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Access Issue - Kingsbarns Golf Links
Re-routing of the established Coastal Path
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About twenty years ago, the 'coastal path' came into being. The intention, at that time, was to establish a safe, continuous, route from Leven to St Andrews.

More recently, Fife Council has been eager to promote, and formalise, a new, continuous, Fife Coastal Route, from the Forth to the Tay. Each year we are told that the path will be complete within a year.

The path, at present, is reasonably intact, south of Crail, but it is not so well established to the north. Fife Council seem, in fact, to be encountering problems in securing 'formalised' access agreements with the landowners.

The landowners may have every right to be stubborn. The coastal path has evolved, over the years, and its existence owes much to the goodwill of farmers, who have accepted that walkers make use of the strip of land left behind when fences are moved inland ahead of the advancing North Sea. The recent promotion of this path, by Fife Council and others, has been relatively successful. There has been a marked increase in the number of people walking, or attempting to walk, along this coastal strip of land. Existing farmers may feel threatened, and the negotiation of binding access agreements will undoubtedly take time.

The process of negotiation should become easier for Fife Council when the land in question passes into new hands.

At Kingsbarns Golf Links, American developer, Mark Parsinen, accepted that an established coastal path existed all along the land under his control, from Randerston to Boghall. Meetings took place, and efforts were made to 'formalise' an access agreement, prior to the granting of planning permission for the golf course. [It should be noted that a very favourable 'informal' access arrangement existed under the previous management at Cambo]

Early in the planning process the developer had this to say :-

'The golf course will continue to honour the privilege of access to those walkers choosing to enjoy a route immediately along the sea at the edge of the golf course....'

In response to concerns raised at a local hearing, KGL promised, in a statement from Mark Parsinen dated 14/10/97, to :-

'improve considerably the existing Fife Coastal Route...'

In answer to concerns raised about the potential 'pinch point', the tapering piece of land at Randerston where the golf course and the coastal path were competing for space, the developer reassured us thus :-

'we direct your particular attention to the following revision at the 12th hole: layback slope of old sea cliff and move tees and fairway inland to accommodate dune buffer between path and fairway'

The developer clearly had other ideas. In September 1999, it became obvious that Kingsbarns Golf Links intended to place the 12th green, and the associated protective bunkers, as close as possible to the foreshore. As a result, a section of the existing coastal path simply disappeared.

Nick Brian, Planning Service, gave this account, at the time :-

'I can confirm that there is a short stretch of the coastal footpath towards the Randerston end where the route actually runs along the foreshore. This was agreed at an early stage as the only alternative at this short stretch of the route....'

This response raised doubts about the developers' declared interest in honouring the privilege of access to the existing coastal walk; and it raised several questions regarding the effectiveness of the planning process, questions which were put to Nick Brian in November 1999. see full version of letter

A second, chasing, letter was sent to Nick Brian in March 2000, as follows :-


KINGSBARNS GOLF COURSE - PLANNING CONTROL AND LOSS OF ACCESS

You will remember, perhaps, that I am concerned about :-

  • the whereabouts of several stamped approved plans, apparently missing from your files
  • the apparent selective use of plans relating to the construction of the shoreline holes
  • the resultant possible re-routing of the coastal path onto the foreshore at the 12th hole
  • the resultant possible loss of the alternative footpath between the 12th and 14th fairways
  • On 23 November 1999 I wrote to you regarding this matter, and I raised 5 questions which I had hoped that you could answer prior to a meeting of the community council on 15 December 1999.

    I received your initial response of 13 December 1999, where you stated that you may be in a position to respond fully after site meetings due in January 2000.

    I have yet to receive your full response. You must surely, by now, be in a position to clarify matters.

    The construction of the golf course is at an advanced stage; the bunkers surrounding the 12th green are now in place, and they clearly conflict with the coastal path, as defined on the stamped approved plan. A modified access plan has evidently ‘evolved’ over the months since planning approval was granted.

    The developer had ample time to discuss and resolve access issues before the application was approved. Neil Donaldson, Jeff Moy, Deirdre Munro, Lorraine Evans and Kathy Kinnear all became involved before the application was approved. Dave Morris of the Ramblers Association was also consulted at that time. The developer responded, and revised his plans accordingly. You set sensible conditions, and we accepted the decision to allow the project to progress according to those conditions. Barring unforeseen circumstances, that should have been the end of the matter.

    The developer clearly intends, now, to discourage walkers from venturing along the coast between Randerston and Cambo. You appear to have sanctioned route changes. The proposed foreshore route is not suitable for the less able walker and it will be inaccessible at high tide. At Randerston, the developer appears to be offering one poor alternative inland route running first over someone else’s property, then along a part of the cliff as planned, to goodness knows where from there.

