HEART 200

This page contains information and documents relating to the proposed Heart 200 Tourist Route.

  1. Updates
  2. Background on Heart 200
  3. Who to Write To
  4. FVA Letter
  5. Example Letter
  6. Letter Template
  1. Updates

Last month, we had a meeting between community representative and Heart 200 directors, Robbie Cairns and Gordon Riddler. Those attending on behalf of the community were Sue Dolan-Betney (GL&LT Community Council), Peter Ely (Kenmore & Acharn CC), Fiona Ballantyne (FVA) and Jenny Penfold (local resident/general coordinator for H200 issues).

We covered a wide range of issues, many with a local emphasis and some with wider implications. Overall the meeting was friendly and constructive, and we came away with the impression that the directors wish to promote Heart 200 as a sustainable, slow tourism initiative, and that they are keen to have community input.

 We were pleased to hear that the intention is not to emulate the North Coast 500 with its associated problems, and that the directors are open to the Heart 200 website being used as a platform to provide information that will not only improve the tourist experience but will also help to manage negative impacts on local residents.

We discussed:

  • adding pins on the H200 map to show the sites of all toilets, waste dump points, recycling centres for rubbish, camp sites, legitimate overnight parking places and rubbish bins on the route;
  • adding information to the site about known ‘pinch points’ – for example Kenmore Bridge and the loch front road in Kenmore on sunny days – and encouraging alternative routes during busy periods;
  • helping to protect vulnerable areas, such as Glen Lyon, by not actively promoting them;
  • indicating where roads are not suitable for vehicles over a certain size;
  • making information about driving on Scotland’s roads more prominent on the site and more accessible to people whose first language is not English.  This should include tips about driving on the left;
  • encouraging green tourism.  For example, promoting local bus routes such as the hail-and-ride 91 bus that covers a circular route between Aberfeldy and Fearnan. 

We also had a discussion about the fact that routes with a number attached automatically attract the racers (there is a Facebook page on which motorcyclists share their times for ‘doing’ the Heart 200) and the implicit objective for anyone following the route is to complete the 200 or 500 miles, rather than spend time exploring an area in depth. It also encourages unofficial car/motorbike rallies that use circular routes.

We suggested breaking the map of the route into more clearly defined sections so that it looks less like a 200 mile linear route and, given that speeding is an increasing problem around the Lochside and through villages, we asked the directors to consider removing the number (200) from their brand. 

Following the meeting, we received an email confirming that they would be taking on board all the points we had made, and although the Heart 200 brand name would stay the same, importantly, the 200 will be used to point to visitor attractions rather than length – for example: 200 castles, 200 trails or 200 hotels and a new strap line will be introduced to underline this change.  There will be no special emphasis on the 200-mile circular route. It will be used primarily as the key to access a Heart network of 200 plus trails, sub routes and family day out trips.

We have also been invited to have representation on the Heart 200 Website Steering Group, which is to be established soon.

In summary, we were pleased with the positive and receptive response to our concerns and to our proposed solutions, and with the proposal to maintain on-going contact through the Steering Group. As with all things, there is a balance to be struck, and if Heart 200 is able to promote sustainable tourism whilst also promoting courteous use of the roads, and respect for the local environment, it would mean a lot to local residents. 

Previous Updates

The ‘Coffee Shop’ provided an opportunity to get an update on the Heart 200 situation.  Letters have now been sent to the Chairs of other Community Councils whose areas will be affected by this tourism route, and also to individual Community Councillors.  Others contacted include environmental organisations such as the RSPB, the John Muir Trust, the Community Land Trust and Greenpeace.

