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Golf landlord chooses to question status of coastal path, despite having agreed access terms
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Path not right of way - landowner

Gordon Berry, The Courier, 23 May 2002

A Fife landowner has taken issue with a statement from Fife Council that the well-used Fife Coastal Path in the Kingsbarns area is a public right of way.

Yesterday Peter Erskine, of Cambo, responded to claims made in respect of the coastal path bordering Kingsbarns Golf Links by stating that the route has “no legal status whatsoever.”

The organisers of this year’s dunhill links championship have just unsuccessfully applied to the council for planning permission to close the coastal footpath, and an alternative inland route, for the duration of the competition.

Both routes are covered by planning conditions aimed at ensuring full and accessible footpath provision in and around the golf course, and also that the Fife coastal route is not impaired.

The suggestion that the conditions be reconsidered provoked objections from locals and the community council.

Fife Council’s east area development committee this week unanimously agreed that the application should be rejected and that any questions of public safety at the course should be addressed through appropriate stewarding of the competition.

In the meantime, however, Mr Erskine - who Is the course landlord, with a lengthy stretch of path on his estate - has taken exception to a report from council planner Chris Smith which said that the path is a public right of way.

Mr Smith said that if an existing right of way was to be affected there was a requirement for an adequate and acceptable diversion. In this case, he said, such a diversion was not part of the proposal.

Mr Erskine said yesterday that the path was not a right of way and never had been. “This is not an ancient route, and the idea was dreamed up in the 1970s by some marketing pundit.

“It is only through the goodwill of landowners that people. are allowed to walk on the land at all, and there are no criteria to make it a right of way.”

He said such claims strained the patience of landowners along the route who, at times, had to put up with considerable nuisance. He said he had been lucky but neighbours had experienced serious problems of livestock being worried and gates being left open.

Yesterday, however the council was standing by its claim. East area planning team leader Nick Brian said that for a right of way to be vindicated there had to be evidence of “regular prescriptive use” by the public over a long period - usually 20 years. This would apply in the current case, he said, with Kingsbarns and Crail being the two specific public points which had to be connected.

Mr Brian said that there had never been a point when the council had found it necessary to legally assert right of way status at the site.

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