Fife Coastal Path News
Public right of
access near Kingsbarns Golf Links
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Society defends walkers' rights
Michael Alexander, The Courier, 27 May 2002
A national organisation which represents the legal interests
of the public during rights of way disputes has defended peoples right to
access a section of the Fife coastal path.
Last week East Neuk landowner Peter Erskine took issue with
a statement from Fife Council that the well-used coastal route in the
Kingsbarns area was a public right of way.
Mr Erskine, of Cambo, responded to claims made in respect
of the coastal path bordering
Golf Links by stating that the route has no legal status
He also raised doubts over the whole question of public
access to private property and made it clear that he might have to rethink his
attitude to provision of facilities such as community woodland.
But yesterday the national secretary of Scotways - The
Scottish Rights of Way and Access Society - offered assurances that public
right of access to the coastal route had been recognised for over 40 years and
was therefore seen as official.
Edinburgh-based Alexander Ballantyne said the route had
been recorded In the National Catalogue maintained by Scotways in collaboration
with Scottish Natural Heritage and the local authorities since the early
The records of the former North East Fife District Council
had also shown it to exist prior to that. He said the route had thus existed
for at least twice the period required to establish the status of a right of
way at common law.
Mr Ballantyne said, A number of issues which merit
further examination have been raised during the attempt to deny public access
to this right of way at the time of the dunhill links championship but
these are of a technical nature which need not be examined at this time. More
importantly, it is quite unclear on what basis the landowner claims that the
route has no legal status whatsoever, since a claimed right of way (quite
different from an alleged one) has legal status.
Fortunately, such challenges to Scottish access
culture are becoming rarer and, when they do occur, usually emanate from those
who are unfamiliar with that culture and arise from certain features relating
to the character and recording of rights of way in Scotland.
They do not have to be and are not usually recorded
in title deeds; they are not marked on Ordnance Survey maps as rights of way
(contrary to the situation south of the border); they do not have to exist as
paths on the ground (as they are routes, not necessarily paths or tracks) and
they exist irrespective of any changes of ownership of the land over which they
pass and whether or not accepted by the landowner. All of this has been
clarified by the society in recent articles in the Scottish Landowners
Federation journal Landowning In Scotland.
Mr Ballantyne said forthcoming access legislation in the
Land Reform (Scotland) Bill will provide even greater scope for public access
but this will be in addition to rights of way which will continue largely as
He said the continuing importance of rights of way arises
from the fact that the legislation, as proposed, will allow suspension of the
new access rights in certain circumstances and these new rights will not apply
over, possibly substantial, areas of Scotland whereas rights of way can
generally be closed only by complex, lengthy and expensive processes and,
therefore, provide continuing guaranteed access.
The society has been resolute in safeguarding access rights
for the benefit of the public for over 150 years and is the only national body
partially supported by government grant-aid in defending the legal interests of
cyclists, horse-riders, walkers and others seeking public access.
He added, We welcome the resolute statement from Fife
Council in defence of public recreational Interests and the common-sense
statement attributed to the chair of Kingsbarns Community Council in a previous
Mr Erskine has said landowners found themselves in a
position of heads we lose, tails the public win, and if people were
allowed to walk over land for a period of 20 years then owners rights
would be gone forever. more Coastal Path News back to
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