The impact of these ‘hit and run’ tourist routes on local communities and the wear and tear on Scotland’s environmental landmarks has become the subject of an increasing amount of press comment.  Three relevant articles from the last few days are:

Scotsman: https://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/outdoors/wild-landscapes-under-threat-as-tourism-soars-1-4934650

The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2019/may/25/dark-side-scotland-north-coast-500-route-speeding-congestion-protest

Perthshire Advertiser: https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/local-news/concerns-heart-new-tourist-route-16193232

In the Scotland on Sunday article, the John Muir Trust are calling for more joined up thinking between those promoting tourism and those managing it and highlighting the damage being done to our wild areas and local communities by the increasing numbers of tourists.

2.Background on Heart 200

Heart 200 is a new touring route of approximately 200 miles around Perth, Stirling, The Trossachs and Highland Perthshire, and modelled on the North Coast 500.  It is due to launch at the end of May, and although it has been long in the planning, there has been little or no attempt to inform the residents and businesses that it will affect. Nor has there been an assessment of the capability of the local road network or other infrastructure to cope with the planned extra traffic.

From the map below, you can see that it goes through Fearnan.

You don’t need to spend long driving on the roads around Loch Tay to realise that the local road infrastructure is struggling to cope.  Local residents share a network of single track and fairly elderly A and B roads with wood lorries, construction vehicles, touring coaches, mobile homes, and other tourist traffic.  Even on the A-roads, an increasing number of vehicles are so big that they no longer fit on one side of the road and spill over the white line, creating problems for on-coming traffic and further erosion of the road edges and verges. On our single-track roads, the problems are magnified.

Add to this flooding and drainage concerns, inadequately maintained and signed passing-places, potholes and winter gritting problems and you have a number of road safety issues.

But it is not just the road infrastructure that is the problem. People who live on the North Coast 500 route say that it has changed their whole way of life and decreased amenity value to residents and for those visitors who come to enjoy a tranquil rural setting.  They have experienced increases in traffic hold ups, road wear/damage, noise, pollution, rubbish, and wild camping with its associated problems of rubbish and dumping of human waste. The route has also had a detrimental effect on some businesses, particularly self-catering and other businesses reliant on a peaceful rural environment and quiet roads, like farmers. 

In other words there is a significant social cost that is currently being ignored by the operators and the Council. PKC are providing a grant of £45,000 this project – a significant sum of public money to be invested without the Council appearing to have taken on board any of the lessons that might have been learned from NC500.  Nor has any preparatory work been undertaken to make the roads fit for purpose or to put in place the kind of infrastructure required to support a busy driving route (fit for purpose roads, toilets, rubbish bins, signage etc).

The process through which this scheme is being brought to the market lacks integrity and Fearnan Village Association believes that the launch of this project should be delayed until the operators and Council have:

  • Conducted a proper consultation with the people directly affected by this proposal and established how residents’ and business owners’ concerns can be mitigated;
  • Established how carbon emissions, rubbish, and disruption to residents and rural businesses will be managed by the operators;
  • Conducted a review of the state of the roads that will carry the extra traffic, made them fit for purpose, and identified the roads (such as Fearnan to Coshieville) that are not suitable and need to be excluded from the route, with proper signage to this effect;
  • Established a comprehensive system of monitoring the economic and social impacts of this project.

3. WHO TO WRITE TO

If you wish to comment on this proposed route, we suggest you write to or email the following people:

Mr. Robert Cairns, Director of Heart 200, Fortingall Hotel, Fortingall, Aberfeldy, PH15 2NQ email: info@heart200.scot

Mr. Alan Graham Planning and Development, PKC, Pullar House, 35 Kinnoull Street, Perth PH1 5GD email: AGraham@pkc.gov.uk

Ward Councillors: c/o Perth & Kinross Council, 2 High Street, Perth PH1 5PH

Cllr John Duff – email: jcduff@pkc.gov.uk

Cllr Mike Williamson – email: mwilliamson@pkc.gov.uk

Cllr Xander McDade – email: XMcDade@pkc.gov.uk

If you are commenting by email, you may also wish to include the following in the circulation list:

Mr.John Swinney, MSP for Perthshire North, 17 – 19 Leslie Street, Blairgowrie PH10 6AH email: john.swinney.msp@parliament.scot

