To remind readers about the scheme, the following resume may help. The agreed proposals were to moderately expand the existing car park (to absorb most of the day to day over-spill), provide a separate screened parking area for three coaches (to separate coaches and competition for spaces), prevent verge parking within the immediate environs of the car park (to reduce visual intrusion) and introduce flat rate charging at £2 per car and £10 per coach together with a £10 (12-month) season ticket for regular users.
In October, Aberdeenshire Council gave full planning permission for the redevelopment of the Spittal car park, tenders were invited from suitably experienced contractors and work began in earnest in November by Macintosh Plant of Echt. The contractor had just six weeks to undertake and complete all of the major earth moving and landscaping work in the quiet period leading up to Christmas. This was so as to cause the least disruption to Glen users and also to try to avoid the likelihood of heavy snow fall which often comes in January.
We were fortunate in having a very experienced team on site, who were well versed with this type of landscape work and sensitive to working in a mountain setting. The site was thankfully free of snow for the whole period but was horrendously wet for weeks on end with rivers of water flowing down from the slope above. Despite the appalling working conditions for the men on site, it had its benefits as it meant that all of the drainage features could be more accurately sized and placed.
The work started with the careful formation of the new coach parking area in the larch wood above the car park, followed by the extension of the main car parking area and a linking footpath formed between the two. Locally transplanted soil, turf and granite boulders were used to landscape the roadside verges, the central bund in the main car park and other areas of exposed and built up ground. A local supply of pink granite aggregate was also used to complete the surfacing in the parking areas. Considerable effort was made to ensure the finished work looked as natural and in keeping with the rugged setting of the Glen as possible, and this will be enhanced once the vegetation starts to grow in the spring.
Temporary signing has since been put in place to indicate the separate coach and car parking areas, although we have noticed many cars parking in the coach park because it gives such great views into the Lochnagar Corrie and is much easier to get out of in heavy snow! A number of wooden routed signs are currently being made to replace the clutter of existing metal signs at the Spittal, and these along with the ticket machines and information boards will shortly be installed. Car park charging will start at Easter backed up by the employment of a car park attendant to help with parking and to ensure payment.
UDAT will lease the car park from Balmoral Estates, and use all the proceeds for the maintenance of the car park, path repairs and other access work in the area. We estimate that the car park might raise up to £10 -15,000 per annum and this will help lever other public funds into our programme of access work which currently cost some £200,000 per year. Wider landscaping proposals are currently being looked at for the longer term to enhance the appearance of the Spittal area.
This set of measures won't of course solve all the problems all of the time and won't please everyone, but faced with such sustained use and impact, we believe it offers the most practical means of providing for the long-term management of access to the Glen. We have recently written to all the known coach operators who use the Glen to tell them about the scheme, and hope that they and the majority of visitors and hill users will come to accept the new arrangements and recognise the benefits that this approach will bring.
Andrew Coleman, UDAT Project Manager April 2001
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