Area, the council’s local roads team is drafting a Traffic Regulation Order for seasonal waiting restrictions to improve the situation by managing the inappropriate parking near Toigal.

A new rural tourism infrastructure bid scheme is now under way for Glen Etive combined with Glencoe. The scheme development is being led by the National Trust for Scotland with local council officers working closely with the NTS.

Discussions are ongoing with local officers about issues and requirements at various locations including the Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge; Clachaig; Loch Arkaig; Kilchoan and Kinlochleven.

Caol and Mallaig councillor Ben Thompson told us: ‘We had a very positive discussion with the new Chief Superintendent, Conrad Trickett, about how best to deal with summer tourism pressures.

‘The police have been very supportive over the past summer lifting cars at Silver Sands, Glen Nevis. They do have to respond to emergencies at no notice and simply can’t commit to being present at tourism hotspots ahead of the busiest weekends, so it’s clear that other solutions need to be brought in.

‘My own preference is to combine a seasonal ranger and traffic enforcement role, possibly funded from car parking charges. The council is working on proposals of that nature, along with improved infrastructure such as much improved waste disposal.

‘Those plans were submitted to the Scottish Government for funding and support and we are still hopeful of a positive response.’

Lochaber councillor Ben Thompson. Photograph: Abrightside Photography. FW Councillor Ben Thompson 1no JP
Lochaber councillor Ben Thompson. Photograph: Abrightside Photography.
FW Councillor Ben Thompson 1no JP

The council says it hopes that the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund criteria may be altered by Scottish Government to enable more applications and that timescales will allow progress to be achieved where possible before next season.