Mr. Murdo Fraser MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, The Control Tower, Perth Airport, Scone PH2 6PL email: murdo.fraser.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

Cllr Murray Lyle, Leader of Council – email: mlyle@pkc.gov.uk

4. FVA’s LETTER

29th May 2019

Dear

Concerns about Heart 200

On behalf of its members, Fearnan Village Association wishes to express serious concern about the process by which the decision was reached to launch and allocate public funds to the new tourist route, Heart 200.  As far as we can see, this has been done without any preparatory work to ensure the road network is fit for purpose and without the courtesy of informing the residents who will be affected (in the same way at that residents on the North Coast 500 have been affected) by increased road usage, traffic hold ups, noise, pollution, inappropriate waste disposal and damage to local beauty spots by over use. (Only today it is reported that the Fortingall Yew is in poor condition due to the constant cutting of souvenirs by tourists.)

Road Network: It is self-evident that in the Loch Tay area, the road infrastructure is struggling to cope with the current volume of traffic and size of vehicles. Local residents share a network of single track and fairly elderly A and B roads with wood lorries, construction vehicles, touring coaches, and mobile homes, along with other commercial and tourist traffic.  Even on the A-roads, an increasing number of vehicles are so big that they no longer fit on one side of the road and spill over the white line, creating problems for on-coming traffic (particularly on blind corners), and further erosion of the road edges and verges. On our single-track roads, the problems are magnified.

Add to this regular flooding and drainage issues, inadequately maintained and signed passing-places, potholes and winter gritting problems and you have a number of road safety issues. Deliberately encouraging more vehicles to use the roads flies in the face of safety and current concerns about carbon emission.

As regular users of the roads, Fearnan residents would specifically like to ask:

What preparatory work has been undertaken in terms of upgrading the road network to ensure it is fit for purpose, and what infrastructure has been put in place such as toilets, rubbish bins and overnight parking and waste disposal for mobile homes in remote areas?

What signage is to be put in place to stop inappropriate vehicles attempting to drive on, and then getting stuck on, roads that are too steep, too narrow and full of sharp bends? (Simply noting a road as unsuitable on the Heart 200 website, as we have been told by the PR company, is wholly inadequate).

What consultation has been undertaken with the emergency services on accessing accident sites on remote single-track roads that will quickly become blocked by other vehicles?

Public Consultation: There may be no obligation for the operators to consult with local residents and small businesses, but against the background of a sizeable public grant, it might have been considered expedient to provide information at the very least. People who live on the North Coast 500 route say that it has changed their whole way of life and has decreased amenity value for residents and for those visitors who used to come to enjoy a tranquil, rural setting.  They have experienced increases in traffic hold ups, road wear/damage, noise, pollution, rubbish, and wild camping with its associated problems of rubbish and dumping of human waste. The route has also had a detrimental effect on some businesses, particularly self-catering and other businesses reliant on a peaceful rural environment and quiet roads, like farmers.  In other words, there is a significant social cost that is currently being ignored.

The negative impacts of this type of tourism have been receiving a lot of publicity, and we would like to know what steps have been taken to mitigate such problems in the case of Heart 200?

One worrying impact has been on the decreasing demand for self-catering accommodation on NC500.  Although top-level tourism statistics show a decline in numbers of 17% since 2011, a more sophisticated analysis would show that small communities, such as Fearnan, have experienced increasing demand for self-catering, fuelled by internet websites.  It is the only form of economic activity in the village (no shop, no hotel) and an important source of income for a number of residents.

But the business model that is being brought forward has had a demonstrably negative effect on self-catering units, whose business model is based on 2+ nights. The established pattern on existing driving routes is that people do not linger (irrespective of the fact the route is promoted as a ‘slow route’). Rather, they press on to complete the route and get the next Instagrammable picture.

