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Court decision upholds National Park’s fight to defend public access rights

A decision by the Inner House of the Court of Session, the highest civil court in Scotland, upholding public access rights on a private estate in Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park has been strongly welcomed by the Park Authority.

The Lord President of the Court of Session sitting with two other judges found in favour of the National Park’s argument that the owner of Drumlean Estate, near Aberfoyle was unlawfully blocking members of the public from enjoying access rights granted by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003.

Gordon Watson, Chief Executive of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority, said: “The National Park Authority strongly believes in its duty to uphold the landmark right to responsible access granted to the public by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003.

“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.

“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.

“I am delighted that the expertise, dedication and determination of our Access and Legal teams has resulted in public access rights being confirmed at the Drumlean Estate following today’s decision.”

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.

The initial judgement in late 2015 found against the Park Authority and held that there had not been a breach of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 and that access rights did not apply to certain parts of the Estate. The Park Authority immediately lodged an appeal against that decision which, if it had been allowed to stand, would have undermined the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2013 and set an unhelpful legal precedent for access rights in Scotland.

That appeal was upheld in March 2017 but a further appeal to the Court of Session was lodged by the landowner which has been rejected in the judgement issued today.

The full decision is available to read on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website here.

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