    The issues that I have raised will not simply disappear. Already the signs are that coastal walkers are continuing to use the established route, irrespective of the fencing and warning signs.

    I often meet people on the coastal walk, and I think that it is fair to say that a significant number of those I speak to are amazed that the golf course should have been built so close to the shoreline.

    I always take the opportunity, during these encounters, to explain that concerns had been raised regarding safety, that promises had been made regarding the enhancement of the original coastal walk, that conditions had been set regarding sensible buffer zones; but that at some stage after the formal planning process, the developer and planning officials had agreed, for some unknown reason, to significantly reduce the specification for the main coastal path, near Randerston.

    Fife Council actively encourages the use of the coastal path system. Those choosing to walk along the coastal path should be able to do so in safety. The coastal path ‘evolving’ at Randerston is far from safe, and yet it could be made safe if you were to properly apply the relevant planning conditions. Perhaps more people need to be made aware of the planning history behind this development. I shall be placing information regarding the coastal path, and a copy of the KGL planning conditions on my, soon to be released, web site at kingsbarnslinks.com. I will try to present the facts, if those facts are available.

    I would appreciate definitive answers to my questions soon.

    I read in the papers that KGL hope to bring Tiger Woods and company to Kingsbarns, so that they may hone their links skills prior to the Open. KGL even boast of the challenge of playing six holes over water. Over water means over beaches, at holes 3, 12, 15, 16 and 17. These same award winning beaches will be full of day trippers and trades-holiday families at that time.

    We are certainly in for some interesting times during the holiday season.

    Nick Lunan, 21 March 2000


    Nick Brian eventually responded on 11 May 2000, as follows :-


    KINGSBARNS GOLF COURSE

    I refer to our previous correspondence concerning the above development.

    I have taken the opportunity of re-visiting the site on more than one occasion and in the company of not only the developers but representatives of various parties to discuss specifically the pedestrian routes around and through the golf course.

    I am satisfied that the network of routes now provided is acceptable to provide both circular routes around the course and in particular reinforcing the coastal footpath. You are correct in saying that for part of the coastal route it involves walkers taking a route along the foreshore which may be inaccessible at high tide. However, the developers have provided a route on the edge of the golf course which is accessible at all times to enable walkers to have an alternative which avoids the foreshore. In addition, there is an inland route which runs to the other side of the golf course and provides either an acceptable alternative or a circular route depending on which way a potential user wishes to access this area.

    The developers had not previously erected the necessary signage which would direct users along the correct routes. After discussions it has been agreed that the form of signage should include not only directions but also informatives indicating what the alternative routes are and how these can be accessed by individuals.

    With regards to the Randerston end of the site this has now been resolved in terms of ensuring that the route is within the control of the golf course operators.

    To conclude, I would state that I am now satisfied that the network of routes is acceptable on this site and that overall there has certainly been a vast improvement over the previously existing position. The network of routes will enable visitors to access the site either along the coastal route, as an inland alternative or for a full circular route which will be suitable for all users. I appreciate that you may not be fully satisfied with this response but I do feel in the circumstances that the development has been progressed satisfactorily.


    A copy of that letter was sent by Nick Brian to Cllr Peter Douglas.

    Nick Brian was correct in suggesting that I may not be fully satisfied with his response.

    I had asked questions in the hope of establishing whether or not the golf course was being built in a controlled fashion according to the stamped approved plans, but Nick Brian was still not prepared to answer my questions directly.

    It may be important to establish, at some stage, whether or not the golf course is being built in a controlled fashion according to the stamped approved plans and related conditions. Certainly, if there were ever an accident, there may be a need to establish whether or not the golf course had be built to specification, and if not, why not.

    I wrote again to Nick Brian, and amongst other things I raised the question of liability in the event of an accident. I thought that it was useful, at that stage, to remind Nick Brian of the concerns of the Ramblers' Association (see full text of their letter here) regarding safety, access and liability :-


    KINGSBARNS GOLF LINKS - PLANNING CONTROL AND LOSS OF SAFE ACCESS

    As you know, I am concerned about several issues relating to access, beach safety, and the provision of a safe, accessible and properly constructed coastal, and alternative, path network - particularly that part of the network lying within the narrowing strip of land near Randerston.

    I only raise these issues because I am concerned for the safety of people using our award winning beaches and our much publicised coastal walk. I can also see the potential for conflict between golfers, walkers and beach users where they will all compete for space near Randerston.