The process through which this scheme is being brought to the market lacks integrity and the launch of this project should be delayed until the operators and Council have:

  • Conducted a proper consultation with the people directly affected by this proposal and established how residents’ and business owners’ concerns can be mitigated;
  • Established how carbon emissions, rubbish, and disruption to residents and rural businesses will be managed by the operators;
  • Conducted a review of the state of the roads that will carry the extra traffic, made them fit for purpose, and identified the roads (such as Fearnan to Coshieville) that are not suitable and need to be excluded from the route, with proper signage to this effect;
  • Established a comprehensive system of monitoring the economic and social impacts of this project.

We look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

5. AN EXAMPLE LETTER

Subject: Concern about Heart 200

I write to express my considerable concern over this project on three fronts.


First, there has been wholly inadequate consultation with communities along the route, both residential and small business.
Second, there is no evidence of any impact assessment of extra vehicles and increased numbers of people on infrastructure, the environment, and the unique features of the areas suggested by the route.
Third, substantial public funds have been allocated to the project without evidence of a process to ensure value for money and return on investment in the scheme. 

I understand this is a privately led initiative but it has been allocated public funds, and any necessary improvements to, and reparation of damage to infrastructure will lie with the taxpayer. The taxpayer will also have to deal with loss of amenity around their homes and possibly business, with all that flows from that. I see the money is already being spent on PR consultants. I attach a letter that demonstrates their cursory approach to a local resident in response to an email.

When Skye got its new bridge, the immediate effect was congestion and lack of accommodation. Following the introduction of Road Equivalent Tariff on ferries, the Outer Isles were inundated with camper vans which for example overran the machair in Harris. To visit Orkney, it’s best to avoid days with cruise ships present, unless you like to queue for our revered historic locations like Scara Brae. And the NC 500, well what desecration of an iconic route! I could elaborate on all of these issues but know they are well reported and documented elsewhere, including national and regional newspapers.

We do not seem to have learned any lessons since we are about to embark on Heart 200 without satisfactory preparation and analysis. 

Surely there can be a better process applied before we spoil yet another part of our magnificent country and in particular our treasured Highland Perthshire with its defining feature of rural tranquillity. 

I understand that a target start date for Heart 200 is 1st July 2019 and I propose the following actions be taken to make for a more robust framework for this project which can avoid the pitfalls identified from the other initiatives tabled above.

  1. Clear information to be provided to communities on the route and extension routes including estimates of the type and numbers of visitors and their mode of transport;
  2. A comprehensive consultation exercise to take place with all affected communities and which listens to concerns and put in place actions to mitigate them;
  3. Measure the existing situation regarding the level and nature of traffic type, roads used and tourism numbers and accommodation pattern;
  4. Carry out an assessment of the infrastructure and its capacity to cope with increased demand, including a road safety risk analysis, and create a costed plan to correct deficiencies and allocate a budget.
  5. Carry out an impact study on the environment and carbon footprint. 

I appeal to you to use whatever influence and power you have to support action along these lines before another goose is killed before it lays the golden eggs.

I look forward to hearing further from you. 

Yours sincerely,

6. LETTER TEMPLATE

The following template contains some of the points that you might like to cover in your own letter. The most effective letters of complaint are those that not only state the problem but also set out what you would like to see happening.

The best approach is:

  • Be clear and concise.
  • Don’t just complain, state exactly what you want done or what you expect from the person you are writing to.
  • Don’t write an angry, sarcastic, or threatening letter, particularly if you want to gain the support of the recipient.
  • Include your name and contact information.

re: Proposed Heart 200 Touring Route and its Effect on Perthshire

I am contacting you to voice my concern and my opposition to this proposed new 200-mile touring route. I have only just become aware of it as there has been no information or consultation with myself (a local resident along the proposed route) or with our Community Council.

