Aberdeenshire Council Access Strategy
The document to which this applies is the "Aberdeenshire Countryside Access Strategy'', February 1998. This was the second draft of the framework document covering lowland areas and access close to settlements. NEMT replied for two reasons, firstly that the lowland areas include the coast, which is within our remit, and secondly, that it is important that the ground rules for access are sorted out before the next stage, which will be the uplands.
- Scope of Strategy
- Key Aims
- Policy Background
- NEMT welcomes this initiative and recognises that there is a growing demand for access to lowland areas.
- NEMT's interest in this Strategy arises from concerns about access throughout the countryside in both lowlands and highlands. It is Particularly concerned that some of these proposals may lay foundations for developments in mountain areas.
(a) Methods of Securing Access
- Voluntary principle for paths between landowner, Council and users.
- Priority will be given to 'Rights of Way' though there is no register of these in Grampian.
- 'Section 50' proposed as a final control measure but these are notoriously ineffective.
- The proposed more overt designation of routes will only improve on the current situation if there is a substantial increase in the number of routes available.
- It must not lead to a diminution of access to other non-designated areas with a net effect of decreasing access to the countryside.
- The extent of marketing of particular routes needs to be titrated against their ability to absorb users.
(b) Access for All
- Access for the disabled is laudable, and a legal requirement, but must be tempered against excessive development of the site which will detract from the 'countryside experience'.
- The Strategy does not address the needs of climbers for access to and on routes, nor does it recognise the different needs of walkers, cyclists and horse riders.
- Care should be taken not to 'standardise' routes excessively, but to allow them to retain their local character.
- The provision of integrated information (interpretative guides, signing, notice boards) is a good idea.
- Consideration should be made for different levels of provision on different routes to cater for those with more or less desire for information and interpretation.
- Education should not only be aimed at users of paths, but also landowners.
- Education should include land usage and natural history in their broadest senses as well as of the Country Code.
- The use of maintenance agreements and funding for these is commendable.
- The use of local communities for maintenance will help bond the communities to their routes and should reduce vandalism. Use should be made of professional help and guidance where appropriate.
- There seems to be a dichotomy between the desired aims of preserving the environment and creating a resource to be used by locals and tourists (through marketing).
- Increased usage will require more facilities to be provided.
- Realistically, many will travel to their chosen route by car and provision needs to be made for this. Car park restrictions could be used to control numbers on routes.
(g) Health, Safety and Liability
- Whilst there are currently few claims for accidents or damage to users of the countryside, the increasing trends of such claims in the USA and here for accidents on uneven pavements, suggests an increasing financial burden The proposal for the Council to accept these responsibilities will probably encourage more landowners to improve access to private land.
- Implementation and Resources
Why is Aberdeen City not included as this is where most walkers find restriction of access. Deeside is not obviously included. The area needs to be more clearly circumscribed. Its relationship to adjoining areas needs to be made clear to integrate longer distance routes together.
- Programme and Funding
- How much can be achieved with the estimated funding of £232k - £322k PA?
- What proportion of this is new funding as distinct from top-sliced from existing programmes?
How secure are these sums in view of recent Council budget cuts?
- What proportion is likely to be spent 'in the field' and on administrative requirements of the Council and landowners?
Ken Forbes 2nd June 1998
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