Gladhouse Reservoir parking banned after claims wildlife are being hurt

Parking at a protected reservoir has been banned for the summer amid reports of wildlife being chased and hurt, and claims of assaults, public urination and litter dumping.

By Marie Sharp, LDR
Monday, 11th April 2022, 2:49 pm
Updated Monday, 11th April 2022, 2:59 pm

Local users of Gladhouse Reservoir have been left angered after Midlothian Council introduced a six month parking ban on the road to the north of the beauty spot.

The reservoir, which is popular with wild swimmers and water sports enthusiasts, was at the heart of a Scottish Water survey into its usage which saw more than 1,000 people take part.

But while the utility firm is looking into creating a car park for visitors at the site and said it would work with the council to introduce parking restrictions once it was open, the local authority has from today banned visitors from parking for six months.

Children playing at Gladhouse Reservoir in Midlothian.

The move has led to an appeal to the council to rethink the ban, with one mum, who is among a number of wild swimmers who visit the reservoir, saying it made it impossible for her and others to continue visiting.

The council said the restriction, which is in place until October, has been introduced because of “safety concerns raised by our emergency partners concerning access in the event of an incident or emergency”.

However Midlothian MSP Colin Beattie said anti-social behaviour had been at the centre of concerns raised by local residents.

He told one local resident: “I have spoken with colleagues within Midlothian Council and have been advised of some serious concerns from some residents local to the area.

Morag Bootland, from Roslin

“These include difficulties for bin lorries accessing households, human waste and used contraceptives being left, damage to trees, urinating in public, chasing and hurting wildlife, lots of rubbish left behind including used BBQs and reports of assaults/abusive behaviour towards local residents.

“There are also serious concerns that due to the high volume and sometimes inconsiderate parking by visitors to the area, that access for emergency service vehicles may be severely restricted.”

His views have been echoed by other regular users who complained about the decision, with one regular swimmer saying his local councillor said the anti-social behaviour of some visitors had left officers with no alternative.

He said: “I was told people behaved so badly that it was not felt the area could wait for the car park and action was needed now. It’s a blow to those of us who do use it properly and respect the area.”

The reservoir is a Ramsar site – a protected wetland because of a population of pink-footed geese.

It is also home to a large number of greylag geese as well as other waterbirds from tufted ducks to greater crested and little grebes.

The new clearway restricts parking along the U80 Gladhouse Road which provides direct access to the reservoir, with people able to park to the west of the site.

Morag Bootland, who lives in Roslin, visits the reservoir to swim at least twice a week all year round and regularly takes her family there.

She said incidents of anti-social behaviour were ‘very occasional’ and pleaded with the council to reconsider the ban which she said would make it impossible for many regular users to visit.

She said: “I can’t even begin to explain to you how important it is to my mental and physical health.

“As an unpaid carer it provides respite in the beauty of nature and with an injured foot allows me to exercise.

“I meet other swimmers on each visit who love this place as much as I do.

“And while I have witnessed very occasional anti-social behaviour and irresponsible parking, in the main the people who visit Gladhouse are respectful of this beautiful place.”

She added the new restriction would “effectively make it impossible for anyone to visit the reservoir by car during the next six months”.

She said: “This is devastating for me and I’m sure it will be for many others. Especially anyone with young children, the elderly and disabled people.

“Why on earth is this restriction being put in place ahead of the car parking facility? This is a place where Midlothian locals can enjoy nature and the outdoors following two incredibly difficult years. In the midst of a cost of living crisis it provides a place to get away from financial worries.”

A Midlothian Council spokesperson said: “The temporary restrictions will be monitored throughout the period to October 2 and are in response to safety concerns raised by our emergency partners concerning access in the event of an incident or emergency, due to the volume of parked vehicles.

“While encouraging activity and wellbeing, public safety remains the priority. Drivers can still park outwith the designated clearway and we encourage visitors to do so with due care and consideration.”