Residents and visitors urged to act responsibly as easing of lockdown approaches

Aberdeenshire residents and those from outwith the region are being urged to continue to act responsibly and follow ongoing public health advice following the Scottish Government’s scheduled easing of lockdown restrictions.

Monday, 29th March 2021, 6:00 am
Last summer’s easing identified a number of issues including widespread littering, dirty camping, public toileting and damage through unattended barbecues and campfires.

Changes will provide far greater opportunities for outdoor leisure and exercise which could see a surge in visitors to popular North-east tourist hotspots.

From April 2, the stay-at-home measures become stay local with travel within the local authority for a non-essential purpose being permitted. From April 26, travel within mainland Scotland is permitted and tourist accommodation can open with restrictions in place.

However many of the very popular attractions and trails have pinch points which could still jeopardise physical-distancing. While Aberdeenshire remains a mecca for visitors and relies on that tourism to support many of its communities and businesses, last summer’s easing identified a number of issues which caused significant problems.

There were reports of widespread littering, dirty camping, public toileting and damage through unattended barbecues and campfires which have no place in our countryside.

Many areas – including Linn o’ Dee and Glen Muick in the Cairngorms National Park - suffered from serious overcrowding which not only posed a health risk to visitors, but saw hundreds of vehicles including campervans being parked dangerously on roadside verges, blocking emergency access roads and, in some cases, damaging private land, prompting serious safety concerns.

Due to the likelihood of danger to the public, Aberdeenshire Council will, on occasions, be restricting entry to some areas over a 7-month period commencing April 1.

And as a result of the influx, many local communities felt unprepared to deal with this increase in visitors, particularly day visitors, campers and campervans. Now, with the rules being relaxed in April, Aberdeenshire Council and its partners are encouraging everyone to act responsibly to ensure we don’t see a repeat of last year’s problems.

Alan Wood, Director of Infrastructure Services, said: “We made it abundantly clear last year that we want people to enjoy our beautiful scenery, our attractions and the warm welcome you get in our towns and villages. The majority of people have respected our communities and we thank them for that.

“But we simply cannot have a repeat of the selfish behaviour and unsafe practices which were observed the length and breadth of Aberdeenshire last summer. We do not want to see an influx of visitors across the Aberdeenshire countryside causing congestion at our country parks, woodlands, uplands and coastal areas and the wider road network. Of course the easing of lockdown arrangements will be welcomed by everyone - particularly after a tough winter - but it remains absolutely critical that we ensure we all fully understand the guidelines before we emerge back into our communities.”

In a bid to prevent sites reaching capacity and traffic congestion, Aberdeenshire Council Ranger Service is once again encouraging people to have a Plan B when visiting the countryside.

Ranger Service coordinator Fiona Banks said: “We understand that people will want to visit some of the more well-known attractions, but we have so many wonderful areas of countryside and coastline in Aberdeenshire that it’s not worth risking our health or impacting on the countryside when it’s clearly become too crowded.

“So please have a back-up plan - if an area feels too busy or the car park is full, move to your Plan B site.”

The Ranger Service is stressing that the right to countryside access is only applicable when visitors behave responsibly.

If you are visiting our countryside with a dog it must be under proper control at all times. In areas where there is livestock or ground nesting birds, this means the dog should be on a short lead or close at heel, and you should not enter fields where there is livestock.

When you are out you should avoid farmyards and farm machinery and try to avoid touching surfaces such as gates or stiles.

If an area feels too busy, move on to your Plan B site.

The key message remains the same:

Stay local

By exercising near our own communities, we can help reduce the spread of the disease and the pressure on rural communities and emergency services.

Plan ahead

Some hotspots could be busy and facilities such as car parks, shops and toilets may be closed or access reduced, so plan ahead before setting out – including checking the relevant website and be prepared to move to your Plan B site.

Be responsible

Take extra care to follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, especially on farmland, and abide by the latest guidance, including on hygiene and physical distancing.

Take it easy

Support our NHS, emergency services and rescue teams during this challenging time by avoiding riskier outings and always remember the FACTS.

If you are a new visitor to countryside sites, the Scottish Outdoor Access Code will help you to understand your access rights and responsibilities.

For more detail on the code visit www.outdooraccess-scotland.scot

Meanwhile, toilets operated by Aberdeenshire Council and community groups will be opened from April to September from 8am-8pm. You can find out where they are here

Due to the likelihood of danger to the public, Aberdeenshire Council will apply the following ‘No Entry’ restrictions to traffic (when signs are erected) for seven months commencing April 1 for vehicles travelling:

In a westerly direction along the C1M from Linn Cottage to Linn O’Dee Cottage, Braemar

In a south-westerly direction on the C8M (B976 at Bridge of Muick to Linn of Muick road) from its junction with the B976

In a south-westerly direction on the U9M (B976 at Knock Cottage to C8M at Mill of Sterin road) from its junction with the B976

In a southerly direction on the C8M (B976 at Bridge of Muick to Linn of Muick Road) from its junction with the U9M (B976 at Knock Cottage to C8M at Mill of Sterin road)

The restriction won’t apply to pedal cycles, emergency vehicles or vehicles requiring access to properties only.