Agendas, reports and minutes
Ross and Cromarty Local Access Forum
Date: Thursday, 3 October 2013
Minutes: Read the Minutes
Minute of Meeting held in the Council Offices, High Street, Dingwall on Wednesday 3 October 2013.
Mr Robin Forrest (Chairman)
Mr Robin Chalmers
Mr Norman Chisholm
Mr Tom Forrest
Mr Fraser Fotheringham
Mr Hector Munro
Mr Ian Cockburn
Mr Paul Thomson (Item 4 i)
Mr Philip Waite, Access Officer, Planning and Development Service
Mrs Trish Bangor-Jones, Administrative Assistant, Chief Executive’s Service
1. Apologies for Absence
Apologies for absence were intimated on behalf of Dr Stewart Campbell, Ms Marj Donaldson, Mr John Mackenzie, Mr Archie MacLellan and Councillor Maxine Smith.
2. Confirmation of Minutes
The Minute of the Meeting of 1 May 2013 was submitted and approved.
At this point the Forum AGREED to change the order of the agenda and take Item 4 Access Issue i. Udale Wood, Jemimavile
The Chair welcomed Mr Paul Thomson to the meeting. With regard to Udale Wood, Mr Thomson explained his aim was to explore the issues and understand processes.
It was clarified that local access forums are advisory bodies established under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. Every access authority (local authority / National Park authority) had one or more forums for their area.
The functions of the local access forums included:-
- provided the access authority with advice and assistance in the discharge of their duties and functions under the Act; and
- offered advice and provided assistance in cases of dispute, for example, concerning the exercise of access rights.
It was further clarified, that Highland Council did not need to heed the advice from the access forum.
Mr Thomson then spoke to the forum from his own perspective and was not speaking on behalf of any other person. In this regard, Mr Thomson outlined his thoughts on the issues regarding the core path at Udale Wood. These issues included:-
- the woods were a safe place to for families to walk and therefore, an excellent local amenity;
- a lack of directional signage and it would be beneficial if that was possible;
- with the arrival of livestock there was a feeling that access has been made more difficult; and
- routes would benefit from maintenance which would help to make the path easier to traverse, it was also a concern that sections had been impassable for some time.
In response to a question it was confirmed that:-
- it was legally possible to clear and maintain a core path but that it was preferable to have the co-operation of the landowner; and
- the next core path review was in 2018 and at that time the landowner can ask the access authority to delist the path.
It was reported that the landowners continued to feel disenfranchised.
Following further discussion the forum AGREED that Highland Council should recommend that the owners sign and gates should be changed so as not to be discouraging to access.
3. Highland Core Path Implementation Programme
Maps and photos were shown and updates were provided as follows:-
- Milton of Kildary, the new path was a success;
- Strathpeffer to Jamestown Path, the remaining 15 meter strip at Jamestown has still to change ownership before construction can be completed.;
- the booklet, Easy Access Paths in Ross and Cromarty, was in draft and it was hoped that it would go to print within the coming week. The booklet would include information on disability access;
- signage for Mid-Ross had been delayed as the signs had to be sourced from another supplier ;
- it was hoped that the Strathpeffer and Ullapool leaflets would be programmed into the work schedule before the end of December 2013; and
- a Path Maintenance training day was arranged for 30 November 2013.
4. Access Issues
ii. Flowerdale, Gairloch Estate
Maps and photos were shown of the location.
Discussion then followed on the proposed diversion of the core path by the Gairloch Estate. There was concern expressed by the estate, that the route of the core path comprised privacy, as it passed directly in front of the main house. It was noted that the work and associated costs of the work to be undertaken would be borne by the Gairloch Estate, with no monies coming from Highland Council.
The forum had concerns that the core path was a popular route both for visitors and locals and as such any redirection should not be undertaken without serious consideration.
It was confirmed that any re-routing of the core path would require in-put from the Planning and Development Service. With regard to access rights it was confirmed that the estate could not prevent access near to the house.
The forum AGREED to a site visit at time and date to be decided.
iii. Updates on West Lodge, Shieldaig, Chalet 5, Mellon Udrigle and Ledgowan
West Lodge, Shieldaig
Maps and photos were shown of the area.
Discussion then followed and it was noted that on a visit by Mr T Forrest both gates had been open. It was felt by forum Members that this was an on-going situation with many long standing issues.
The forum AGREED a watching brief.
Chalet 5, Mellon Udrigle
Maps and photos were shown of the area.
The site had been visited by both the Chair and the Access Officer and both confirmed that the present access arrangements appeared to be working successfully.
The Access Officer updated the Forum with regard to the continued problems with access on the Legowan Estate. In this regard, it was confirmed that there had been further correspondence from Highland Council solicitors to the estate solicitor, which restated that gates bounding the A890 should not be locked. It was re-iterated than if gates required to be locked because of stock then it was incumbent on the estate to provide a small side gate or at very least a stile, to ensure access rights.
Mr T Forrest had visited the estate and had found that several locks had been removed but that locked gates continued to block access to several areas which are popular with walkers.
It was noted that the level of complaints received by the Access Officer, with regard to the Ledgown Estate had dropped.
The forum AGREED a watching brief.
5. National Access Forum Matters
The Access Officer confirmed that staffing changes had taken place within the Environment Section and that Mr George Hamilton has replaced Mr Geoff Robson, who retired. Mr Robson’s place on the National Access Forum will be taken by Mr George Duff, te Countryside Manager in Highland Council. Mr Duff may also attend some Highland Local Access Forums
The Access Officer recently met with Inverness, Ross &Skye District of Forestry Commission Scotland to discuss core paths access during forestry operations. In this regard, it was confirmed that Forestry Commission Scotland would launch a Practice Document in November 2013. The document would offer practical site guidance to contractors on how to manage the safety of visitors during forest operations and as well as how to ensure minimal disturbance to public access.
The Chair had attended the 2011 joint meeting the national and local access forums and had found it a valuable, stimulating and interesting meeting. The 2013 meeting was due to take place in The Lighthouse, Glasgow, 5 November and Councillor I Cockburn indicated an interest in attending.
6. Any Other Business
During discussion the following items were raised:-
- shots had been fired by a wildfowler near to the core path at Blaconie Point Evanton, the police had been contacted. Improved signage would help alleviate any future problems;
- The Law Commission Scotland Report on railway level crossings had been published . The report can be emailed to all forum Members who request it;
- CnocFyrish path was missing a sign-post and this required to be replaced; and
- in regard of path maintenance, the Access Officer confirmed he was happy to advise community councils and other groups and often can provide tools or materials.
7. Date of Future Meeting
The next meeting was to be held on Wednesday 9th April 2014.
The meeting ended at 4.20 pm.