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Updates for Businesses – May

A round up of the latest opportunities and information for businesses in the National Park

Cycle in the Park Forum

The Loch Lomond & the Trossachs Countryside Trust are committed to creating a ‘Cycle in the Park Welcome’ and developing Cycle Friendly Communities. A free to join webinar will take place on 1st June from 7pm – 8pm, providing a forum to connect and discuss with fellow attendees on cycling related issues and developments and is suitable for businesses and communities to join. Updates will be provided by guest speakers including:

  • Loch Lomond & the Trossachs Countryside Trust’s Active Travel Officer, Jim Riach on the Countryside Trust’s Cycle in the Park programme
  • Discussing Sustrans’ support for businesses on the National Cycling Network will be Jason Clark, Network Engagement Officer (Business & Tourism)
  • National Park Authority Visitor Experience Manager, Carol Matthews, talking about this year’s UCI Cycling World Championships

Please register to secure your spot at this event.

Creating a Climate Action Plan

VisitScotland’s step-by-step process has been created to assist businesses on their journey to Net Zero by 2045 through creating a Climate Action Plan. The move to a net zero economy is already happening, bringing both opportunities and challenges to businesses. Creating a Climate Action Plan will help you understand your contribution to emissions, identify opportunities and how you can respond. Climate Action Workbooks are included to download and use in conjunction with the guide. These workbooks will help you identify and measure emission sources, plan your actions, record progress and report on achievements.

National Park Greener Businesses toolkit

The National Park website also has a helpful business toolkit – Making Your Tourism Business Greener which is free to access and provides a range of useful ideas about how to approach making sustainable changes and links to other sources of advice and funding opportunities.

Accessibility Survey

The disabled access review website,, has published the findings of an Accessibility Survey. 7,500 people took part and some of the outcomes of the report highlight that the Cost of Living Crisis was a key element impacting disproportionately on disabled people, friends, families and carers. The research shows that 72% of respondents have found accessibility information on a venue’s website to be misleading, confusing or inaccurate, with a further 74% of participants also reported having experienced a disappointing trip or having had to change plans due to poor accessibility. A huge 91% of respondents advised that they try to find disabled access information about a new place before visiting, with 58% saying they avoid going to a venue if it has not shared its disabled access information because they assume it’s inaccessible. Respondents highlighted the top accessible facilities they need to improve their confidence to visit new places were accessible parking (80%) and accessible toilets (76%). Please read the full survey report.

National Park Access Toolkit

The National Park’s fee business toolkit – An Accessible Destination – is available on our website, providing useful tips and practical measures that can help to improve the visitor experience and information to allow customers to plan ahead.

Aberfoyle Changing Places

Stirling Council have announced that the Changing Place facility in Aberfoyle is now open. This facility provides much needed access to specially designed toilet and changing facilities for severely disabled people who need supports and space that cannot be provided in standard or accessible toilets. Having such a facility within Aberfoyle will enable disabled people and their carers to get out and about and enjoy the area without worrying about access to appropriate toilet facilities. Further information available on their website.

The National Minimum Wage & National Living Wage

The National Living and Minimum Wage rates increased on 1 April 2023. To ensure that your payroll is updated, please see the link below with advice on legal minimum rates of pay so your workers get paid at least what they are legally entitled to. Additional advice can be sought via the Acas Helpline to get advice and support to ensure that you understand what you need to do to pay your workers correctly. Further information is available on the employers’ National Minimum Wage page and a clear guide for employers and employees online.

STA Business Survey

The Scottish Tourism Alliance’s (STA) latest industry survey is now live, aiming to capture the current business environment that the tourism industry is operating in ahead of the summer visitor season commencing. The survey includes members’ views on business performance and confidence, the labour market, and future trading outlook. The findings will be used to inform the newly created New Deal for Business Group and to provide with an important evidence base the group can use to update the new Minister for Small Business, Trade and Innovation, Richard Lochhead MSP. All survey data will be treated confidentially and businesses of all sizes are encouraged to complete the survey before it closes on Weds 14th June.

Enhancing Tourism Events and Attractions Grants

A new West Dunbartonshire Council fund is offering grants of up to £10,000 to support the area’s events and visitor attractions. The grants are designed to create local employment opportunities through events that boost tourism spend. They can also support projects developed through expansion or diversification of a business’s products or services.

