Forbes says steps needed now to tackle traffic and beach chaos

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Highland Council and Police Scotland have adequate existing powers to implement and enforce any new restrictions needed to tackle dirty camping and traffic chaos along the beaches and roads at Arisaig and Morar.

So said MSP Kate Forbes, responding to further scenes of traffic problems along the B8008 as well as more reports of open fires, human excrement being left behind and discarded rubbish.

Lochaber constituency MSP Kate Forbes. NO F35 KATE FORBES 02
Lochaber constituency MSP Kate Forbes says immediate action needs to be taken to tackle problems of dirty camping.

Last Wednesday, regular visitor Hope Blamire said she counted 230 cars parked on the road between Traigh beach and the sands at Morar.

She also highlighted the existence of Facebook groups with more than 100,000 members where people were encouraged to camp on these particular beaches.

The remains of one of the numerous fires lit by people at Arisiag beaches on the May bank holiday weekend and which contributed to local nursery youngsters missing out on a walk. Photograph: Hope Blamire. NO F24 Arisaig beach fire
The remains of one of the numerous fires lit by people at Arisaig beaches recently. Photograph: Hope Blamire.
NO F24 Arisaig beach fire

Caol and Mallaig ward councillor Ben Thompson said there was a serious question to be answered about how police resources have been reduced in the area over the past decade.

‘I’m told by retired officers that Mallaig used to have six officers, including a sergeant. Now it is only three. I don’t see how the local police, having to respond single-crewed, can cope, despite the huge efforts they put in,’ said Mr Thompson.

Councillor Ben Thompson who says questions need to be asked about police resources in the area.
FW Councillor Ben Thompson 2no JP

‘The answer might not require the original force of six to be put back in place, but when the population of rural areas quadruples in summer, the police resource should be sufficient and flexible enough to follow that to some extent.’

Fellow ward councillor Allan Henderson believes it is really a few who are spoiling great days at the beach for the majority and said local politicians and responsible landowners must provide alternatives instead of constantly criticising.

‘This is no easy task as consent of usable land is seen as a concession, but frankly we need to convince ourselves that the campervan and ‘wild camper’ – in their eyes – are not going anywhere fast so we need to develop alternative facilities for them and quick.’

Councillor Allan Henderson has already met with council officials as part of efforts to find an alternative site for the waste facility. NO F06 Allan-Henderson-
Councillor Allan Henderson who believes it is a few who are spoiling great days at the beach for the majority.
NO F06 Allan-Henderson-

As far as bins are concerned, Mr Henderson said the council was putting out as many as it can collect and still delivers a fair system to everyone.

But Ms Forbes said more can and should be done. ‘Elsewhere in the constituency, like Aviemore, steps have been taken to ban fires to reduce the amount of overnight camping. That should absolutely be done now,’ she said.

‘Between Highland Council and Police Scotland, there are adequate powers to implement and enforce new restrictions. I would strongly encourage these steps to be taken. If other places in the Highlands can do this, then so can Arisaig and Morar.’

Asked to comment, Police Scotland’s Area Commander for South Highland, Chief Inspector Jen Valentine, said:  ‘We are aware of the ongoing issues regarding inconsiderate parking near the beaches at Morar and Arisaig.

‘Officers carry out routine patrols in these areas and we are working closely with Highland Council. We urge people to be responsible and considerate to the areas they are visiting.’

CAPTIO: More than 200 vehicles were counted along the beach road from Arisaig to Morar one day in the middle of last week. NO F23 Morar roadside