We hope this email finds you safe and well. As we move into Spring, the Scottish Government begins to set out steps to relax the current COVID protection measures over the coming months, and with some key items being considered at our upcoming Board meeting, we want to update you all on our current services and some of our plans for this year, including the expected increase in visitors as Scotland moves out of lockdown.
Firstly, in line with current guidance, our offices and buildings remain closed and staff continue to work remotely to provide services as normal as far as possible. There are of course some changes to our services and we are continuing to work hard to minimise disruption as much as possible. Thank you for bearing with us as we continue to operate through the pandemic. You can find more information about our services at this time on our Coronavirus advice hub.
However, as the effects of the pandemic are likely to continue for some time to come, our focus for this year must look beyond our immediate response to COVID-19. At the next meeting of the National Park Board, we will be presenting our draft plan for the year which looks at the four key priorities that we will be working to progress. You can find out more on this below, along with updates on some of our key areas of work.
The next meeting of the National Park Authority Board will be held on Monday 15th March. Due to the current restrictions this will be held as a virtual meeting and will be webcast for public viewing. Papers for the meeting and details of how to view the webcast are available on our website. The meeting will cover a number of key items including our 2021/22 Annual Operational Plan and Budget, as well as updates on our plans for managing visitor pressures anticipated this season, our work to support communities and our role in tackling both the climate and nature crises.
Annual Operational Plan
One of the key papers being presented to Board members this month is our draft Annual Operational Plan which sets out priority areas of work for the National Park Authority for the year. It is a key document for establishing what we aim to accomplish in 2021/22.
Our 2021/22 plan focuses on the short term actions we need to take as a direct result of COVID-19 and the things we will be doing to adjust to new economic and social realities, while ensuring we keep our core purpose of protecting the National Park for the present and future at the top of our agenda. The plan, and our subsequent work programme for the year, is focused on four themes:
- Taking and inspiring action to address the Global Climate Emergency
- Restoring and protecting nature in the National Park
- Working collaboratively on positive solutions to growing visitor numbers
- Making our organisation, our people, and the National Park more resilient through a green recovery
You can read the plan in full on our website.
Budget for 2021/22
Following a strong case made to Scottish Government for additional investment in the National Park, we were delighted to be told that the draft Scottish budget indicates a very welcome increase in the proposed allocation to the National Park Authority. This represents a significant opportunity for us. Not only does the budget settlement include additional funds to help cover our COVID-19 response, it will allow us to rebuild organisational resilience which has been lost over a number of years with more challenging budgets. This will include bringing in additional skills and capacity where needed. It also provides the opportunity to be more ambitious in our work on tackling the Global Climate Emergency and the nature crisis, both key priorities for the organisation, and to invest in sustainable solutions that help improve the experience of both visitors to the National Park and those who live and work here.
At the upcoming meeting, Board members will decide on budget priorities recommended by officers based on the themes and activities proposed in our draft Annual Operational Plan. These recommendations are also available to view along with the papers for the meeting.
While the current travel restrictions remain in place for now limiting the number of visitors to the National Park, we are working hard to prepare for what we expect will be another very busy visitor season this year as COVID restrictions begin to relax. In particular with overseas travel and events expected to be impacted by ongoing COVID protection measures there will continue to be a high demand for staycations and daytrips.
Over the last few months we have been continuing to meet with a variety of groups, including community representatives, businesses, landowners, Councillors and MSPs with wards within the National Park, to discuss preparations for the coming visitor season and where visitor management efforts should be focused in 2021. Notes from some of these meetings are available on our website.
The National Park Safe Recovery Action Group (NPSRAG) also continues to meet regularly to co-ordinate visitor management planning. Together we have prepared a Joint Visitor Management Response Plan for coming season which will be presented to the National Park Board at the March meeting. The draft plan sets out a clear approach and collective plan of action for the 2021 season from the range of public bodies involved in managing visitor related pressures across the National Park. The plan covers the three themes of:
- information and engagement
- enforcement and regulation
- infrastructure and services
Information and engagement
A joint Visitor Management Communications Plan has been developed to ensure joined up messaging to visitors and stakeholders from all NPSRAG partners to encourage everyone to behave responsibly when visiting the National Park. The plan also includes messaging and campaigns that will be jointly delivered around responsible parking, fire lighting, camping, what to do with litter and human waste, and water safety. These messages will also be echoed and fed into national campaigns which we will be helping to deliver locally. Our full Ranger Service, with increased seasonal staff, will also be out on the ground from 1st April using face to face engagement to support and encourage visitors to enjoy the National Park responsibly.
Enforcement and regulation
The seasonal Camping Management Byelaws came back into effect on Monday 1st March and we will continue to enforce both these and the Loch Lomond Byelaws in partnership with Police Scotland and our National Park Police Officer.
We are also working closely to coordinate with our local authority partners to ensure there is an increased on the ground presence from all organisations, including more staff available to take enforcement action when needed on parking, litter and flytipping.
Infrastructure and services
Currently most car parks around the National Park remain open to support local recreation, and these will remain open throughout the season with visitors strongly encouraged to plan ahead by using the car park status information provided on our website.