West Highland Way partnership

The West Highland Way has agreed a partnership with self-guided travel company Macs Adventure which will see the company donate £5 per passenger travelling on the WHW with Macs in 2023 going towards maintaining the path.

Sue Hilder, Chair of the West Highland Way Management Group said, “The West Highland Way is Scotland’s best-loved long-distance route but there are challenges in keeping such a popular route maintained, including increased costs of materials and the need for specialist labour skills.  We’re grateful for this additional support which will help ensure the route can be enjoyed by walkers for years to come.”

Tick awareness

Last month Public Health Scotland reported that a probable human case of tick-borne encephalitis is likely to have been acquired in the Loch Earn area of the National Park. This is the first probable human case of tick-borne encephalitis to be identified in Scotland.

Tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) is a virus carried by ticks and is common in many parts of the world, including in Europe. It causes a range of disease, from completely asymptomatic infection or mild flu-like illness, to severe infection in the central nervous system such as meningitis or encephalitis.

The risk of acquiring tick-borne encephalitis in Scotland is currently assessed as very low. However, ticks can carry a range of infections – notably Lyme Disease – so the news has emphasised the importance of being tick aware, trying to avoid being bitten by ticks and removing any ticks that do bite as quickly as possible.

More information about ticks, including prevention and removal is available on the NHS Inform website.

Join our webinar for an introduction to the Draft National Park Partnership Plan 2024-29

Last month we launched a 12-week public consultation on our Draft National Park Partnership Plan 2024-29.

The National Park Partnership Plan guides how all of those with a role to play in looking after the National Park will work together to manage the Park and achieve a shared vision for the area.

This Draft Plan has been developed as a focal point for conversations about the future of the National Park during the consultation period and beyond.

Globally, we are facing twin crises of the climate emergency and nature loss. Both crises are happening here and now in the National Park, in fact many of the impacts are being felt even more deeply and obviously here, so it is not enough to simply do what we have always done.

Tackling the nature and climate crises is not separate to supporting the rural economy and communities, which face other challenges such as an aging population, lack of affordable housing and skills shortages for rural businesses. In fact, working together to address these crises will provide a range of wider benefits, including more investment, business and employment opportunities, for everyone living and working in the National Park.

We need to transform the way each of us live in, work in, visit and look after the National Park to achieve a more positive, sustainable future for us all.

Making this transformational change will be a significant challenge and right now we don’t have all the answers. That is why, in addition to gathering views on the Draft Plan, we are asking everyone who lives and works in or visits the National Park to tell us more about their experiences.

To do this, we have developed an online consultation platform using Commonplace where you can:

  • Read the proposals from the Draft Plan to learn more about the challenges facing the National Park and how we can make a transformational change.
  • Use our Quick Survey or Interactive Map to share your stories and experiences in the National Park and the changes you would like to see.
  • Answer our Full Survey to tell us what role you can play in shaping a better future for the National Park.

Partner organisations who have a role to play in delivering for the National Park should use our Full Survey or submit a consultation response in writing.

More information on how to respond to the consultation or join the conversation online is available on our website. All responses must be submitted by 5pm on Wednesday 19th July 2023.

On Monday 5th June, 7pm, we will also be holding an online webinar for anyone who has a connection to the National Park to hear more about the Draft National Park Partnership Plan and how to take part in this consultation. The webinar will be held via Zoom and will take no longer than an hour. Please book your space at the webinar on Eventbrite and share this link with your networks and anyone who might be interested in hearing more.

Launching our Future Nature Route Map

This month saw the launch of our Future Nature route map when partners and stakeholders came together to pledge their commitment to significantly expand delivery of nature restoration initiatives across the National Park. At a launch event held at our headquarters, Lorna Slater MSP, Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity thanked all the partners involved in supporting Future Nature and urged them to be ambitious in its delivery.

National Park Convener Heather Reid reminded those attending that now more than ever, nature and climate need to be at the forefront of our minds and that collectively, we can take the significant changes and challenges we are facing and use them to reshape the National Park as a climate-resilient place where people and nature thrive together.

A short feature film was shared featuring interviews and footage from partners and stakeholders across the National Park, showcasing their work to date to restore nature and their ambition to do more. You can watch a teaser from the film below and watch the full video on our Youtube Channel.