    The specific requirements for paths, protective measures and safe ‘lines of play’, are clearly stated in planning conditions 2, 6 and 7, and these features are clearly shown on stamped approved Revised Grassing and Landscape Plans 7A and 7B, dated 12 October 1997. You were unable to produce these plans, and others, when I asked to inspect them back in early November 1999. You confirmed, in a letter dated 13 December 1999, that these plans could still not be located, but that you were hoping that the developer could give you copies at a site meeting in January 2000!

    You have now run out of excuses, and you have chosen, in your latest letter dated 11 May 2000, to ignore my simple questions regarding the very existence of plans, let alone the slightly more testing questions regarding the building of the golf course according to stamped approved plans and related conditions.

    A golf course built according to the terms of planning approval would have closely resembled the scheme promised by the developer. Those who had chosen to raise concerns, regarding safe access for walkers and beach users, would have accepted a golf course built accordingly.

    It is now evident that the developer is building parts of the golf course near Randerston according to some slowly evolving, but lower, specification that bears very little resemblance to the carefully considered scheme approved by our elected representatives.

    It is becoming clearer by the day - bunkers only a few feet from the foreshore at the 12th green, robust fencing right to the foreshore at south end of the 12th hole, lack of adequate protection from shots fired from the repositioned and elevated 12th tee, the proposed diversion of the coastal path, the proposed increased use of ‘directive’ signs - that the developer intends, now, to discourage walkers from venturing along the coast between Randerston and Cambo, for reasons unknown. The Randerston Beach area is in danger of becoming ‘out of bounds’ to the general public.

    You appear to have relaxed conditions, and you appear to have sanctioned changes: the diversion of the established coastal path, the re-routing of alternative paths, the effective re-mapping of ‘lines of play’ closer to the foreshore, and a general reduction in protective safety measures. You claim that these changes were “agreed at an early stage.” When and by whom?

    I believe that the proposed changes will compromise the safety of those who chose to continue to exercise their right to use Randerston Beach, and those who chose to venture along the diverted section of the established coastal path.

    You tell me that you intend to divert the established coastal path onto the rocky foreshore. You agree that use of this section of foreshore is dependent on the state of the tide, and you must therefore agree that you have reduced the possibility of establishing the enhanced and continuous coastal path, much heralded but permanently delayed, from the Forth to the Tay. You claim that “the network of routes now provided is acceptable”, that “the developers have provided a route on the edge of the golf course, which will be accessible at all times”, and that, “in addition, there is an inland route which runs to the other side of the golf course.”

    I have just visited the site, and I simply cannot detect any of the new routes (never mind the fact that conditions 6 and 7 require that these 1.8m surfaced routes should be in place, and that they should remain unobstructed at all times). Vague terms like “on the edge” and “to the other side” merely serve to confuse. I assume that, for control purposes, these changed routes have been recorded and entered in detail on suitably revised copies of the stamped approved plans. I intend to visit Cupar early next week to inspect the latest drawings, so that I may trace the exact routes of the revised network. I would also like, at that time, to make reference to the minutes of any meetings where the changes to these routes have “been agreed.”

    You stated that you have been involved in discussions since planning approval. Have you involved the Ramblers’ Association, surely an interested party in any ongoing debate?

    I wish to remind you that the Ramblers’ Association continue to be concerned about safe access issues. They have made known to you their views (see full text of letter here) about right of access to the foreshore, and about liability in the event of accidents. They suggested that “to approve a layout in which there was some doubt about its safety in relation to the coastal path might expose the Council to considerable criticism in the future, and possibly legal action, if accidents occurred to walkers.

    In the event of an accident, liability could also conceivably fall on Fife Council, if it were to be shown, for instance, that a) there had been a lack of development control (perhaps where plans had been allowed to evolve in an informal, unaccountable way, or where there had been a general unwillingness to enforce conditions put in place to safeguard walkers and users of the foreshore), and b) that as a result of a lack of development control, safety standards and specifications had been allowed to fall below those expected and required. Food for thought.

    As you well appreciate, I am not fully satisfied with your various responses so far. I feel that I have raised important issues regarding safe access, control, accountability and liability; issues that should be addressed by someone; issues that will not simply disappear.

    Nick Lunan, 31 May 2000


    The above letter was copied to Cllr Francis Melville (chairwoman East Area Development Committee), Cllr Peter Douglas (local councillor), Kingsbarns Community Council, and the Ramblers' Association.

    Nick Brian responded to that letter on 14 June 2000, as follows :-


    Kingsbarns Golf Links

    I refer to your letter concerning the above development received 2 June 2000.

