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Parking ban fears building at the Cairngorms' most popular beauty spot

By Tom Ramage

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Long-time loch side parking by one of the Highlands' most popular beauty spot is to be banned leading to huge concerns over traffic congestion and road safety when the main tourist season arrives.

Concerned local Highland councillors are urging Forestry and Land Scotland to use part of the nearby Hayfield as overflow car parking at Glenmore.

Glenmore: plans to create hard-standing parking places along the road have been suspended since last year.
Glenmore: plans to create hard-standing parking places along the road have been suspended since last year.

A leading business on the shores of Loch Morlich has urged the public agency to 'get real' and tackle the major congestion which occurs throughout most of the summer.

Two years ago Highland Council, the Cairngorms National Park Authority, NatureScot and FLS agreed to upgrade the parking areas along the side of the ski road in the vicinity.

The stretches had long been used as informal car parking, and work started including making hard stand, level parking areas on the loch side of the road and forming a bund to prevent parking on the opposite side of the carriageway.

But concerns were raised by local conservationists to alleged damage being to Caledonian pines before the work was completed and the work was halted while the claims were investigated.

This meant that last summer the loch side parking areas were all coned off with no alternatives being provided for the crowds, leading to chaos along the loch side last summer.

More that one million people visit Loch Morlich and the surrounding every year.

The Strathy understands that FLS' environmental impact study has now concluded that the material being placed at the loch side would adversely affect the trees and so will have to be removed and no parking will be allowed along the loch side in the future.

This means there will be even fewer parking spaces than pre-pandemic.

This week FLS has confirmed it is currently looking at parking issues by Loch Morlich.

Ever more popular: Loch Morlich's famous beach
Ever more popular: Loch Morlich's famous beach

Local councillors have stepped up calls for the landlord to provide space at the Hayfield for overflow car parking.

A source told the 'Strathy': "FLS have made comments about the environmental impact of too many people visiting Glenmore and there are fear that they are using the lack of parking as a way of reducing visitor numbers which will adversely affect businesses such as Loch Morlich Watersports and the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre."

Councillor Russell Jones: calling for a workable resolution.
Councillor Russell Jones: calling for a workable resolution.

Local member Russell Jones is hugely frustrated by the saga.

He said: "The parking situation at Glenmore is intolerable and has to be resolved before the good weather arrives.

"For as long as most of us can remember there has been road side parking at Loch Morlich which while not ideal at least provided parking for visitors.

"Whatever the rights and wrongs of the ill-fated upgrade of these areas the fact is that we have to find more parking at Glenmore or we will have an extremely dangerous situation again this summer as people will be parked all over the place and young children will end up walking along the busy road on their way to the beach.

"If FLS believe that by not providing more parking they will cut down on visitor numbers then they only need to look at the chaos of last summer to see that this policy will not work.

"People will still come to Glenmore and park where ever they can which will lead to misery for locals as cars are parked in front of houses and just left on the road, potentially blocking access for fire engines and ambulances in the event of an emergency.

"Those who run businesses in Glenmore are very fearful of the FLS parking clamp down as it could adversely affect their visitor numbers and viability of their business.

"I don’t believe FLS have a remit to do this. The answer to the problem is an overflow car park at the Hayfield and the construction of a path to the loch side from there.

"This car park would only be open on busy days and closed off when not required and should not allow camper vans to use it as a free camp site.

"This could be achieved and managed in a partnership between FLS and Highland Council which would make things safer for local people and safeguard Glenmore business visitor numbers.

"Hopefully FLS can manage to agree to this and the work at the loch side and Hayfield can be completed before the summer season.

Councillor Bill Lobban: FLS position is unsustainable
Councillor Bill Lobban: FLS position is unsustainable

Fellow local councillor Bill Lobban said: "The current situation where FLS have conveniently buried their heads in the Glenmore sand is completely unsustainable.

"Tourists will continue to flock to Glenmore in their thousands and so they should – it's the jewel in the crown of the national park.

"Their idea that simply reducing the availability of parking will cure the problem is bonkers.

"Unless we do something now we will have yet another season of vehicles being abandoned anywhere there is a space.

"FLS need a reality check and open up the Hayfield as an overspill car park for busy times and bin their current attitude that Big Brother knows better."

Councillor Muriel Cockburn said: "I hope all can quickly sort out this impasse. Common sense needs to prevail."

Neil Highmore, who runs Loch Morlich Watersports, said he could not agree more with local councillors. He said: "It's a very, very sore point with us.

Neil Highmore and son Neil at Loch Morlich Watersports: totally behind the local politicians' stance and the need to 'get real' over parking in Glenmore
Neil Highmore and son Neil at Loch Morlich Watersports: totally behind the local politicians' stance and the need to 'get real' over parking in Glenmore

"FLS cannot discriminate against the free movement of people here, tourists or otherwise.

"They are now talking of reinstating all the parking spaces.

"Yes, the Hayfield helps, when it's made available anyway, but it's a kilometre away from the Boathouse and that is a very long way for a mum and her buggy and her trailing other kids.

"It's just not practical to ban parking near the loch. They're talking about 'Park and Ride', shipping up maybe 50 people in a bus every hour – have they any idea how many people use this place in the season?

"Someone put the overall figure at one million last year so what's 50 people an hour?

"They have to get real, not discourage the very people we are all relying on."

FLS' visitor services manager Paul Hibberd: said: “Glenmore is increasingly popular and it can be challenging to manage this demand whilst protecting the special qualities of the area.

“We have been looking at parking and access issues in Glenmore which includes the potential to use the Hayfield as a temporary overflow car park for the busiest days this year.

“However, we need to ensure that the additional parking will be safe and will not impact the protected environmental characteristics. We are continuing to work on this plan.”

The agency also said visitors should be aware that Glenmore can be extremely busy on hot, sunny days and it’s helpful to have a “Plan B” in case facilities are full.

They pointed out that Glenmore can be accessed by bus or by the off-road Old Logging Way cycle route from Aviemore.

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