The Route Map includes a vision for nature in 2030, offers a picture of how this nature-rich future might look and what benefits it could bring. It also lists an Outline Delivery Plan of key actions, some existing and some new that are ambitious and challenging to develop and deliver – but which are necessary if we are to restore our biodiversity. It acknowledges that simply trying to preserve the status quo of nature in the Park will be a failure on all our parts.

Future Nature forms the basis of the ‘Restoring Nature’ section of our Draft National Park Partnership Plan.

Investing in our estate to reach our Mission Zero

Our Mission Zero Route Map was launched in early 2020 to map our journey to reaching net zero emissions as an organisation by 2030.

Mission Zero is a complex portfolio of work which actively involves every area of our organisation. Since the Route Map was first launched, we have been working to scope in greater detail our portfolio of Mission Zero projects to achieve our 2030 goal and we are now in the delivery phase of the programme. This has included making significant investments in our upgrading our buildings and sites to help reduce our emissions.

In 2022/23 we invested more than £200,000 in upgrades and renewable technologies on our estate to help us along our Mission Zero journey. This included:

  • Installing Air Source Heat Pumps and heating system upgrades at Balmaha Visitor Centre to heat the building, meaning that we no longer require LPG gas. Solar Photovoltaic (PV) panels have also been installed to help power the building, although some electricity will still be needed from the grid in the winter period.
  • Air Source Heat Pumps have also been installed at Duncan Mills Memorial Slipway in Balloch, along with glazing upgrades and installation of a reception canopy to better retain heat within the building.
  • Solar PV panels and battery storage have also been installed at Loch Achray Campsite, meaning that we can reduce use of the diesel generator for power.

Internally, teams across the organisation have also been working to consider behaviours and processes which could help us reach our net zero goal, from reducing travel emissions by embedding a ‘digital first’ approach within our hybrid working principles, to using more sustainable catering for events and exploring the use of QR codes to reduce unnecessary printing.

Further investment in our estate is also planned in 2023/24 which will see the completion of some of our renewable energy projects at the sites listed above, as well as expanding works to other sites such as Loch Chon Campsite and our National Park Authority Headquarters in Balloch. Look out for more updates on these projects as they progress.

Bracklinn Bridge shortlisted for Scottish Design Award

The new bridge at Bracklinn Falls in Callander has been shortlisted for a Scottish Design Award in the category of ‘Best Low Cost Project’.

Work to install the new bridge began earlier this year and was completed in March – providing a safe place to view the spectacular Bracklinn Falls and allowing walkers to complete the full Bracklinn Circuit route once again.

The bridge was officially opened by National Park Authority Convener, Dr Heather Reid, at the end of March, at an event attended by local Councillors and members of the Callander community.

The new bridge is a simple and robust structure that fits well with the landscape of the Falls. It is made from ‘weathering’ steel which will develop over the next few months and gives it its distinctive rusty colour. The material was selected due to its longevity – giving up to 120 years design life – and the bridge is rated as highly sustainable due to the efficient design and use of materials.

It is the latest ‘Bracklinn Bridge’ to be built across the River Keltie at the Falls. According to Callander Heritage Society, the first ever bridge to span the gorge at Bracklinn consisted of two logs, covered with branches and overlaid with turf.

Additional improvements to the site have also been installed along with the new bridge, including benches and safety barriers. A new information panel sharing the history and culture of the area is also being produced for Bracklinn Falls, in conjunction with Callander Heritage Society and Cambusmore Estate.

UCI Cycling World Champions heading to Loch Lomond

From 3rd-13th August 2023, the UCI Cycling World Championships will be hosted in Glasgow and across Scotland. It will be the single biggest cycling event in history, bringing together for the first time 13 existing UCI World Championships into one mega event.

Preparations for the event took a further step forward last week with confirmation of route details for the road races. This includes two races that will start in Balloch in the National Park:

  • Saturday 12th August: Men Under 23 – Loch Lomond to Glasgow, 168km
  • Sunday 13th August: Women’s Elite road race – Loch Lomond to Glasgow, 154km

Both races will start at Balloch bridge before travelling through Gartocharn and Drymen then on through Stirlingshire, East Dunbartonshire and Glasgow.

