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Climate & nature friendly visitor hubs on the cards for National Park

Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity Lorna Slater visited Tarbet this week to find out how a popular visitor site will be transformed into a low-carbon destination.

Ms Slater joined officials from Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority at Tarbet on west Loch Lomond, where a masterplan has been developed for the Tarbet Pier Picnic site to alleviate visitor pressures, improve biodiversity and help visitors embrace low emission travel.

Tarbet is a gateway and hub for arrival in the National Park, so this site was identified as a priority project in delivery of the Strategic Tourism Infrastructure Strategy for west Loch Lomond. Planning permission was granted last month for ambitious proposals that will transform the site and facilities over the coming years.

Following consultation with the local community and businesses, work will start later this year on a £1.5m first phase delivery project, which is supported by a grant from VisitScotland’s Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund (RTIF).

This phase includes:

• establishing the site as a sustainable travel hub – maximising connectivity between road, rail, active travel and water taxis
• additional native woodland and wildflower planting to enhance biodiversity and create new habitats
• expanded visitor and community facilities – new shelter and viewpoint, outdoor furniture and space for community events
• a cycle hub with repair station, covered cycle parking and charging points for e-bikes
• more accessible pedestrian facilities and improved cycling routes
• EV charging infrastructure and network upgrades to support the transition to low carbon travel
• improvements to motorhome facilities including better parking and waste disposal facilities

Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity Lorna Slater said:
“The Tarbet Masterplan, supported by our Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund, is an excellent example of how National Parks can lead the way, working with partners and business to strengthen tourism infrastructure through place-based investment and regeneration.

“Scotland’s National Parks play a critical role supporting local communities, businesses and visitors to work together in tackling the climate and biodiversity crises. They work hard to promote and support active travel, help manage facilities for visitors, promote responsible access and develop sustainable communities.

“Since the inception of the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund, £18.9m of grant funding has been awarded to 75 projects across 17 local authorities and both National Park authorities.”

Stuart Mearns, Director of Place at Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, comments: “Working together with our communities and visitors to tackle the twin crises of climate change and nature loss will be crucial to forging the future of the National Park for generations to come.

“The numbers of people and cars heading to popular locations such as Tarbet on busy summer days shows the value people place on time spent here.

“We now need to enable more sustainable ways for them to do that and the plans that we worked with the community and local businesses in Tarbet to develop are very much a blueprint for the future of our key visitor hubs.

“Services, information and infrastructure need to improve so that the National Park is more accessible for everyone and to help our visitors reduce the impacts of their visit.”

The National Park Authority secured £750,000 of funding towards the first phase of the project from VisitScotland’s Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund (RTIF). The fund was established by the Scottish Government to support projects that improve the visitor experience in parts of rural Scotland.

Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland Chief Executive, said: “Over the last five years, the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund has played an important role in improving Scotland’s visitor experience, whether it is providing additional car parking, toilets or footpaths. We want people to have a must visit, must return experience, so it is exciting to see this project progress.

“The additional facilities and biodiversity enhancement at Tarbet will improve the local environment, visitor experience and help alleviate the pressure on infrastructure. We all need to play our part in being responsible visitors and developments like these are crucial to ensuring our visitor destinations remain sustainable for years to come.”

Approximately four million visitors come to Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park each year and around 79 per cent of journeys are currently made by car.

Plans to create a Sustainable Travel Hub and to improve habitat and biodiversity at the Tarbet Pier Picnic Site align with the future vision for the National Park as set out in the draft National Park Partnership Plan Following a 12-week public consultation, the draft plan is being finalised before it goes to Scottish Ministers for approval then coming into effect in 2024.

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