'Bunch of numpties' must open Glenmore Campsite
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The lease operators of Glenmore Campsite have been described as a 'bunch of numpties' by the convener of Highland Council for their refusal to open up the site.
Camping in the Forest – owned by the Camping and Caravanning Club – has closed the busy site until April 2021 because of the coronavirus lockdown despite restrictions being lifted citing commercial reasons.
The Scottish Government and landowners Forestry and Land Scotland have been trying to get them to change their mind – including an offer to support their rent – but so far CiTF will not be budged.
Emergency services were called out to Loch Morlich repeatedly over the weekend with a spate of camp fires being lit by so-called dirty campers despite warnings not to do so and lighting fires in wooded areas being against the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
Highland Council convener Bill Lobban said: “Who can blame people for wanting to visit Loch Morlich – especially after months of lockdown there are few more beautiful places on the planet – but they must act responsibly.
"The lochside is a very special place and we must not allow it to be trashed by the inconsiderate few who think it's okay to scatter their litter and worse still human waste over the entire area.
"We have always welcomed people who head off into the hills with a tent and a stove and who leave no trace that they have been there but what we see on the shores of the loch is not ‘wild camping’ as we know it.
"It is irresponsible and downright dangerous given the possibility of camp fires getting out of control.
"Part of the problem has to be the lack of facilities which leads me to that bunch of numpties Camping in the Forest why haven’t they opened their campsite? Don’t they like to make money.
"It’s a difficult problem for the police, fire and the Cairngorms National Park Authority as the access authority and our economy needs tourism – safe, responsible tourism not mayhem.”
Fellow local councillor Muriel Cockburn said that the scenes at Loch Morlich over the weekend were not wild camping.
She said: "True wild campers completely respect and honour our environment. The camping scenes we have witnessed have shown a disregard an unacceptable behaviour for our Great Outdoors."
Mark Tate, chief executive of the Cairngorms Business Partnership, said that some of the activities at the beauty spot at the weekend were not only irresponsible but illegal - including chopping down trees.
He said: "Businesses have worked hard to be ready to open in a way that gives confidence to communities, employees and visitors.
"The situation at one of our most special and iconic places, Glenmore, last weekend is in danger of undermining all that work and certainly does not give much confidence to the Glenmore community and businesses.
"We estimate that between 5,000 and 7,000 visitors were in the national park over the weekend enjoying our world renowned hospitality and providing much needed income to support local businesses, jobs and communities.
"The actions of a few at Glenmore are not acceptable and some of the behaviour was not only irresponsible, it was illegal.
"I welcomed the opportunity to meet with Forestry and Land Scotland, CNPA and the emergency services this week and welcome the more proactive approach proposed by Forestry and Land Scotland to manage visitors who arrive at the site.
"Of course the situation is significantly undermined by the closure of the formal campsite at Glenmore and we urge CiTF to rethink this decision urgently."
Pete Crane, head of visitor services at the CNPA said there was no place for dirty campers in the national park.
He said: “Responsible wild campers are always welcome in the Cairngorms National Park – irresponsible ‘dirty’ campers, the likes of which we have seen at Loch Morlich and other places in the Park last weekend, are not.
"What was witnessed at the weekend was anti-social behaviour by a selfish minority of campers which is a drain on our emergency services as well as local rangers who are trying to ensure everyone has a pleasant time, stays safe and helps to look after the environment.
"We have been meeting with Forestry & Land Scotland who manage the area, Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service and have agreed an enhanced presence at Glenmore in the coming weeks which we hope will help to avoid a repeat of last weekend."
One possibility would be to introduce a bye-law in the area to regulate or prohibit camping – as operates in parts of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park – but for now at least that seems a step too far.
Mr Crane said: "We would hope that this is a route that we don’t have to go down by trying to better educate people about their responsibilities when enjoying the outdoors but we will be closely monitoring the situation in the coming weeks and will assess the information gathered in due course.”