Minutes of Meeting of the Caithness Local Access Forum
held in the Seaview Hotel, John O’Groats
on Monday, 6th October 2008




Mr William Bruce (Chairman)
Mr Chris Hobson
Mrs Elena Koponen-Baikie
Mr George Walker
Mr David Shaw

In Attendance:


Mrs Fiona Sinclair, Area Solicitor, HC (Clerk)
Mr David Barclay, Access Officer, HC
Mary Legg, Countryside Ranger, HC

Site Inspection


Prior to the meeting Forum Members were escorted on a walk through John O’Groats Caravan Site by the Local Action Group.



1.Apologies for Absence


Apologies for absence were intimated on behalf of Councillor Graeme Smith, Mr Stephen Fraser, Mr Willie Beattie, Mrs Cath Whittles and Mr Geoff Robson.


It was noted that the Councillor Members of the Forum were unable to attend due to a Ward Forum Meeting and it was agreed that the Local Access Forum would not meet on the same days as the Ward Forums in future.        ACTION - CLERK  


2.John O’Groats Paths


It was noted that no one was available to make a presentation to the meeting on the John O’Groats Paths altthough Mr Walter Mowat and Mr and Mrs Honeyman had attended the walk at John O’Groats.

The Chairman commented that the walk had been interesting albeit that the Caravan Site owner had not been present.  He said that the Caravan Site owner had intimated that his clients might be upset by people walking through the Caravan Site while they were putting up tents etc.  It was noted that to change the route of the path would involve major engineering works.

It was agreed that Mr Barclay and Mr Bruce would look at plans to see which improvements might be feasible and that a letter would be sent to the caravan site owner to let him know that the Forum would be making contact with Mr Roy Kirk regarding the paths in the area and stressing that the Forum is keen to avoid people walking through the middle of the Caravan Site.  ACTION – DB AND CHAIR


3.The  Minute and Action Points from  Meeting held on 25th August


The Minute of the Meeting held on 25th August, copies of which have been circulated with the Agenda, was held as read and was approved.


4.Vice Chairman


Mr Chris Hobson was appointed Vice Chairman of the Forum.


5.Chairman’s Remarks


Mr Bruce explained that he had asked the clerk to remove this item from future agendas, and intimated that a matter entitled “Members’ Business” would be included on future agendas instead..


6.Report on National Access Forum


As Mr Robson was unable to be present this matter was continued until the next Meeting.


7.Access Officers’ Report


Victoria Walk, Thurso.  Mr Barclay explained that there may have to be agreement within the Council as to how this matter is taken forward, that a form of refreshed signage on the path is required, that the idea of kissing gates between the urban and rural settings is generally supported, and that Thurso Community Council are to be consulted.

Harden Farm.  Mr Barclay explained that he, in conjunction with one of the Solicitors at Council Headquarters is continuing to try to ascertain ownership of the track in order that a letter can be sent to all of the owners requesting removal of the obstruction.

Distillery Lade Project, Wick.   Mr Barclay explained that he had nothing new to report.

Newtonhill Community Woodland.  In respect of this ongoing matter the sampling and testing continue and further risk assessments are to be carried out after the final round of sampling and testing in February 2009.

Thrumster Path.  Mr Barclay explained that this path had been closed around 1993 and had now become part of a garden.  In the circumstances any action to reinstate the ground as a path is likely to be unsuccessful.  The Forum noted the position.


8.Core Path Plan Objections,


Altnabreac. Mr Barclay circulated a note of the Site Meeting which had been held on 24th September attended by Mr Barclay, Willie Beattie on behalf of the Peatlands Partnership, William Bruce and Chris Hobson on behalf of the Local Access Forum, a representative of Network Rail, a representative of RSPB and a representative of Fountain Forestry Limited. 


Mr Barclay explained that his resolve for retaining the route in the Core Path Plan had been strengthened as in his view the path is necessary and must be part of the Plan. 


Various public safety issues had been discussed at the Site Meeting including advanced warning signs on the access track.  Everyone present had agreed that action would require to be taken so that the public could cross the railway line safely. 


Mr Barclay had also circulated a note on level crossings obtained from the Network Rail website and invited the Forum members to draw conclusions from that note before the next meeting of the Forum.  ACTION - ALL


Lybster.  As had been reported at the last meeting, the objection to the Core Path Plan in the Lybster area had been dismissed as incompetent.


SNH Posters.  It was noted that the Posters, copies of which had been circulated at the last meeting, were appropriate for areas where rogue camping is an issue.  However this is not a problem in Caithness.

Mr Shaw said that SNH were intending to hold a road show targeting camping and dog walking issues and it was agreed that a dog walking roadshow could be of benefit in the area.  It was suggested that Dunnet Forest would be a good place to hold the dog walking roadshow.


With further reference to the posters Mr Barclay suggested that some of the uniformed groups in the area may welcome these and Mr Shaw agreed to e-mail posters to the Forum members. 


Mr Shaw advised that SNH would be offering grants for training events for outdoor instructors regarding the impact of their activities on the environment.  This suggestion was welcomed by Forum members.  ACTION – D SHAW / DB / ML


9.Matters raised by Forum Members 


Mr Hobson raised the issue of the kissing gate at Scotlandshaven which had been installed by the Community Council.  Following the installation of the gate the grazing clerk had advised that public access could be taken through the field gate and had asked that the kissing gate be removed and it wasn’t self closing.  Mr Hobson is going to go back to the Community Council on this point.

Mr Shaw raised the issue of future funding for paths and said that applicants would require to be directed to the Scottish Rural Development Programme from next year.

Mrs Legg said that she had arranged a cycling event at Broubster Forest which had been successful and suggested that further paths could be constructed linking that forest to Reay.  It was noted that the forest is managed by two different organisations for a variety of different landlords so the land ownership issues would not be straightforward.


Mr Barclay said that on 7th October he had to go to Inverness to sort out mapping discrepancies in connection with the Core Path Plan two of which he wished to bring to the Forum’s attention.

The Forum agreed that a small section of the route at Reiss Beach should be shown as Wider Access Network rather than as the Core Path as it is on an industrial site.  The length of path in question extended to approximately 6 metres.


Murkle Beach.  Mr Barclay explained that he had proposed that one side of the path be Wider Access Network and the other side be Core Path and that the side of the easier vehicular access was the length of path which had become Wider Access Network.

The Forum agreed to keep the path designations as they stand although this may be reviewed in the future.

Mr Barclay also invited the Forum to agree to remove the proposal that part of the Rifle Range at the Castle of Oldwick path has its designation amended from “Core Path”  He suggested that this area should instead be Wider Access Network.  The land is owned by the Ministry of Defence and he had asked them for their comments on the situation.   ACTION - DB


10.Date of Next Meeting


It was noted that the next Meeting will take place on 8th December 2008 in the Ross Institute, Halkirk and it was agreed that at that time the Forum would agree how often they would meet in the following year.


Mrs Sinclair explained that she would no longer be Clerk in the Forum during a secondment, and that Alex Macmanus, Assistant to the Ward Manager, would be assuming her duties.  Mr Bruce thanked Mrs Sinclair for her offices over the years.


Mr Bruce referred to the Scotways Access Forum which will be held on 22nd November 2008.  He advised the Forum members that they were welcome to attend but that they would require paying their own way, asking anyone interested to get in touch with him in order that transport sharing could be arranged. ACTION - ALL


The meeting closed at 9.10 pm.