Since previous MV updates on paths and general outdoor access (see those on: Heritage Paths and COAT in MV 60 Spring 2008; UDATs ECAP programme in MV 59 Summer 2007; and UDAT itself in MV 58 Autumn 2006), what has been happening?
Well, COAT (Cairngorms Outdoor Access Trust), the successor to UDAT (Upper Deeside Access Trust), has been bedding itself in, with Dougie Baird at the helm as Manager, and Chris Goodman joining as West Cairngorms Access Project Officer. At Board level, Pat Chalmers is standing down as the Trusts Chair, and Peter Mackay (an ex-civil servant with extensive SNH experience on access) has joined. It is understood that Peter Ord, the outgoing Balmoral Estate factor, is remaining on the Board for the time being. Robin Blyth from Ballater and Andy Dunn from Kingussie represent affiliate members (such as NEMT) on the Management Group.
Much of COAT's work in 2008 has been preparing funding bids, but on- the-ground work has been done on "community paths" around Kingussie, Strathdon and Tarland, with EU LEADER funding. Mountain paths have not been a major focus, with path condition surveys still underway as part of the Upland Path Project, for which a meeting at Boat of Garten is scheduled on Tuesday 21 April. The raising of the Spittal of Glenmuick car park charge from £2 to £3 is expected to raise gross revenue from £30,000 to £45,000 virtually COAT's only source of "free" moneys.
The Draft Core Paths Plan for the Cairngorms National Park area last year resulted in 58 objections, some of which were withdrawn after negotiation, but 25 remain. These mostly relate to six issues, including the Spey (as a Core Path in its own right, and landing places), upland paths such as the Lairig (i.e. whether suitable as CPs, or not, as argued by the Cairngorm Club, Braemar Mountain Rescue Association, and unless "appropriately" signed - the Mountaineering Council of Scotland), and two or three local path networks. These remaining objections accompanied the Draft when it went in March to Ministers, who will set up a Local Enquiry (the first of this kind) to deal with these.
The Cairngorms Local Outdoor Access Forum (CLOAF) has advised on the Core Path Plan (see above), and is kept abreast of and where necessary advises on - the Authority's caseload, which includes access issues on the Abergeldie Estate.
More widely, the National Access Forum has a new Convenor in Richard Cooke (factor on the Dalhousie Estate around Edzell) who has taken over from Aberdeen's Bob Reid. Its recent agendas have included prolonged discussions with Network Rail over walkers etc. using "private" level crossings, working groups on roadside camping, on stalking signage and information (e.g. a new website), and outdoor events, and monitoring of emerging access issues and usage. Its discussions have also covered future funding for paths etc. in Scotland both the switching of SNH funds to local authority budgets without ring-fencing, and the (so far disappointing) uptake of access grants to land managers from the new Scottish Rural Development Programme.
More details on the foregoing can be found at:
Professor Ken J. Thomson
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