At a packed meeting of the Lomond Probus Club in Drymen last Thursday, James Fraser, Chairman of the Friends of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs made a passionate plea for all public sector bodies, including various Government Departments, to 'step up to the plate' to back the delivery of the new draft 5 year National Park Plan.
In a wide ranging talk on the challenges facing the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs area and the work of the Friends conservation charity he said:
''The draft Plan sets out an ambitious agenda with over 40 specific actions under the themes of conservation, visitor experience and rural development but as in the past there is a real danger that some public bodies go through the motions by broadly supporting the Plan but not prioritising resources to help deliver the actions identified given the current pressures on budgets.''
He added: '' We must ensure this is not be allowed to happen again as the scale of the issues and challenges facing what is the most heavily visited countryside destination in Scotland are too important not to be tackled in a more robust and effective partnership basis under the leadership of the National Park Authority.
‘’There is also an important role that the voluntary sector can play too through bodies such as the Friends and active local trade and community groups to ensure that the area does truly live up the expectations of visitors and locals as part of the worldwide family of National Parks.''
He also called on the National Park Authority to strive at all times to act in the best interests of the area and not to pander to the Scottish Government's insatiable drive to litter Scotland and the special scenic areas in and around the Park with large and visually intrusive wind turbine structures as part of the national renewable energy targets. He argued that the area could contribute to the targets in more sensitive ways such as run of the river hydro and biomass schemes.
He said: ''This is one of the major challenges facing the area with a number of contentious proposals in the pipeline which are dividing communities, and while we welcome a toughening of the policies on large scale wind farms in the new Park Local Plan, it is evident that the Park Authority is having its hands tied behind its back by the Scottish Government's directive that the Park must have pro windfarm policies relating to proposals inside and outside the Park''.
Other major issues he highlighted included the need to invest more in preventative measures. He contends this is required not only in helping to improve the health and well being of people and life chances of children in nearby urban areas through making greater use of the Park as an outdoor recreational and environmental educational resource, but also in pursuing a 'back to basics' agenda in maintaining the fabric of the infrastructure that already exists in the area to a much higher standard. He cited examples such as the West Highland Way long distance footpath, Outdoor Education Centres and litter management on the Loch Lomond islands and in the many lay-bys and car parks beside popular lochside locations throughout the area.
To read the Friends response to the draft Park plan click here