Another Step to the Forums

Last spring, MV55 introduced to an astonished world Local Access Forums (LAFs), as a consequence of the 2003 Land Reform Act. The LAFs are intended to advise local authorities (including the Cairngorms National Park Authority) on outdoor access rights and core paths, and to be available in case of access disputes. This note updates MV readers as regards the Aberdeenshire Forum (ALOAF for short) which operates outside the National Park (and the City of Aberdeen, which has its own LAF).

First, a set of Operating Principles has been established as a kind of constitution, and secondly a chair and vice-chair have been elected, viz. the author of this article and farmer Cameron Ewen respectively. Work priorities have been drawn up, and the beginnings of an ALOAF communications strategy are emerging, e.g. in the form of a website. Details of ALOAF meetings (normally open to the public) and its membership will be available there. The long (two/three-year) process of drawing up a Core Path Plan has started, and will involve at least two sets of "informal" consultations with interested parties, to discover access needs and to discuss a preliminary draft plan before things harden up to the semi-legal stage. An ALOAF Annual Gathering is planned for March 2006, and will provide an occasion for these and other access matters to be discussed. A number of national conferences - some organised by the National Access Forumor the Paths for All Partnership - will no doubt provide additional food for thought and discussion.

In the meantime, if any MV readers have access issues they would like discussed at Forum level, please do not hesitate to contact us: we are here to try to help!

Ken Thomson

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