Toilets are open with COVID-19 safety measures in place and we will again be supplementing the level of toilet provision at key hotspot locations with additional temporary toilets, including some new locations where it was identified from last season that this was needed.
Partner visitor sites, such as visitor centres at Balmaha and The Lodge, Aberfoyle and the Duncan Mills Memorial Slipway in Balloch, will also be opened with appropriate social distancing measures in place when the easing of COVID-19 restrictions allow.
A number of other measures are being developed around our infrastructure and services for this season, including parking and traffic management measures including permanent Clearways, expanded parking capacity at specific locations for peak summer and new signage in certain hotspot locations; a continuation of the human waste interventions piloted in 2019 to combat irresponsible toileting; and an expansion of last year’s pilot project to help manage traffic and parking pressures by providing ‘live’ car park updates at weekends.
Following its approval last year we are also continuing to work with a subgroup of partners to implement our Litter Prevention Strategy, with a core focus on improved capacity and resilience to cope with the anticipated high visitor numbers over the coming season. Three new Environment Officers are being recruited for this season to help support our litter and waste services. As well as managing litter at sites that we own or manage, these posts will help to support waste services across the National Park, including deep cleans of permit areas and dealing with flytipped camping equipment. Once COVID restrictions are eased, we will also look to deliver a rolling programme of National Park-wide volunteer opportunities to increase our ability to tackle litter and flytipping at sites that are not normally within our or our partner’s patrols.
Alongside this significantly enhanced service, we will also continue to review the National Park’s ‘binfrastructure’ (ensuring we have the right bins in the right place). The smart bins that were installed last year thanks to funding through the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund are fully operational and starting to bring us benefits such as increased bin volume and alerting us when nearing capacity. During this season we will be scheduling increased bin uplift at our most popular sites and evaluating options for new bins where required.
Longer term planning
While the Joint Visitor Management Response Plan covers actions from all partners for 2021 and improvements to our response this year, we also acknowledge that some issues require more complex solutions and need a longer term approach. For example the provision of more sustainable transport options around the National Park. A key focus of our work this year is to look at longer term solutions and we look forward to continuing conversations with you, as valued stakeholders, about how these might work. A number of virtual engagement opportunities are being planned throughout the season to help you to both stay informed about our work to manage visitor pressures and to feed into discussions on our longer term visitor management planning. If you have any questions about this or would like to discuss things further, please get in touch with us at email@example.com.
We believe that as a National Park Authority, whose fundamental aim is to conserve and enhance the natural heritage of this special part of Scotland, we should be a leading organisation in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.
We’ve made progress in the actions we’ve taken to date, but over the next decade we will make a real step change in how we operate – putting emissions reduction at the heart of our decision-making. With this goal in sight, we will dramatically reduce the emissions associated with the work we undertake, the services we deliver and those arising from across the land and buildings we manage.
By 2030, we will be a net zero emitting organisation. This is our Mission Zero.
In December 2020, National Park Board members approved our route map for how we will reach this ambitious target which we are now delighted to be able to share with you.
We are now at the start of this journey and while it will not be straight forward, we look forward to monitoring and sharing our progress with you as we go. Please look out for further updates on this over the coming months and years.
At the end of 2020 we joined the Cairngorms National Park Authority in becoming the first of the UK’s National Parks to sign up to the Edinburgh Declaration – an international commitment to reversing nature loss.
The Declaration, which the Scottish Government published in August 2019, is a statement of intent outlining how subnational governments and local authorities will work together to take bold action on tackling loss of biodiversity. It commits to standing with other public bodies to deliver transformative actions on nature by increasing resources and building capacity for nature-based solutions, raising public awareness, working locally with partner bodies and private businesses, and aligning with national plans and strategies.
Our National Park Partnership Plan sets out ambitious plans for expansion of native woodlands and restoring damaged peatlands, two actions that help tackle both the loss of nature and climate change. We will use this as a platform to build on the successes we’ve had so far through our Wild Park programme and other nature conservation initiatives, and to work on a regional scale as a Regional Land Use Partnership pilot area, to achieve greater outcomes for the National Park and our precious natural resources.
Read more about our Wild Park programme for action that outlines some of the key environmental threats facing nature in the National Park and how we are working to tackle them. We have also recently published our Biodiversity Duty Report for 20218-2020 which sets out the actions we have taken to meet our biodiversity duty as a public body.
Keeping in touch
We hope this update has been helpful in providing you with more information on our curent operations in lockdown as well as some of the priority areas of work we are progressing as our staff continue to work remotely.
As 2021 progresses, we are planning for more communications like this to keep you informed of our work and what is happening in the National Park. If there are other topics or issues that you would like to hear about in these emails, please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, a series of handy links are available below with more information on the COVID-19 pandemic and our ongoing response.
- Feedback email address
- Scottish Government latest on Coronavirus
- NHS Inform’s latest on Coronavirus
- National Park Authority Coronavirus hub
- Community Partnership website
- Argyll & Bute Council Coronavirus information
- Perth & Kinross Council Coronavirus information
- Stirling Council Coronavirus information
- West Dunbartonshire Council Coronavirus information