    For your information I have held a further site meeting at Kingsbarns on 9 June 2000 to discuss the issues raised in your letter. It would appear that the developers have now routed the alternative route on the inwards side of the fence rather than being along the path as previously discussed with myself and others. Your points regarding the proximity of the 12th tee, fairways, bunkers and the green to the foreshore have been noted and examined on site. Without doubt, there has been a degree of re-positioning of these elements. Following this latest meeting the developer is providing a detailed plan showing the latest position of all the elements within the site.

    My previous letter to yourself may have been mis-interpreted in terms of reference to a possible re-routing of the coastal footpath onto the foreshore. The coastal route can clearly be followed along the edge of the golf course without recourse to actually walking on the foreshore itself. What is lacking at the present time is the necessary signage and the site developers are addressing this specific issue and you were advised of this in my previous letter.

    As far as access to the necessary plans are concerned, if you telephone this office in advance the appropriate plans will be made available for your inspection.

    Finally, I would advise you that I also share your concerns for the safety of people using this coastal walk and indeed alternative routes around the golf course. It was always the intention and still is that the public will have readily available access along the coastal edge following a clearly and well sign posted coastal route. Such provision will be a vast improvement over the previous situation which was poorly defined, difficult to access and not inviting to users. It was never the intention, though, to provide a full landscaped buffer zone incorporating ridge protection system along the full length of the coastal path through this site. Stretches of this provision were identified and aimed at sensitive stretches along the route.

    To conclude, I trust that these comments clarify the position for you and trust that they give you some reassurance on these matters. I will contact you further, however, when the issues described above have been addressed.


    The above letter was copied to Cllr Francis Melville (chairwoman East Area Development Committee), Cllr Peter Douglas (local councillor), Kingsbarns Community Council; but not to the Ramblers' Association.


    Very interesting.

    I am reminded that plans can be made available to me. I know this and I have already gone through this process. I discovered that several plans were missing from the files. I pointed this out to officials, but I have yet to receive confirmation that these plans have been replaced.

    I am told that the planning authority do not have a detailed plan showing the latest position of all the elements within the site. One might ask how they manage to control development in these circumstances.

    Without an actual updated plan to refer to, it is of course quite difficult to interpret what appear to be conflicting accounts of the status of the coastal path.

    First Nick Brian stated (in a letter dated 5 October 1999) that :-

    "I can confirm that there is a short stretch of the coastal footpath towards the Randerston end where the route actually runs along the foreshore. This was agreed at an early stage as the only alternative at this short stretch of the route, but in the knowledge that there is an acceptable convenient alternative route running parallel to the coast to the other side of the fairway"

    Nick Brian then appeared to change tack (11 May 2000) thus :-

    "You are correct in saying that for part of the coastal route it involves walkers taking a route along the foreshore which may be inaccessible at high tide. However, the developers have provided a route on the edge of the golf course which is accessible at all times to enable walkers to have an alternative which avoids the foreshore."

    Now Nick Brian reconfirms his altered view (14 June 2000) that :-

    "The coastal path can clearly be followed along the edge of the golf course without recourse to actually walking on the foreshore itself"

    Take your pick!

    I am told that :-

    "It was never the intention .... to provide a full landscaped buffer zone incorporating ridge protection system along the full length of the coastal route through this site. Stretches of this provision were identified and aimed at sensitive stretches along the route."

    Quite so - but the fact remains that the 'identified stretches' along the 12th fairway have not been built according to the stamped approved plan.

    Significantly, we learn that :-

    "Without doubt, there has been a degree of re-positioning of .... elements [12th tee, fairway, bunkers and green] within the site."

    Fife Council concede that changes have taken place which result in a repositioning of the 12th hole closer to the foreshore.


    The golf course opened, officially, on 29 July 2000 - and within days locals and holiday makers were experiencing difficulties when walking near the course.

    I sent an account of my own experiences to Nick Brian on 8 August 2000, as follows :-


    KINGSBARNS GOLF LINKS - SAFETY ON COASTAL PATH AND FORESHORE

    As you know, I have been concerned about several issues relating to the safety of users of the coastal path and foreshore at Kingsbarns Golf Links.

    The golf course is now operational, and I have had the opportunity to walk around the course during play - and I now feel that some of my initial concerns were justified.

    I wish to briefly report the following near misses :-


    1. Coastal Path at the 15th (Cambo Ness)

    There is a point on the coastal path (point X on the enclosed map, between the 15th and 8th green) where walkers are exposed to shots fired from the 15th tee. There is a line of trees running along the 15th fairway which obscures the golfers view of the coastal path at this point. Equally, walkers, as they approach point X, cannot see golfers teeing off at the 15th.

