Following on from the first stage consultation on the project, we have now updated our Frequently Asked Questions.

We will use this space to publish the most up-to-date information we have, when we are able to share it with you, so bookmark this blog if you want to be the first to know! To make it easier to find newer information, where sections have been added or updated, this will be indicated by 'Date of last update' (DoLU).

RSPB Scotland Loch Lomond

Nature Discovery Hub Project – FAQ’s and overview

Updated July 2024

What is it?

The Nature Discovery Hub (NDH) is a project being developed by the RSPB. It encompasses the creation of a new, environmentally sustainable and inclusive set of small buildings to be used as workspace, welfare space (toilets, breakroom), training, meeting and education space, visitor areas and a small café, alongside associated parking for bikes, cars and electric vehicles, nature-positive and sympathetic landscaping and importantly, the construction of a new path linking the RSPB site to the village of Gartocharn.

Where is it?

The Nature Discovery Hub and associated Community Link Path will be located entirely within the grounds of RSPB Scotland Loch Lomond, just outside of the village of Gartocharn. The Nature Discovery Hub would be constructed adjacent to the existing Nature Hub and car park already found on site. The Community Link Path connects from the existing Lomond Trail and follows a route which leads to the Aber Right of Way core path (road section).

Why is it needed?

The RSPB bought the Loch Lomond site in 2012, with a view to make this part of the Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve a great place for both wildlife and people. Since then, we have built a number of small facilities including picnic areas and pond dipping; constructed a new, inclusive path network; and developed some temporary space for visitors (the current Nature Hub). We have also been making use of Portacabin facilities for our office workspace and welfare facilities.

The site requires more permanent facilities to enable both our current and future workplans to develop. We cannot continue to work out of temporary structures which are a) unsightly in the National Scenic Area b) starting to degrade and c) not inclusive of the variety of different audiences we can and should be welcoming to both work with us and connect with nature. The current set-up is also not financially sustainable which is something we must consider as a charity.

When will it happen? DoLU - July 2024

We completed the first stage consultation on this project in May/June 2024, based around the initial design concepts. We are currently incorporating comments and suggestions from this consultation into our plans, before preparing an application for planning consent. This is likely to be submitted in July/August 2024 depending on the feedback we receive.

What will it look like?

Our architects at Lamp have developed some early concept drawings for us to use (see examples below). These are shown more fully on our other blog:

Loch Lomond's Legacy: Developing the Nature Discovery Hub - Loch Lomond and Black Devon Wetlands - Our work - The RSPB Community

We have closely considered materials, sustainable use of water, connectivity and inclusivity, options for heat/light/power etc. Following on from the design consultation, we are drawing closer to what we would like to see delivered for staff, volunteers and visitors to our site.

What are you current and predicted visitor numbers for the project and how are these worked out? DoLU - July 2024

RSPB Scotland Loch Lomond currently welcomes 12000 engaged visitors (visitors we’ve had a conversation with), plus an estimated additional 5000-7000 visitors that we do not engage with (out of hours visitors, and when the Nature Hub is not staffed). We also estimate around 8,000-10,000 visitor use the Shore Wood path each year, many of whom do not pass through the Nature Hub. We have recently installed new people counters which should allow us to keep increasingly more accurate data on visitor numbers. This totals around 25,000 to 27,000 visits at present, which works out to an average of 69 visitors per day.  Busier months of the year are April, May, July and August.

We expect visitors to peak at between 40,000-60,000. This may sound like a big increase but daily this would be an average of 110 – 165 people. This would be a gradual increase, giving us time to properly assess and manage any impacts.

How will you address the impacts of increased numbers of visitors to the Nature Reserve, and how this impacts wildlife? DoLU - July 2024

The RSPB is experienced at managing sites for the benefit of both nature and people. Having well-managed nature trails, well-trained staff and volunteers, and clear visitor information before and during a visit, will continue ensuring protected areas are treated with respect. We have zoned the land at RSPB Scotland Loch Lomond to ensure there are areas where visitors can engage with and be inspired by habitats and species, and other areas where we do not work to encourage visitors due to their sensitive nature.

Where there is more of a reliable staff and volunteer presence, the impacts caused by visitors decrease, as messaging can be delivered more consistently, and visitors hold each other to account. As staff, volunteers and visitor numbers increase on site, so do opportunities to engage with visitors about displaying positive behaviour in a natural environment.

Already on site we do the following:

  • Complete regular checks of visitor areas for litter, and collect this if found,
  • Speak to dog owners about responsible access,
  • Display signage and give information about areas sensitive for wildlife at different times of year,
  • Monitor desire lines and their impacts,
  • Speak to visitors about irresponsible behaviours,
  • Positively reinforce responsible behaviours.

I think the car park proposed is too big, why do you need this much space? Can’t you make it easier to reach the site without a car? DoLU - July 2024

In an ideal world, all our visitors would come to site on either public transport or transport with low-environmental impact. We would like to see this continue to be improved within the National Park and will actively promote options to do this on our web pages and pre-visit information. However, given the current transport availability and our location, it is not possible to rule out car travel altogether.

Our current car park includes 15 standard bays and one disabled bay, plus temporary spaces for up to 15 additional vehicles. Our proposed new car park incorporates spaces for staff, volunteers and visitors. It will include an increased number of accessible bays and electric vehicle charging points, and at least 10 spaces will be for staff working on site. We are also investigating the provision of a bus stop within the site.

We are also including in this development a link path to the village of Gartocharn. This links to the existing village facilities such as public transport, post office/shop, and some additional areas of car parking. It will also create a good walking route for visitors from the village to access the reserve without the use of vehicles.

Will you be promoting the site to coach tour companies? DoLU - July 2024

We have not determined the approach for site promotion yet and will consider the risks/benefits of this as part of our business plan. As we often welcome school groups and visiting institutions who travel by coach, we have chosen to include coach spaces in any development proposals as these would, otherwise, take up car parking spaces.

What is the overall size of the buildings and car park going to be? DoLU - July 2024

The final design layout for the buildings and car parking has not yet been finalised and is subject to change from the design proposals that were recently consulted on. This information will be made publicly available at the planning stage.

Have local people been consulted and are they happy with the proposals? DoLU - July 2024

So far, we have completed a consultation on the design of the buildings, which has included some early-stage discussions with local community groups and individuals, as well as site visitors. The majority of feedback has been positive, and we are addressing the concerns raised as part of this process. Further opportunities to feedback on the proposals will take place once the planning submission has been lodged.

Is this just a way for the RSPB to make money? DoLU - July 2024

The RSPB is a charity and relies upon donations and income generation opportunities to run its estate, for both nature and people. The RSPB Scotland Loch Lomond site is currently operating at a loss, so we must realistically look at the options for generating income to contribute towards the aims of the organisation, including habitat management for wildlife, path and facilities maintenance, toilet provision and much more. For RSPB Loch Lomond we are looking at small-scale catering, car parking charges, events and activities, amongst other things. Generating income is not the only reason for this proposal (which will be costly and will have maintenance implications) , but it is important that we are able to make the operation cost effective, otherwise we cannot deliver valuable benefits for wildlife and our community on site.

Have you thought about the impacts having a café will have on the environment and make-up of visitors to site? DoLU - July 2024

The RSPB runs several models for catering operations in the UK, and we will look at which of those will work best in this location. At present, we want to provide refreshments to visitors on site, including hot and cold drinks and snacks.  We will consider the environmental impacts of any waste produced from the operation and how to limit this and reduce any associated litter impacts from this.

Who do I contact to find out more?

The project team are happy to answer questions about this throughout the process. You can speak to us on 01389830670 or email