To encourage everyone to get on bikes and cycle more, a local community weekend of cycling fun and activities is planned in June as part of the build-up to the World Championships. The community cycling hub run by West Dunbartonshire Council is supported by the National Park Authority and Loch Lomond Shores. It is funded jointly by EventScotland and West Dunbartonshire Council. A special day for schoolchildren is scheduled for Friday 16th June and then everyone of all ages and abilities, including those who have never been on a bike before or are yet to try out an e-bike are invited along to the community cycling activities and entertainment hub based outside the National Park Gateway Building at Loch Lomond Shores, Balloch, on Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th June.

Our Visitor Experience team is working with the UCI Cycling World Championships organisers to maximise opportunities for inclusion during this event and to manage the impact on communities and visitors that the events will have. Please look out for more on this from us over the coming weeks as plans progress.

Managing visitor pressures as the season gets underway

With three Bank Holidays and some warmer weather arriving at last, April and May have been busy months.

A stakeholder briefing took place ahead of the Easter weekend, when stakeholders from across the National Park had the opportunity to hear from Park Authority staff and some partners about plans for this visitor season. Those who attended were also able to ask questions and provide their feedback. A recording of the session is available on our website along with notes from the meeting.

Park Authority staff have also been meeting with partners from the National Park Safe Recovery Action Group to ensure close working again this season.

Our Seasonal Rangers completed their training in March and they have been working out of their operational offices with our senior Rangers since then. This allowed our seasonal Rangers time to gain valuable experience and knowledge of their patrol areas and their roles ahead of the busier months of the visitor season, when they will provide support throughout the National Park.

On water safety, the Ranger Team has been delivering waterside responder training to loch shore businesses and partners. We have had three partner events so far this season, which have taken place at Duncan Mills Memorial Slipway, Lomond shores, and Firkin point. We also have plans for various other events at different locations throughout the season. These events bring Rangers and partners together to provide visitors with advice on keeping themselves safe while in, on or by the water in the National Park.  Rangers have also begun a programme of education events at nearby schools.

National Park Authority campsites at Loch Chon, Loch Achray and on Inchcailloch have now opened for the season, offering campers with basic facilities in beautiful areas of the Park.

The first stage of works to upgrade the Conic Hill Path completed at the end of March and visitors have been discovering the wider, stronger path. With lambing season underway, signage and social media messaging are reminding visitors of the importance of keeping their dogs under control in the area.

Our visitor communications are in full swing and this season we will provide advice and inspiration for responsible visiting across a number of themes including water safety, litter, parking, camping and fire lighting.

Our Place Projects team continues to engage with Visitor Management Groups and local stakeholders on the Strategic Tourism Infrastructure Development studies for Callander and Strathard & Trossachs. These studies are being developed to identify areas of opportunity and actions to strengthen tourism infrastructure, address the needs of both residents and visitors, and create a framework to help secure additional funding for developing prioritised projects in key visitor management areas. You can find out more about these studies and the wider Place Programme on our website.

Low emissions travel will be a significant part of our work in coming years to transform the National Park into a more sustainable visitor destination. This work took a step forward this month when we went out to tender inviting experienced bus operators to work with us to pilot a shuttle bus service within the National Park during the peak summer months.

Our aspirations to run a similar pilot last summer came up against significant industry challenges – specifically around a shortage of drivers – and learnings from that work have helped shaped preparations for a similar pilot this year.

Around 79% of visitor journeys to the National Park are made by car and with volumes of car traffic only increasing, there is an urgent need to improve public and active transport options in the Park. As well as reducing emissions and relieving pressure on congested local roads, viable car-free travel options will also make the National Park a more inclusive visitor destination for those who do not have access to a car.

We are working closely Stirling Council to develop this year’s pilot. Such a trial will be valuable for us to gather learning on how a longer-term service might operate and be used by visitors and residents. As the tender returns are received, we will be in a better position in June to confirm next steps for this project.

Our next Board meeting

The next meeting of the National Park Authority Board will take place on Monday 12th June. The meeting will be held in person at the National Park Authority Headquarters in Balloch and will also be webcast live.

Items for discussion at the meeting will include:

  • Our Estates Strategy
  • Place Investment Strategy update
  • Annual Operating Plan update
  • An update from our CEO

Papers for the meeting and more information on how to listen to the discussions will soon be made available on our website.

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