MSP warns more protection needed along Lochaber’s famous beaches

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As the new summer tourism season looms, local constituency MSP Kate Forbes has called for more protection for green areas such as verges along the roads at Morar’s famous Silver Sands.

Covid lockdown travel bans apart, recent years have seen the verges at Morar and nearby Arisaig hammered by parked cars and campervans, while cases of dirty camping have left litter strewn about, along with burned out disposable barbecues and even human faeces.

After lockdown began in March, 2020, Highland Council’s Tourism Committee adopted a Visitor Manager Plan to address the issues of ‘staycationing’ and agreed to fund 10 Access Rangers.

But with a new tourism season and an influx of visitors ahead, Ms Forbes cautioned that while tourism is a crucial part of Lochaber’s rural economy, it must work with local communities and landscapes.

Commenting, she said: ‘Silver Sands in Morar, with its picturesque beaches and views, is one such place that is sometimes a victim of its attraction. The stretch of coastline has often been full of campers and motorhomes, most of whom are respectful of the environment, but sadly not all,’ she said.

‘This neglect by some on our local communities can have direct consequences on our landscape and emergency services. It is promising to see that verges on the road have been repaired, but more action must be taken to see the protection it deserves.’

Recently a local Caol and Mallaig ward councillor updated the B8008 group for those living along this roadway between Arisaig and Morar.

Councillor Henderson said good progress had been made with the works proposed by the council to control indiscriminate and numbers parking at Tougal/Silver Sands and Traigh.

Councillor Henderson informed the group that work on Kinigarry hill , the lay-bys and beach side repairs at Tougal have now been completed. There is evidence of overrun on the built up sandy verges so extra mitigation will be put in place to try to prevent this.

The facilities group has also applied for planning permission for the extra capacity small car park opposite the beach and continues to progress to the community takeover of the toilet and current car park.

Building up of roadside verges at Traigh to keep road open for service vehicles, emergency responses and reduce numbers has also concluded and NatureScot/Rangers/Estate are working together to temporarily lightly fence off any overused grassy beach areas.

Permanent visitor management signs, operated locally are also to be installed at each entrance to the B8008. They will replace the expensive temporary mobile signs that were trialled at the end of season 2021.

Rangers will continue to operate and will be assisted by police when required. The traffic enforcement officer is now fully trained and will also be assisting, not just at the beaches, but in the villages.

However, said Councillor Henderson, no progress had been made with identifying park-and-ride sites, or funding to run buses from them to the beaches.

Extra, larger bins were due to be put out at the end of March, with additional uplifts will begin from then onwards.

Hopefully all these measures taken together will make for a more enjoyable summer for all – tourists and locals,’ Councillor Henderson concluded.