These are some of the many issues arising from this proposed business venture:

  • A conflict with current ‘slow’ users of many of these roads – cyclists, walkers, horse riders, dog walkers, farmers moving stock, farm vehicles and children getting on and off the school buses.
  • Many local and national groups organise marathons and half marathons, cycling races, triathlons etc. along the same routes. And the National Cycle Network Route 7 runs along part of it – again a conflict between bikes and people with cars.
  • A large increase in traffic, particularly along single-track roads and roads that are already struggling to manage the volume of visitor and business traffic (eg. campervans, logging lorries and current road damage and drainage issues) causing:
  • increased wear on roads that already need repair,
  • an increase in noise pollution and road run-off pollution affecting local waterways,
  • probable increase in wildlife injury and death – with vulnerable native species like the Red Squirrel and Black Grouse of particular concern,
  • probable increase in accidents between vehicles, and between vehicles and pedestrians or cyclists.
  • The Heart 200 website states that it is a ‘suggested’ route, to allow for ‘slow’ tourism. But realistically there is no way to control how visitors use it: as soon as a route is published, it can be used in any form. An example is this quote from one website about the NC500 (which is also promoted as ‘slow’ tourism) ‘24 hours to drive an officially promoted 500-mile loop of the north coast of Scotland? Go on then… ‘
  • Feedback from residents on the NC500 highlight its negative impact on local communities, including:
  • an increase in traffic and noise (causing decreased amenity value for residents and visitors alike),
  • a decrease of privacy for residents,
  • a decrease of income for some businesses, especially self-catering lets – and there are many along the proposed Heart 200 route,
  • an increase in rubbish on roads and on adjoining properties,
  • an increase in wild camping (but with many not following its code of conduct) and problems of rubbish and human waste,
  • disposal of chemical toilet waste on public land (eg. Beaches, picnic areas)
  • an increase in road damage – so increased cost burden for local Councils and their communities,
  • complaints about the above issues made to the ‘owners’/promoters of the NC500 route… They say it’s not their problem.
  • Visit Scotland, Highland Perthshire and PKC already actively promote Highland Perthshire for ‘slow’ tourism – and with signed Tourist Routes – especially for those who enjoy family holidays, quiet roads, wildlife, cycling, walking, dog-friendly self-catering lets and hotels, and beautiful scenery away from urban noise and pollution. A driving/touring route would destroy these very same quiet roads – you can’t have both.
  • Climate Change: this venture adds to Climate Change and conflicts with current National Policy. At a time when our governments are on the brink of declaring a Climate Emergency, the PKC is happy to promote and support a proposal (by providing a grant of £45,000) that will actively increase carbon emissions. This is not the right way to create sustainable tourism into the future.
  • How can a private enterprise take ‘ownership’ of public assets like roads? without responsibility for maintenance or for repairs of damage that their ‘venture’ has caused, and no compensation to residents and businesses who have reduced amenity value and lost business due to it?
  • It is an undemocratic process: there has been no public consultation process and no information to local residents or Community Councils – yet this will have a detrimental effect for many hundreds of individuals, and possibly their livelihoods, will probably decrease their property values and will certainly adversely affect the area they live in.

If private enterprises and the PKC want to fund tourism we have an opportunity to be innovative, to change how people visit places. Perthshire has beautiful countryside and many quiet roads, which people value. So let’s build on this and encourage true ‘slow’ tourism – not a repeat of the same old thing, with its proven negative impacts.

Therefore in consideration of the above points I request that there is an immediate halt to the development of Heart 200 to allow time for:

  • full social, environmental and climate change impact studies;
  • a carbon emission forecast;
  • a full economic  review to predict net financial gains/losses for all businesses, individuals and Councils;
  • compilation of a database of current road use (numbers and types of vehicles and other recreational users) and its state of repair as a baseline for review of any future development;
  • full and open consultation with all affected individuals and businesses along the entire route.

Once all of the above is completed an assessment can be made as to whether it is a desirable development for the area and its communities or not; and if so, then appropriate advance planning to counteract any negative effects.