Agendas, reports and minutes

Ross and Cromarty Local Access Forum

Date: Thursday, 9 April 2015

Minutes: Read the Minutes

Minute of Meeting held in the Council Offices, High Street, Dingwall on Thursday 9 April 2015. 


Mr Robin Forrest (Chairman), Mr Fraser Fotheringham, Mr Robin Chalmers, Mr Norman Chisholm, Mr John MacKenzie, Mr Hector Munro, Cllr Ian Cockburn.

In Attendance: 

Mr Philip Waite , Access Officer, Planning and Development Service
Mrs Alison MacArthur, Administrative Assistant, Corporate Development Service 

Mr Philip Waite informed forum members that Sheena McLellan would now be representing Disability Access and that she could only attend meetings on a Friday.

1. Apologies for Absence 

Apologies for absence were intimated on behalf of Dr S Campbell, Mr Archie MacLellan, Ms Sheena McLellan, Mr Tom Forrest and Councillor Maxine Smith.  

2. Confirmation of Minutes 

The minute of the meeting of 16 October 2014 was submitted and approved.

3. Highland Core Path Plan – West Highland and Islands

It had now been five years since the Core Path Plan (CPP) had been adopted by the Council and three years since it had been adopted by the Scottish Government. We had proposed to conduct reviews of the CPP to coincide with local development plans (LDPs). The Highland Council has decided to create three LDPs specifically Caithness and Sutherland, the Inner Moray Firth and the West Highlands and Islands. The West Highlands and Islands is now commencing and will contain Wester Ross. The Inner Moray Firth LDP will contain Easter Ross and the Black Isle. 

In April and May letters would be sent to all community councils, landowners and representative groups asking for any amendments, inclusions or revisions to the current West Highlands and Islands plan. These would be collated and the first draft would be drawn up in late September/early October. The Local Development plan would be going out to consultation events in late November/early December and we would hope to piggy-back their events. The final draft would be produced in early 2016 depending on how many objections had been received. The area covered by this LDP will overlap with the Lochaber and Skye Access Forum areas. The reporters’ comments from the last enquiry suggested that there should be longer routes with increased connectivity between routes.  Other suggestions included quiet roads and core paths which had been decided against in the previous plan.

Members were asked to send any suggestions for paths to be included, or removed or any comments on paths for consideration for input to the draft plan from members themselves or from the groups they represent. 

Members then discussed the Scottish Natural Heritage and walks they referred to as “Scotland’s Great Trails” involving long distance routes including the Great Glen Way and West Highland Way. As yet no routes had been put forward for this area but there may be scope for this in the future. This review could look at discussing some longer routes and Mr Waite would liaise closely with the Access Officers for Lochaber and Skye. Discussion then followed on the Cape Wrath Trail a group in Lochaber had requested this be added to the Core Path Plan.  The Cape Wrath Trail was not maintained or waymarked and could take a considerable amount of management.

The CPP review should progress a degree quicker than the original CPP.

The forum AGREED that letters should go to all existing landowners and representative groups of existing core paths as well as all community councils in this area.

4. Core Path Improvements

The Leader funded improvement programme had ended last August and it was thought that all the monies available had been spent. This was not the case and money was said to be available, £35,000 out of a total possible £95,000 Highland-wide had been spent in the Ross and Cromarty Access Forum area.  Projects had been spread through the area, some large projects and some smaller projects.  Considerable repairs had been carried out following damage to paths in Ullapool caused by the storm in August.

5. Access Issue Updates 

Access Issues

i Ledgowan Estate, Achnasheen 

There was a brief presentation showing a map and photos of the area. 

Mr Waite stated that the Council Solicitor had written to the landowner advising that the Council would install gates at the landowner’s expense. Initially it was to be two gates but the Service Manager had taken the view that the gates leading to the controversial hill track passing the new shed would be revisited at a later date.  The gate by the stone bridge had now been unlocked and the problem with that gate was now therefore resolved.

Councillor Cockburn stated that new signs had been erected at the Lodge with the National Farmers Union emblem saying “You are being watched”.  The NFU intended that these signs be used at farm steadings and buildings to protect from the theft of machinery and not on gates to deter people from taking access to paths.

The forum NOTED the position. 

ii Brahan Estate, Maryburgh 

There was a presentation showing photos of the area and the deterioration caused to the path following felling works. 

Following discussions with the landowners on the disturbance caused by felling trees, the landowner had agreed a short diversion to the path which would reduce any disturbance.  The gradient to the path would also be reduced making the path more accessible.