    Players are encouraged to play ‘safe’ into this blind region away from the foreshore - indeed the developer has recently cut the rough beside the coastal path in order to better accommodate those golfers who decide to play safe.

    I have walked past this point on three occasions since the development opened. On two occasions golf balls landed close to me at this point. On neither occasion could I see the player of the shot. I questioned one player, and he confirmed that he had not seen me when he fired the shot. I consider this region to be unsafe for walkers, as it stands.

    [I am aware that the coastal path (marked yellow on the most recent drawing available to planning) has been unofficially re-routed along the golf path behind the trees, but the path still has to pass the critical region between the 15th and 8th greens]


    2. Foreshore at the 15th (Cambo Ness)

    The 15th hole is played across the foreshore at Cambo Ness. Golfers can clearly see walkers; walkers can see golfers.

    One near miss that I witnessed occurred because a golfer refused to allow sufficient time for a walker (who had arrived on the scene first) to move clear of the landing zone before playing his shot. That same player would never have dreamt of playing a similar shot towards a fellow golfer within his range.

    On the official opening day I heard ‘invited’ players shouting at kids playing on the Cambo Ness foreshore. On that occasion the kids did eventually move before the golfers played the shots, but it was interesting to witness the event - the players were preparing to fire shots over the kids heads at the time.

    Given that golfers are prepared to fire shots over the heads of people on the foreshore, I consider the area dangerous for those exercising their right of recreation on the foreshore.


    3. Foreshore at the 12th (Randerston Beach)

    I wish it to be known that there is an area on the foreshore which is blind to golfers standing on the 15th tee. This area is well within tee shot range.

    I know this because I was very nearly clobbered by a ball which winged past me as I was walking within this blind region of the foreshore. I had been looking out for golfers at regular intervals and I had just checked to make sure that the tee was clear - and the tee ‘appeared’ to be clear. [It is clear to me now that the walker does not in fact see the actual tee-off point from this area of the foreshore].

    I questioned the player involved, and he confirmed that he had not seen me on the foreshore when he played his shot. He was as concerned as I was, and he agreed that the developer may have to sit down and seriously consider the issue of walker safety in this region. It is worth pointing out that your coastal path ‘foreshore diversion’ takes walkers into this region.

    I consider this area extremely unsafe for walkers and users of the foreshore.


    Detailed reports of these near misses, and others, can be found at kingsbarnslinks.com

    I hope that this feedback may be of some use to those controlling this development.

    Nick Lunan, 8 August 2000


    The above letter was copied to Cllr Francis Melville (chairwoman East Area Development Committee), Cllr Peter Douglas (local councillor), Kingsbarns Community Council, and the Ramblers' Association - for their records.

    I have received no response from Nick Brian.


    Do you use the coastal walk, or explore the foreshore between Randerston and Cambo?

    If you do, you may wish to take a look at the layout of the 12th hole and judge for yourselves whether or not the developer and planners have got it right.

    Remember that planning approval for the golf course is 'conditional', and that, according to condition 6, Fife Council has a duty to ensure that 'the Fife coastal route is not impaired and that access for the general public is enhanced, formalised and adequately protected for the future.'

    Bear in mind that condition 6 states that :-

    'The Fife Coastal Path route shall be fully accommodated within the site as identified on the stamped approved plans. This provision shall be to a minimum width of 1.8m, and shall be surfaced in accordance with details to be agreed in writing by this Planning Authority prior to commencement of works on site. The route shall remain unobstructed at all times and the developers shall lodge exact details and specifications of the protective dune ridge system to both sides of the path and details of directional/information signage for the prior approval of this Planning Authority. Landscaped bunding shall be incorporated within a buffer area of minimum width of 10 metres to the landward side all of which shall be subject to the prior approval in writing of this Planning Authority.'


    A full set of Kingsbarns Golf Links planning conditions can be found here

    Other useful planning information relating to KGL can be found here

    The stamped approved plans, those that can be found at any rate, can be studied in Cupar - they require a few days notice. You should also reasonably expect to be able to inspect, in Cupar, the required written agreements regarding path surfacing, protective dunes and buffer zones.

    A full version of the letter to Fife Council from the Ramblers' Association, outlining their concerns, and in particular their views on rights of access to the foreshore and liability in the event of accidents, can be found here

    A short report, prepared for the Countryside Commission, outlining our Scottish 'Right of Recreation on the Foreshore' can be found here

    Statements from the developers can be found here

    A selection of news items relating to KGL can be found here

    General information on the coastal path can be found here


    Remember, if you have any thoughts on this issue, or any local issue, please send feedback

    Feedback received will be used to regulate the coverage of this issue.

    You can also make your views known to Kingsbarns Community Council or Fife Council.

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