Pentland Hills park is a wonderful place blighted by parking problems and littering – Steve Cardownie

Some time ago I devoted my column to the problem that some visitors and campers were causing at Harlaw Reservoir and it would appear that the situation has not improved.

By Steve Cardownie
Wednesday, 20th January 2021, 7:00 am
The Pentland Hills sit to the south of Edinburgh and provide a variety of excellent hilly walks (Picture: Shutterstock)
The Pentland Hills sit to the south of Edinburgh and provide a variety of excellent hilly walks (Picture: Shutterstock)

The area is still plagued by anti-social behaviour, by individuals who care not one whit for the environment or other visitors (many with children) and have continued to blight the area.

The demand for car parking, and the problems it causes when the car parks overflow and create a headache for visitors who can’t find a space, is another issue that is soon to be addressed.

In an effort to resolve this issue, the Pentland Hills Regional Park Joint Committee will convene this afternoon to discuss a number of initiatives which could enhance the visitor experience to this beauty spot. It will discuss a report by Paul Lawrence, the city council’s director of place, which seeks endorsement of a number of improvement measures.

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In reference to car parking, the report points out that 85 per cent of visitors to the park arrive by private vehicle, which means that the car parks regularly reach capacity and cars “often park inconsiderately, blocking access to farm machinery, emergency vehicles or local residents”, and proposes that a combination of measures (a shuttle bus, an improved bus service and more or better paths to the park) “would not only be more sustainable but also make the park more accessible to the less well-off”.

A visitor survey conducted at the tail-end of last year indicated that 51 per cent had “experienced issues with parking provision at any of the four principal car parks in the regional park”.

As a result, car park improvements are also on the agenda and it is recommended that the committee approves the estimated cost of such, made up from its own resources and other contributors. The same survey showed that 66 per cent of the 1864 responses favoured the introduction of a parking charge with 90 per cent of 1574 respondents in favour of the money raised being retained by the park for car park and path improvements. The committee is therefore invited to support the introduction of charges and is likely to do so.

On the question of camping, the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 states that people can exercise access rights for recreational purposes and the Scottish Outdoor Access Code provides advice on wild camping which states that this type of camping is lightweight, done in small numbers and only for short periods.

The report, however, states that many campers are “leaving significant amounts of litter, including human waste, sanitary items and toilet paper” as well as” sourcing wood for campfires from living trees".

To combat this, the report recommends that a campsite be established, which all campers will be required to use under park rules, monitored by a staff member to supervise its use and “manage issues as bookings and payments to be processed by an online booking system”.

The campsite would see the installation of fire pits with tent areas suitably set back. Emergency fire/water buckets would be provided as well as the construction of a waterless toilet system and the installation of a water supply for “dish-washing/drinking purposes".

The park is a great resource and, with the improvements proposed, it can only get better.

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