Access campaigners have welcomed the success in a Scottish court of a case made by Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park Authority against a landowner who was found to have been obstructing public access rights.
Following complaints from members of the public that access to an area between Ben Venue and Loch Ard was being blocked by locked high gates, and after repeated attempts to resolve the issue with the owners directly, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority issued an enforcement notice to the landowners to remove a number of physical barriers to the public's right of access on their land in 2013.
Several years of legal wrangling later, judgement in the Court of Sesison finally came down in favour of public access yesterday.
Jess Dolan, director of Ramblers Scotland, said:
"Today's excellent excellent ruling finally brings to an end the landowner's long-running and unwise attempts to stop people accessing the beautiful Drumlean Estate."
"Ramblers Scotland commends the national park authority for its commitment to defeating this appeal, which had the potential to set a worrying precedent and undermine our world-class access legislation."
"We will continue to work with authorities across Scotland to challenge any attempts to block access in future – so that everyone can enjoy the health and social benefits of our amazing outdoors."
The judgement sets out that it is an objective assessment of the effect of a landowner's action that should be considered when deciding whether an obstruction has been erected for the purpose or main purpose of deterring access, rather than being based on what a landowner says is intended. It also makes it clear that it is not relevant if an obstruction to land on which access rights apply pre-dates the passing of the 2003 access legislation, since a landowner's general duty to facilitate access to this land would override this.
Celebrating the judgement, Gordon Watson, Chief Executive of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority, said:
"Today's decision sets a national precedent and we are pleased that this positive result will be able to be drawn upon by other Access Authorities across the country in the future."
"In our role as an Access Authority we work in partnership with communities and land managers across the National Park to ensure public access rights are protected and upheld. The vast majority of landowners within the National Park, from small land holdings to large estates, respect the provisions and responsibilities that come with the Land Reform Act and support our many projects to improve access."
"There has been a significant amount of work over the last five years involved in pursuing this case but it was crucial to do so and ensure that the public can continue to enjoy their access rights within this special landscape in the National Park."