The aim of these workshops was to provide local communities, user groups, landowners and individual members of the public, with an opportunity to contribute ideas towards the development of the established Aberdeenshire Countryside Access strategy. The need for such an access strategy was identified in June 1997 following local government re-organisation and resulted in Aberdeenshire Council fulfilling their obligations towards the governments Local Agenda 21 plan for sustainable developments. Together with their partners Scottish Natural Heritage, Grampian Enterprise, the European Regional Development Fund and SUSTRANS, a three-year funding package of £837,200 has been put in place. To assist in the implementation of these proposals Aberdeenshire Council currently employs four full-time Development Officers and two part-time Access Officers to identify, promote and develop an information base for each of the six local Countryside Access Action Plans (CAAP).
Due to their geographical nature, each of the six local CAAPs have very diverse requirements, with particular focus towards local interests and needs. This fact was very much in evidence at each of the strategy workshops. In order to maximise the potential response of the workshops, venues were selected within the heart of each of the effected communities. The seriousness of the issues to be addressed evoked a large than expected turn out at each of the six workshops. Attendance's ranged from between 40 - 50 individuals representing a wide and diverse range of interests including landowners, community councils, forestry, user groups such as hillwalking and cycling clubs and pressure groups such as NEMT.
The vision is for a web of sustainable access routes and areas throughout Aberdeenshire, which will be created by building on the basic network in place at the moment. The present policy is to develop appropriate agreements with landowners over routes, which will benefit the development of local network/middle distance and strategic routes identified in the CAAPs.
NEMT welcomes this initiative and recognises that there is a growing demand for access to lowland areas. However, NEMT's interest in this strategy arises from concerns about access throughout the countryside, in both lowland and upland areas and of particular concern is that some of the adopted proposals may lay foundations for development within these upland areas.
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