Managing Visitor Number Pressures

The majority of the areas identified as possible locations for a new National Park possess highly valued environmental and natural qualities that are the result of their geographical location, careful and considerate land management, and a comparatively light footfall of visitor numbers. Any change to this balance will have an impact on the quality of environment of that area. This has been well demonstrated within both existing National Park boundaries. The marketing appeal of Scotland’s National Parks during the last decade and the substantial associated growth in visitor numbers has led to a considerable increase in environmental pressures within their boundaries, including air pollution, noise, habitat and wildlife disturbance, and in many cases disruption to the lives of those living within the boundaries. Recent figures for the Cairngorm National Park confirm that approximately 12% of all houses are now second homes, with this figure exceeding 20% in the Badenoch and Strathspey and Deeside areas. There is significant pressure on the availability of housing for people who live and work in the existing national parks The challenges in relation to obtaining planning permission for the building of environmentally and landscape friendly housing and facilities for established rural communities creates further pressure on existing housing stock. This is in contrast to the continued programme of unsympathetic residential development which must be better controlled in any new National Park if the environmental sustainability, cultural qualities and ‘sense of place’ are to be retained. Although some public transport links are available, the majority of visitors continue to arrive by their own motorised transport. This must be reduced if the environmental objectives of the existing National Parks are to be achieved. Internal combustion engine ‘free zones’ serviced by green public transport links across key locations would be a positive step towards reducing environmental pollution and increasing the chances of achieving the Scottish Government’s Net Zero targets. New National Parks should be required to have green transport infrastructure plans in place ahead of any designation being granted.

Why the contribution is important

The marketing appeal of Scotland’s National Parks during the last decade and the substantial associated growth in visitor numbers has led to a considerable increase in environmental pressures within their boundaries, including air pollution, noise, habitat and wildlife disturbance, and in many cases disruption to the lives of those living within the boundaries.

by SY on June 02, 2022 at 04:21PM

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Comments

  • Posted by ihl June 04, 2022 at 00:17

    I fully agree with these comments. The best way of protecting an area from all that is to not have a national park. I live in Galloway and dread to think what my future and quality of life here will be like if Galloway were to become a National Park.
  • Posted by croftercowrie June 04, 2022 at 21:41

    I fully endorse SY's and ihl's comments. I worry that a National Park is rather like sponsoring one child in a family through a charity such as Action Aid... what happens to the sponsored child's siblings? So if another part of Scotland becomes a National Park, do the other areas get left even further behind? The area I live in (Wester Ross) is dying: the primary school has closed; two Wee Free churches have closed; the local shop has closed; many of the crofts have absentee crofters, and the land is no longer worked. But the number of second/holiday houses rises inexorably, plus camper vans in the summer.
  • Posted by lizashburn June 05, 2022 at 11:53

    I agree with the above comments; I live in Dumfries and Galloway, already subject to problems of high levels of second home ownership and lack of affordable housing to rent or buy, low paid and seasonal employment. The current model of National Park designation would worsen these problems, and make it more difficult for Scotland to achieve the necessary carbon emission reductions and mitigation vital to counter climate change.
  • Posted by glasach June 05, 2022 at 17:09

    A national park, managed by a properly constituted board, will have the ability and funding to direct tourist traffic in the best possible way, to avoid concentration of too much traffic in one popular area; we can spread it out to reduce congestion and to benefit less well-known parts of the NP.
  • Posted by ganp1 June 05, 2022 at 19:56

    Glen Affric is an area with a significant tourist industry. Whilst this is positive in terms of generating income to the area there is always a danger that unrestricted tourist numbers damage the very thing they come to enjoy. Creating a national park in Glen Affric would present residents with further opportunities for controlling their environment by limiting the number of residences being sold as second homes and would give opportunities for regulating numbers and raising income by managing access by camper vans. Well managed tourism , focusing on quality rather than quantity improves the experience for visitors and for residents.
  • Posted by camusfearna June 05, 2022 at 21:57

    I agree with the concerns raised in most of the above comments and that serious consideration needs to be given to whether the designation of an area as a national park could in fact be counter-productive in terms of increasing visitor pressures, increasing the demand for second and holiday homes and so on. The control over visitor management, second home numbers etc sought by those arguing for Glen Affric to be a national park would not be delivered by such a designation. A national park authority has little, if any, direct control on such matters.
  • Posted by slochd June 06, 2022 at 12:33

    Some contraction in the comments Croftercowrie says - The area I live in (Wester Ross) is dying: the primary school has closed; two Wee Free churches have closed; the local shop has closed; many of the crofts have absentee crofters, and the land is no longer worked. But the number of second/holiday houses rises inexorably, plus camper vans in the summer. Lizashburn confirms this I live in Dumfries and Galloway, already subject to problems of high levels of second home ownership and lack of affordable housing to rent or buy, low paid and seasonal employment. This suggests that major pressures arise in areas where there is no NP. Interestingly some years back Wester Ross rejected an NP proposal. Local councils can now impose restrictions on second homes - previously this was subject to Human Rights challenge. As camusfearna notes many of these issues are not covered by or controlled by NP legislation and other public bodies only have to have 'due regard' for NP Plans. Local development plans , which NPAs can control are an essential tool. In the Cairngorms the NPA asks developers for very high levels of affordable housing unit on their allocated plots. Problems arise when developers decide that building a high percentage of affordable homes does deliver sufficient profit and hence opt out of building any houses at all.
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