Highland landowner faces legal challenge over right to roam | Scotland

A legal battle has damaged out over makes an attempt by a Highland landowner to ban hill-walkers from a path in a serious check case over Scotland’s right-to-roam laws.

Highland council and the Ramblers Affiliation are difficult an try by Donald Houston, a businessman who owns a big space of the Ardnamurchan peninsula on the west coast of Scotland, to shut off a major and scenic entry route.

He has gone to courtroom to ask a sheriff to exempt a part of the property from Scotland’s wide-ranging countryside entry laws – a transfer Ramblers Scotland believes may encourage different landowners to erode right-to-roam rights on different personal estates.

Houston has been accused of utilizing obstructive techniques to stop native individuals from utilizing the route – an allegation he denies – by padlocking gates, eradicating a stile and putting no-entry indicators on a gate throughout a timber yard he not too long ago constructed beside the trail.

The dispute escalated after he allegedly aggressively confronted David and Jenny Kime, eager hill-walkers who dwell in retirement within the close by township of Glenborrodale, after they climbed a locked gate blocking the trail in November 2019.

David Kime stated the couple had used the route with none battle greater than 100 instances over the final 40 years, logging their walks in a diary, till their confrontation with Houston, when he threatened them with the police.

David Kime climbing a locked gate
David Kime climbing a locked gate on the Ardnamurchan peninsula. The couple had been interviewed underneath warning by Police Scotland. {Photograph}: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

The couple had been later interviewed underneath warning for aggravated trespass by Police Scotland underneath the Prison Justice and Public Order Act 1994. Almost 18 months later, the procurator fiscal stated no motion can be taken, though the costs would stay “on file”.

Brendan Paddy, the director of Ramblers Scotland, stated that so far as the charity was conscious it was the primary time the 1994 laws had been used in opposition to hill-walkers anyplace within the UK.

“It’s unprecedented,” Paddy stated. “This [act] was rustled up to handle an ethical panic about outside raves and hunt sabs and we had been promised on the time, explicitly, by authorities ministers, the laws would by no means be used in opposition to walkers. We had been genuinely stunned when this was even steered.”

Kime, 80, stated the police interview had been distressing. “We couldn’t work out what we had been accused of doing, aside from occurring a stroll we’d performed 100 instances earlier than, with nobody else in sight. Jenny was very upset concerning the confrontation, and he or she was in tears in the course of the interview,” he stated.

The conflict with Houston is the newest in a sequence of disputes with personal landowners for the reason that Land Reform (Scotland) Act got here into pressure in 2003, giving the general public wide-ranging, legally enforceable rights of entry to the countryside.

The act states that entry can solely be restricted or denied in particular circumstances, reminiscent of to shield crops, private privateness and safety, or for restricted intervals throughout taking pictures season on grouse moors or deer culls.

Houston argues that car and equipment operations on the timber yard make it too harmful to permit public entry, and that underneath well being and security laws he has to both stop public entry or shut down the enterprise.

Highland council and the Ramblers are opposing Houston’s courtroom utility and, in a parallel transfer, the council is searching for a separate legal ruling that the route is a right of method underneath the Land Reform (Scotland) Act. It additionally plans to embrace it in its core paths technique.

A spokesman for Houston stated the Kimes had been complicated a distinct right of method with Houston’s entry highway, which had been constructed for the timber yard. It had been a farmyard for 30 years and at all times had a gate for security causes.

Houston was assured he would win his case and steered the Kimes wished to get entry to the brand new highway as a result of “it’s a significantly better monitor than any others within the space”, his spokesman stated. “They like to give you the option to stroll in carpet slippers and dancing sneakers slightly than put on boots. They’re an aged couple so that is, partly, comprehensible.

“In the event that they did entry [it] by way of the timber shed space within the years earlier than that this doesn’t imply that there’s any absolute right to achieve this and they might have had to climb over partitions, gates or fences to achieve this on many events.”

Paddy stated: “We’re very involved {that a} resolution on this case may considerably broaden the areas which can be excluded from entry rights and that might have a particularly detrimental impact. As a result of even when the areas involved are small, they may block essential entry routes.”

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