The forum NOTED the position. 

iii Mountain Biking in Torridon 

Complaints had been received by the landowner on the damage that had been caused to paths by the mountain biking fraternity. The owner of the Ben Damph estate had avoided using any of his own vehicles on the path as he had thought this path was for walkers only. There was no restriction to mountain bikers using any paths as they had the same rights as walkers.  The owner would like to see an Access Trust for this area set up for the maintenance of the paths.

The majority of mountain bikers were keen to assist in the maintenance and upkeep of paths as it was also a benefit to them. There had been nationally organised events for mountain bikers where they took a day out to do maintenance and repair to the paths. Finding someone willing to organise these events would be the way forward and forum members discussed the assistance of different groups including the Wester Ross Alliance and the Biosphere Project.

The forum NOTED the position. 

iv Fairburn Estate 

A meeting had been held with the owner, Robin Forrest, Archie MacLellan and Philip Waite where they had discussed the issue of the gates. Both the vehicular gates were padlocked with restrictive kissing gates beside them. One route would be popular with cyclists to Loch Orrin on a Core path. The other route, a Public Right of Way, would be attractive to horse riders and cyclists.  The manager, Mr Hingston, agreed to change to self-closing gates but this had still not been done.  The main problem was that the gates were used in the deer management on the estate and the estate did not trust the public to shut the gates behind them.  The estate had been advised to put in the appropriate gates and the materials had been supplied. 

It is proposed that the lock could be changed to a combination lock and the code given to local riding centres so they could pass through.  This would be trialled for a year with more informative signs and revisited if it was still not working.

The forum NOTED the position.

v Braemore 

A partial compromise had been reached whereby signs had been placed at the gate advising walkers to make use of the alternative route over the hill. This had been working well and had taken most of the footfall away from the house and lodge.

The Chairman whilst walking there recently with a group during snow fall, when the other route had not been visible, had been berated by Mr Gamble for not reading the sign.  They had also met other walkers who had experienced a similar reaction. In a conversation with Mr Waite, the owner had stated that the dogs with the party had been out of control but the Chair assured members that this was not the case and the dogs had been on short leads.  A sign had been placed on the gate advising that it was a working area and to pass quickly and quietly and the sign had resulted in numbers using this path being reduced.  Mr Gamble mentioned that he is likely to make further improvements to the alternative path this summer.

The forum NOTED the position.

6. National Access Forum Matters 

Mr G Duff had forwarded the unconfirmed minutes of the National Access Forum and some of the points raised at the meeting were: 

  • Scottish Natural Heritage were further promoting the outdoor access code with an upgrade to the web site;
  • a new Land Reform Bill was soon to be introduced but little is proposed on access; some clarification of the core path planning process;
  • renewed guidance on elements of implementation of the access legislation;
  • a new push on the health elements of the outdoors, although a point was made about a dislocation between the promotion of health benefits but this was not accompanied by resources and investments on the ground to support this;
  • level crossings - the Council had written to the Scottish Government requesting information on whether core paths crossing level crossings could now be adopted, but the Scottish Government was following the lead of the Department of Transport in England.  The Department of Transport had only just produced a report with recommendations for stakeholder workshops and consultations to take forward the report.  There was only to be one of these workshops in Scotland. 
  • SRDP – there are more details on the new scheme at but many details are still being worked on;
  • the joint NAF/LAF had met in November and had had a presentation from the British Horse Society on the lack of resolution of disputes and the inability of enforcing access rights, a suggestion had been that Access authorities work together to decide key test cases to establish case law and acknowledged the fact that local access forums had a role to keep involved and informed on dispute resolutions on some of the major cases; 
  • the Access Officer informed members that some cases do get resolved without the need for a report to the Access Forum, only the particularly difficult cases came to the forum; 
  • neighbouring groups of Local Access Forums could meet occasionally to resolve difficult issues and attempt consistency, there had previously been a pan-Highland meeting which had rather mixed usefulness.

The forum AGREED that a joint meeting between Ross and Cromarty, Lochaber and Skye Access Forums be investigated possibly in September to look at the Core Path Plan Review and discuss the way forward. 

7. Any Other Business 

Forum members commented that the Strathpuffer event had not been on the agenda and the Access Officer confirmed that due to the path being resurfaced before the event there was relatively little damage to the path this year.

8. Date of Future Meeting 

The next meeting was to be agreed dependant on whether a joint Forum meeting is held. 

The meeting ended at 4.20 pm.